There’s nothing like a major health scare to set your priorities straight. A few years ago graphic designer Nicole Steele had to undergo six months of chemotherapy and it made her rethink the direction that was she was going in. Up until then she had been making tentative steps towards launching an online homewares store, as well as creating some of her own designs. “That health scare made me reassess what I wanted out of life, and realise that I could have faith in myself and my ideas,” Nicole says. The result was Paterson + Steele, a business born on the Gold Coast, Queensland. “The concept behind it was very simple: find or create pieces that tick all the boxes that are important to me - striking design, a unique or eccentric quality, and made with a strong environmental and social conscience,” Nicole says. “We want to encourage slow-buying, buy what you love, buy once.”

Which five words best describe you? Driven, enthusiastic, unguarded, resilient, inventive.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started by working my butt off at uni for a graphic design degree. I then spent 15 years working, and I have been really fortunate to work with some fantastic brands. I’ve always had a passion for homewares and interior design and I had it in the back of my mind that “one day” I would launch my own brand, but making that leap into the unknown is hard. Then, I had a health scare and six months of chemotherapy and it made me reassess what I wanted out of life. So I took the leap and here we are.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To get over myself and get on with it. I hate to think of the hours I’ve wasted in the past trying to perfect every tiny detail. It’s great to be passionate and dedicated, but perfection doesn’t exist, and if it did, it would be boring. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? Having the guts to turn a hobby into a business and doing it while going through chemotherapy. It’s still evolving and very much a work in progress, but I got there – professionally and personally.

What’s been your best decision? To get off the computer, and out of my comfort zone, and back to designing products. It has given my creativity a new lease of life plus the opportunity to meet and work with new amazing people.

Who inspires you? This is a long list. Daily I’m inspired and mentored by Jai Vasicek, the way his brain works is a thing of beauty. I’m inspired by my family and friends, and all of our suppliers and collaborators; such a bunch of talented and creative people who genuinely want each other to succeed, that’s very inspiring in itself.

What are you passionate about? Food, art, friends, family, pugs, travel, supporting artisans and small businesses.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Andy Warhol – I’m obsessed with Pop Art – to me, it’s the perfect combination of graphic design and art.

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Having Paterson + Steele recognised as a place that succeeds commercially without compromising our principles. I started with the dream of avoiding the mass produced and providing a platform for the unique; I hope I can achieve that.

What are you reading? There’s a stack of reading material currently by my bath – I have a half hour bath every night, it’s my happy place. At the moment the stack is full of interior design magazines, and Daring & Disruptive by Lisa Messenger.

images courtesy of paterson + steele; photography armelle habib; styling aimee tarulli for greenhouse interiors

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