Nicola Ross Designs

Nicola Ross Design ~ Q&A with the very talented kitchen designer Nicola Ross.

We sent Nicola a few hard pressed questions about what its like to be a kitchen designer. The challenges she faces, what’s important when designing a kitchen, and if she had any tips for anyone who was wanting to give it a go themselves…here is what she said…

Nicola Ross Designs, interior designer

Q. What inspired you to become a kitchen  designer?

I had always loved interiors and architecture.  In another life I would have been an architect but that wasn’t to be.  I spent a lot of time working different jobs around the kids while they were little.  When they got a bit older I saw an ad for a trainee kitchen designer and when I started there everything clicked for me and I knew I had found my place.  I loved everything about it.

Q. What do you consider to be the most important aspects of kitchen design?

The way it works is key.  We do a lot of full house fit outs as well as kitchens and for me the most important thing is the human experience within the spaces we create.  Incorporating functional design in an aspirational way is our jam. 

Q. What challenges have you faced while designing kitchens?

There have been many, one of the biggest was simply not knowing enough to know any better, both from a construction and a design point of view.  I can recall many times the stress of getting things wrong and not knowing how to fix them, also working with clients that wanted things that I just didn’t have enough skill to deliver on. 

Completing design qualifications and committing to learning has been a crucial turning point for me, it gave me the skills to really understand ergonomic function and aesthetic direction in a way I simply didn’t know I didn’t know.  I also find that we can become quite isolated in our jobs as we work on projects to meet deadlines, that we don’t always create a solid network of peers within the industry, this has and continues to be one of the things that makes everything a bit easier, the notion of community over competition is paramount, and we can all help each other, whether that’s about design or business, our collective skill can get us all through.

kitchen designer

Q. How do you stay up to date with the latest trends and technology in kitchen design?

I guess there is a lot of ways I do this, I belong to NKBA and go to meetings and conferences.  I work with some great builders and architects, and we talk about what’s happening in the industry and that’s a great way to learn new things.  I don’t tend to look at magazines much and prefer to go to industry events that are around products and less about trends.  I also think that paying attention to societal shifts are better predictors of what is coming versus what is already out there.

Q. What do you think sets you apart from other kitchen designers?

We work really hard to make sure that we really understand our client’s needs, wants and aspirations.  We take that and deliver a design that answers these and creates a space that feels unique to them.  I take the view that design should be sustainable and built on solid functional use and then layer in all the things that make it look and feel amazing.  Understanding that the joinery and space we create is one of the most used things in a home, and has a huge effect on how these homes feel and work to live in.  when its done really well our clients don’t even know how much easier it makes daily life, from bringing the shopping in, to feeding pets, making dinner and taking out the rubbish, effective space planning makes a house a home that receives its inhabitants in a holistic way. 

interior and kitchen designer, nz

Q. How do you work with clients to determine the best design solutions for their kitchen?

I would say it is the ability to ask the right questions and then let them tell me.  I tend to ask more questions and then wait for answers without rushing to fix problems that I don’t fully understand at that point.  I find the process of going over what works currently and what doesn’t is helpful, as is who actually lives there and how spaces will be used informs the design process, from there it falls into place.

Q. What do you think is the most important thing to consider when designing a kitchen?

The people that will live there today, and the sustainability to have it continue to work into the future.  We are a key driver for how people will experience the homes they live in, and what we design determines how positive that experience is.  Our skill in translating the design brief into a functioning space is a privilege, and that needs to be respected with thoughtful design.

Q. How do you manage clients’ expectations and preferences when designing a kitchen?

We have a design process that we go over with our clients before we take them on as clients, this gives a clear pathway of what we do and how we do it.  From there it is around getting a good brief around what they need and what everyday life is like for them, this gives us the framework to start from.  I find with clients that when we start to break down space and talk through the why, it becomes easy as they have a deeper understanding of the design process itself and why.

Q. How do you create a balance between functionality and aesthetics in kitchen design?

Our work is built on using functional design to create aspirational spaces.  The usability of a space and the aesthetic create a marriage of style and substance. 

Q. What tips would you give to someone who is looking to design their own kitchen?

You don’t know what you don’t know and that is why you should hire a designer to create your spaces, there’s a lot of options out there, which can be overwhelming, having an expert to navigate all the options and make recommendations around layout and material selection makes it much easier.  It’s a big investment of time and money and you want to get it right. 

I think it’s important to have an idea of budget because its all to easy to look at images online and not realize how much they cost.  If you don’t know your designer should be able to tell you what it could be, not knowing this leads to problems if they do not meet your expectations and you are already in love with the design!

Inspiration pictures are a good place to start to be able to articulate your style with the designer you are working with, this helps to identify the things you react to, however this is not where you want to be simply taking a picture and asking for that.  Think of it like a starting point and build a design that works for you and your situation, not someone else’s.

Thinking about what is important to you both in the way you use your space now and how you want it to perform into the future.  Authenticity in the homes we create is important, we design for 80% of the time and the 20% is the exception.  We want to empower clients to build for themselves and the way they want to live.

Kitchen design, nz Kitchen design, nz
Find out more about Nicola Ross Designs here
Back to blog