SO Cocktails With — Nicole White

Sunday, September 30, 2018

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Nicole White, president and principal designer of Nicole White Designs (NWD), is delighted to be back home. Her trip is a perfect mix of business and pleasure: White is a guest of Janelle Pantry, creative director of Spaces, as part of Design Week JA 2018. Her trip courtesy of Caribbean Airlines is allowing her to engage design enthusiasts and industry pros on interior design. In between sips of Cabernet Sauvignon we enjoy a one-on-one consultation.

You were recently voted among the top 25 design firms in South Florida. How did this accolade make you feel?

What a proud moment! We work hard and are insanely passionate about design and making our clients happy, so definitely a milestone accolade after 15 years of being in the business.

What are your thoughts on Design Week JA 2018?

What a visionary experience! I've been blown away by how well orchestrated and well received this has been among the design/creative community and clients. Creating a beautiful home is something achievable for so many and it's been wonderful to see that being embraced universally here in Jamaica. Definitely looking forward to seeing this blossom over the next few years.

How do you stay motivated?

I obsess about design and will wake up at 2:00 am to jot down an idea or source an item I think will be the perfect thing to complete a project! I'm motivated by the joy I see on my clients' faces on reveal day because the renovation process is very daunting. But once they get through that and see the outcome that we knew we could achieve it makes it worth it. I also carve out an hour each day to work out just to clear my mind and keep me sane and healthy. Plus, seeing how proud my son Xavier is of my business keeps me motivated since he's already grooming himself to be the boss.

There are those who believe that engaging an interior designer is an unnecessary luxury. Can you share with us how hiring an interior designer can save a client money?

Design is an affordable luxury. It's not a must, but something you can have if you plan and budget accordingly. I've saved clients a fortune by being involved from the beginning by helping them avoid purchasing furniture that was too large or too small, from making unwise flooring or painting decisions. I once saved a client over $100,000 planned for a home expansion that wasn't needed. She simply needed to better utilise her existing floor plan. Cost to her: a $350 consultation. Most clients will save time, money and a lot of headache, heartache and stress by simply starting with a design consultation.

What has been your favourite project to work on so far?

Lord, there are too many to choose from and I don't want clients messaging me that theirs wasn't my favourite! I'll say this: all of the black and brass inspired kitchens we've done this year and of course, last year's green sofa project because we love a client who trusts us to take a major risk!

You went to St Andrew High School and have a number of strong friendships that have lasted until now. What do you and your girlfriends do to stay in touch?

Listen, no better school on this island. None! My best friends to this day are the girls I met at Andrews. I'm thankful for those girls because we rally around each other in the best of times and in the worst, including several deaths. We've kept in touch through many reunions, old girls' associations and social media. An Andrews girls will get your phone number by any means necessary and call you up! Eternally grateful to that school and continue to support them in any way possible.

Can you forecast a few interior decorating trends for us?

A shift away from all-white kitchens. They'll always be classic but we are seeing more risks with cabinet colours — greys, taupes, black and other bold colours. More slabs of quartz and countertop material for the kitchen backsplash as well. It's a cleaner look and zero grout lines to contend with. Less accent walls and more of a full commitment to paint the entire space in one colour or add wallpaper to all the walls. Brass and matte black finishes will still reign supreme in 2019. Also seeing a continued love affair with a well-defined outdoor space/garden, something Jamaicans have long known to be a great way to enjoy their homes.

What interesting projects are you currently working on?

We have a few complete gut jobs lined up that'll be interesting as we'll be moving all sorts of plumbing around to create functional design magic. I've also been invited back as one of 30 designers to create a pop-up space for Design on a Dime Miami, a charity event to raise funds for housing and support for those living with AIDS. It's a daunting but amazing event because you're able to design anything you wish within a tiny space.

Can you give a few suggestions about how interior designers can connect more with their customers?

Be sociable on social media! A shocking premise but engage your followers/potential clients on all platforms. I've seen designers and other businesses with a private profile! How, exactly, are your clients supposed to see your work? I also encourage designers I mentor to not treat their clients like a one-night stand. This should be a very long-term relationship. Stay in touch when the project ends. Send Christmas cards, a gift if they have a major milestone in their lives or condolences if they've lost a loved one. I attend my clients' baby showers, weddings, and over the years they become family which means they turn to me for all their design needs and so do their friends and family. I can't emphasise the need to see this as a relationship you cherish.

What advice can you give designers about building their brand and attracting new business?

You have to identify your strengths and build your brand around that. You also cannot have a business that's dependent on visuals and not showcase that ie, having a website and social media presence is a must. Potential clients must be able to click immediately and see your work. Create a network among other creatives so you an refer each other for projects. Collaboration over competition always wins.

Can you list three mistakes you made when you just started out?

Horrible, just horrible photos. Please invest in professional photos; even if you have to barter with a photographer, it'll be worth it. Doing way too much for free. Do not work for free. No one does or should, so do not be ashamed or afraid to place a value on your time or expertise. And lastly, not standing up for myself. There were some pretty abusive client relationships in my early years because I thought you had to tolerate some level of disrespect to complete a project to get paid. Set boundaries with clients and stand firm. And never start a project without a contract — ever.

What are five things about you that many would find hard to believe?

1. I'm pretty much asleep after two glasses of wine. Lightweight.

2. I'm still learning to swim. #dontjudge

3. I do not have a degree in interior design. I'm self-taught and driven by passion.

4. I'm failing at online dating because I cannot handle poor grammar. There is a difference between there and their, loss and lost!

5.. My breadfruit must be fried, even if freshly roasted.

Who would you be calling at 2:00 am for advice?

My cousin Lisa Campbell, an attorney here on the island. We grew up together and she is literally like a big sister, biggest confidante, cheerleader and will slap anyone who steps outta line in my defence!

Heels or flats?

Both! I start in heels but always pack my pair of Bridget flats.

Jeans or LBD?

Hmmm, I wear jeans mostly for work, so LBD always when it's time to show out. I have quite a few because you can never go wrong or look any skinnier!


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