meet nicole cole
I was following Nicole for a few months on Instagram when I finally decided to reach out to collaborate. I didn’t know what the project would entail yet, but I just knew I needed to meet (and work with!) this woman. I appreciated her keen eye for details and the authenticity that shined through in her Instagram feed. I also loved her message about creating homewares that inspire people to come together. Last fall, Nicole, a friend of mine, and I met at the local farmers’ market, gathered goods for a seasonal feast, and spent the afternoon cooking and eating in her stunning kitchen—seriously, I want a home like hers when I grow up. With a home full of lost-and-found treasures and some serious entrepreneurial grit, Nicole is certainly crafting her own kind of beautiful.
Name: Nicole Cole
Occupation: Designer & woodworker
Hometown and Current Residence: Grew up as military kid nomad, currently residing in Philadelphia, PA
WHEN SOMEONE ASKS WHAT YOU DO, WHAT DO YOU TELL THEM?
If I’m on my game with my elevator speech I tell them I’m the owner of a small business specializing in small-batch handmade goods for the home, mostly tabletop pieces as well as a freelance interior designer.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO LEAVE THE 9-5 GIG?
I first started to get the “itch” to do something different about 11 years ago, shortly after I separated from the Navy. While working as a project manager for a defense contractor, I took some interior design classes on the side and then started building this more seriously around 2007. I built out my studio with tools and equipment when I was working my 9-5 job and saved part of my paycheck to live off of so that I could do my creative work full time. I also have an incredibly supportive partner who helped me out when I decided to make the leap.
YOUR PIECES ARE BEAUTIFUL. HOW DID YOU GET INTO WOODWORKING?
Thank you! Growing up, I was really into crafts. I bought my first sewing machine when I was in 8th grade, putting it on layaway and paying it off slowly with my babysitting money, and I squirreled away in my bedroom for hours, making homemade Christmas gifts for friends and family. My dad was always woodworking around the house and he let me use some of his tools to make my own creations. These basic skills gave me the confidence to branch out on my own and learn more when I started vestige HOME. One of the first things I created (six years ago) was a lath mirror—it was awful, but I kept trying, watching lots of YouTube, talking to other craftspeople, asking questions and observing, and very slowly practicing my skills. I’ll be learning and growing my skills for the rest of my life.
WHAT'S THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF YOUR JOB NOW?
There’s no one to tell you what to do, there’s no roadmap of how to get from here to there. You do a lot of things that fail, and you put a TON of work into things that don’t materialize into anything. If you don’t already have patience and steadfastness, having your own business will teach you that :) Woodworking also has physical demands. Lifting heavy items, standing in uncomfortable positions, sanding for hours, invariably cutting yourself on something or another, splinters and combating dry skin in the winter are all part of the gig.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
We’re creating things that will help people make their homes a beautiful sanctuary, whether it be gathering with loved ones for a great meal, enjoying a small meaningful moment in their day, or redecorating their space with a special piece. In the fall of 2015 my brother joined the business, and I feel fortunate to work with him as a great teacher and collaborator. I also find that I’ve grown spiritually as a result of owning a business. I’m much more reflective of things than I used to be, which is a wonderful gift for life in general.
ANY EXCITING PLANS FOR VESTIGE HOME?
Yes! We’re partnering with other fantastic handmade artists whose work we admire and adding new pieces to our online shop. I’ve reignited my freelance interior design/decorating business for clients in Philadelphia and beyond. It’s something that I was working on full-time when we lived in Florida, but I wasn’t able to keep it going after a few moves. Now that we’re settled in Philadelphia, I’m looking forward to rebuild rebuilding this portion of the business and helping to create comfortable, beautiful spaces for people.
WHAT DOES PERSONAL BEAUTY MEAN TO YOU?
Beauty means loving and respecting yourself and the uniqueness of others. It means embracing the changes that come with age because it means we’re lucky enough to be around in this beautiful, messy world! It also means taking the time to do the things that nourish your spirit, whether that’s going to a yoga class, taking a walk in your favorite neighborhood, or grabbing a beer with friends on a Sunday afternoon. This has been something that has evolved over time for me; I used to think beauty was more about what was on the outside—that’s mostly what we are conditioned to think. But with age and some reflection, reading, meditating, and being mindful, it’s come to mean something much different to me.
WHAT'S YOUR A.M./ P.M. SKINCARE ROUTINE?
It's really been evolving in the last year or so. I used to just wash my face before bed. As I am entering my late-thirties, I’ve noticed a definite shift in my skin and the need to take more time to care for it so that it stays healthy which for me means it’s hydrated and nourished. This fluctuates somewhat with the season and environment I’m in. We’re currently in the throes of winter, so moisturizing is paramount! At night, I cleanse, tone, apply a CoQ10 serum, and moisturize. I follow the same routine in the morning as well, although sometimes instead of using a cleanser, I’ll do a gentle rinse with plain water. I’ll use a mask or exfoliating treatment if it seems like my skin is in need of a bigger refresh.
LET'S TALK MAKEUP. WHAT PRODUCTS DO YOU SWEAR BY?
For years, I’ve been using a tinted moisturizer with SPF that I absolutely love. It’s made by Juice Beauty and is so effortless to put on in the morning and go. A little mascara and eyeliner and I’m set.
YOUR STUDIO IS AT HOME. HOW DO YOU BALANCE WORK AND PLAY?
I mostly try to find small moments of time to do something I enjoy: breaking for a homemade snack, reading a couple articles from my favorite blogs, or taking a nap or a walk. I find that being connected with what I’m feeling and why is really helpful in determining what I should be doing to best serve myself.
HOW DO YOU PRACTICE WELLNESS?
Being well means nurturing a healthy relationship with yourself and with others. It means reading and staying informed about what’s happening in the world, and living your life as the most loving version of yourself.
WHAT DO YOU TYPICALLY EAT DURING THE DAY?
Breakfast: something egg or oat based in whatever form strikes me (or is convenient)
Lunch, dinner, and snacks: mostly things we make at home and range from really simple dishes to a longer new recipe we might try for fun on the weekend
SOME RECENT FAVORITES
Smitten Kitchen’s Crispy Tortellini with Peas and Prosciutto and Ginger Fried Rice (so simple, flavorful and a great base for you to add your own twist), Yotam Ottolenghi’s Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce, homemade Seitan (prepared various ways), Beth Kirby’s Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits, and Asparagus Soup
Craziest skin or beauty trend you’ve tried: Baby Feet, it’s kind of disgusting, but works! (Editor's note: Nicole needs to elaborate!)
Desert island skin care or beauty product: An SPF moisturizer
Interior design style in three words: collected, juxtaposition, layered
Travel must-have: A toothbrush
Something you’re super good at: Details
Something you’re embarrassingly bad at: Anything athletic
Guilty pleasure: Sweets
Favorite (or dream!) vacation destination: London….for a year
Smoothie or juice?: Both
Where you’d like to be in 10 years: Wherever the adventure takes me
Favorite instagram account: @maude_alta
In your fridge right now: Log of mozzarella, milk, eggs, tortillas, 5 lbs of carrots, kale, OJ, smattering of cheeses and condiments
Change you’d like to see in the beauty industry: Less focus on youth as something that we need to preserve and an attainment of some ideal and more focus on taking care of and embracing ourselves just as we are