Against the Grain is a series spotlighting those who are underrepresented in the woodworking, carpentry, and construction industry. We speak with people working on projects—from whole-home renovations to intricate wood sculptures—to learn what inspires them, how they’ve carved their own space (pun intended), and what they’re working on next.
One of the very best parts about the virtual world of woodworking is the support between craftspeople. It’s a small, tight-knit community full of DIY cheerleaders—and that’s exactly how Nada Taha caught our attention.
With features on Apartment Therapy and Rust-Oleum Canada, Nada’s profile, One Forty-Four, is the perfect mix of practicality and optimism when it comes to all things woodworking, renovation, and DIY.
We recently connected over Zoom with this registered nurse and proud ‘boy mama’ to discuss her own journey into woodworking—and what she has in store for the future.
Have you always been into DIY and home renovation?
Nada Taha: I come from a family who does everything themselves. My dad is a professional painter, so when he first came here, he started a painting company with his brothers. When we were younger, he would say, ‘Hey, you want to come to work and help?’ I was the oldest of six, so we always went to help him, whether it was cleaning, peeling painter's tape off the walls, or cleaning his brushes.
My mom loves interior design, though she's not an interior designer. Every single year, my dad said, ‘Okay, pick any color you guys want. We'll repaint your room, and you can design it how you wish.’ So, we would! He brought home the color book from Cloverdale Paint, we sifted through it, and we chose one. Any color, whatever color we chose, he would paint it for us, and we'd help him.
How did you first become interested in woodworking?
NT: We did a lot of renovations and DIY projects growing up, but it was nothing to do with woodworking. Woodworking is so new to me, but I just picked it up. One day, I needed an entryway bench, and I wanted something custom. But to get anything custom-built is so expensive. I watched girls on Instagram do it a year and a half ago now, and I said to myself, I love working with my hands, I can do this. I told my husband, ‘Can you go get a miter saw for me?’ Because I had no idea about tools. He said, ‘Seriously?’
But he got one for me, and I got all the wood, and every single night after my kids would go to sleep, if I was off work, I would go to the garage. I’d watch some YouTube videos and start building—it was so empowering.
Did you ever imagine that woodworking would become such a big part of your life?
NT: Growing up, I never had a hobby—I was busy studying all the time. I'm a nurse, my parents are immigrants, they’re Lebanese. For immigrant families, we grow up quite quickly because we have to help our parents translate and help with everything, like the bills. I was always so busy studying that I never had a chance to find a hobby, or I wasn't really interested.
But I always thought about being an interior designer. My best friend and I were intent on starting a company. We would mesh our names together to come up with a company name, and then we would draw blueprints of our rooms and reconfigure furniture.
How old were you when you were doing this?
NT: Like, ten? Maybe eleven?
Is there a reason you went into nursing instead of interior design?
NT: Before I chose nursing, I knew I wanted to be an interior designer, and that is what I love. I was so into watching HGTV home renovation shows. My parents thought it wasn't really a job, and I remember saying, ‘But, I love it so much.’
Then, when I was in the garage building this entryway bench, I was in tears—I found my passion. I found my hobby. Though I'm almost 30, I finally found my passion. I took this hobby, and I ran with it, knowing that this is what I meant to do. This is what's for me. Then, I just dove right in, even though I had no idea what I was doing.
I found my passion. I found my hobby. Though I'm almost 30, I finally found my passion.
Is woodworking something that you still consider a hobby, or has it become a new career path for you?
NT: I don't know if content creation is for me. I would rather make woodworking and carpentry my full-time job. I would love to have a workshop and help women who look like me learn, open up this opportunity that they never knew existed or they never knew they could do, and show them another side of the world. Show them that with carpentry, you don't have to be a nurse a lawyer, or whatever else to be successful. I do want to turn this hobby into something full-time, but I’m still figuring it out.
Is there a specific project that made you consider that this could be more than just a hobby?
NT: After my laundry room renovation, Apartment Therapy reached out to me. That's when I was like, oh, this is something that I can do! A lot of people started reaching out to me locally, asking, ‘Hey, can you help us renovate this?’ Or ‘hey, can you please give us some design plans?’ Every single day, I get requests, and I, unfortunately, have to say no at times. I'm one person and a mom of two kids, so I'm still figuring that out.
So, you are kind of turning interior design into your career after your parents said no!
NT: I know, my parents are still like, ‘Really? That's what you want to do?’ Ultimately, it is my decision. I chose nursing after I had to translate a million times with my dad at hospitals. I was like, I'm just going to be a nurse who can speak both Arabic and English because I'm going to see a lot of Arabic-speaking patients.
What are some of your most recent projects?
NT: My most recent build was this desk. I didn't have plans. It was kind of like, okay, I have this vision in my head. I took my notepad out, and I just drew it out, step by step, and eventually came together. Eventually, I want to work on making plans and step-by-step instructions for people to follow.
What project are you the proudest of?
NT: It’s a renovation project, but I'm most proud of my laundry room because it was completely unfinished. There were just studs on the wall. I drywalled it, taped it, figured out a stencil for the floor because I was trying to keep it budget-friendly. The whole project cost me, I think, around 540 dollars (Canadian).
I think the woodworking project I'm most proud of would probably be my first project, my entryway bench. It was so challenging, and I challenged myself to build drawers. That's a super hard project to start with! But I knew I needed to start with something hard, because, if once I figure it out, then I know I can do other things.
What has been your biggest failure during a project that became a valuable lesson?
NT: Again, my entryway bench drawers! They were a failure first, so I had to redo them. I had to retake the frame out. Basically the lesson there was to measure twice, cut once. That's a real thing.
I just remember sitting on the garage floor and looking at this mess. And I was like, ‘Okay, I'm done. I can't do this.’ It took like two months for me to figure that project out.
And that entryway bench was the very first thing you ever built?
NT: Just to learn my tools like to practice cuts, I built a side table. That was to practice my brad nailer and my miter cuts because I needed to practice before the bench. That was my very, very first project.
If budget and time were no constraint, what would be your dream project to build?
NT: A workshop! I want my garage to be a workshop, and I want to start a workshop somewhere where I can have people come in and learn with me, or learn from me. I want to start a woodworking workshop where I have room and space to build. I have a little table in my garage, but most of the time I'm like on the floor, squatting and drilling. I definitely, definitely would make a workshop.
What's one thing that you wish people really understood about woodworking?
NT: It's doable. Look, it looks hard from the outside. But when you're following a project plan, it's really doable. You just have to understand the tools, and it takes a lot of patience and a lot of mistakes at first. When you're doing your miter cuts, you might cut the other way. So it takes a lot of extra lumber, to start. But it's doable!
What do you feel has been the most rewarding part for you of learning to build?
NT: Teaching other women. I've had women start Instagram pages and try projects because they were following me from their personal pages. And they'd be like, ‘Hey, how do we build this little bench?’ And I would send them a few things, saying ‘follow this’ or ‘do this,’ and then they would send me their pictures back and I would edit them. Then, I would send it back and be like, ‘Here, this is something to really show your family and friends—this picture. It’s brightened up, it really shows your work.’
I like to have those friends who started Instagram pages from it. And I love answering questions… because my dad's a painter, I have a lot of knowledge when it comes to painting. What kind of wood should I use? What kind of stain should I use?
Favorite wood? Olive wood. I'm looking at an olive tree right now.
What is it about olive wood that you love? Because it originates in the Middle East, and it's so unique. Every single piece is unique—different grains, especially for cutting boards, planks, and accessories around the house. Olive wood is absolutely beautiful.
Favorite tool or piece of equipment? My miter saw, because it's what I started with. You can do a lot with that.
Favorite piece? My desk.
Biggest goal? Having a workshop and teaching other women.
Favorite accessory? Probably my notepad and pencil.
What is your favorite step of the process? The building process, figuring it all out.
Who is your favorite assistant? I've had my kids in there a couple of times, they’re four and a half and two and a half. I usually only have them when I'm not cutting, only when I'm cleaning up and stuff. My kids love to help clean. They stack the extra scraps of lumber like Jenga pieces.
Music on or off? On!
Do you listen on a speaker or headphones? On a speaker.
What music do you listen to? I listen to a lot of early 90s and early 2000s hip hop, and a lot of Arabic. Always old school. Music is on and I'm listening and singing.