So Canadian eh? : Nicole Scott

Tomorrow I get to meet my latest guest during our fabulous Blend 2012 event sponsored by Ikea Canada.

 A blogger and designer who makes her home on Vancouver Island in our fair capital of Victoria,
please welcome....

Nicole Scott from Nicole Scott Designs.

She is....
Nicole, is a contract historian by day and super decorator by night. It is through decorating her first home that she unleashed her creativity and eventually felt more comfortable to begin taking on clients. A fabric obsessed gal like myself, she has also recently opened an Etsy shop selling her pillow covers, using a plethora of richly coloured and patterned fabrics, making them one-of-a-kind.

She recently participated in the One Room Challenge alongside myself and 18 other bloggers and made-over her office, which is stunning! Being inspired by Emily Clark's recent office do over, Nicole's is simply amazing.

 Be sure to pop over to Nicole's Etsy shop to check out her pillow covers!

Tell us a bit about yourself. What makes you tick? What are you most passionate about? Were you always creative? What did you study in school? 

I’m passionate about decorating interiors and I’m passionate about Canadian history too. I have always been creative and curious so I suppose my two career paths are not that surprising. As a girl, I used to make houses with my cousins out of hay bales at our family’s farm… constructing walls and furniture and laying quilts out to make it homey. I even dragged old broken down appliances to my “house” in a wagon to make the kitchen complete. I was always into living spaces with my toys like Lego and Barbie and I remember one of my babysitting clients owned a drug store and the mom saved me design mags with the covers ripped off throughout my teens. My job as I saved up for school was at IKEA which is a design nerds dream…imagine my first apartment! Even with such early passion for design I chose a career path that was familiar to me and acceptable to my family. When I went to University I thought I was leaving to become a teacher but I didn’t like it in practicum and by then I had already been captivated by history classes and I soaked up as much as I could. After school I went on to work as a contract historian and I’m still doing it 13 years later.

 You work as a professional decorator? Were you always involved in the design scene? If not, what made you decide to take the plunge? 

 No, I’m definitely new! When my husband and I moved to Vancouver Island a few years ago we bought our first house and that’s when the designer in me really came out. I have always dabbled and helped friends and family, but this house needed work and I was ready. Our move also coincided with a downturn in the economy and I wasn’t working as much in the research field so I slowly started a blog and then started to channel my research efforts to the subject of design and decorating. I struggled with all the “yeah but” statements and worries about money etc so I understand all too well how hard it is to transition from a day job to a creative pursuit. Describing it as a plunge is perfect, because that’s what it is…just start…amazing things will flow from just simply starting in a small way. Now that I am a few years into it, and as I look back, I am so glad I took steps in this direction….I was uncertain then and now I’m really happy.

What have you enjoyed about having your own design business? Anything not so pleasant? 

 I have really become accustomed to making my own hours as a consultant so my favorite thing has been, and continues to be, working from home on my own schedule. It was a must that I am able to be home with our sweet old dog K-man too! I’ve got the business and project management part of my design work down (mostly) but I would say my challenges have been in the area of handling clients. I’ve been a nerd working alone in the archives for a long time; of course my social skills are a little rusty! I found out right away that working for other people is not as easy as it looks on TV. Balancing other people’s wants and needs and listening as well as knowing when to make suggestions is something I work on. I’m always thinking about how to approach topics and provide great visual tools to guide my conversations with clients so we clearly understand one another. Dealing with husbands and wives is another interesting dynamic! But my favorite is when I click with someone on a design issue and I really love it when they are brave and follow my suggestions/advice. Being brave with décor decisions means that they trust me and that’s a great feeling! I have noticed one subtle side effect of actually working as a decorator and that is that I don’t actually shop as much for my own house anymore. I would say this is an unpleasant side effect… my husband would disagree.

What tips would you have for anyone aspiring to branch off on his or her own? 

This question is especially important to me because just a short time ago I was on the fence.
 - Prepare yourself whether you are self taught, or through design school so that you are knowledgeable and professional.
 - Own your talents and creativity. As an academic I struggled with posing as a decorator without a design degree. I worked my whole adult life in university and then as a research professional and in my world that’s the proper way to go about things. One day my hairdresser asked me if I saw a beautiful painting if I would ask the artist if they had an art degree or if I would just appreciate how talented that individual was and accept that they were an artist. She changed my way of thinking that day.
- Make Room– You don’t have to have to quit everything else in your life to explore your design ambitions just make a little room in your life and it will evolve as you do.
- Persevere and Patience. Unless you have a roster of rich friends with bad taste chances are you are going to start out slow. I’ve only had a handful of jobs to date and only one of them paid actual money…the rest were trades for other services which were fine by me. Each job is a space in my portfolio and another referral so in my mind this is a great way to start.
- Be yourself. This one sounds kind of silly but honestly, I’m serious. So many of us, me included, look at all the fabulous designers and bloggers out there and admire what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and it is tempting to try to emulate or follow that exact path. It’s harder than it sounds to be yourself and figure out why you’re unique but it is essential. I’m trying to remain inspired by all the fabulousness I see all around, and stay “me” at the same time. It’s hard.

 Do you find having a blog has helped your design business? 

Blogging has connected me with so many like-minded people who are supportive and enthusiastic about design so YES, blogging has really helped me personally. I am inspired and in awe of some bloggers creativity and marketing power within the industry. It’s big business! I haven’t harnessed the potential of “the blog” yet for business purposes. I think going forward my blog demonstrates to prospective clients what I like, what I’m doing and shows a little of my personality so they can tell if they’d like to meet, or…maybe not. I do try to be mindful of my ultimate goal, and so I remind myself now and then that I am a professional decorator who also has a blog.

 How would you describe your design style? 

 I’ve heard the term “edited mix” used to describe eclectic spaces I love by designers like Brad Ford, Thom Filicia and Jason Martin. So I’d like to lump myself in with my designer crushes and say my style is sometimes eclectic and usually a budget conscious edited mix of contemporary and DIY.

Where/what are your go-to design sources? 

 I use a combination of local stores, online shopping and Used Victoria (our local craigslist) to find what I need. Some of my favorite local stores in Victoria are Trade Roots and Chintz & Co. and I admit that I visit HomeSense allot! I’m a flea market and Swap meet regular too! Every time I go to Vancouver I pop over to South Granville to visit the usual suspects and I also try to make it to the Cross. I have a real fabric addiction that is currently being fed by late night online purchases. What gets your creative juices flowing? Blank walls / spaces and design dilemmas for sure. As soon as I walk into a new place I have ideas and I love hearing peoples design problems and working out a functional and beautiful fix. I am inspired daily by reading blogs and magazines and I love trying new arrangements or DIY projects.

You are launching your own line of pillows this fall. What made you decide to foray into the world of soft furnishings? 

 I have been making pillows for myself and clients for a little while so it was a logical next step. I wanted covers that I wasn’t seeing around town in stores and I knew I could make them for less than what some online stores were charging. So I did it. I had lots of encouragement from clients and friends and my Etsy store is literally launching in a few days and I’m so excited!

 Where do you hope to see Nicole Scott Designs in the future? 

 You never know what opportunities may come along…I would like to think that I am setting myself up to be open to new ideas and collaborations in the future but I don’t have a specific vision other than to say I would like to build up my portfolio and be proud of its contents.

 What are your views on the role Canadian design plays in the world design scene? Do you feel that Canadians have a unique sense of style and design, and if so, what is it that you think sets us apart?

When I think of Canadian Design I think of houses and the past rather than design as a concept. I picture west coast homes inspired by First Nations and nature in BC, European influences in 60’s ranchers in Edmonton and modern country homes in Calgary. I see Victorian style farmhouses, mis-matched lakeside cabins over the prairies, and old world buildings and grand stone homes in Ontario and Quebec. I envision saltboxes in Halifax, colorful fishing villages and quirky & innovative homes scattered all over the north. Canada is such a young country (145 years old this year) and it was built by immigrants and influenced by every culture imaginable in order to dot our landscape with all sorts of designs. A history comprised of so many influences has created a unique design story that people around the world can relate to in one way or another because they can see a little of themselves, a little of the familiar, woven into the Canadian esthetic. Of course, not every house is whispering a tome of Canadian history or culture, but the ones that do are what draw people in, capture their imaginations and set us apart.

See you tomorrow Nicole!

XO Barbara


  1. Hello Nicole, nice to meet you! I'm in Victoria too. I really liked your room makeovers, your office is just gorgeous (noticed the Esquimalt road sign right away!) and your pillows are beautiful. Great interview Barbara and have fun at Blend!

  2. What a great sense of style. I love what she said about her hairdresser's advice. Something to consider when we are questioning our decisions.

  3. I'm really drawn to your style, Nicole! Nice to "meet" you.

  4. I am a sucker for a great success story! Nicole, I love that your went after your true passion and your innate talent made you successful. Your style is traditional and trendy with a snap! Enjoyed this interview so much.

  5. That's My friend, Nicole. She is being modest....she is HUGELY talented! She also has the cutest dog and let's her niece's help paint. Yeah, Nicole...the pillow shop looks great!

  6. This is the best. I read your series all the time Barbara. Can't wait to meet you and the gang tomorrow! Follow your dreams Peeps!

  7. I love hearing designers talk about their business. We all go through the same things! Enjoyed reading it. Thanks for posting. And I look forward to meeting you tonight!

  8. It was so great to read this interview. I sense a kindred spirit with Nicole. I'll be checking out her Etsy store and blog too!

  9. It was such a fun night wasnt it? Oh how i love this feature- Nicole you are simply amazing!!

  10. Such a great interview - love all of Nicole's insight!

  11. Beautiful makeovers! It's very cool to know you're just a quick trip over the Malahat away... And Heather is already there! And I know there are a few more of us on the Island,too. Wouldn't an Island meet-up be fun?

  12. Great interview Barbara! Nicole's home is beautiful!


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