Wollongong interior designer in global demand

Winning grin: Sarah Nolen, of Birdblack Design, after being named Illawarra Women in Business (IWIB) 2017 Young Businesswoman of the Year. Picture: Greg Ellis.
Winning grin: Sarah Nolen, of Birdblack Design, after being named Illawarra Women in Business (IWIB) 2017 Young Businesswoman of the Year. Picture: Greg Ellis.

When Sarah Nolen of Birdblack Design was named 2017 Illawarra Women In Business (IWIB) Young Businesswoman of the Year it was the result of hard work and determination.

Mrs Nolen was already regarded as an industry leader in interior design after being awarded both Kitchen Designer of the Year NSW and Designer for Medium Kitchens NSW at the 2016 Kitchen and Bathroom Design Institute Awards in Melbourne.

Sarah Nolen IWIB Illawarra Young Businesswoman of the Year acceptance speech

Sarah Nolen IWIB Illawarra Young Businesswoman of the Year acceptance speech

Birdblack Design quickly made a name for itself in the Illawarra when it started three years ago and is demand outside the region. But Mrs Nolen, 29, is getting so much work in locally that she can be selective about what projects she works on further afield.

She has been featured many times in national magazines and gained international work in the United States. 

Mrs Nolen is committed to using Illawarra construction providers and suppliers. She also has a passion and commitment to mentoring young local female designers.  

Mrs Nolen is also committed to helping others less fortunate than herself by providing her own time and money to help facilitate the Shine and Strength Program she runs with her husband. It is a unique personal development and group mentoring initiative that uses an inspirational, practical and experiential approach to learning. “It is all about empowering young women. It is run in quite a few high schools in the Illawarra. My husband and I run groups particularly for refugee children. We are empowering them to be the best they can be.”  

Birdblack Design also supports Destiny Rescue that helps young women in South East Asia out of prostitution and the sex trade. Mr and Mrs Nolen also give to a community in Sri Lanka and have visited twice to help prevent very young children from dropping out of school.

Illawarra ITeC's Virginia Wren with IWIB Illawarra Young Businesswoman of the Year Sarah Nolen. Picture: Greg Ellis.

Illawarra ITeC's Virginia Wren with IWIB Illawarra Young Businesswoman of the Year Sarah Nolen. Picture: Greg Ellis.

Mrs Nolen worked as a senior designer for an interior design firm in Canberra for five years prior to starting her business in Wollongong. 

She and her husband Dave Nolen moved from the ACT to Wollongong three years ago when he secured a job as a mechanical engineer at the steelworks. “I always knew I would go out on my own. I do mainly residential design. We are interior designers and we have a really strong focus on renovation and new builds. We are bespoke in our designs. So you never see the same design replicated more than once. We are very much tailored to the personality of the client. We find out every single thing about them.”

Mrs Nolen said more Illawarra people were seeking “something extra special for their house”.

I always knew I would go out on my own.

Sarah Nolan

With new homes she likes to be involved from the beginning so she can work with the architect, builder and client.

Whenever possible she likes to project manage the design, selection of materials and the build.

Mrs Nolen generally has two designers working with her. Georgia Frank worked for her for two years after spending three months as her first intern through Billy Blue Design College. Presently her other designers are Eliesha Keenan and Rachel Pace who has just finished her internship.

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