About the Author
Nicolette is a writer and designer with a strong background in architecture, design and real estate. She’s the owner and leading creative force at Steller Studio, a web design firm. She also works as an interior designer under the name Comfort and Joy Design.
Many of her Steller Studio clients are realtors, firms in the hospitality and tourism business, or are involved in home building and renovation, including contractors, energy-efficiency firms and products for the home. Nicolette has also worked extensively with health and wellness and outdoor sports businesses.
Home Building Background
Nicolette Toussaint had hands-on experience in building two homes from scratch. Her parents saw nothing wrong with a four-year-old helping to install shingles on the roof, with a twelve-year-old laying flagstone and stapling up insulation, or with a sixteen-year-old running planks through a dado saw and nailing up siding! She learned sewing and upholstery crafts from her mother and was taught woodworking and basic home repair skills by her father.
During her grade school years, one of Nicolette’s favorite hobbies was moving the furniture in a bedroom that she shared with her brother Gene. The goal of this exercise — an early exploration of what architects and designers call “space planning” — was to create a space that walled out her pesky younger brother.
Ad Agency Experience
Nicolette’s first career was in advertising and PR. She worked as a graphic designer and writer for several national ad agencies, and then for environmental, health and educational nonprofits. But she always retained an interest in building and interior design.
Nicolette’s interior design philosophy was informed not just by her formal education, but also by what she learned in “the school of hard knocks.” (She survived the remodeling shown at left; the contractor quit the business.) Nicolette’s devotion to ergonomic and universal design principles was influenced by her work for environmental and health nonprofits, by direct experience with disability and by the process of remodeling multiple flats in San Francisco, where space is at a premium.
Nicolette earned an MS in Design from the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago, a school founded by famed architect Mies Van Der Rohe.
Van der Rohe was one of the pioneers of the International Style of architecture. His design school, which now calls itself the “new Bauhaus,” descended from the German institution that married modern technology with the Arts and Craft Movement to create modern, human-centered design and the mid-century modern style.
Nicolette’s training at IIT emphasized Van der Rohe’s dictum “form follows function” and included a strong emphasis on ergonomics.
Nicolette holds that among the functions of homes are the need to be sustainable in both a human and an environmental sense. Accordingly, she has been a certified green building professional. She is also skilled in applying the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and multiply experienced in designing for various physical challenges.
She earned a BA in journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and more than 50 units of continuing education in interior design and sustainability studies from the University of California at Berkeley’s San Francisco campus.
Exploring “Sustainable Style”
Writing in this popular Living in Comfort and Joy blog, for the National Association of Realtors’ HouseLogic blog, and for the Sopris Sun, Nicolette often explores themes of human and environmental sustainability in relation to our homes.
Nicolette thinks sustainable style should consider:
- Residents’ physical health (avoiding toxics, providing good light and access, and including adaptations for aging in place)
- Residents’ emotional health (providing visual appeal and an affirming color palette and including the niceties of layout that are sometimes called “feng shui” )
- Social interactions (providing appropriate space and furnishings for family activities and rituals, as well as privacy)
- Economic needs (remain cost-effective over time and within budget during building)
- Green/sustainability criteria (Using green materials, recycling furnishings and materials and reducing the carbon footprint)
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.