HOME

Designer Nick Olsen On His Obsessions, Apartment, And Life After Domino (PHOTOS)

09/20/2011 12:36 am ET | Updated Oct 11, 2012

New York City designer Nick Olsen has made quite a name for himself since his Deal Hunter blogging days at Domino, the widely loved and dearly missed home magazine. We've always loved Olsen for his daring style, encyclopedic knowledge of design and flair for high-style DIY projects, which are all things that reiterate our Stylelist Home ethos. We caught up with Olsen for a quick chat about life after Domino, his latest obsessions, and who he's having (or would like to have) over for dinner at his bohemian chic apartment (scroll down to the slideshow).

We've been huge fans since your days as Domino's Deal Hunter. What have you been up to since?
Lots. I've started my own blog, which is more about random musings an inspiration than finding deals. I've also hung out my own shingle as a decorator, helping clients online and in person. It can be a bit scary at times -- right now I don't even have an intern -- but I'm busier than ever and love it.

The DIY world has evolved significantly in the past decade, how has it influenced your approach to DIY?
No disrespect to the crafters out there, but I've always used a DIY approach to achieve stylish, expensive touches that I couldn't afford to the pay pros to do. I think wall stencils, for example, have come a long way but if you can sew and paint the world is your oyster. I just sewed my own bedskirt last week (red canvas with Navajo tape trim at the hem).

As a self-proclaimed extreme DIY-er who has also worked in luxury design with the fantastic designer Miles Redd, what's your trick to balancing the two seemingly disparate design aesthetics?
I'm a little obsessed with how things are made, so I'll always examine a throw pillow to figure out how to replicate a Turkish corner, or curtain panels so I can make my own French pinch pleats. These are the soigné details that can make a room and the extra DIY effort really pays off. I'm not so interested in DIY that's impressed with its own ingenuity, i.e. turning a wagon wheel into a coffee table.

Is there a shelter magazine that you miss the most?
Definitely Domino. It mixed high and low decorating brilliantly and revolutionized access to sources. Beyond that it had an aura ...it was a magazine run by really stylish and fun editors, and that showed in spades.

Best place to find inspiration?
The streets of New York. I walk everywhere and will file away new color combinations I see in hipster outfits or a pretty molding detail on an overdoor. It all translates to decorating.

Your three favorite spots?
The Antiques Garage Flea Market in Chelsea, Mood Fabrics on 37th Street, Todd Alexander Romano on 59th Street.

Subject you hated in design school?
I hate to say it, but my architecture studios! I was the definition of a square peg in a round hole.

Item you're coveting right now?
I'm currently accepting donations of a pair of Billy Baldwin/Cole Porter étagères to hold my fabric sample bins.

Your pattern of the moment?
The 'Vitruvian Wave' ! It's on my business cards but I'd die for any fabric with a repeating wave stripe.

Scroll down to continue reading the Q&A.

Idols that inspire you?
Albert Hadley, Madeleine Castaing, Richard Avedon, Madonna pre-1995, Paul Rudolph, Oscar and Annette de la Renta, and Miles Redd (my former boss and mentor).

Six people you would love to have over for dinner?
Six Living: Michelle Obama, Robert De Niro, Kathy Griffin, Terence Koh, Amy Sedaris, Ryan Gosling.
Six Spirits: Truman Capote, Elizabeth Taylor, Helmut Newton, Andy Warhol, Nan "I loathe fat people" Kempner, Cary Grant.

They're coming over in five minutes, what do you do to get your space ready?
I make my bed, shove some red carnations into bud vases, dim all the lights and make sure there's enough toilet paper in the bathroom!

Favorite project you've done this year?
A West Village apartment for a bachelor with adventurous taste and more patience than Gandhi.

Your failsafe decorating trick?
Paint your doors black or a different color!

What are you working now?
I'm about to finish my biggest project to date, a duplex on the Upper East Side. I assured the clients that I could rein in my tendency toward bold color and pattern (I can) but their favorite room in the apartment is bright yellow with leopard carpet. Go figure.

And be sure to watch this small-space decorating video featuring Olsen over at House Beautiful.

Suggest a correction