Meet the Matter Team: Nicole Stewart
Published: July 18, 2018
Interior Design and Headshot Photography by: JC Buck
Family Portrait Photography by: Levi Tijerina
The youngest of the Matter Planning + Design team is no rookie when it comes to the creative process. Having grown up with an interior designer mother and aunt, Nicole Stewart, daughter to Noelle and niece to Soraya, came to the profession with a varied background in creative writing, literature, and advertising.
Nicole spent her first few years out of college exploring. She worked for a literary nonprofit in Aspen that hosted the likes of Sir Salman Rushdie. Then she spread her wings, landing at one of the top ad agencies in San Francisco.
Having fallen deeply in love with the creative process, Nicole began to explore the possibility of returning to Aspen to work with Noelle whose interior design business NCH Design (now Matter Planning + Design) was rapidly expanding. She enrolled in interior design school, returned to Colorado and never looked back.
Below Nicole shares a little more about her journey, some of her great loves, and a few surprises.
Tell us about the journey to where you are today.
At times I am still surprised that I landed in design, yet not surprised at all. In my work leading up to joining Matter I was deeply embedded in the creative process—first at a literary nonprofit and next as an account manager and producer at one of the leading advertising agencies in the country.
During these years, I became fascinated with, and somewhat addicted to, the creative process: Receiving client information, wants, needs and aspirations; distilling the information against realities such as timing, budget, etc; communicating to the creative team; and then producing/making something.
It was never my plan to work in interior design (although I had been around the business most of my life) nor to work with my mom. But in 2012, I moved back to Colorado, enrolled in design school and started working with my mom on growing her business.
At the time, I thought my decision was a pivot, but to my surprise, all my previous experiences coalesced beautifully into where I am today. One of my favorite aspects of this job is deeply embedding myself in the client’s story, which influences how I design for them, work with them, and create for them.
I have implemented everything I’ve learned from my agency days to champion the client experience, hone our process, and keep the new Matter Planning + Design brand alive and well. I find myself in the best position to learn from two seasoned pros on both the residential and commercial arms of design and construction management.
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
The hook for me is seeing the potential of a space and then throwing myself into the problem solving to fit all the pieces of budget, timeline, wants, needs, etc. together.
Each project is a big puzzle that requires a near perfect level of planning, coordination, and execution. I love the challenge and intensity of it. I also love all of the relationships and friendships I have formed with our clients and industry partners. It makes the work very meaningful and fun.
What project you are most proud of?
Each project feels like a child so it is hard to single one out, but one of my favorites was a residential project up in Aspen. The scope was a ranch house on the river with major structural and water issues, a tight budget, and a expedited timeline.
The clients completely put their trust in us and we ran with it. It was a project of many firsts for our team—first time doing a major remodel without an architect, first time working end to end on a residential project as a trio.
We tried several new ideas, processes, finishes, and manufacturers. It was a wonderful to climb outside of our comfort zone, and the outcome was incredible. This was a second home for the owners, and they only saw it twice during construction. It was the only true before and after reveal we have done with clients. Their reaction was priceless.
What is the biggest reward of working with your mom and aunt?
I am in the safest place I can be to take big risk or try new things in terms of design. Because I’m still relatively new to the profession, I come with a fresh perspective that pushes them to think outside the box. In turn, they educate me on how to bring it to life.
I am also learning all of the nuances that come with years in the industry from two very talented, respected, thoughtful, and creative women. I feel very fortunate to have this kind of mentorship
You spent many years living in Aspen and now live in Denver? What do you miss the most about mountain life? What do you like most about city life?
Aspen such a special place, and I feel very fortunate to have grown up there. I love being in the mountains and having such ease of access to nature and solitude. Many of my childhood friends still live in the Roaring Fork Valley, so it is grounding for me.
However, living in Denver over the past six years has been very exciting. It’s incredible to witness the monumental change that has happened, particularly in the design community. I am back and forth between Aspen and Denver so often it truly feels like I have the best of both worlds.
What is surprising about you?
1) My days spent on construction sites continue after hours with my two boys in our backyard. I have become completely versed in heavy machinery thanks to them.
2) I start my morning with a dance party while I make breakfast.
3) I have always had a thing for bagpipes… no idea where that came from.
What are your bedside table essentials?
1. A stack of great books for morning snuggle time with my little guys.
2. Photos of loved ones that remind me to give thanks every night.
3. No phone or electronics. Sleep is sacred in this business.
3 things you can’t live without?
My family, my friends and great food.
If you could fly anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?
Melbourne. I am devouring all of the design coming out of Australia right now.