Nicole Forina is the founder and lead designer of Nicole Forina Home (NF Home).
Substance over style
"It isn't necessarily about how a client wants their home to look, it's about how they want it to feel."
Many design firms have a specific look and commonality that runs through all of their projects. However, NF Home prides itself on not being pinned to one specific style—the focus is on delivering a story and vision for how a client wants to live, not a pre-determined aesthetic.
"The best way to communicate with our clients, hands down, will always be in person. Seeing a client's real-time reaction to something is the best way to gauge what they are loving—or not—in the design."
Email ranks as the runner-up; it's the most reliable way of keeping a running tab of project developments.
A dose of reality
The hardest part of the job is dealing with clients who are indecisive or unclear on their vision. "People may think they know what they want before they start this process, but you should never believe you've 'nailed it' until a client hands over the cheque to start ordering furniture!"
Nicole helps guide her clients to their true intentions by asking reality-framing questions, such as:
- We all romanticise having lavish parties, but in reality, how often are you doing that? Are you okay with your dining room looking like a museum 363 days a year so that you can host those two holidays?
- Maybe you dream of viscose velvets... but you have four dogs. Is that going to work?
- What are the investment pieces and what would you be fine with sourcing from more budget friendly vendors?
Throughout the process, Nicole is always mindful to show respect. "We are dealing with people's most prized material possessions—whether of financial or sentimental value—and our clients must trust that we value them too."
Expect the unexpected
Nicole relies on her personal experience and taste to mix dream and reality into the perfect recipe.
Just as every client's vision is different, so too is the way Nicole approaches the project. After 10+ years of client experience, Nicole has found no one-size-fits-all approach. But one thing she knows for certain is that you never stop learning!
Though there is no perfect recipe for truly understanding a client, Nicole has picked up a few techniques over the years.
Given she is a mother herself, we challenged Nicole to understand the functional priorities of a young family looking to design, what they hope is, their 'forever home'—if she had just 5 questions to work with...
What... do you want your home to feel and look like?
When... would you like to start and finish the project?
We need to make sure everyone has realistic expectations.
Why... did you choose Nicole Forina Home?
This will lead them to either explain that they felt some sort of connection to a certain project in our portfolio or they connected with our personalities in some way.
Who... lives here?
Adults, kids, pets? This will help you learn if, for example, "Fido enjoys peeing on the carpet when we go on vacation."
Where... would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?
This may unlock a favourite place that the clients went to on vacation or once called home—a place that reminds them of fond and peaceful memories. It could lead you to discover that, 'he' likes the solitude of the forest and enjoys the casual outdoor life of camping, while she spent a summer abroad in France, and loves the hunt through a Parisian flea market.