THIS OLD MILL BASIN COMPANY FOCUSES ON BRINGING A DISTINCTIVELY HOLISTIC APPROACH TO INTERIOR DESIGN

BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH

As an interior designer with a distinctive and eclectic style, Violetta Ustayev admits that she could make excessively bold moves with clients’ homes, then fill her Instagram feed with artistically driven design scapes and showcase outrageously ornate rooms just for the likes. But she won’t.

“At the end of the day, design has to be practical,” the Old Mill Basin-based interior designer noted. “My clients have kids, pets, and busy lives, it’s my job to create spaces that can accommodate and grow with them in the future.”

Focused on design, construction management, and staging, Ustayev brings a holistic approach to each project. For the past 10 years, she has been infusing her work with her own global experiences and has been collaborating with clients nationally and internationally on both residential and commercial interiors. This, and her keen attention to detail, bring intriguing possibilities to clients.

Born in Russia, raised in Philadelphia, and the daughter of a designer and a beautician, Ustayev said that she developed an excellent eye for pattern and cohesive conceptualization as a young girl. Earning her bachelor’s degree in pre-law and a master’s degrees in accounting from Penn State University, she moved to New York to work as a hedge fund manager upon graduation. A few of her friends were investing in real estate, flipping houses for a profit, so she decided to supplement her income and do the same.

BK WINDOW SPREAD

“I subbed out the work, but chose all of the materials and was very hands-on throughout every stage of each project,” Ustayev said. “When the economy crashed in 2008 and I was laid off, that work became my focus.
One thing led to another, and I was commissioned to help a client design a bedroom—that was the beginning of [her company] Vi Design.”

Ustayev also returned to school, studying at Parsons to learn CAD and Photoshop. “I had been working in the industry for quite some time at that point; I knew most of my professors from the trade shows, and many times I would have to run out of class to take care of an installation,” Ustayev said. “After two years of study, one of my professors suggested I walk away from the degree because I already had a team who focused on AutoCAD for me. So I concentrated on my strengths, which is designing for and communicating with clients.”

When retained for a job, Ustayev has a set process: She interviews the property owner, shares her thoughts and listens to their inspirations, taking in their style and identifying where they spend most of their time. For a shared residence, she interviews both husband and wife, finding in some instances a happy medium between their tastes, when that’s required.

“At the end of the day, it is their home, not mine, and the instant they walk in the door I want that to be recognized,” she said, adding that what’s promised is “turnkey work.”

“The last couple of weeks, I don’t even allow clients on site,” she smiled while explaining that often an entire house is styled and accessorized, right down to a fully stocked refrigerator. “All of the linens, bedding, towels, everything is in place,” she said. “And clients’ reactions are my drug. To see their tears and hear screams of joy…I can’t even put that into words. Months after the reveal, I still get texts telling me how much they love their home. Simply put, that is the most fulfilling part of my job.”


A Brooklyn resident (she lives two minutes from her office) and a mom of three, Ustayev is always thinking realistically when designing any space.

“My work is extremely personalized and not at all trend-driven,” she noted. “For the past six or seven years, design in general has been more transitional; people are taking more risks than they used to, so we get to have fun with different patterns and textures, and yes, it’s okay to mix gold and silver [laughs].”
Such stodgy rules might no longer apply, Ustayev said, but there is one she will not break.

“I only use high-performance fabrics; otherwise, your couch is destroyed within two months of use,” she said. “But otherwise, we think outside of the box and deliver a look that is entirely personal and unique.”
She is also concentrating on expanding the business; she recently launched Vi Metal, which will focus on creating custommade furniture and decorative work, all crafted out of metal.

“I love the challenge that each new project brings,” Ustayev concluded. “Every job is different and allows me to take this personal glimpse inside of clients’ lives. I love being a part of something so exciting, ushering such a positive change into their homes.”

Put another way, as she points out in the company blog, “great design is forever.”

Vi Design
6313 Mill Lane / 718.303.3883
vi-designs.com