It's about time we featured the Wonder Woman behind the 2014 remodel of Paiko's interior! Meet Nikole Nelson, designer, maker, and founder of BLKCORAL. An artist and Mama, who splits her time between the Hawaiian Islands and the isle of Manhattan, she's constantly creating, and persistently passionate, for all things design (ask her what she recently made her son for his 2nd birthday party!) 'Can't do' really doesn't exist in her vocabulary. With clients such as Kate Spade, Urban Outfitters, and Hewlett Packard (simply to name a few) we're honored on her collaboration with Paiko.
Tell me a bit about your creative background in art and design.
My journey began in the fine arts, selling my paintings under the banyan tree in Lahaina, Maui. I was teaching Art Education at Sacred Hearts School (SHS) and painting every spare moment. From my early days at SHS, I ventured off to the mainland and worked for Objective Art & Design, the owner Vanessa Goldeen, was my greatest mentor. I graduated from Savannah College of Art & Design and received a BFA in Interior Design. I spent a year being classically trained in art foundation while studying architecture and decorative arts extensively abroad. New York was next on my list of life goals. I worked in-house as a store designer for Coach, cementing my love and obsession of retail design. Eventually my urge to 'make' again took over. I ventured off on my own to find the most creative outlets possible, by working with top brands on interior design, custom art installations, set design and prop styling. Each step up the ladder I’ve added to my technical skills - all focusing on the single purpose of experience. Whatever it is that I’m bringing to life, I want the end result to be a dynamic experience for the viewer.
What prompted your collaboration with Paiko?
Within a few weeks of moving to Honolulu from New York City, I discovered Paiko and instantly fell in love with the brand's aesthetic. I knew immediately it was the perfect fit. Months later, Tamara asked me to be a stylist for her book project. It ultimately led us collaborating once more on Paiko's remodel. Once we overcame the insanity of it all, Courtney and Tamara really dug in helping me build the store. Special props to Courtney who brought the project home! She was a fantastic project manager and I couldn’t have done it without her.
What was the interior design of Paiko inspired by? How were you able to bring the 'jungle vibe' alive?
Paiko’s design inspiration was born from Hawaii! Nature, Tamara's vision, and my unique interpretation of what that experience could be. You feel the 'jungle vibe' through the way the products are featured - all the fixtures were custom designed. Every surface was created by hand to provide the perfect backdrop showcasing the plants' natural beauty. I wanted to have the interior to provide a lasting experience for visitors. My first stop was to monitor Tamara’s Pinterest board. It helped me understand what visually inspired her as a maker. For me, the concepts flowed and came together seamlessly - it was one of those beautiful moments where you get to create your dream space. Courtney and Tamara were brave enough to trust me, dive in and hold on for the ride.
Do you feel your design style is different from the work you were commissioned to do in New York?
I’m very fortunate to have a wide range of interests and styles. My work in New York was very raw and urban, capturing the pulse of that city. In Hawaii, I get to create more with nature and focus on softer energies. It matches the duality of my personality. I love New York City and it's dirty splendor but I can’t get enough of nature, jungle and ocean.
Are you inspired by your new home and studio in Manoa?
Absolutely! There is green in every direction and the views of the valley blow my mind. Watching colors change in the sky as the clouds roll in over the mountains is... breathtaking. Nature’s textures, colors, and smells truly inspire me on another level. I feel so blessed to live right in the middle of it all. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m still in Honolulu. Oh and the stars! So many at night. My studio is open air, day or night I’m looking out into beauty.
What elements do you always include in your work as a representation of your ancestry?
My mother is Hawaiian and Japanese and was born on Oahu. I was born in Newport Beach, CA. Growing up I spent my time living between Hawaii and California. Mom always made our Hawaiian culture a part of our lifestyle. The 'Way of Aloha' is always present in my work - “Aloha is being a part of all, and all being a part of me.” Creating experiences allows me to share my talents and inspirations with my community. I feel so much love and gratitude when creating. This is another reason why I love collaborating with other artists so much - we share the Aloha while coming together creatively.
What’s it like bringing the girl power to the table? For example, being part of Heavy Metal, in a predominantly male industry of wood and metal working?
It all started on construction sites in Maui. My Dad, a plumbing contractor for 35 years, used to bring me along on his work adventures. It's where I started to make 3D art (from building scraps) and where I discovered my love of the trades. From a young age I recognized craftsmanship and collaborative efforts.
I’ll never forget the first time I rocked up to a construction site with my very own crew of chicks! You have to earn respect in that world, the boys don’t let you off easy! I pride myself on exceptional work ethic and my team really brings it. It's very physical work, often dirty: you bleed; nail guns sometimes go through a finger; you get burned; and in the case of metal work...you smell for 3 days after production. Number one rule...SAFETY FIRST (hot pink hard hat preferred).
Heavy Metal is near and dear to my heart. Bill Reardon is one of the most awesome and patient dudes I’ve ever worked with. No tears allowed in the shop - even if you just burned a hole through your best bra! I’ve dabbled in so many masculine driven crafts and somehow it always feels natural to me. My goal is not to be a master woodworker or welder, but to understand what it takes, the tools, the techniques, the language and the rules - all of this adds up to make me a better artist and designer by understanding the full capabilities of all the mediums I use to create experiences and space. I strive to be a master in art installations, sculpture, painting techniques and interior design. I can still hear my father cursing over blue prints baffled by an interior designer’s lack of reality - I vowed early on to never be in that category. I’m happy to say I made my dad proud.