Nicola Holden Designs

Designer in Profile: Nicola Holden, Nicola Holden Designs

Nicola Holden Designs have been Shortlisted for Living Space – UK Award in The International Design & Architecture Awards 2021. Read more about Nicola Holden, below:

Name: Nicola HoldenNicola Holden Designs

Company: Nicola Holden Designs

Position within company: Owner


Tell us a little about your background in design:
Growing up in Zimbabwe the mindset is very much to study science subjects, and so after school I studied Manufacturing Engineering at university.  I spent 8 years working in the motor industry before I realised that my passion lay in doing something creative.  It might not be the obvious career change to many people, but actually there is quite an overlap between engineering and interior design, from interpreting floor plans and product drawings, to analysing movement flows and ergonomics.  My engineering experience is particularly valuable when it comes to designing kitchens which are, after all, mini production lines!  I have recently celebrated 12 years of running my own interior design business, Nicola Holden Designs.

How would you describe your personal design style?
My style is underpinned by the vivid colours and natural textures of my childhood in Zimbabwe.  I aim to create unique spaces that ooze luxury without taking themselves too seriously. The result is a look of relaxed luxury that makes a home feel ‘designed’ but not at the expense of familiarity, homeliness or function. A design that connects home and owner!

Where does your design inspiration come from?
Inspiration is everywhere – from the colours and textures seen on a walk in the countryside, to browsing art exhibitions; from restaurants and bars, to my love of international travel which provides a kaleidoscope of inspiration.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
I feel that the design industry is slowly waking up to the fact that we need to design with sustainability in mind.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2020 and beyond.

  1. Biophilic design – as human beings we now spend 90% of our time indoors, and so designing a connection to nature into our interior environments is vital for our health and well-being.
  2. Colour psychology – the colour palettes we choose have a direct impact on how people feel and behave in a space, affecting mood and energy levels, appetite and sleep patterns, and so has a profound effect on your well-being.
  3. Healthy design – consideration of the products that are specified, and the impact they will have on the client’s health, such as whether or not products will off-gas, having a detrimental effect on internal air quality.
  4. Sustainability – rather than choosing products based on their aesthetic qualities, a considered approach should be taken to product selection so that we demand more sustainable, ethically sourced products.
  5. Design for flexibility – 2020 has shown us that our homes need to become much more flexible, with the ability to accommodate other activities such as working from home.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?
Designing for a client’s well-being will ensure a space that not only meets their needs aesthetically, but also emotionally.

How important are The International Design & Architecture Awards?
The International Design & Architecture Awards are a fantastic opportunity for designers, architects and developers from around the world to showcase their work.

What projects are you currently working on?
Nicola Holden Designs currently have a number of projects on the go, including refurbishing a Victorian terraced house in Balham, creating a soft, luxurious bedroom for a previous client of mine, and working with a property developer on an apartment block in East London.

What was your favourite project to work on and why?
My favourite project was a home refurbishment where my clients trusted my expertise in colour selection and I was able to help them take that leap of faith and inject more colour into their home.  Their comments when they saw their new space, and how it made them feel, were really gratifying.

What was your most challenging project to work on and why?
The past year, in particular, has thrown up many unexpected hurdles. My first project of 2020 experienced a number of challenges, from not being able to meet with the clients face-to-face, to project delays from supply chains being affected by lockdowns across the globe.  This was particularly an issue as the client needed close support and guidance on a number of decisions. However, it has been a learning process in how to adapt to these challenges, and keep projects going.

Which products/services could you not live without when designing?
I feel that the past nine months have shown us all that we are very good at adapting to new ways of doing things. However I have missed the ease of pre-Covid showroom visits, as nothing beats being able to see and touch products in real life.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
I would love to say to do a lot more travelling, but who really knows what the next twelve months will hold.  In the meantime I’m focusing on being able to have a positive impact on the lives of my clients through design for well-being.

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations:

Your most treasured possession?
My trusty Mazda MX5 that I’ve owned for 15 years now.

Your favourite holiday destination?
This is a toss-up between the heady colour and patterns of India, and the wide open savannahs of southern Africa.

Your favourite hotel, restaurant & bar?
Hotel – Sixteen
Restaurant – Sushi Samba
Bar – Radio Rooftop Bar at ME London

Your favourite book, film & song?
Book – The Goldfinch
Film – The Constant Gardner
Song – Sunshine Everyday by Mann Friday

Your favourite food and drink?
Food – Indian curry, or fillet steak and chips
Drink – Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
Curled up with a good book or else visiting an art exhibition.  Being surrounded by art is definitely my happy place!

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
I quite often long to be an artist

Anything else interesting?
Apart from running my own business, I am a trustee of the charity Makomborero, which aims to relieve poverty through education in Zimbabwe.  I have also recently launched Nhaka Designs, bringing the work of Zimbabwean artists and crafts people into UK homes.

Nicola Holden Designs have been Shortlisted for Living Space – UK Award in The International Design & Architecture Awards 2021.

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