A Window In: Nina Z

I’m not sure what I expected from Nina’s home. I think in part, I loaded my body and camera on a 12pm train to Hudson, for the fun. The chatter, the reconnecting, and the inspiration of familiarity. It was February then. Closer to January. Nowhere near March. Rather, nowhere near the March we just experienced. As the month progressed, and I put off on posting this, I kept checking in with myself about why. And what I kept going back to was this concrete reality that places, people, and spaces for us must be kept sacred. And for many reasons that don’t need to be explained, my experience in Hudson that day became something no longer worth sharing. Unless, I was willing to risk losing it. Losing, what I pulled from it, I suppose.

I’ve thought a lot about this mental trivia, as I shared pictures from our family trip to Miami over a month late, and as I sift through ideas, photos, and processes I stalled and continued on. It wasn’t because I didn’t have the time (though that’s limited these days). It was mostly because I didn’t want to let them go from my heart. And I know, I know, sharing things on my own site isn’t really letting things go. BUT when the things swirled and work seemed like it was molding into something different, and hope seemed so very distant… creativity, too, I needed to hold on to these things.

But Nina’s home, it’s a mix of the elasticity of her life and creativity. There’s merging corners of eclectic history, too. I think, as I road the Amtrak, and planned to shoot, I imagined knits stacked and curated in perfect corners, and items from places I’d never go. And while all of the things that encompass her beautiful home are unique, they have a symbiotic relationship with Nina. They’re mostly free and handmade. They have stories, but none too precious to laugh or curse about. Being in her home and examining it in such a way, felt like a redirection of what I am doing as a creative then and now, and the ways we can all carve corners for what we are doing, where we are going, and of course, what we want to put out into this changed world.

Here’s more…

You currently live in Hudson, but your family comes from various parts of the world. Can you share a little bit more about your family history?

I’m originally from Stockholm, Sweden, but left for London at 18. Then I moved to NYC to study at FIT, with a year in between to study at Sorbonne in Paris. My partner, Tshidi, is originally from Gaborone, Botswana, and he came to the US to study when he was19. He first was enrolled in Michigan but the snow made him switch to Miami. He recognized the palm trees in the uni catalogue and made the switch!We both spent more than a decade in New York City and Brooklyn. We moved upstate once we had our daughter, Sonja, who is now five.

Quite often, you share images of your past on social media, and as I look around your place, it also seems time-stamped a bit. There’s your partner’s photos of his family; works by famous artists from your art days; and, of course, that calendar of Princes Diana! I can’t ignore this meld in your life and also in your home design—can you share more?

I think I’m just analog! I like to talk on the phone, listen to the radio, and look at old photos—feel, see, touch. I’ve always liked thrifted things and have been going to flea markets (or my grandmother’s closet!) since I was six or so. I have always found poetry in something a little worn, and often say, “If these clothes could talk.” Imagine the parties, the job interviews, the one night stands, the first dates, birthdays! 

And as for Diana, growing up in Europe, she was always around. I loved her style and what I think was her present, calm and patient persona.

You started a shoe company and have an eye for design. Tshidi makes furniture and is an amazing DJ. Sometimes being multi-facetted can be intimidating for an individual, let alone a family. How do you manage this in the day-to-day?

I actually started by selling vintage, added the clogs, and then went back to more vintage. There was never really a laid out plan. Sometimes we manage—and sometimes we don’t! Working together as husband and wife can be very hard. I manage the shop and he does all the shoemaking and the studio backend. We fight. And sometimes I cry. And we say maybe we shouldn’t do this anymore. But then it’s dinner time and we have to switch to being parents. Then it’s another day. I really love what I do!

What drew you to Hudson after having lived so many places in the world?

When we had Sonja, I was really overwhelmed by living in Brooklyn. We both had been kind of Brooklyn-burnt-out for a while; but after Sonja, I was like, “I need in-patient or to get out of the city”! So we started by renting a house in Woodstock because we had friends on that end of the river. We kept our crown heights apartment for awhile, but once we were ready to open the shop we moved to Hudson full-time. We just felt like Hudson was the right place—maybe the only place—for the shop. And it’s been great!

What is your design philosophy?

I have a philosophy for the curatorial aspect of the business, and that is: I only get pieces that I can somehow imagine myself wearing. And mainly natural materials. Things I have a connection to. Like Kismet fragrances! That’s a friends all-natural brand and it includes patchouli, rose, jasmine, which are scents I have always worn myself. Another example: I love hearts; so today I cut and sewed denim hearts on some of the denims. I’ll see if someone else likes hearts the way I do. My recent jewelry line MIRAGE sold at the shop in collaboration with my dear friend Gabrielle Valenti, who is a jeweler. It was derived from my big shell collection, and each piece of jewelry has something from my shells. 

So to answer your question, I don’t think I have a real design philosophy that I follow except for following my heart!

Your home is full of vintage and found things. How does this influence your shop which is fairly close to your home? Or vice versa?

The shop is really just an extension of our home—most of what’s in there originally came from our house! Sometimes I switch them around. The rest of the furniture is mostly cement pieces Tshidi built. My whole life is just secondhand, mostly, or things we have collected or made. I don’t think I’ve been to a “real” shop for anything other than food and underwear and socks in many years! Same for Sonja. I never went to a children’s store to buy her clothes; everything else is hand-me-down and secondhand. Her Swedish grandmother does buy her lots of POP though, which I’m very grateful for. Then I pass her clothes on to friends as well.

The side table beside the couch—where’s it from?

It’s from one of the antique stores in Hudson. I was first buying it for the shop, but it was too big, so took it home instead. It might be too big for the house, too, but I’m keeping it for now. It looks like it’s a handmade piece

I’m so drawn to your collection of pottery. How do you sort and style your collection? And whats in store for it?

I love ceramics. I used to do more myself, when we lived in Woodstock and there was a ceramic barn up the road. I will start again when there is time. I love the imperfect pieces that show fingerprints or crooked handle. I love that they can be so sturdy and hold so much; but also so fragile and break in one drop. They are the vessel, which is one of my most recently drawn tarot archetypal cards, which I use in my work. I’m working on being more fragile myself, not having to hold it all together. Ceramical vessels are good reminders of how things can change, but still be the same, but also not the same, and it is all okay. Some of my pieces have broken because of the baby or the cat or me doing laundry-ha!—but I either glue them back together or keep the broken pieces. I think they are beautiful like that too. A broken vessel has a new dynamic. I move them around and put flowers in them and set the table with them. 

I’m planning to put some in the shop, but it is hard to let go of them. I’m always thinking, next piece I’ll find i bring to shop; but then that next piece is just the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen… So the story goes!

What’s the story behind the blue chair in the entryway?

The blue chair we found at a yard sale in Woodstock. I remember it cost $25. It feels like someone’s carpentry project. They chose an amazing intricate pattern and beautiful colors—it’s like a sculpture. It’s also slightly rickety, which I love. It’s just not great for sitting!

Tell us about a typical evening in your house?

Now the Sonja is in kindergarten, everything is more routine—or at least we try. We can’t do nine o’clock dinners with music anymore! So on a regular week night, we have a bath at six, then dinner, and try to get her in bed by 7:30 (with emphasis on trying). She really needs sleep or else everyone suffers the next day. To put her down, I’ll read a story, and maybe fall asleep with her. I wake up around 9 then, have a glass of wine and watch a movie or read a book. Tshidi goes to bed much later than me. Not sure how he does it.

On Friday nights, we have a later dinner with wine and music. Maybe a friend comes over. There is dancing and just hanging out together. But we spend a lot of time at home.

Freddy Mercury, the cat.

Alright! Let’s talk shoes. What’s your favorite style to design and make?

I was really excited to introduce the PALMA mule, the clear clog. There is only so much you can do with a clog. It’s three materials: wood, leather, nails, with limited structural creativity because of the materials. So small changes, like adding a new material—or straps from secondhand alligator belts!—makes me happy. Lately I’ve been thinking about making other types of shoes as well! We’ll see!

What’s next for all of you?

I’m enjoying having time with Sonja—and our weekends, which we didn’t have for ten years. For now, we are happy with things the way they are for now. At some point, it would be nice to expand and sell more home pieces. Tshidi is planning to expand the men’s part of the vintage selection. He has also started to sell some of the cement pieces. 

And we would love more time in Africa. Winters in Botswana would be amazing! Not sure how to do that yet, but one day hopefully.

And what about now, given the current circumstances?

Funny enough we were scheduled to go for our yearly 3 week trip to Botswana arriving March 17. And that’s the same day that both South Africa (which we would transit in) and Botswana closed their borders for US entry. But I’m trying to see it as the universe choosing that for us because they could have set for the 18th and we would have been fine. But it’s like going home for us, so would have been nice to be close to family and the sun during these times. But everything happens for a reason.

We constantly talk about wanting to live in Africa and Botswana, which i hope will happen one day. But no set plan yet. It would be amazing to start with at least the cold months when Hudson is dead anyway. We will see. Sweden is home, but I think I would have to do some more therapy before returning, because I left at 18 for a reason (due to mental illness in my close family) so it holds a lot of trauma and triggers for me. I’m currently in therapy, so who knows? 

But Botswana feels closer aligned with our current dreams and aspirations and the WEATHER. I rather take the Kalahari heat than Siberian cold. There are no tears that the sun can’t dry (on me:). 

How can people support your small buisness the most in this time?

Because of where I’m from, I think it must fall on the government to do that. Us small business cant rely on each other for a bail out like this because everyone is hurting and thats just too big of a responsibility. But it doesn’t mean I dont fully appreciate anyone wanting to support, and me doing whatever I can and afford for other small businesses, which I think we should always do. But in the end this one-time BIG job has to be done by our government with the tax money that we’ve been paying. 

When it comes to style, vintage, design, parenthood and creativity—where do these worlds meet?

I’m a mother that sells vintage. The shop is really an extension of that. It’s our life.The baby always came with us on shopping trips (although less now that she is in school). When she comes, she always gets to pick two pieces for herself, with no input from us, which can be horrifying! Last time she picked a blue koala backpack and a terribly fuchsia hoodie—not my favorite color. 

I think our next decade will go like the previous one: organic growth paralleled with our personal growth. For example, it would be great to have a small local restaurant so we would have a place to have dinner every night. It’s some dreaming mixed with reality. 

In business, like in life, sometimes it’s three steps forward and then four steps back, but we learn to enjoy it all, keep on experiencing the poetry that is all around us. To us, that’s objects, forms, colors and sounds. So, I think that’s the [vague] plan.

Thank you so so so much, NINA! You can follow Nina’s instagram right here.

8 thoughts on “A Window In: Nina Z

  • Reply Claude April 15, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    Thanks for letting go of this one and sharing it with all of us. Her home is so beautiful. I feel like I got a taster of the pace of life upstate.

    • Reply latonya April 15, 2020 at 11:14 pm

      Thank you for reading! It definently makes me want to tuck away somewhere cozy and create a bit.

  • Reply Shante Fagans April 16, 2020 at 2:32 am

    Very nice article and photography, LaTonya. I can totally relate to her home mostly being vintage, collective and found items! There’s nothing like it!

    • Reply latonya April 16, 2020 at 9:01 am

      Thank you, Shante! Yes, it makes all of the life in the apartment come alive.

  • Reply Sonya April 16, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Why does she have so many Black people on her walls? Are they her family or is it fetish?

    • Reply latonya April 16, 2020 at 10:33 pm

      Hi Sonya, hmm that’s a huge assumption to make by art alone. Her husband is African, which we discussed in the interview. Much of the art is family. Another portion of it is a growing collection of art from black artists who are her friends, and the work is valued. And of course, this is just a window in, and more of an example of what I was drawn to from her art. There are photos of her side of the family as well, a small part shown in her daughter’s room.

  • Reply Tara April 23, 2020 at 1:28 am

    Very nice! I enjoyed reading the back story of the pieces in their home, such as the pieces built by her husband or those collected over time.

    • Reply latonya April 23, 2020 at 9:00 am

      Thank you, Tara. All the handade pieces are beyond stunning in person. Thank you so much for reading!


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