5 Qs With… Nureed Saeed – NKBA


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5 Qs With… Nureed Saeed

The designer, 2023 KBB Person of the Year and NKBA | KBIS Northern California Chapter President spoke with the association on the industry, her career and more.

By Elisa Fernández-Arias

Kitchen and bath designers from around the world attended KBIS 2024 to discover the latest products and innovations, network and celebrate the industry. Nureed Saeed, Owner and Creative Director, Nu Interiors, and President of the NKBA | KBIS Northern California Chapter was among these designers. She was also celebrated at the show, after being named 2023 KBB Person of the Year.

During the trade show, NKBA | KBIS spoke with Saeed about her design career, involvement with the association and more.

NKBA | KBIS: How did you get your start in design?

Nureed Saeed: After 15 years in the retail and fashion industry, I found that I had reached a point in that career where I was traveling a lot while having to be away from my kids — and while I was pregnant. And I realized, I can’t travel this much anymore; I need to be closer to home. It was also a time when we needed a bit more space, so my husband and I ended up buying a home in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area. It was a real dream home, a mid-century modern California house – but in New Jersey – with a great location and great bones. No one wanted to buy it, and we didn’t know why. Turns out, it seriously needed a home renovation. We took it on and bought it, and given how much I was traveling, and the pregnancy and the renovation — I ended up leaving the fashion industry and focused on managing the renovation. I took it on with the help of an architect and a contractor. I designed the whole house, laid down all the plans, and I gave a finish date of July 1st because the baby was coming on July 29th. They chuckled at me, said it would never happen, but I said, “I’m an excellent project manager, I’m a machine, trust me, it’s going to come to fruition.” And it happened.

“Nobody ever does what they say they’re going to do,” they said to me after the project ended. “You should be doing this for a living. We’ve never seen anybody manage a project the way you did and have it come to fruition the way you did, and it’s gorgeous on top of it all.”

It’s funny, because this is what I wanted to do when I was in high school. I was taking art classes and I wanted to make a portfolio and apply to interior design schools in Philadelphia. I’ve always had a sense of materials, finishes, spatial planning. My dad was a civil engineer, I did a lot of DIY with him, and I always loved home improvement, decorating, interior design and renovations. It’s always been ingrained in me. I love all of it.

So after that, I decided to quit my job, do consulting and start this business. After three years, my business had taken off: I had a full roster of clients and was one of the top designers in New Jersey.

NKBA | KBIS: Can you tell me a bit about the mission of Nu Interiors and your work there?

Nureed Saeed: Nu Interiors is a holistic design practice focused on looking at the full needs of not only the client, but also the impact we have on the community, the earth and everyone at large. I try to be very thoughtful when I’m designing, not only to meet my clients’ needs but to steer them in the right direction of what’s possible. For most clients, they’re generationally in a space where this is important to them: they have young children, and they’re thinking about what they’re going to leave them. When it comes to their questions and their concerns, they have a more global perspective.

NKBA | KBIS: Could you tell me about your involvement with NKBA | KBIS – and your work locally in the Northern California Chapter area?

Nureed Saeed: My family and I moved to California about five years ago from New Jersey. For the first 18 months, I was going back and forth, living in California and working in New Jersey. We also bought a house in California, renovated that, and we were raising a family. So, managing all those things, I didn’t really have an enormous amount of time to connect with the community in California. And then, right when I was about ready to get started, the pandemic happened. I didn’t know anyone in California, and I was also disconnected from my entire community in New Jersey because I couldn’t get on a plane to get to them.

I was already going in the direction of kitchen and bath renovations in my business, so NKBA | KBIS had been on my radar, anyway, in terms of looking into certifications and connecting with the kitchen and bath community at large. So I connected with the then-president of the Northern California Chapter, Leslie Battelle, CKBD, and said, “I’d really love to volunteer and join.” Everything was on Zoom. I started by volunteering as the Secretary, then Secretary/Treasurer, then President.

In general, I just care about communities and being a part of it all. It felt natural.

Photo courtesy of PWP Studio.

NKBA | KBIS: How do you feel having won KBB Person of the Year?

Nureed Saeed: It’s just humbling. What’s humbling about this award specifically is that someone has nominated you for this. This is not self-nominating, so someone felt whatever I’m doing in the community and at a large, my business and everything that I do, is worthy of an acknowledgment.

I don’t do things expecting to be awarded or acknowledged. I do things because I want to do them right. I want to help. I believe in communities. I believe if you have the time, space, capacity, ability, resources, any of the above, that we have a shared collective duty to each other, to share and to give. I set that example for my children. I want them to feel like they’re part of something bigger.

NKBA | KBIS: What is your biggest takeaway from KBIS this year, in terms of experience?

Nureed Saeed: KBIS is really an amazing little microcosm of the home and interior design industry. This is a really great group of people. I feel really grateful to be part of it. Community. Connections. I love KBIS because I feel like it’s a giant opportunity to have all those moments.