Living

February's Ms. Chatelaine is the ultimate DIYer

Australia is hot for the prairie style of design blogger and interior stylist Nicole Valentine Don -- and you will be, too!

Ms. Chatelaine Nicole Valentine Don, Feb 13, p21

Photo by Jeremy Greive

Age: 30

Occupation: Interior stylist

Hometown: Regina

Lives: Sydney, Australia

Like many of us, Nicole Valentine Don spent her teenage years constantly rearranging her bedroom. “I was always making vignettes on my walls and shelves and colour-coding everything,” she says. But Nicole’s passion for creating the perfect space, positioning things just so, didn’t stop when she grew up.

In fact, today the Saskatchewan native posts pictures of her arrangements online on her blog, thetranscontinentalaffair.blogspot.ca. The name is a nod to her decision to make Sydney, Australia, her home. “I came on a working holiday in 2004 and just fell in love with it,” she says. “I wanted a reason to stay longer, so I did a degree in art history and theory, and so far I haven’t left!”

A flea market aficionado, Nicole is always picking up unique items from antique dealers and grouping them with other colourful pieces. She also throws some of her own crafts into the mix, namely intricate macramé purses and whimsical dream catchers that she sells under her brand, Little Nicki, at art fairs and on etsy.com.

She inherited her creative nature from her mother: “I’m inspired by her every single day. She’s the ultimate go-getter and DIYer and puts so much joy into everything she does.”

Two years ago, a stylist friend nudged Nicole toward interior styling. “She encouraged me to come on shoots, then slowly started passing along some jobs to me.” Nicole hasn’t looked back. Last year, she styled the set of Storm Surfers 3D, a documentary about surfing that screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. “Styling for a movie was fun because the set stayed around for the duration of filming, whereas with magazines, as soon as you’ve got the shot, you take it all down.”

Her most recent project lives on even further: Nicole holds workshops about travel and handicrafts of different cultures, like Mexican ojos de Dios (God’s eyes) and Japanese paper cranes. “It’s great to keep these traditions alive and see families spending time together,” she says. It’s an approach she uses in her work, too: “A handmade touch can bring a real sense of heart and truth to a story.”

Nicole’s telling details

My favourite quote is… “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” – Nietzsche

I want to learn how to… use Photoshop properly.

My top pastime is… thrift store shopping!

The best time of day is… first thing in the morning, sitting in bed with my computer or a good book, glancing out the window at the ocean.

If I could live anywhere it’d be… Tokyo.

I’m crazy about… blogs and coffee-table books.

My favourite spot in my house is… my sunroom; it’s bright and colourful, cozy and eclectic.

My guiltiest pleasure is… a bath with candles, incense and red wine.

Five things Nicole can’t live without

1. Pens, pencils & crayons: “I only ever give homemade cards, so I need to have these handy at all times!”

2. Corningware coffee pot: “I always have stovetop percolated coffee in the morning.”

3. Nivea Fruity Shine Lip Gloss in Cherry: “Just a touch of it helps make me feel presentable.”

4. Green Hunter rain boots: “I’ve worn these for 10-hour outdoor shoots, in the winter, in Sydney.”

5. Missoni bath towels: “I’m not a huge fan of name brands, but I adore this colourful and lush collection.”