Hello! Can you tell us about yourself? I’m Nicola, owner of Nicola Holden Designs, a…
Hello! Can you tell us about yourself?
I’m an interior designer with a small, brilliant team, focusing on hotel & residential design all around the world.
I am also a mummy to three daughters and live in a small stone cottage built in 1530, and consider myself extremely lucky.
What’s your backstory and what attracted you to design?
I began my interior design journey at Inchbald School of Design. And after this Charles Worthington asked me to redesign his hair salons, but as I had never done a commercial space before I was terrified of letting him down. I tried to wriggle out of it but he wouldn’t take no for an answer! It was the best thing I did, taking that leap and getting out of my comfort zone!
What do you love most about designing?
Transforming from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Seeing the space and visualizing what it could look like and then going on to achieve that, is so exciting.
Who, for you, has been the most influential designer/designers?
Kit Kemp, her hotels are genius. Veere Grenney for his fabrics and decorative style. Steven Gambrel is my favourite US designer, classical but in a modern way.
Where do you find inspiration for new designs?
Traveling and visiting new places is most certainly where I gain most of my inspiration. I go to Maison et Objet in Paris, which is held in January and September each year. The stands are incredible and hugely inspiring.
Not to forget Paris, left bank. I love browsing in the art galleries and antique shops off the Rue des Saints-Pères in St Germain. Dipping into Du Bout Du Monde and Blanc d’Ivoire is fun for those less expensive pieces.
Describe your approach to functionality v aesthetics.
Choosing function over form is a necessary part of hotel design to ensure longevity. This is often frustrating but it has to be done. The trick is achieving both!
Describe your approach to choosing/using colours.
I love the grey palate with strong accent colours. I’m also really enjoying the geometric fabrics from Tissus d’Helene. They cross the boundaries of being soft but with clean lines in stunning colours; so clever.
How are green awareness and the increasing popularity of eco-friendly products affecting the design process(now, and in the future)?
Sustainability and eco-friendly products are vital in today’s world to ensure we do our bit to protect our planet as much as we can.
Take us through your process of designing for a client.
The process is basically broken down into two sections: Sketch Design & Developed Design. The first involves major discussions with the client where we try to largely just listen! Site meetings, a full site measure, then plans and elevations are drawn with concept images produced. The developed design follows taking things to the next level with electrical & lighting plans and hand-drawn perspectives to give the client a complete impression. Finally, we then get on to procurement followed by installation.
But of course, the first thing we do is get to know our client and their lifestyle, and listen avidly.
What do you like to hear people say when they view your work?
This is way beyond our expectations!
What is your all-time favourite design (yours)?
Isle de France, St Barths. It was the most fantastic project and I was so fortunate to be able to design exquisite bespoke pieces that really enhanced the natural beauty of the hotel.
Also Hotel Le Toiny in St Barth’s, where we worked closely with the client to create this beautiful, calm space using wonderful materials. The understated luxurious look incorporates hand-made linens, muted leathers, bleached sycamore, oyster shells, mother of pearl, antique mirror, petrified wood & lots of bespoke pieces giving it a unique feel.
Through real-life design projects, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Only work with people you really like, I know this sounds like a luxury but I believe it pays in the end. You spend a lot of time together so it helps to be on the same wavelength. Life is too short so it’s important to have fun and enjoy the journey.
I believe the right lighting is always the key to successful designs. It is so often underestimated which is a shame as it can make or break any environment. Pockets of light add drama and effect but also create warmth.
What interesting projects are you working on right now? And what does the future look like?
We are currently working on three beautiful hotels in Spain as well as a few residential projects locally and abroad.