About the Author

I’m willing get my hands dirty and I have no fear of heights. At one time, I was a technical climber, and I’m a graduate of the Colorado Outward Bound School. 

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.

Dining room before Nicolette's makeover.
Dining room before Nicolette’s makeover.

Design Education

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.

Dining room after the makeover: Repainted in a light-reflecting ivory, open sight lines and reflective surfaces make the most of the room’s wonderful sunlight.

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.

-Carl Sandburg

13 thoughts on “About the Author

  1. Saw your “note” through my Facebook; I came over to your “Living in Comfort & Joy” website and read several of your writings. Loved every article that I read because they are full of information. I liked your style of writing; after reading this “About the Author”, I knew why you are so good with what you do. I am so glad that I “be friend” you on Facebook.

    It’s amazing that you can do so many things so well. How good is it to know you are on the right track following all your principles of living? I have no doubt that you will age gracefully and happily. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  2. Thought I would check out your blog. Love your articles – the one on Vetrazzo countertops is very good. Keep up the great work! I will be sure to be back to visit often – I bookmarked the site so I can read your updates.

  3. Your commentary is a delight to read. Plenty of ideas for one to ponder. Like you, I’ve had a small success at training one cat to use the little swinging door in a screen door at my house in Sebastopol. I’m not positive whether she might have figured it out by herself. Never could get her to stay off of the kitchen counter. One of these days, I’ll quit procrastinating the job of redoing my apartment.

  4. Hello,

    I’d appreciate if you can give me some feedback on our barcelona chair at: http://www.regencyshop.com

    I realize that you are home decor connoisseur 🙂 I’d like to hear your opinion/feedback on our products. Also, it’d be swell if you can place our barcelona chair link on your blog.

    Thank you,


  5. As it happens, Pam, I wanted to feature a white Barcelona chair in the post I was writing – but had not yet published – when you left your note. I included a link to your Barcelona chair. I would appreciate a reciprocal link to my blog.


  6. Hello,

    I’d appreciate if you can give me some feedback on our ball chair at: http://www.regencyshop.com

    I realize that you are home decor-bedding connoisseur 🙂 I’d like to hear your opinion/feedback on our products. Also, it’d be swell if you can place our ball chair link on your blog.

    Thank you,


  7. Hello Nicolette
    I was drawn to your article from a link of a link from Chloregy!
    Here in the UK I have my own adversity to overcome, and I am.
    I have lots of interests bubbling beneath the surface which are gradually coming together. I have at least 1 website to get up and running for my recruitment businesses. I have also an American architect/engineer colleague I hope to work with to develop his European pre-fab business. There is also the prospect of a Masters degree in Integrated Sustainability for Business this September, if I can find the many thousands of £fees!

    I have already been asked to write an article in an Architectural magazine?!
    Plus, I know I need to start ‘blogging’ ??!!

    All the best
    Suzanna Atkinson

  8. Dear Nicolette,

    First of all, thank you for the nice words about Copenhagen. Secondly, awesome that you are trying to educate us and make us live differently. If we were all as thoughtful as you, we may be living in a very different world. I am an “all guns blazing” kind of guy, and I found it strangely calming to read your blog.

    As you know, I am a Dane, and I do not claim to be particularly eloquent. Hence, you will get it in a point format. (Because, that is what I know best. :).)

    1) First of all, I want to congratulate you on having overcome all the obstacles which you have had to overcome. A lesser person would have given up.

    2) Heads up on the biography. I can relate to both you and your father.

    3) I have yet to read all your material, but I particularly enjoyed your biography, the article on countertops and the one referring to the reuse people. As you know, I am both a contractor, and a person with a mission. And you are right, we have a lot of things in common besides the fact that we are very different people. Isn’t the world a beautiful and magical place?

    Keep Well,


  9. Trying this again.
    I just found your site by accident and very happy I have. Lots of good info.
    I am a self-employed artist due to loss of income am moving to a 1 bedroom basement suite. The living room and kitchen are combined and the ceilings are low and windows small and high.
    I need space to live and also work. I am losing my studio space so have to paint and sculpt somewhere in this place and I somehow have to turn it into my home for at least a year.
    One idea I was thinking of is a loft bed.

  10. would love to know if we can change the colour of old lino from a gray to a rust ? is it possible?

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