Five questions for interior designer and ‘house whisperer’ Nichole Loiacono

Interior designer Nichole Loiacono is a Midwest girl with East Coast vision. After marrying in Columbia, Mo. and moving to New York, she focused on bespoke furniture before designer Cheryl Terrace of Vital Design Ltd. hired her to source product.

Since returning to Kansas City to be closer to family, Loiacono has used her specialized training to blend custom and vintage furnishings for spaces that are both bold and comfortable.

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What is your approach to design?

Houses speak and tell me what they want. Maybe that makes me a little on the crazy side! My husband calls me ‘the house whisperer.’

My process is organic, which isn’t typical around here for designers. There’s no mood board. Everything is sourced piece by piece, loved before it’s chosen. Every space I do reflects the homeowner, of course, but people come to me for my own personal stamp. I’m unique in my niche of old and new together, usually a 60/40 ratio. I’m more of an East Coast visionary, not board and batten, like Joanna Gaines, but more city-driven. I like to play with color. I tell my clients not to be afraid to change things up, to ‘go big or go home.’

And it takes as long as it takes; I go at the pace of my clients. The house that I did in Springfield (shown here), I worked on for three years. But with me as a guide, my clients can absolutely have a finished space that’s coherent.

Who are your influencers?

My favorites are Miles Redd and Nick Olsen, his protege. They play — their work is not sober. I also like Bailey McCarthy, out of Texas. I’m obsessed with anything design. I don’t study it, per se, but I delve deeply if there’s something there that fascinates me and I can use as a takeaway. Mostly, I go by my gut.

Are you a big holiday decorator?

I keep it simple for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love going over the top, but I am more practical, and I don’t want to have to clean it all up! Definitely for my son, I like to get the tree up, decorate and set out lots of candles to give it a homey, cozy feel. But, almost the day after Christmas, I put it all away because I don’t want to look at it anymore! It’s a way to start fresh; it sets the tone for a new year.

If someone’s New Year’s resolution was to update their house, what small projects would you recommend?

A bedroom refresh first comes to mind. It’s the place where your eyes open for the day and where you tend to spend more time in winter. New linens and/or window treatments can really freshen it up. The kitchen is another place where a small thing like changing out knobs can make a difference.

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Do you have a design resolution of your own?

Well, my house is currently stripped bare, as we are moving from Waldo to Overland Park to be in Blue Valley schools where we can get better access to care for our autistic son. We are eventually going to build a new house, and I will definitely make it mine. But I’m an old-house person at heart, and I love vintage stuff everywhere. While it’s stressful to pack up and move, there is joy in reimagining your space and seeing your things through a new lens, with new possibilities.

What is something you do for yourself that you like to do for clients?

I like to design for senses other than just your eyes. The sense of smell is just as important as sight. Candles are a huge part of my life, along with oils. I use the Aera diffuser, an app-driven technology that runs off my phone. It’s not like a plug-in; it’s much more sophisticated and luxurious. I gravitate toward woody, sultry, heavy scents like amber or patchouli in December and switch to lighter, floral scents after the new year to prepare for spring.

Smell is so specific that you have to involve the client on that one. Whether it’s incense, candles or oil, you want to set the mood for the home, to create a vibe and not just a scene.

Is there something you do for clients that you’d like to do for yourself?

No, I’ve lived by my word, by what I preach. A big budget would be lovely, but otherwise, I follow my mantra and my own direction.