Q&A With Monique Nicole
Casaza: How did you get your start?
Monique Nicole Holmes: Well, it definitely wasn’t the traditional route that most designers take, when they know they want to be a designer from birth. I had a very different start. I moved to London at the age of 17 to study for my Bachelors in International Business & Marketing. Then after completing my Bachelors, I moved back to the US to NY to complete my Master’s at NYU and started my career in marketing & advertising.
After working 10 years in the advertising industry, I purchased my first home. It had zero frills, with bare white walls, but it was what I called my “penthouse.” It was one of my biggest accomplishments in my life at the time. I decorated it, remodeled the kitchen, and when my housewarming came around, everyone asked me, “Who decorated your home?” That’s when I knew I had a gift in interior design.
Ironically, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, because my grandmother was an interior designer, and my mother is an artist. I always say I got the bug late. Because I was burnt out of working in the corporate world, I decided to go back to school, get my Interior Decorating degree, and start my interior decorating business. I saved up money, got a few clients, and handed my resignation into my job in 2012. The rest is history.
C: How would you describe your style?
MNH: Transitional, with a touch of color, classic, clean, and life-inspired features. I love infusing my client’s life experiences, their travels, and personal cultural backgrounds to create a home that tells their story. My design work tends to be very different from client to client.
C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
MNH: Through travel and art. I’ve lived in Europe and traveled all over the world from a very young age. When I was in college I would go to Paris and Italy, on the weekends with my friends like I was going to the grocery store. It was a way of life because it was so cheap to fly back then. In addition, having military parents, and coming from a culturally mixed family (my mother is from Trinidad, & my father is from Atlanta, GA), we lived abroad in many countries like Korea, London, Germany, and France to name a few places. So I’ve been fortunate to see a lot and capture design inspiration from different parts of the world.
C: Favorite room in the house?
MNH: The living room. Because it’s usually the first space that people see when they come into their home. It sets the tone for the rest of the house and their experience and feeling they will have. It’s also the most important room in the house in my opinion. Because it’s the space where the most memories are made, where the family gathers, and where most people spend the majority of their time. It's the room where you can really tell your life story, and I love that as a decorator.
C: Design rule you don't subscribe to?
MNH: That you have to follow “design rules” to create a certain look. While I am formally trained in interior decorating, I don’t believe in doing certain things like to create a coastal look, everything has to be white and pale blue. I look at design like a blank canvas. You can create a look and feel, by combining lots of different colors, accessories, and inspired pieces in many different ways. That’s the beauty of design.
C: Recent project that inspired you?
MNH: I decorated a coastal home for a client in Norfolk, VA that sits right on the water. It was a brand new home (which is one of my specialities, working with new homes) that I had the opportunity to design from scratch. The client wanted a color, coastal look and feel, that infused her love for family. It turned out beautiful and exactly what she wanted.
C: Favorite texture/pattern/color?
MNH: Texture I love velvet, and leather. I enjoy decorating with different textures to create one look/feel. Favorite Pattern, I don’t really have one. I like the herringbone pattern because it’s classic but has character to it. Color, I love all colors. It’s all about the combination of colors that I love creating to create a specific mood.
C: What is “good design” to you?
MNH: Design that incorporates different textures, patterns, and colors. That is functional and skillfully laid out in regards to the lifestyle of the client and how they will use the space and a design that truly showcases and tells the owner’s life story, whatever that looks or feels like. That it’s true to them and feels like home to them.
C: Pack your bag! You're moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
MNH: Oprah’s home. Hands down. I’ve never been there, but from what I’ve seen on TV, she owns a ton of land, it’s very intentional for how she uses her home, with having a garden for peaceful meditation, open fields for large parties and gatherings, a huge kitchen for her chef to cook inviting, healthy cuisine and the list goes on.
C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
MNH: Focus on what the guests want. Have ample space to allow your guests to flow and relax... And have amazing food.
C: Best advice for DIYers?
MNH: Don’t be afraid to be creative, and learn something new. Because doing it yourself can be an amazing experience that you don’t want to rush. It’s important to understand however, that it may take you longer, with some mishaps along the way, compared to working with a design professional. But be open to the experience knowing that the fun part, can be the exploration of design. Design the way you want to, with the pieces that you need, and don’t be afraid to visit thrift stores for hidden treasures.
C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
MNH: Really spend some time thinking about what you want and how you want your home to make you feel and share your life-story before hiring a pro. I say this because the more the client knows what they want and has a vision, the easier it is and more productive the experience will be working with a design pro. At the end of the day, my job is to design your home for YOU, to tell your story, so the better I can understand your vision, style, life experiences, and design goals for your home, the better I can truly tell your story through design.
C: What is one design trend you are most excited about this season?
MNH: I am really excited about the elevation of the home office, and how it’s now the “new room that can be a reflection of who you are” according to Elle Decor. I think for so long, the “home office” has been the afterthought room. Meaning, people only include it and decorate it, if they really need it. Even if they do need it, they don’t decorate it and treat it like the other spaces in their home. It’s been the room that gets zero love or attention. Yet we sometimes spend a ton of time in it. With Covid-19, I think it’s challenged homeowners to rethink their office space, to create a room that really speaks to who they are, and is a luxury to experience since we are working from home a lot more now. As we all have to work for a living, I think having an office space that is comfortable, aesthetically pleasing, and functional is important to have. I am glad the office space is getting more attention these days.
C: How do you take your coffee?
MNH: Cafe mocha, with sea salt on top and a shot of espresso.