Student Success - Sonya and Tonya

By Sarah Van Arsdale on July 16 2005

NYIAD students are out there in droves decorating clients' homes, serving as consultants in department stores, and re-designing everything from metropolitan penthouses to lakeshore cottages. If you've started your own business, if you've been hired by a decorating firm, or if you've achieved success in some other way in the field of interior design, we want to hear from you! Click here to let us know about the waves you're making!

If you missed earlier installments of this series, here's your chance to read more about the accomplishments of NYIAD students. Just visit our NYIAD Student Success page.

NYIAD Student Postcard A design client hiring the services of Comfort Living Design may be surprised to find that they've gotten the expertise of not just one designer, but of two – two who look identical to one another. In the case of Sonya Roberts-Cunningham and Tonya Roberts-Raines, success for one means success for the other, and being identical twins in business together just adds to the fun.

This isn't unusual for them; as identical twin sisters they're used to sharing everything from clothing to childcare.

"What makes it different for us is that we know each other so well. We usually finish each other's sentences," Sonya said.

Their twinship also makes the pair a great design team. "When one has a creative idea, the other can join right in, and we start bouncing ideas off each other. We don't always share the same ideas, but we will go with the design that will suit the room we are working on at the time."

For many years, the twins shared their interest in decorating, and enjoyed the hobby of decorating rooms in their own homes, swapping ideas for colors and new looks.

And then they saw an ad for the NYIAD School of Interior Design in one of their design magazines and sent away for information

"We liked what we read, especially that we did not have to leave our families to go away to school. We both were married and had children," Sonya explained.

NYIAD Student Postcard

Before they even completed the Course, they landed their first professional design job, which they found by word of mouth – even while they were still students, word of the twins' talent for design was spreading in the Charleston, West Virginia area.

Now, they own their own business – Comfort Living Design – in Charleston, and just completed decorating a 2.3 million dollar home. They're also working on four other homes and on a commercial project, the lobby of a Japanese-owned company.

All this work keeps Sonya and Tonya busy, but because of the flexible nature of the business, they still have time for their families.

"We work by appointments only, which fits our busy schedule perfectly," Sonya said.

And running a business together allows the twins to use their double brainpower on their jobs.

NYIAD Student Postcard

"What we like best is that we are being creative and that every job is different," Sonya said. "It is just awesome brainstorming together on a new project. It really gets our creative juices flowing."

Ironically, given that Sonya and Tonya work so well together, some of the biggest challenges involved in their work come from getting their clients to agree, whether they're working with a husband and wife or a president of a company and his staff.

"Most challenges come when we are working with clients that are married, we have to make sure that we are pleasing both husband and wife and that we are combining both of their tastes together. Also when we are working for a corporation our designs have to be approved by the company president and his staff."

While working with siblings may seem impossible to some people, for Sonya and Tonya the arrangement works just fine.

NYIAD Student Postcard
NYIAD Student Postcard

"The benefits of working together are that we are each other's best friends, and even if we have a disagreement we always resolve it. We are never afraid or too proud to say ÎI am sorry' to each other."

Today, Sonya and Tonya are very happy they invested in taking the NYIAD Course.

"Our studies at NYIAD have helped tremendously," Sonya said. "It gave us valuable information that we could not have received even at a college or university. NYIAD is very hands-on, and our instructors were knowledgeable in every area of design."

The twins encourage other prospective students to follow their dreams as well.

NYIAD Student Postcard

"If this is something you have dreamed of doing, just do it," Sonya says. "Even if you decide to go to a four-year design school, I would still recommend NYIAD, for the Course just enhances your creativity."

Sonya was especially impressed with the individual attention given to NYIAD students.

"You are not going to get the one-on-one instruction at a University," she said.

The twins plan to continue increasing their business, attending trade shows and seminars in order to keep up with the many changes in the business.

"What we like best is that we are being creative and that every job is different," Sonya said. "It is just awesome brainstorming together on a new project. It really gets our creative juices flowing."

"That's what makes it so much fun. You never have time to get bored."

Our interior design classes helped drive these twin sisters to share their passion for design and turn it into a flourishing sisterly business. Learn more and start your own designing today!