One thing I really love about writing for Design*Sponge is the storytelling we do through home tours. I love learning about what went into a room renovation, what sparked the idea behind the decor, the backstory on the hand-me-downs or thrifted goods, and finding out the history of the home. Today’s tour with Nicole and Adam Cole, based in Philadelphia, PA, is rich with that sort of history, filled with stories of furniture pieces that have become family heirlooms, along with found collections and lots of handmade gems (such as the fireplace and headboard in the couple’s bedroom). These all make up a deeply personal story.
Nicole grew up the daughter of a sailor, never staying in one place for long. She went on to join the military herself as a Surface Warfare Officer until her duty was up, then worked as a private contractor. Nicole met her husband, Adam, in college, while they were both attending The University of Kansas. He too joined the military before becoming an automation engineer. Both felt the need to put down roots and stop moving for awhile. The couple moved to Philadelphia, sight unseen, and haven’t looked back once in the two years since they moved to the city. Pennsylvania marks Nicole’s 15th state to live in and through all that relocating, they have moved family furniture, items the couple found together and a lot of plants. “Our plants have moved all over the country with us, from California, to Florida, to Nebraska… when we came to Philly, we had to rent a U-haul trailer to move all of them. We just couldn’t bear to part with them, they feel like part of our family,” Nicole says.
Soon after leaving the military, Nicole realized it was time to build her own creative business. “I missed the curiosity and creativity that I enjoyed as a child,” Nicole shares. That’s when she started vestige HOME, a woodworking line of home goods and also an interior design service. When the couple began looking for their home, finding a space for Nicole’s woodworking business was important to them. While their 1925, two-story home isn’t very big at 1,500 square feet, the layout afforded them all the space they needed. Nicole converted the home’s detached garage into her studio.
When looking around their home, it feels as if each room flows seamlessly from one to the next. That might be the rich tones and clean lines found throughout, or the fact that Nicole had the idea to paint all the window frames black. “I use my intuition as my guide to design,” she begins, “I like to see what the house tells me it wants to be. It’s also taught me to take risks. I was initially worried painting the frames might look weird but could also be fantastic… turns out, it’s pretty fantastic.”
Their home didn’t need a lot of renovation when they moved in, but Nicole has worked hard to get the decor to where it is now, never wanting anything to feel too precious. “Sometimes I think that people confuse beauty with preciousness, but most of our stuff has worn spots, dog hair and dust, and it doesn’t make it any less livable or beautiful for us,” Nicole says. Like most creative people, she will likely not be “done” with the home’s look for a long time, always contemplating ideas for what could be different. As an interior designer herself, Nicole’s able to use her own home to experiment. “I don’t try to make it all ‘go together,’ but rather follow my curiosity and ask what if. I also think that the items we’ve chosen to put in our home tell a lot about us.” Please scroll through and enjoy the tour of this stunning home. —Erin
Image above: “A broader view of our bedroom from the entry and where Shelby spends 90% of her time… the small brass chandelier is from a design project I worked on in Jacksonville. The owners didn’t want the vintage fixture in their space — my gain,” Nicole shares.