- Nikki, you and I have known each other since college (2009) and bonded over fabric swatches and design boards. We graduated together, I’ve seen you become a bride and we both have become mothers within months of each other. I am so happy to do life with you and to have you as a friend after all these years! How has life changed for you in the last 8 years? Would you say that you’ve changed since we first met and if so, in what ways?
It feels like yesterday all of that happened, how did we get to 8 years already!? Life has changed so much. I’ve grown, matured, I’ve pushed myself to the limits, I’ve failed and learned, I’ve lost and I think all in all, I’m coming to understand what is most important in life. Have you ever had someone in their 40’s or 50’s tell you that once you reach that age you just don’t tolerate the nonsense anymore and you focus on what truly matters? I have and I always keep that in the back of my mind. I don’t think my personality or character traits have changed since we met, but I would just say I have grown from all of life’s experiences – good and bad.
- I get so inspired by your Instagram feed because you are always posting such beautiful designs that you’re working on. Tell me about your business and what a typical work week looks for you.
Thank you! I started my business part time over 5 years ago now and was helping clients who came to meet me through my full time job as a kitchen designer for a company based out of Etobicoke. After about 4.5 years I decided that as much as I loved designing millwork it wasn’t for me anymore. I am very detail oriented and wanted to grow and be challenged in other areas design and decorating had to offer. So I quit my job and have been running NFG Designs for 3 years now. I typically work closely with clients and their contractors on new build homes in Oakville, Mississauga and Etobicoke but have also dealt with smaller renovations or clients looking to update certain rooms in their home.
A typical work week for me before baby was usually a combination of office work (logging hours, emails, paper trails, invoices, drawings, etc.), out at suppliers sourcing for clients or out on job sites checking in on progress or meeting to discuss details. Last year was my busiest year yet and I had a co-op student from Sheridan work with me on her 3 week placement in April and I hired her part-time afterwards until November 2016. Now a typical work week for me is all over the place, which gives me crazy anxiety because I’m usually a very organized and structured person. But I’ve learned that going with the flow happens after a baby! The tough part about your own business is no maternity leave pay, so I decided when Sebastian was 3 months old that I needed help because trying to juggle a baby and a business was NOT working. Neither were getting the proper type of attention they deserved and the guilt was real! I felt like if I hired a part-time nanny for Sebastian I was failing him because I wasn’t good enough to take care of him; and at the same time I felt like I was disappointing my clients because it would take me days to get the most basic information over to them. Of course, all my clients are amazing and that was something I had just built up in my head, but I have worked very hard to get my business to where it is today and I didn’t want to start letting my customer service slip. Eventually I realized that I can’t do it all and that it IS best for Sebastian to have someone care for him while I could get some work done. He gets all the attention he needs, I can service my clients and my business; and then the rest of the time he gets 100% of his mama instead of a tired and frustrated one! Coming to that realization was a hard journey.
“You can do anything, but not everything!”
- Something I struggle with as a Decorator is finding MY style. Since we are so heavily saturated with design trends and inspiration, it’s difficult to hone in on what is for ME and what I like, but isn’t my personal style. How have you identified your style over the last few years? I’ve noticed you still work with a lot of creams and ivory (which I absolutely adore) and you add hints of blues and neutral tones and textures throughout a space. I just love what you come up with in each of your projects! Does your home look a lot like what you design?
It is so hard when we work in this industry and are exposed to so much to figure out how on earth we want our own spaces to feel and look like! I can’t tell you how many times I “make a decision” on something for my own house and then think about it for days, weeks, and months and then change my mind. It drives my husband crazy…
I LOVE colour, always have. I have seen many beautiful spaces that are all done in neutrals with very little contrast and I am definitely drawn to them. I love the calamity, the simplicity and how they make me feel. But every time I try and do that in my own home and I leave the idea to sit with it…I always end up adding colour somehow, I just can’t help it. So instead of fighting it and trying to do something different, I just accept that’s me and go with it because it makes me feel good. So I love working with neutral tones as the base of the room and then playing up the accents with colour (drapery, pillows, accessories, etc.) because they are the easiest to simplify and change over time. Blue is one of my favourite colours for sure!
My home does not look like what I design, actually, and I like that! It challenges me to hone in on what my clients are searching for but the premise of my style reflected into their spaces stays the same. Does that make sense?? Most of my clients are in their mid to late 30’s or in their 50’s to 60’s; so I work with them to understand how they want their home or space to feel and curate the details based on the notion of a neutral base and coloured accents. Most clients are looking for something timeless and transitional, and while their space may be more bold, there’s still a maturity that defines “timeless” for them. I like playful and youthful and I know what colours make me feel good so my house definitely reflects a more “bold” approach I guess you could say. I didn’t change much in my house for the first 2-3 years we’ve lived here because of budget and I didn’t really know what I liked yet! It’s still a work in progress but we are getting there! And then it will be time to move… 😉
- I love your home office and how you did a feature wall using a stencil instead of wallpaper (much cheaper, but more time consuming!). Could you give us a few tips on decorating your home on a budget?
Absolutely! The one thing to understand is that designing or decorating your home is expensive. However, I strongly believe there are areas you can save on until you can invest in replacing it later on. We have it particularly tough at our age and the cost of living and investing into our homes, so I say don’t worry about doing everything at once and replace things over time. I still have a hand me down end table in my living room – it’s the ugliest thing but it’s done its job and now I just need to find one I like. Anyways…back to budget.
Invest in quality pieces for the items that get sat on the most, like dining chairs and a living room couch. This is for obvious reasons like the fact that they will get the most wear and tear, but also because it will save you money in the long run. Wait to buy these pieces, save up and invest in something that will last you a long time! If you buy something budget, after 3-5 years depending on use and who/what is in your home (pets or kids) you will be ready to replace them again. Where you can save is in your accents. Coffee tables, accent chairs, drapery, pillows, wall stencils in my case, etc. It’s easier said than done sometimes, especially for people who have a good DIY approach or can take things that are budget friendly and turn them into a million bucks. Pinterest is great for that type of person, however! I also love scavenging thrift stores for home décor accents and giving them a good makeover!
- Your little guy, Sebastian is just the cutest! He has red hair just like you and the cutest smile! How has becoming a mom changed you and how do you balance your own business with a baby?
Thank you! He is certainly a mini-me. This is a loaded question for sure. Being a mom has changed me in a million ways. Learning to go with the flow more, patience, knowing what needs my attention now and what can wait, how much you think you know what love is before a baby and then coming to know a whole different kind of love. The realization that someone needs you, literally needs you for EVERYTHING and that they don’t judge you when you make a mistake or you think you’ve failed them; that all they know is you and that’s enough to them. I think the biggest thing that has changed me and I realized this early on after having Sebastian is that the rest of my life I will constantly be learning. Every day is different with him. We teach each other daily and it will be like that for the rest of our lives. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time.
As mentioned before, running a business with a baby has been the ultimate test and committing 100% to both is just not possible. So right now I have a part-time nanny for Sebastian who helps me out a couple days a week and I use that time to go out for clients if I need to or to catch up on work. The rest of the week I will work on my business or for my clients from home while Sebastian is napping. It works well now but I know once business picks back up again I will have to adjust.
“Strive for progress not perfection”
- Lets quickly talk about Beverly. She was a friend of ours from college and was like our momma bear of the pack of little designers. I love that she was a mom with grown children, a grandma and was at a stage in her life where she wanted to pursue a passion of becoming an Interior Decorator. It’s so sad to think that she is no longer with us, but her story of going back to school and starting a new dream (something that took a lot of courage) has really stuck with me and inspires me constantly. How has her story influenced your life and career goals?
Beverly has always been such an inspiration. I think of her daily and have a picture in my office of her smiling & laughing at her daughter’s wedding. Every time I start to doubt myself or question if what I am doing is right for fear of failure, Beverly pops into my head and I can hear her telling me, “Nikki, you CAN do this!”. As I’m sure you remember we all made certain we had the support we needed in college when we were doubting ourselves on something. Beverly was no different, she had times when she struggled just like the rest of us, but we kept each other going, motivated each other and the end results were always pretty spectacular – we pushed each other to succeed! So whenever I fear failure, I think of her and know that if anyone has the faith in me to accomplish something, it would be her. There’s a quote I love that goes, “Failure is not the opposite of success; it’s part of success.”
“Know that you can start late, look different, be uncertain and still succeed.”
- You and I have gone through a lot together and apart, but have always been cheering each other on from the sidelines. Would you be able to give my readers who are young adults, new moms and those looking to discover their own passion, a few words of advice?
Just go for it! Be yourself, curate your passion and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s going to happen but it’s what you do with that failure that will shape you as a person. Learn and grow from it. Don’t worry about all the details, don’t have a plan – think positive, believe in your affirmations, and if something doesn’t work out; accept it, change course and move on. There will always be opportunities and it always works out in the end. Don’t compare yourself to others, but learn from them. Take certain things away that you can use and discard the rest. We are our own worst critics! I’ve learned that while I am ogling over something someone else has done and thinking about how I could have made mine a million times better – someone else is looking at my stuff and thinking the same.
“Success: It’s not about validation from others. It’s about acceptance of yourself.” #bossbabe
Thank you so much, Nikki for sharing your story and your expertise with us! It’s been such a pleasure working with you on this feature. You have such a great design eye and are an inspiration to me and I hope many who read this!
Be sure to keep in touch with Nikki by email, Instagram and all her social media handles.