Yana Puaca is the definition of a well-traveled woman. From exploring Germany to “When in Rome-ing” her way through college, her appetite for travel consumes her entire being. Her experience with endless cultures and ways of life has led her to become a self-described nomad. Yana’s worldly lifestyle has resulted in quite the entrepreneurial spirit, and, there’s no stopping this girl. Name it and she’s done it. She sells vintage furniture you won’t find anywhere, designs homes for clients and works a full-time 9-5. Oh, and she runs a blog that looks like no one else’s. NoMad Luxuries is a central hub for travel inspiration, delicious dinners, and constant reminders that we all need to take a step back and enjoy the moment that’s in front of us. Side note: We won’t be traveling without her advice anymore.
Her home is, just as you guessed it, an accurate representation of where she’s been. Filled with rich colors and elegant patterns, the eclectic space is balanced perfectly with neutral touches. Her global taste is evident in the textures and liveliness of the unique pieces that complete her abode. Nestled in Chicago’s north side Lakeview neighborhood, the space has organic vintage charm. But don’t let all of that fanciness fool you. One of our favorite pieces in her living room only cost her a mere $5. Our other favorite totaled $50 and a can of black paint. Luckily, Yana was kind enough to share her space with us today, along with some inspiration for why we should never be content with staying in one place.
Full name: Yana Puaca
Location: Chicago, IL
Current title/company: Executive Assistant, Lettuce Entertain You, Inc. // Blogger behind NoMad Luxuries
Educational background: Bachelor of Science in International Business and Spanish from DePaul University
You’ve spent a huge part of your life traveling and living abroad. From studying in Germany during high school, to living in Rome in college, you have a hard time sitting still when it comes to exploring new places. How has this affected your career path? Your view of life in general?
Constantly traveling and running the corporate race rarely go hand-in-hand. Fortunately, I was able to travel a lot in my early teens and twenties. I feel grateful for all that I’ve seen, but it’s made me hungry for so much more. Stepping out of my comfort zone has not only broadened my horizons, but taught me life lessons I couldn’t have gained sitting behind a desk. Whenever I travel, I ask myself, “Can I live here?” I always take note of certain lifestyle details that I can implement in my own way of life. When I was living in Rome, so much emphasis was placed on eating together. It wasn’t something that was a means to an end, it was the actual event. That has resonated with me to this day. Those small details that create a life, that teach us to slow down and enjoy…that’s what’s important at the end of the day.
I’ve also been able to make many amazing connections and friendships around the world. Not to mention, the boutiques and brands I’ve come across along the way! When you put yourself out there, you can breakthrough the culture and communication barriers and really learn how to work and connect with a variety of individuals. I believe that is crucial in any industry.
You mention that while on a tour of Egypt and Jordan the experience was so incredibly humbling you literally cried while seeing the Pyramids. It’s so easy to get caught up in our daily lives, but when you take a step back and watch present day and history coexist it can be truly magnificent. What advice can you give to other young women looking to broaden their horizons? Any tips on traveling into unchartered territory?
Travel as often as possible! Seriously. There is so much beauty to see in this world and it will definitely put things into perspective. We don’t even realize that the things we take for granted, are a luxury to a majority of people. Not to mention, it’s a great opportunity to learn about yourself. Most of my trips I traveled alone and let me tell you, when you’re in a new situation in an unknown country you see how strong you really are. While you don’t always have to be a lone wolf, I do recommend trekking on your own every now and then. If you’re ready to go to “unchartered territory,” don’t be afraid to take a tour. I went on my first tour with Friendly Planet when I went to Egypt and Jordan; not only was it a great deal, but I felt completely safe and met others who enjoyed traveling just as much as I did. One of my favorite quotes explains it well, “travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living” – Miriam Beard.
You took your love for interior design and furniture and started a refinishing company with a friend. Though it had a great run, you realized that you both would rather not spend your days hunched over, inhaling paint fumes. Do you have any advice for other young women who are looking to go into business with a friend? Anything you wished you’d done differently?
I learned so much from the experience, even though it was trying at times. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that you are essentially staking your friendship on the prospect of the business. It’s a big risk. It could turn out to be a wonderful thing or it could head in the opposite direction. It’s a very fine line, that of a business partner and a friend. Make sure you both are committed and on the same page. It’s almost like a marriage; those hard questions need to be asked before you get involved. At the same time, the element I miss most is the ability to brainstorm and bounce ideas back and forth. I love the energy of working/collaborating with others.
As most of us do, you craved creativity that was lacking in your day job. As a result, you started the well-curated and unique blog, NoMad Luxuries, that has been clearly inspired by your travels. You focus on interiors, but explore all aspects of a lifestyle blog, with a modern, fresh take. How did you go about starting your blog? Did you have an “aha moment?” Is it challenging to balance a full-time day job and a creative personal site?
I was working my corporate job and thought to myself, this can’t be it. I didn’t work this hard to be confined to a cubicle. I had this glamorized version of corporate in my mind, and let’s just say, it was a much-needed reality check. I was constantly daydreaming of the places I had been and the places I yearned to go. It was the little things; the details that helped me get through that first experience of “the working world”. Home-cooked meals, entertaining friends, planning trips… I wanted to create that same type of community through my blog. NoMad Luxuries began quite leisurely, it was more so a hobby, for my own sake. I had been creating binders of inspiration and keeping journals of my travels and favorite spots for years. Finally, I decided to turn that into a blog and document it online.
While the blog has grown over time, I still try to write for myself in mind. If my readers enjoy it as much as I do, well, that’s the icing on the cake! It’s definitely been challenging, especially since I’ve been adding to my list of responsibilities at work. Since free time has become a thing of the past, I especially crave those hours for creative inspiration and blogging, so I make time for it. I’ve just loosened the grip on posting everyday. I strive for it but don’t freak out if it doesn’t always happen. I need to be realistic.
What can readers expect to see on the blog? What do enjoy writing about most?
While I generally focus more on interiors and fun projects of creating a home, NoMad Luxuries truly is a lifestyle blog, through and through. The blog is a reflection of the many things that inspire me. I write about everything from fashion and travel to entertaining and home decor. I’m very health-conscious and love to share delicious and easy recipes, too. While NoMad Luxuries is a place for me to document all these thoughts, I also want it to serve as inspiration to all the ladies out there that want to create a fulfilling life of their own.
You live in the charming Lakeview/Buena Park neighborhood on Chicago’s North side. Was it difficult deciding which Chicago neighborhood to live in? Tell us the process you went through while looking for your place. Do you rent or own? How long have you been there?
The great thing about this city is that each and every neighborhood has its own style and energy. We used to live in the West Loop and loved it, but when it came down to buying a place, we wanted something that had a bit more charm. I wanted that home-y feeling and Lakeview seemed like the perfect place for us. We looked for 8 months before we decided on our current condo. It was definitely a time-consuming, and at times, stressful experience, so be prepared. When we started looking, we knew we wanted a space that had good bones and vintage character, but didn’t necessarily want to pay for someone else’s style. We went into it with a goal in mind and were methodical about the approach; it was especially helpful when emotions got in the way. You won’t always get the place your heart is set on, but you will eventually find a place you love just as much. This month, it’s officially our first year in our new place and we absolutely love it.
Between you and your husband, Petar, you’ve moved a combined 20 times in the past 10 years. When you decided on your first place, you wanted to start new and create a home that honored both of your styles. Was it difficult to find a balance between masculine and feminine taste?
My style has never been very feminine to begin with, but I do like to squeeze in a few subtle, feminine elements here and there. Fortunately, Petar is flexible when it comes to letting me have free reign on designing our space. I throw words like lucite and brass around and I’m sure he could care less, but every once in a while he’ll sneak them into the conversation and show he was paying attention to my interior design babble. I always believe that big purchases should be made together because you never want one person to feel like a stranger in their own home. Discuss your absolute must-haves or have-nots and improvise the rest of the way!
Tell us a little about the decorating process? Did you have a specific vision in mind when you began? How long did it take to complete your home from start to finish?
It’s always easier for me to design a client’s space than my own. My style is ever-evolving and I’m constantly changing my mind. With that being said, I know the things I’m attracted to and gravitate towards, but I did not have a set plan for our space. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration, but that too, can become a bit overwhelming. Generally, I’ll find a fabric or a unique piece that I absolutely love and I’ll just keep going with it. See what it evolves into. We’ve been in our home for exactly one year now and it’s still a work in progress; we have a few more rooms to tackle. I remember reading somewhere that if you’re home is completely “done,” then it’s time to move!
The piece of art hanging above your sofa was $5. You mention that several of the pieces in that room were also the same price if not less. Tell us your secrets! Where do you look for inexpensive pieces? What advice can you give to making sure they fit perfectly in a room, even if they cost less than your lunch?
I visit a lot of estate sales and surprisingly or not, Craigslist and Ebay are great resources. If you know the right key words to search for, you can find some amazing deals. Know your measurements! I never leave the house without a tape measure; this is especially helpful when it comes to larger, statement pieces. Carry around a small notebook with room dimensions so when you do come across that “imusthavethatnow” piece, you’ll be ready. As far as smaller décor and accessories, if I love it, I will find a place for it. There are so many rules to follow when decorating. I’m more along the lines of; if you love it, buy it. In the end, it’s creating a space that makes you happy. Hopefully, it will look just as good, too!
Clearly you’re quite the D.I.Yer. You transformed the $50 credenza in your living room with a little paint and TLC. What suggestions do you have for others who would like to transform old pieces?
If it’s old and dirty, don’t necessarily give up on it. If a piece has good bones and is solid, then it’s worth the extra TLC to give it new life. There are a lot of great tutorials out there, but I will always reference back to the queen of DIY herself, Jenny at The Little Green Notebook, for great advice. You would be surprised what a bit of paint or a new fabric could do to an old piece. Not to mention, these “old” pieces can be usually found at a great deal. Also, don’t underestimate the power of new hardware.
Your home is a true representation of your passion for travel and other cultures. How would you describe your decorating style?
While my style is ever-evolving, it’s no secret that globe-trotting has played a significant role in how I decorate my home. The best way to describe my style is eclectic, with global touches. I love being reminded of all the special places I’ve visited. While I want my home to have a luxurious element, I also want it to be well-thought-out and at the same time, lived-in and welcoming. It’s a balancing act. I mix new pieces with vintage pieces, pieces I’ve DIYed and trinkets I’ve picked up on my travels. When mixing these different styles and elements, it creates a layered look. One that appears slowly collected and curated over time. I remember when we traveled to Istanbul and I was determined to come home with a Kilim. Liters of mint tea and some serious haggling-skills later, we had a rug! All of these pieces remind you of a time- an experience. I’m not just filling my home with “things” but with memories, and that makes my home a reflection of my life and the relationships made along the way.
What items for the home would you say are most important to invest in? What items do you recommend saving on?
This is such a difficult question… I splurged on custom-made curtains and our sofa, but then again I’ve found sofas on Craigslist that, with the right upholstery, would be unique and a fraction of the cost. A lot of it has to do with timing. If you have time to hunt, you will find great deals and creating a beautiful space on a budget won’t seem so unrealistic. Splurge on what you love. You can’t get that one-of-a-kind rug out of your mind? Then go for it! You can make any space look expensive and high-end if you know how to mix highs and lows, just like your wardrobe.
In addition to working full-time and managing a blog, you work with clients on the side and help them style and decorate to create a home on any budget and sell furniture through online portals, like Hunters Alley and Etsy. For the first time, you’re announcing that NoMad Luxuries will become a brick and mortar shop soon. Without giving away any details, what made you want to create an actual storefront? What challenges have you come across along the way?
I’ve always dreamt of owning my own boutique and now, felt like the right time to do it. After dabbling in the furniture business and scouting pieces for years, I’ve realized there’s a big need for wanting to create a beautiful and unique home without having to eat ramen, every day. I want to offer interesting and affordable pieces for women, like myself, who may have champagne taste on a box wine budget. Much like my blog, this will not only be furniture, but truly a lifestyle/concept store. The shop will be filled with carefully-curated pieces by yours truly, from furniture to jewelry and even organic facial products. The thrill of the hunt, the act of small indulgences- it’s all in the details and that’s where the focus will be. I really wanted to take the guessing-work out of finding those unique pieces and make them easily accessible. Not to mention, creating a community that keeps you coming back for more.
This is a completely new experience for me, so anything can become a challenge at one point or another. I do a lot of research and am learning along the way. It’s been terrifying and exciting at the same time, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you!
What do you love most about living in Chicago?
The food scene is really amazing. We love going out and trying different restaurants. I think too, that Chicago is that perfect balance between the hustle and bustle of a big city and the hospitality of a small one. It’s wonderful having my family and friends close by. If we had better weather, I think everyone would want to live here.
Chicago really is a wonderful city, it’s my hometown, after all; but that’s not to say that a new city might not sweep me off my feet!
What advice would you give to your 23-year old self?
This is life. Right here, right now. Stop always rushing and worrying about what others think. Slow down a bit, enjoy and do what makes you happy. I’m still telling myself these things!
What are your current career aspirations? Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
Essentially, I would like to dedicate more time to the blog and really take NoMad Luxuries to the next level. The idea of a storefront quickly approaching has been a dream of mine for so long, that I couldn’t be more excited. With hopes to transition into NoMad Luxuries full-time, I hope to take on more clients and help them create spaces they absolutely love. While managing a store, a blog and hopefully starting a family, I still plan to continue to find the time to travel and explore the world with Petar.
Yana Puaca is The Everygirl
If you could meet any woman for lunch, who would it be and what would you order?
Lunch with Olivia Palermo and Victoria Beckham, my two style icons, would be perfection. Their poise and effortless fashion is something I admire and strive for. We would chat about our favorite destinations and fashion… a great conversation over a fresh salad with salmon and a glass of prosecco. The conversation would linger into dessert; a cup of tea and a flourless chocolate cake with fresh fruit that we would share, naturally.
Aidan or Big?
I’ve always been drawn to the Big(s) of the world, but as Carrie says, “I’ve done the merry-go-round, I’ve been through the revolving doors, I feel like I met somebody I can stand still with for a minute”. I finally decided to stand still, and I couldn’t be happier.
Guilty pleasure(s) you mean…Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt, manicures, fresh flowers and cashmere! Oh, and George Michael too! I may, or may not know every song…
Sofa: Z Gallerie
Chairs: Home Decorator’s Collection
Coffee Table: CB2
Brass Bamboo side Table: Home Goods
Lamps: Nieman Marcus
Brass Sconces: Restoration Hardware
Leopard Pillows: DIY with Fabric from Calico
Other Pillows: Home Goods
Brass Curtain Rod: West Elm
Curtains: DIY with vintage fabric from One Kings Lane
Bed: One Kings Lane
Faux Fur Throw in Lynx: Overstock.com
Vanity: World Market
Mirrors: Home Goods
Abstract Art: West Elm
Curtains (grosgrain ribbon trim added): Ikea
X-Benches: Safavieh found at Home Goods (find of the year!)
Fabric for Benches: Schumacher
Palazzo print: Leigh Viner
Snakeskin Tray: Home Goods
Venetian Mirror: Wisteria
Baskets: Home Goods
Lamp Finial: Hillary Thomas