At this time of year, everyone is abandoning the city for the coast and one of the most popular destinations is Cornwall – home of long sandy beaches, crystal clear aqua waters, world-class surfing and some of the best seafood in the land. One expert in the area is award-winning interior designer Nicola O’Mara who is one of the leading home renovation experts in the south west with more than twenty three years of experience remodelling the homes, ski chalets, new builds and holiday houses of successful professionals in and around Polzeath, Port Isaac and Rock, across Cornwall as well as internationally.

Nicola started her business in 1998 and over the years has worked on a large variety of projects, from coastal homes, penthouse apartments, townhouses and period cottages, through to bespoke ski properties and large wooden lodges. Having built up a large network of talented artisans, contractors, joinery and cabinet makers and others in specialist trades, who work closely with her on projects, Nicola has won a variety of awards, including for Best International Ski Chalet, as well and residential and bathroom awards; she’s been featured in numerous publications and has written many articles on design advice for home and garden magazines. Here we meet Nicola to discuss how she originally got into the business and what it’s like to live and work in one of the most sought after areas on the coast…

NS: “Nicola, what does your work typically involve – is it mainly furnishing and paint colours or do you get stuck into the nitty gritty from the outset, like overhauling the entire property? How involved do you and your team get?”

NO: “Many people are confused about the difference between an interior decorator and an interior designer; as an interior designer, we’re involved in the project from the very beginning, be it a new build or a renovation. We aid and guide clients through every stage, of the process, from electrics, lighting, plumbing, materials, layouts, ergonomics, finishes, fixtures both interior and exterior. We regularly carry out site visits, liaise with architects, builders and trades, problem solve and fix. It is labour intensive, hard work and we juggle many balls in any one project. We’re constantly on hand to offer advice and help to keep build projects on schedule. And whilst this is all going on, we are also ordering, monitoring, inspecting, checking, and keeping track all FF&E to meet the project deadlines. It’s hard work, but when you see the project come to fruition and the happiness on the client’s face, it is all worth it…”

I’ve always had a love for interior design. My aunt bought me my first ever non-fictional book which was on interior design and decoration and then that was it, I was obsessed! I redecorated my room every couple of months, constantly rearranged furniture, I devoured magazines and filled up my bookshelves on anything to do with art and design…”

Nicola O’Mara

NS: “What was it that first inspired your interest in interior design and how has it progressed since?”

NO: “I’ve always had a love for interior design and when my aunt bought me my first ever non-fiction book, which was on interior design and decoration, then that was it – I was obsessed! I redecorated my room every couple of months, constantly rearranged furniture, I devoured magazines and filled up my bookshelves on anything to do with art and design. Once I had made the decision to study design, nothing could stop me; I wanted to fulfil my passion no matter what. I obtained, GCSE’s, a Btec diploma, A ‘levels and then a degree. Once I was out in the big wild world, I managed to secure a job as a part time interior designer, which quickly progressed into a management role and then after three years I bought the company. I remember being both scared, nervous but so super excited; I was totally out of my depth, but I just knew it had to work. It was my passion. The rest of my work experience is through being hands on. I am now in my twenty-fourth year of running my own business and I’m still learning every day. No project is the same, everything comes with its challenges and I am constantly learning and finding solutions to problems – that’s the fun part… helping others, creating dreams and being a guide on the client’s journey…”

I strive to make the process less stressful for our clients. I love that I can help clients make important design decisions early in the build process, which can avoid costly mistakes later on.”

Nicola O’Mara

Nicola is highly knowledgeable in interiors and is involved in every aspect of remodelling; from drawing plans to managing contractors, to overseeing the design and construction detailing. She is a specialist in new build, renovation work and project managing the design and installation process. She is known for her attention to detail and her outstanding client service. Clients use phrases such as, ‘extremely reliable’, ‘knowledgeable’, ‘professional’, ‘provides great solutions’ and ‘highly recommended’ to describe her…” She is fully involved in all of her projects including client and contractor meetings, furniture and material specification and coordination.

NS: “How would you describe your look?”

NO: “I hope we don’t have a typical ‘look’ as we like to personalise the projects to suit the client’s needs, but if I were to answer this, I would say ‘calm, relaxing, timeless, functional yet elegant’. As a company we stay away from ‘busy and fussy’ as we find that here in Cornwall, clients want to escape the hustle and bustle of home work life and to just relax by the sea with a glass of wine in their hand, whilst winding down in a calm and tranquil interior. Over the years there have been many attempts on the ‘coastal’ look from the bold and theatrical, through to the blue and white nautical, but all this all dates quickly and looks so generic. We’d rather focus on bringing in textures, nature, organic shapes, wood and soft materials, with a luxurious twist. So, perhaps ‘contemporary rustic chic’ sums up our vibe…”

NS: “Do you find it difficult to secure specialist suppliers and craftsmen in the Cornwall area, or is it quite easy?”

NO: “We’re constantly striving to source furniture and materials that are different and that work with the coastal feel, which means we do travel to Europe to source materials. However, we feel the items we specify are timeless, so they must also be sustainable and not throw away. We regularly visit the annual Maison & Objet show in Paris, we source new suppliers online and obviously use lots of London fabric and soft furnishings houses. We use lots of lovely local artists in Cornwall, but mainly the furniture comes from elsewhere as there is limited supply here. We use local trades for all bespoke items, such as kitchens and fitted furniture as there are so many talented creatives in the South West! For example, I source art from local artists in Cornwall – we have an amazing choice here; we love to showcase and support local creatives and often ask advice from them on what to install in a property…”

I don’t have any designers that in particular inspire me, as I love so many designs and designers, and hope to gain a little bit if inspiration from each of them; however, I’m drawn to the whole Californian vibe, and that’s probably because I’m living next to the coast…”

Nicola Omara

NS: “Finally, what would be your dream project?”

NO: “Wow, this is a hard question, as I feel every project I work on is a dream project; I feel so blessed and lucky to live in such an amazing part of the world, with amazing scenery, amazing people and amazing projects. I just love to bring an old home back to life and equally I love to see an a new property grow and become a personality of it’s own. But if I had to choose, I would have to say a new build on the sea’s edge, with free reign of the design with an unlimited budget. I’m not sure one of those exists though…we’ll see!”


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