Designing life: How Joseph and Nicole Persia make the world more beautiful
Joseph and Nicole Persia (Interior Design ’07 &’08) make rush hour a little more beautiful for thousands of commuters in downtown Toronto. They’re the studio principal and creative director, respectively, of Green Tangerine Design, a design and architecture firm specializing in restaurant, retail and commercial environments, including projects located in Toronto’s Union Station, and the towers of the financial district. They’ve designed everything from a portable candy cart on a sleek golden tricycle that can be pedaled around Union Station, to a Japanese-inspired cheesecake restaurant. In 2015, they renovated an old Laura Secord in the bustling PATH system below Toronto’s financial district and turned it into the Belmonte Raw Organic Juicery, work that, in 2016, won them the Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) Award of Merit and the Canadian Interiors Best of Canada Design Award for retail.
Nicole says their accomplishments feel a bit surreal given they’ve all happened just a decade after graduating from Sheridan. “Sometimes we just shake our heads, like, are we working on these projects? This is what we wanted to be doing.”
The Perisas first started Green Tangerine Design back in 2006, while they were still students at Sheridan and looking for ways to gain extra experience. Alongside their full-time courses, Joseph’s varsity soccer schedule and part-time jobs, they landed freelance design work for HBC and its licensees. Then, in 2010, they decided to get married, resign from their jobs and turn Green Tangerine Design into a full-time gig. “It got to the point where we wanted to do it, and we had enough clients to get us started. It was a scary step to take,” Nicole says.
Starting out on their own may have been tense, but it allowed them to pursue passions they’d held since childhood. Sheridan’s Interior Design program was a natural choice for both Joseph and Nicole because they were looking for careers that would nurture their interests in art and design. “As a kid, I was always into drawing and design and drafting. I was very I interested in the whole construction process,” recalls Joseph.
Today, he fulfills those childhood loves through his daily work. After graduating from Sheridan in 2007, he earned his Bachelor of Technology in Sustainable Architecture from the International Academy of Design. Then, he studied construction project management at the University of Toronto. In 2013, he became a licensed interior designer through ARIDO and the National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). Joseph says his combination of skills allows him to stay on the project from conception through to completion, leading not only the design, but also overseeing the construction projects so they can ensure contractors are executing their vision correctly. Today, Green Tangerine’s team has grown to five designers, and the Persias’ own family has grown by two with the addition of their children. Joseph admits it can be challenging to manage both their professional and personal obligations, but Sheridan’s intense course schedule helped them prepare for the realities of running their own business.
“Sheridan challenged us,” he says. “It was demanding, but fun and engaging at the same time – the professors and curriculum prepped us with both a design and technical skillset, a lethal combo.”