We Design: People. Practice. Progress.
I try not to let money dictate the jobs I want to pursue. I think that because I’ve had that mentality, the money part has eventually worked itself out. My advice is: don’t put all of your eggs in one basket; be open to all experiences with an open mind to listening and learning as much as possible. Don’t pass up an opportunity because of a slight difference in pay if that’s where you belong. Experience is more valuable in the long run. That’s why I always worked second jobs, like bartending, because it allowed me to follow my heart and learn to do what I really wanted to do.
Taniya Nayak is one of the nation’s foremost interior designers. She owns the successful, Boston-based firm—Taniya Nayak Design, Inc., where she adds a fresh, clean look to both commercial and residential spaces. Born in India and raised in South Weymouth, MA, Taniya’s design style is strongly influenced by her creative family, especially her father, a talented architect who recently received his fellowship from AIA in 2017. Taniya originally pursued a career in sales, and graduated from UMass Lowell with a degree in marketing, before shifting her outlook to a future in design.
You have to design with a happy heart.
Shortly after attending Boston Architectural College (BAC) for her master’s degree in interior architecture, Taniya’s design style and upbeat personality landed her her first television gig on ABC Family’s Knock First. She then made the move to HGTV as a designer on the show Designed to Sell, where she helped homeowners add value and prepare their homes for market.
While becoming a household name and go-to expert for design programs on major networks including ABC, HGTV, and the Food Network, Taniya gained experience designing for a wide range of spaces and budgets. In 2005, she started her own design firm, Taniya Nayak Design, Inc. (TND). The firm has developed an impressive range of clientele, from restaurants, to condo developments, to high-end residential spaces. TND’s designs can be seen from construction development at the Treadmark Condominiums in Dorchester, MA, to the homes of legendary athletes such as Patrice Bergeron, a professional hockey player who plays in the National Hockey League for the Boston Bruins, and Cam Neeley, a former NHL player and the current president of the Boston Bruins. In 2011, Taniya was honored with an Excellence in Design award from ASID New England, and she currently serves on the advisory board for her alma mater, Boston Architectural College.
Photo by Magdalena M
Lion’s Tail Restaurant, Boston, MA
Photo by Mike Diskin
“I was born in India, and raised in Boston,” Taniya said. “My dad is an architect, and when he got a scholarship to go to MIT, my family joined him and never left. He is my biggest mentor in life. Generally speaking, Indian parents can have very high expectations for their kids. You can talk to pretty much any first-generation kid and hear about how their parents expect them to be doctors or lawyers. My dad tried to steer me in a different direction than architecture for a while, but he is so happy with where I’m at now. Growing up, he would say to us, ‘Be number one!’ It was his way of saying, ‘Do your best.’”
“After I graduated from UMass Lowell with a degree in marketing, I started working job after job in fields I just didn’t connect with,” Taniya said. “I thought marketing was a creative avenue for me in business, but the only jobs I got after graduating were sales jobs, and it didn’t pan out well for me. I had an ‘aha’ moment one night laying in bed, thinking that I was too young to be doing a job I hated for the rest of my life. I walked into the BAC the next day and applied for their master’s in interior architecture program. As soon as I made that decision, it’s like the gates opened up and everything fell into place.”
Landing the First Role
After auditioning on a whim for a casting call she heard about through the BAC, Taniya landed her first role on ABC Family’s Knock First, designing unique spaces for teens.
“They told me I got the job because I was the only one who got on the floor with the teens, connecting with them on their level, to show them my concepts,” Taniya said. “Truthfully, I had so many materials that I ran out of space—but that’s how it all worked out, and how I got started on TV! I learned so much from working with set designers—about building, construction, timelines, how to read someone and make sure you’re designing with that person in mind, and to ask, ‘How can a space tell a story about someone? How can I elevate that?’”
Growing a Team
“My dining table was my office for the first couple of years, until I started to realize I was taking over the house,” Taniya said. After multiple roles designing on HGTV and the Food Network, Taniya was getting inquiries for her own jobs. She started Taniya Nayak Design, Inc. in 2005, and now leads her growing team of eight, designing for a range of commercial and residential spaces.
Taniya has been a host and designer for HGTV mainstays like Designed to Sell, Billion Dollar Block, and House Hunters, and is a featured designer on the Food Network series, Restaurant: Impossible. She was selected by Ellen Degeneres as a brand spokesperson for her home product line, “ED On Air,” and has served as a co-host for ABC’s primetime holiday series, The Great Christmas Light Fight since 2016. She is also an active participant helping to raise funds for charitable organizations such as Smile Train, Room to Dream, and Habitat for Humanity, to name a few.
A Family Affair
Taniya first began designing restaurants beside her husband, restaurateur Brian O’Donnell, which she says was a “real hands-on learning experience” that helped grow her business. This led Taniya to an exciting venture as an interior designer, joining the show Restaurant: Impossible on the Food Network, where she has re-imagined restaurant spaces for over six years. Taniya was then approached by an old classmate and CEO of a high-end steakhouse chain, who asked her firm to design interiors for the company. Along with the interiors for many new Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse locations, TND’s work can be found at other restaurants, like Yellow Door Taqueria, Door No. 7, Abby Lane, The Poynt, Tavern & Table, and Bostonia Public House
Photo courtesy of Robbin Ray
Yellow Door Taqueria, Boston, MA
Photo by Sarah Storrer
Photo by Jeffrey Santos
I only grew the business when we were bursting at the seams,” Taniya said. “From 2005 to now, I have learned so much, and now we’ve got it honed. Work ethic is so huge with the team. I have incredible designers, and we’re a family. There is a level of respect we have for each other that goes way beyond showing up to work every day. You have to design with a happy heart.