Who doesn’t enjoy adding a bit of colour to their personal space? At the age of 11, Nicole White recalled rearranging furniture in her home with the dream that she would one day be able to afford to dress with fancier curtains and pillows. Today, she is an established, award-winning and nationally published interior designer.
“I’ve always loved design. I just didn’t know it was a career option when I went to school in Jamaica. Back then, the key professions we focused on were lawyers, doctors and accountants,” the chief executive officer and principal designer of Nicole White Designs told Saturday Living.
The former journalist has been a solo design entrepreneur for over a decade, working within the industry for 15 years. She describes her design style as bold, edgy, modern, colourful, layered and luxurious. “We don’t do beige! We get hired a lot because of that very distinction. And we are not here to fluff pillows and suggest paint colours only! Have you seen our work? Clearly, that is not the case,” White shared candidly.
The Jamaican, who migrated to Florida in the United States, didn’t make the smoothest transition from her forever and a day’s passion to a successful profession. Admitting that she couldn’t draw to save her life initially, over time and with practice, she learned the craftsmanship of building a story from a myriad of elements: fabrics, tiles, wood and metal. The entrepreneurial side of the journey was no walk in the park either.
As a black Jamaica-born woman residing in a heavy Spanish-speaking community, she has unfortunately faced gender discrimination, “There’s a lot of machismo in this business, especially for firms like ours that specialise in renovations and new construction. I’ve had my share of confrontations with men being disrespectful, condescending and dismissive.” This rarely occurs these days because she is experienced enough to see it from a mile away and nip it in the bud. “We are now well known, but it took years of fighting to be seen, heard and respected,” she added.
Inspired by just about anything, from details on a piece to patterns or her travels, White works with her team to bring the vision to life. “I designed a mom cave in my home before the pandemic, and it’s where I go to sit still, reflect, read, listen to music and get myself in a creative vibe.” She also takes pictures of inspiring things and draws on them as a launching pad of sorts when initiating a new project.
In this line of work, White shared that creativity and freedom is paramount. “Our best projects are the ones where clients respect that creative freedom and trust us to do our thing. The projects we don’t photograph or talk about are the ones where clients micromanaged us and stifled the creativity out of the project. We’ve actually fired ourselves from a few projects like that. You can’t be an unhappy, micro-managed designer and be your most creative,” she pointed out.
Listing designing her very own furniture collection as one of the most fulfilling projects to date, White hopes young boys and girls know that interior design is a viable and respectable career. “My goal has always been to encourage everyone to treat their home as their sanctuary — on whatever budget they have. Not everyone can afford an interior designer, but everyone can be inspired by one to go off and create something on their own that brings them joy.”
5 tips for a successful home renovation
Nicola White shared five interior designing tips to renovate your home.
1. The first thing to consider when renovating a space is what can be removed or relocated without affecting the structural integrity of the space, because walls can be moved and unused hallways closed. A well-designed space must be beautiful and functional. It has to make sense.
2. Use whatever artistic skills you have or what’s at your disposal. This can include taking black-and-white photos of your loved ones, framing them and making a statement gallery wall. Don’t be afraid to display your own creativity.
3. Sanding and painting the cabinets in your kitchen can take that culinary space from drab to fab. It’s the most inexpensive way to elevate your cabinets and breathe new life into them. Ditto on changing the hardware.
4. For the bedroom, eliminate the 1,000 throw pillows on the bed! That’s a game-changer for any couple designing their bedroom. For couples trying to strike a balance in décor, find a middle ground. If she is into pops of colour and he is team neutral or monochromatic, do the bedding in his colour palette and add a pop of colour via a bench or accent chair in the bedroom. If a couple can’t find a happy compromise in their most sacred space, then they’re in trouble.
5. The bathroom should never be an underestimated space. Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes, so always pay attention to the bathroom. A can of paint is the most affordable design trick in the universe. Pick a fun colour and paint the walls as a weekend project. To accessorise, hang a meaningful piece of art (perhaps from your travels), roll some towels in a basket and add a statement soap or lotion dispenser to give the space some personality.