Badass Mamas | Neffi Walker
Getting personal with the force behind Jersey City's McGinley Square-based Le Noir Home, a gorgeous interior and retail design store
Social media is funny. It allows perfect strangers a window into each others’ lives (and on occasion, even unique insight into a friend you thought you knew). In time, we feel as though we know people we’ve never met. And in a curated way, we do.
There are those who are innocuous Instagram'ers, provoking no reaction and simply being present.
Then there are those who use these newfangled ways of digitally chatting on the front porch to uplift and inspire each other. It is these people who I follow in droves and Neffi Walker is of this variety of fabulous human. She embodies confidence and humility, positivity and class, beauty and selflessness, sharing glimpses into her life as an interior designer with impeccable style, a naturally effortless fashionista and a doting, strong, independent mother (I wish she would adopt me. Seriously). From time to time, she throws in a dash of always-ready-to-repost Pinterest-esque wisdom.
She shares everything from the tribulations of learning to use Snapchat, to surprising her daughters with a road trip to Baltimore to try their first "crabby patty," running her interior and retail shop Le Noir Home ("The Black Home" in French), 'hiring' her son (who was paid in room and board) as the new 'gardener' and displaying the sass of her infectiously adorable and stunningly beautiful — just like her mom — youngest daughter, four year old Nile Kennedi.
I grew to adore and look forward to Neffi's Instagram posts. I was (am) a fangirl, I can admit it.
My departure from Jersey City felt so fast and furious, and came (ironically) at a time when I began to meet some truly incredible people, especially spirited mamas. But something told me I could not skirt town without meeting Neffi face-to-face, and when she so graciously accepted my request, I was thrilled. Actually getting together? Not so easy. In my perpetually unpacked-despite-packing-around-the-clock state, I had to cancel on Neffi and it was a true maze to make the connection happen, but we didn't give up. We were destined to meet, if only for forty-five minutes, which ended up being the case for Ms. Walker and I.
Forty-five minutes with Neffi Walker? I'll take it. And I'm so glad I did. We fell into instant conversation, and she is an incredible listener with a fascinating ability to quickly get to know a person. She has a truly magnetic personality that is caring, calm, grounded and elegant.
As well as I felt Neffi got to know me in a short amount of time, I wanted to share who she is on Phoenix Mom Rising, and that's to say a larger-than-life creative personality who has experience under her belt, but tricks up her sleeve, and you cannot take your eyes off her.
Hi Nef! Tell me about your past lives pre-Le Noir Home.
I am a true scatterbrained creative at heart! I have created a patterned African skirt line which was a cult favorite, I have a skincare line for babies called Kennedi Price Baby, I went to school with a concentration on sports events and planned basketball clinics for young aspiring NBA stars for a while. Out of all the things I have done, interior design is my overall passion.
How did you get into interior design?
My parents. My father purchased a brownstone in the 80's and I always found myself in trouble while young and was forced to help him restore it on weekends for punishment (laughs). I hated it then but I know how to strip woodwork like a pro!
What brought you to Jersey City?
A man (she laughs). I was engaged and we were looking for a home base to raise our family. I lived on Grove for years in a duplex and moved back to SoHo after we parted. I always had an affection for the city and although we lived in NYC, I made sure my children stayed in their school throughout the move by keeping a residence in 70 Greene, as well.
What lead you to open up Le Noir Home?
It was for purely personal reasons. I needed to connect with a community outside of my now-suburban area in the Oranges. Being a city girl, my heart lies in the energy of movement. Around my area the only movement comes from the deer! So I looked for a space in an area that will grow (McGinley Square) and I wanted to be a part of a community from the bottom and add to the growth.
Editor's Note: on her Instagram feed, Neffi recently added,
2 weeks after [I was moved to make things beautiful] the spirit moved me to Craigslist and brought to an area I had never visited called #mcginleysquare in #jerseycity. I saw a property That looked too good to be true and set up an appointment with the landlord for the next day.
When I walked in, I felt the same way I felt about my home - this is it- the landlord asked me what would I use the space for and I said " I need to get out of my house, I need to speak and chat with people and help a community, I think I will sell things I would place into my own home... I don't know... Please forgive me for my scattered comment but I want this place and I never ran a brick and mortar before but I know how to pay rent!"
He gave me the keys right then and there, before I gave him money or signed a lease, he said he loved the energy I had and he knows I will be successful at what ever I will do. He took a chance on me but first I TOOK A CHANCE ON MYSELF!
My point is whatever you set your mind on doing you can do.... Even if you have no clue what it will end up to be.... Just move... Start the movement.... I start with a conversation with God...then I wait for a feeling... Then I move based on that.
You are never really stuck in one particular place ... We are all free to move so please let my testimony be a reminder that the power and choice is always within you.... Just do it
What is Le Noir Home?
Le Noir Home is a home store which mimics my own home. It is stocked with items I curated or made for the store for one’s dwelling. Everything is one-of-a-kind so you are forced to visit often because we stock major goodies from sofas, to mirrors and original artwork.
What products and services does Le Noir Home offer?
We specialize in interior and retail design. We also custom make furniture for clients and help to bring their vision to life.
Why did you choose McGinley Square for the shop versus any other neighborhood?
It would have been so easy to open Le Noir Home in Montclair, Millburn or Summit, being that my client base resides there. But I wanted to sell quality pieces well below the retail price to a community who needs quality pieces. I donate furniture to low income families around the area and try to help in any way I can to make their house a home.
What is your intention for Le Noir Home moving forward?
To build stores globally with the same mindset of community first.
Tell me about some of your plans to bring the community together and welcome your new neighborhood into Le Noir Home?
My intention was to offer the backyard this summer and serve teas, mellow jazz and desserts but I was unable to create the environment needed to do so. I am excellent with designing a home but the thought of refacing dirt and grass is beyond my understanding!
Instead, I am opening up a cappuccinos, teas, desserts and hot cocoa stand inside the store to go, being that the area lacks these essentials.
You are a natural mother, but how has moving out of Manhattan and into Jersey changed that profile for you?
Sigh, I have to be honest in saying that I have a love/hate relationship with New Jersey. Being born a Manhattanite, I understand corner stores, organic fruit stands, yoga and a Chinese food restaurant all in one block!
Here I am forced to drive for comfort, hence the reason I am a homebody (laughs). My sons, who are now 21, complained for two years about the lack of trains to get to jobs and school (they are used to fast transport) and would say things like, "Why would you move us into the woods?!” Dramatic, yes, but I did understand the frustration. My daughters, on the other hand, love it. Go figure!
I’d be a homebody too if I lived in your gorgeous home. Well, I am mostly a homebody anyway (though a nomadic one), so in your home, I guess I would be a total recluse!