Nicole of So Haute

Eclectic, sophisticated, and with a modern edge—those are but a few ways in which to describe Nicole’s distinctive design sensibility. Her lifelong passion for design and decorating has borne fruit in the form of the Nicole Gibbons Studio, LLC, her very own design firm, which specializes in high-style interiors that emphasize bold design and fresh ideas. Nicole is an interior designer, tastemaker, blogger, and on-air personality, best known as the designer who helps transform families’ living spaces on the Emmy-nominated TV show Home Made Simple, which airs on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Nicole has been featured on several top design and lifestyle outlets including HGTV, TLC, InStyle, House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Apartment Therapy, Lonny, The Nest, and Elle Décor, and is an online contributor for Domino magazine. She has also collaborated on special projects with top home & lifestyle brands including Target, One Kings Lane, and Pier 1 Imports.

With the goal of sharing her design inspiration and being an authoritative guide to stylish living for décor-obsessed readers around the globe, Nicole created her blog So Haute, which covers topics ranging from inspirational interiors, decorating advice and trend reports on the latest design news, entertaining tips, and shopping resources. The goal of So Haute is to help her readers create a home they will love—and do it in style. Nicole’s fun, personable approach to decorating makes her, and So Haute, worth watching out for in the design and decorating world.

Revelstoke Fir and two Balsam Fir Wreaths
Balsam Hill’s Revelstoke Fir stands tall between two Balsam Fir Wreaths.

Nicole was kind enough to make time for a short interview despite her busy schedule. In the following Q&A, she answers a few questions regarding her beginnings as a designer and how she gets inspiration for her design ideas.

BH: What inspired you to become an interior designer? How did you get your start?

Nicole: My mom was a designer so I grew up around the business and always appreciated beautiful interiors, but I never thought I’d pursue design as a career. I wanted to be a doctor, then an entertainment news personality, and I ended up working as a fashion publicist post-college. While in my fashion PR job, I started my blog purely as a hobby and creative outlet but through the process of writing the blog, I realized my passion for design and decided to transition into a new career. It took quite a few years to finally make the leap, but I’ve never looked back!

BH: How do you come up with design ideas for your clients, as well as for yourself and your family?

Nicole: For clients, they are usually the inspiration. Sometimes they start with furniture that we’ll need to work around or perhaps their home has ornate architecture that may dictate more streamlined furnishings to really complement and highlight the architecture. Maybe a family has small kids that may dictate the need for certain kinds of fabric or colors to be used. Sometimes a client may show an image of a home they love in a magazine. It really varies for every project, but I usually start with a color and textile palette to set the tone of a space before finalizing actual furniture selections or even a furniture plan. When I’m designing for myself, anything goes. I love to experiment and try new ideas. I change things up in my home all the time, and I’m not particularly attached to any one piece in my home.

BH: Do you take inspiration from the everyday or do you get cues from the out-of-the-ordinary?

Nicole: I’m truly inspired by everything around me. I take a lot of color and pattern inspiration from art and fashion—from what’s on the runways to something as unexpected as the color or print of a dress a celebrity wore on the red carpet.

BH: How do you integrate your concepts and personal style with your clients’ own ideas?

Nicole: Luckily, my clients are generally open to all of my ideas and appreciate my expertise and guidance throughout the process. If they didn’t trust my taste or ideas, they probably wouldn’t have hired me! But clients can definitely have very specific preferences. For instance, I’m a big fan of brass and gold tones, but if a client is not, I’ll never try to force my personal preferences on them. My job as a designer is to take their personal style into consideration when creating their space so that it truly reflects who they are and how they live.

BH: The way you mix and match different styles, colors, patterns, and textures is inspiring. Do you have any tips on how to take different types of pieces and create a cohesive look?

Nicole: When mixing styles I strive for balance—mixing curved silhouettes with more streamlined pieces and juxtaposing something old with pieces that are very modern. I never use pieces in a room that are all in one style; mixing is so much more interesting. When it comes to mixing patterns, vary the scales and work within a cohesive palette of complementary colors to avoid overwhelming yourself with various patterns. When it comes to mixing textures, it goes back to creating balance and juxtaposing textures that are all very different to keep things interesting.

Nicole’s decorated living room
Balsam Hill’s Revelstoke Fir makes for an excellent holiday centerpiece.

BH: How would you describe your holiday decorating style? What is your must-have or signature Christmas display or ornament, and why?

Nicole: For the holidays I love shimmer and sparkle: twinkling lights, silver, gold, mercury glass. All of those elements feel super festive. They’re also relatively neutral so no matter where I live or what my home may look like in the future, my collection of shimmering metallic holiday decor will always work!  In terms of a signature display or ornament, I don’t think I really have one. I like to do something a little different each year but a tree and a great wreath are always a must!

BH: What made you choose Balsam Hill products to decorate for the holidays?

Nicole: I love the convenience of having everything delivered straight to my doorstep, as well as the ease of maintenance and long-lasting nature of an artificial tree. I grew up with an artificial tree. In fact, to this day my mom still puts up the same tree that we used when I was growing up, so I completely understand the value of investing in a beautiful, high-quality artificial tree that will last a lifetime. I also appreciate the fact that artificial trees don’t leave a mess of dried up needles, which you have to clean up once Christmas is over!

Balsam Hill Crystal Reindeer
Balsam Hill’s Crystal Reindeer adds a bit of sparkle to your holiday décor.

BH: Do you have a favorite product from Balsam Hill? What do you think makes it special?

Nicole: I absolutely love the crystal reindeer. They’re such unique, special pieces, and I always love infusing a bit of bling and glamour into my home. These sparkle so beautifully in the light!

BH: Are there any design guidelines or decorating do’s and don’ts that you follow when decorating for Christmas?

Nicole: I’m not one to follow too many rules in decorating—especially when it comes to decorating for the holidays. Your décor should feel personal, and more than anything else, it’s about creating lasting memories. So if you have a tree and want to let your kids have at it and pick all the ornaments, that’s probably far more memorable than having the most beautifully decorated tree that looks like it was taken straight out of a showroom. Buy what you love, incorporate pieces that are meaningful to you and your family, and create an environment at Christmastime that is festive and will add to your lifetime of family traditions and memories.

Nicole’s design philosophy relies on giving a space personality through a balanced mix of the old and the new. Aside from using modern pieces in her design, she likes to incorporate everything from family heirlooms and fine antiques to inexpensive flea market finds. For more home and holiday decorating tips and décor ideas, check out So Haute.

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