2020 taught us a lot of things, but first and foremost, it doesn’t matter how much you plan or prepare. Things can turn on a dime. Los Angeles-based designer Natasha Baradaran has built a career based on her love of travel. Suddenly homebound, she was faced with a decision: let her creativity wither or lean into the experience. 

Luckily, Baradaran went with the latter. Over the course of the year (and then some), she fell in love all over again with the beauty of California. This fall, she’s launching her first collection that isn’t inspired by travel, but instead by the luxury and comfort of home. The shared year of solitude encouraged her to look inward, and the result is NB Essential: her most pared-down collection yet. 

Eager to learn more, I had a candid conversation with the designer, covering everything from her industry start to the pieces she loves most.  

Tell me a bit about your career journey. How did you first get started in design?
I started in hospitality design with Dallas-and LA-based, Wilson and Associates as an intern and worked my way up. I can distinctly remember going for my interview and realizing that this was what I was meant to do. Since the firm did not specialize in any one given style, it was an amazing opportunity to work with some of the biggest design giants in LA at the time, while giving me exposure to a range of design aesthetics from traditional to contemporary. Working across so many styles really allowed me to find my own voice.

Plans changed for us all in 2020. How did the year+ at home affect you, and how did it shift your business? 
In the past, my design inspiration and work had been focused almost solely on my love of travel, especially the time I spend in Italy every summer where my family has roots, and where my mother still lives for part of the year. Last year, out of necessity, my creativity naturally became interested on inward reflection and the idea of home as the ultimate haven. NB Essential became a story about my love of Los Angeles, embracing the wellness-centric lifestyle of my hometown when I needed it most.  Since the world slowed down initially in the spring of 2020, it became a very focused period of creativity…so much more focus was spent with this collection than I would normally spend, when I’d usually be spinning more plates at my studio.  From a business standpoint, we also experienced a significant increase in online interest for our pieces during this time, so it made sense to add more to our Collection when we did. We also invested energy in making our website more fortified with information to help our design trade who may not have had access to showrooms in the same way as before. 

Let’s chat about NB Essential. We’d love to know more about the collection.
NB Essential is my favorite collection to date since it is the most personal. It stemmed out of being at home and creating pieces that were comfortable yet stylized for myself. I created the ‘Maquette’ Dining Table as my breakfast table and enjoyed many family dinners with my husband and my two daughters during our stay-at-home period. Of course, this collection is in conversation with my previous ones, but these new pieces reflect a more paired down sense of luxury. We introduced a range of new wood finishes and vegan parchment, but there is a simplification of the combinations of finishes. Less fussy in the way. I feel like it is a collection that is anchored by focal pieces of a room, like a sofa and dining table, not just the sculptural ‘conversation starter’ pieces that we initially became know for when I started the line.  

The collection is really unique, but not unrealistic or over the top. How did you strike the balance between art-forward designs, luxe materials, and supreme comfort? 
From the start, my collection has been an exploration in materiality as much as it is focused on creating new forms.  I believe in the power of touch and feel, and how certain materials can enhance a sense of calm in your home.  I tend to create transitional pieces that are functional, that I hope can work in a range of different interior design aesthetics. No matter how innovative a sofa design may be, if it is not comfortable, that is not going to work for me. Hence we do many prototypes until we get it just right.  

The upholstery fabrics we create through the textile arm of my practice complement the sculptural feel of many of our pieces.  For NB Essential, I became even more focused on the idea of home as haven, which is why the collection has so many upholstered pieces.  There’s really nothing more comforting than curling into a plush sofa that has been designed to hug your body. I’m always thinking about how fabrics feel against the body, as well as functionality, durability, and ease of cleaning. 

I love sophisticated refinement and a touch of glam in my work, but with this collection the energy of the moment pulled me to create pieces that are a little more relaxed, comfortable, casual.  Pieces in my last collections often found themselves in formal living rooms and dining rooms, whereas these pieces feel at home in more intimate spaces like your den, breakfast room, and bedroom.

How does sustainability play a part in your work? 
I am most proud of our work in developing an array of vegan dyed parchment… Sustainable, environmentally conscious materiality is something we must all work towards, and I hope my contribution to developing a vegan option to the parchment classic inspires more designers to work with the material. Our new cabinets, the ‘Gemma’ and the ‘Due Colori’ both play with my vegan parchment in new colorways we have created especially for NB Essential.  

Do you have a favorite piece in the collection? 
My favorite pieces are those that play with the vegan parchments that we have introduced, like the Due Colori and the Gemma cabinets. I like the idea of adding color in a space through furniture, not just through textiles. I have the Due Colori as my media cabinet in my family with our rose gold and amethyst parchments, which I love.

Having said that, I have always been more interested in what pieces become our clients’ favorites…I have always wanted my collection to be about versatility. I love to see designers of varying design styles incorporate our pieces successfully. Every piece I create is about transition. Through our customization options for materials, finishes, and textiles, one piece can be realized in vastly different ways. I love seeing one of our pieces in both clean contemporary projects, and layered traditional homes as well.  What designers bring to the table with their own point of view makes me happy, as my collection has always been an invitation to collaborate and create together.  So – What’s your favorite piece?

Snag a preview in the slideshow, and see the full NB Essential lookbook here.