A WORLD OF INSPIRATION

BY ELIZABETH PANDOLFI | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

If you were to describe interior designer Nicole Norris’ aesthetic, words like this might come to mind: classic, eclectic, modern. “I’m a Southerner at heart, but I’ve traveled extensively and seen a lot of the world,” Norris says. “I like to introduce my clients to interesting art and unique finds. That’s what they like—the interjection of a unique found object or piece of art.”

Norris comes by her love for travel naturally. Her father was a pilot in the Air Force, and Norris grew up on military bases in Germany, England and Japan. After moving back to the States in her teens, she graduated from Florida State University with a degree in interior design. Later, she married an Air Force pilot, and they have lived in San Diego, Las Vegas, and Denton, Florida. Finally, the family settled permanently in Sumter, South Carolina.

It was in Sumter that Norris opened her interior design business, which includes design services as well as a retail store that sells everything from furniture to small home accessories.

“I go to market three or four times a year in Atlanta and High Point [North Carolina],” Norris says. “So I have a great working knowledge of what’s out there as far as trends and products. We sell everything—rugs, art, furniture, custom draperies. We do a turnkey service, too, if the client wants that.”

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About a year ago, she also opened a satellite office in Mount Pleasant. Norris holds office hours there every Wednesday and travels as needed for projects.

Her experience of living in many places, both abroad and stateside, not only sparked an early love for travel and a passion for world art but also influenced the way she works. “I’ve loved my travels, and the background they gave me,” she says. “That’s grown into what I like to do in my interiors.”

Take, for example, the spacious Mount Pleasant home of Norris’ clients Chris and Jennifer Pierce. Norris worked with the Pierces to create an atmosphere that’s warm, classic and punctuated with well-chosen decorative items from around the world

The focus on interesting art is visible as soon as one walks into the home. In the open entryway is a delicate gold antique chest purchased in Charlottesville, Virginia. And Asian accents are visible throughout the home.

Beyond the entryway is an open-floor-plan kitchen and family room. While Norris has worked extensively on the entire first floor of the house, the kitchen was perhaps the most transformed. The clean, inviting space—white with blue and gray accents—used to be not only darker but also much less functional. “When they moved in, the kitchen was drab,” Norris says. “There were stock maple cabinets from a big box store, so we took those out. We went with cool tones for this room.”

Norris also added a small counter area to serve as a hub for the assortment of items that inevitably pile up: invitations, bills, keys, charging cords and the like. “This was an unused, useless space, so we created a central location for the family to keep their things,” she says. Another useless space that Norris reclaimed was a small hallway that leads from the kitchen to the separate dining room. She turned it into a butler’s pantry. “Jennifer and Chris like to entertain,” Norris says. “So this space can hold all the china and other pieces they use for parties.”

The dining room, which was purple before Norris got her hands on it, is bright and sunny, with large windows that face the street. This is just one of several places in the home that one detects the designer’s love of art
and her creative ways to use it.

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In the family room, Norris created a gallery-style wall with many different prints, paintings and drawings. They hang together over a deep blue bench. “I love to put art together,” says Norris. “I paint as well, so I’m an artist at heart.”

On the right side of the dining room hangs a large modern painting; on the left is a classical still life in a rich gold frame. “I like to mix different eras of art,” Norris says. “Here, we mixed the old and the new, made it eclectic.”

That same creative touch can be seen in the family room, where Norris created a gallery-style wall with many different, mostly small, prints, paintings and drawings. They hang together over a deep blue bench. “I love to put art together,” says Norris. “I paint as well, so I’m an artist at heart.”

The effect is a pleasing one. Bright pops of orange and red complement the throw pillow on the bench, among the more muted colors of gray and sepia.

“We kept it warm by using the golds,” she says. “I feel the warm and the cool have to balance each other; it gives a room more depth. Layers and depth are two words I like to think through when I’m designing a project—layers
of color, objects, art.”

While the palette is cool and calming, Norris added in other accents—lamps, pillows, a sofa—in varying shades of blue (since blue is one of Jennifer’s favorite colors). “We took the blue and really played with it,” Norris says. “Everything from turquoise to cobalt to gray, with the warm gold tones mixed in.”

As pleased as she is with how the entire house turned out, Norris’ favorite room is the library. The room is a study in blue, with the color coming out in bold and creative ways—a wallpapered bookshelf, for example. Balancing that are rich gold tones, another hallmark of Norris’ personal aesthetic. “We kept it warm by using the golds,” she says. “I feel the warm and the cool have to balance each other; it gives a room more depth.

“Layers and depth are two words I like to think through when I’m designing a project— layers of color, objects, art. Then depth—how far you see from one area to the next, how it transitions. I like to make things flow.”

She’s certainly accomplished that with the Pierces’ home, creating a warm, welcoming space for the family to raise their two daughters. “I like to take the way my clients live, and what they like, and put that together with my skills to co-create a beautiful space,” Norris says.

Elizabeth Pandolfi is a writer living in Charleston.