The Dalton-Bell-Cameron house, built in 1914, was one of the most unique homes in High Point, North Carolina. Built in the Craftsman style, the house was quite different from its more traditional Victorian and Colonial neighbors. But the pioneering structure was stricken by two major fires—one in 1997 and the other in 2012—and by 2017 it was in such a forlorn state that the city ordered it be to be either repaired or demolished.
At that point, the High Point Preservation Society stepped in to save it, just prior to it being sold to Rick Lewis and his wife Margaret Bell Lewis, who had once lived there as a child. Following the purchase, the Society and the Junior League of High Point moved quickly to help with the goal of restoring the home. To assist the new owners with some of the restoration costs, they decided to raise funds by creating a showhouse in the historic home, enlisting a diverse group of 21 extraordinary designers to bring the interiors back to life.
Inside the Showhouse with Nicole Culler
aspire design and home: How much time did you have to complete this room, start to finish?
Nicole Culler: I had less than a month and half to conceptualize, plan, reach out to vendors, order and install my vision for the upstairs linen closet. My rendering and info had to be submitted in less than a week after the opportunity was presented and accepted.
aspire: What was your biggest challenge?
Nicole: My biggest challenge was: “How do I make this small space standout and get noticed among all the larger, awe-inspiring designed spaces surrounding it?” This was my first showhouse, and having this opportunity meant so much to me as an interior designer. Whatever the size of space chosen, my objective was to create a design leaving one wanting it for their own. My mantra for the upstairs linen closet: “Big Ideas in Small Spaces!” I believe this was accomplished.
Eureka Moments and Time Constraints
aspire: Did you have a “Eureka!” moment during the process?
Nicole: My, “Eureka Moment” happened when I set eyes on a Windy O’Connor paper. I knew immediately, I had found the focal point that would establish the background and draw the eye in. Windy is a North Carolina artist out of Charlotte. Given the opportunity, I like to incorporate local and North Carolina-based artists and makers in my projects.
aspire: What did you and your team accomplish that you thought would not happen in time?
Nicole: Working under a deadline can sometimes bring the best results. There was no room for error. I had no doubt—with the tradespeople at hand and chosen vendors—all would go well! Everyone had the same objective and worked together to see that all would come to fruition. This is why it is so important, as a designer, to have a good relationship with those you depend on. I could not have been more pleased!
Seeking Inspiration and Finding Cohesiveness
aspire: What was your inspiration for this space?
Nicole: Windy O’Connor’s “Blue Topaz” paper gave me the inspiration which set the course for the design plan of the linen closet. Its color scheme and pattern demands attention—just what a small space needs to capture an audience.
aspire: Did you step out of your comfort zone for this project, and if so, why?
Nicole: Yes! As a rising designer in the industry and this being my first Showhouse, it was slightly intimidating, yet exciting to be among the A list of talented designers and have the privilege to represent ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME, a well-known trade publication throughout the industry.
aspire: Despite the fact that there were so many designers involved, there is an inherent cohesiveness to the home. Did you all converse/collaborate? Or was this a completely individual process?
Nicole: I was one of the last designers to sign on in August and at that point had no idea who the other designers were or their plans. My focus was on my space and how I could best represent Nicole Culler Interiors, my hometown of High Point, the JLHP, and, most importantly, ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine. For me, it was an individual process!
Exploring Creative Spaces
aspire: Is your preference for a showhouse a small space or a large space? Does one or the other provide a better opportunity to stretch your creativity?
Nicole: Having had the opportunity to design a small space and a larger showhouse space, this past October, the small space is more challenging and really stretches the creative mind. As a designer you want your design to be impactful. A larger space allows for more opportunity and ease of this. Where a small space is more challenging and can become cluttered and lost in translation if you are not careful. I am always up for a good challenge. This is how we learn and grow as creatives.
aspire: Describe the town of High Point in one sentence.
Nicole: Life in High Point is a little slower, a little sweeter, a place where furniture runs through the blood of generations young and old, where traditions are respected and new ones thrive, home to artists and makers, where my heart resides. This is the place I proudly call home!
“This or That?” with Nicole Culler
aspire: Paint or wallpaper?
aspire: Hardwood or rug?
aspire: Beach or Mountains?
aspire: Saturated color or black and white?
Nicole: Saturated color.
aspire: Brunch or dinner?
aspire: Mid-century or 18th Century?
aspire: Draperies, shades, or nothing?
aspire: 2001: A Space Odyssey or The English Patient?
Nicole: The English Patient
aspire: Week at the spa or Week of Broadway shows?
Nicole: Week at the Spa
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Photography by Dustin Peck.
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