Coyote + Oak → Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Words by Kendra Aronson
Photos by Tina Loveridge
Illustration by Raina Toy-Smith
Shoot location: Los Osos Valley Nursery
Styling: Shop Blackwater

 

Nicole Cook of NC Designs is a self-proclaimed late bloomer. But here is the thing with so-called “late bloomers”: in my opinion they have more guts and more ambition than the rest of us. Why? Because there is more to lose. There is no back-up plan. Everything is on the line. Many folks tend to teeter totter on the edge of following their passion once they’ve hit a certain age—but not Nicole. Instead of living a life of should, she chose a path of must by honoring her inner desire of becoming a landscape architect.

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At 23 years-old Nicole found herself working in the real estate market in Los Angeles selling multi-million dollar homes—but despite the financial success, it wasn’t the right fit. “I’ve seen life cut short before people really had a chance to live and I wasn’t going to let that happen to me. If you can dig deep down and find what feeds your soul, do it! Do it on your time off, do it for that paycheck if you can, but just find a way to honor who you are. However long it takes you to figure that out—it will be worth it and it will pay off tenfold for your inner well-being.” Here’s the quick version: she applied to Cal Poly on a whim, got in (!), completed a 5 year program in landscape architecture, moved back to Los Angeles, worked at a firm, and was laid off once the recession hit. With no job prospects and no desire to stay in LA, she and her boyfriend (now husband) moved up to Los Osos to give this entrepreneurial path a go. Over the years she built up NC Designs’ clientele through word-of-mouth referrals and a whole lot of hustlin’ with heart. Today, she can now proudly say that her business sustains her—but the journey doesn’t stop there. It was the birth of her daughter that inspired her interest in, and love of weaving.

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With a newborn baby in tow, Nicole found herself up at odd hours of the evening and in need of a creative outlet. “I found that weaving was a way to really calm myself late at night, and it’s still something I do to calm my mind now. When I’m really stressed and anxious from work, or life in general, I look forward to getting an hour or two in of just weaving. It puts me in a place where I’m not thinking. It’s kind of like when I’m trail running, I’m so focused on my breath that I’m not bombarded with thoughts; weaving really focuses me.” The two artistic endeavors influence and complement one another. Nicole approaches her weavings much like her landscape design, creating a rhythmic pattern of different textures and pops of colors. With this accidental foray into fiber art, she now has a whole new perspective on her plant process. “In both weaving and landscaping, I try to approach it from a perspective that is more minimalist. When you see repetition in the landscape it’s aesthetically pleasing—the landscapes that you tend to be drawn to are usually the ones where you may hardly notice a subtle pattern that leads your eye towards certain colors or plants."

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Tolkein said, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”.  Sometimes it takes awhile to find your inner groove, and one thing is crystal clear: Nicole was never lost—she was just waiting to bloom.

See Nicole’s landscape work at ncdesigns.co and textiles on Instagram @wanderhome.

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ON HER LANDSCAPE STYLE

“I tend to be more contemporary in style—I love a minimal plant palette. Recently with this water shortage I’ve been focused on using drought-tolerant plants and those naturally accustomed to our environment. I love sweeping ornamental grass landscapes with pops of color and fun, different succulents. I like playing with textures and try to create a type of mosaic pattern with the landscape where everything has a natural place next to the other and it all seems to flow.”

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ON CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS

“I like to know about a client’s lifestyle when we first meet, because I’m eager to give them an environment they’ll actually use and enjoy. I pride myself on designing projects that are dynamic and playful, yet also have pockets of space for reflection, because I think everyone can utilize that. In general aesthetic terms, my style tends to be more modern, but my overall goal is to give people the ability to truly enjoy whatever outdoor area they have available to them. Places that will provide them with happy memories, moments of relaxation and the opportunity to enjoy life with friends and family.”

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ON HER WEAVING AESTHETIC

“I love to use natural fibers like wools and cottons and mixing textures to make tapestries feel a little more dimensional. My weavings sometimes mimic abstract landscapes and I use a lot of neutral colors but bring in pops of color, just like I would in the landscape. The pieces are not incredibly busy, I keep them toned down, I want them to be something that people will want to look at for a long time.”

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Originally published in Coyote + Oak
Summer 2017
 · Volume VI