Nicole Crowder is the independent furniture designer and upholsterer behind Nicole Crowder Upholstery based in Washington D.C. She has been upholstering furniture for clients since 2013. When she’s not rummaging through antique stores, Goodwills, and estate sales for unique chairs, Nicole continues to serve as a Contributing House and Hotel Tour photographer for interior-designed-based website Apartment Therapy (also known as one of my favorite minimalist decor rabbit holes.) I recently sat down with Nicole to discuss her passion for upholstery and her forthcoming collaboration with West Elm DC.
1. Before I start losing my mind about your collaboration with West Elm (I’ve been dreaming about The Malachite Settee ever since you posted it on Instagram!), please share more about when and how your love for upholstering began.
I’m so glad you love that settee! The design for that had been in my mind for a few months, and so I was really happy to have found all the pieces come together to see it executed.
My love for upholstery begin in late 2013. It was November and I had recently discovered a woman’s upholstery business that was located in Philadelphia, and I was so inspired by the work that she did I wanted to just try my own hand at it. At this time I wasn’t thinking I want to make this my business or this is what I want my livelihood to be. But even though I had been working as a photo editor for several years at this point there was something that I was still trying to find that would satisfy me creatively. Little did I know that upholstery would become that “thing.” After I sold my first set of chairs I just had this affinity for it and I was on craigslist every single morning and afternoon searching for cheap chairs that I could buy and flip. I had my first outdoor market in the summer of 2014 where I sold over 60% of my inventory, and in that same year I took a leap of faith. The rest is history built on trial and error leading up to where I am now.
2. I love the fabrics you use, especially non-traditional textures like African wax print. Where does your inspiration come from?
The inspiration for my designs comes from so many sources. I love fashion and love to interpret various looks from runways or from street style and try to create a chair that has a similar vibe or incorporates similar textures and color palettes. I don’t like to have a single piece of fabric be the star, I really like to manipulate fabric and mix it with other colors and other prints to create something new. But my inspiration also comes from nature a great deal of time, as was the case with my newest collection the furniture called “Stoned” which was inspired by the many crystals that I use in my daily meditative practices.
3. The other day you gave your Instagram followers a peek into your creative process with your “everything” notebook. Tell us a bit more about ‘Wilson.’
Wilson! The long last paper love of my life. Wilson is my notebook that I bought back in January 2017 and have used it every day if not every other day to jot down my ideas for upcoming collections, I put pictures or draw terrible sketches of things that are in my imagination, and also it helps me to stay organized with my doubling as my to do list. Even though I have my cell phone and my laptop I’m very much a tactile person, and so I have to write things down and sketch things out and cut out photos for magazines and carry swatches in my purse haha. But this notebook is filled with all of the things that I imagined and have been very thankful to see come to life.
4. I also love writing things out. I’m going to have to attend one of your upholstery classes so I can get a sneak peek at all the secrets and designs Wilson holds. *smile* Speaking of designs, please tell us about your collaboration with West Elm!
This collaboration with West Elm is a dream come true! It’s surreal to even believe that is something that I had in my spirit is coming to pass so soon. This past spring when I was traveling I came across a post on West Elm’s Instagram page that they were looking for furniture design is for their Locals program. I submitted an application and within a few weeks I was sitting down to meet one-on-one with the general manager and she was offering me a month-long showcase. I took a few months to concept and design what would essentially be a debut collection, and West Elm’s team has been nothing but incredible to work with. The whole team is friendly and really wonderful and just want you to provide a platform for you to showcase your best work. This collection represents a part of who I am right now in terms of mixing multiple prints and using bold color and designs. It’s also a small introduction into the kinds of furniture that I like to see and imagine, which focuses on details, incorporating abstract objects like paper orchids, and infusing a personality into an every day object.
5. Anything else you’d like to share?
I just wanted to say again thank you so much for the chance to talk a little bit about my work and inspirations. I’m excited about developing more collections in the future as well as rolling out some more upholstery workshops And if anyone is wanting to collaborate or work together please feel free to reach out to me at my studio at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thank you so much, Nicole! You can also follow Nicole and her amazing work on Instagram @nicolemcrowder.
Bonus! If you’re in the DC area, you can meet Nicole at an upcoming Meet The Maker event on Sunday, October 8th from 2 to 5 PM at the West Elm DC 14th St location. She’ll be introducing her gorgeous collection!