Based between Amsterdam and London, designer Nina brands her company as "an adaptable creative studio offering interior design, product design and branding services; with a strong focus on sustainability and natural materials." Her thoughtful, minimal designs reflect her thinking perfectly and teach us about what it means to be functional and sustainable.
Tell us about yourself! What’s your name and where are you from? I’m Nina, a designer from Camden Town, London.
How did you get started designing?
Since I was little I’ve loved to make things. Over the years I’ve made all sorts of things and experimented with different materials. I made cards using recycled paper and paperclips; a wooden bedside table and a clock; I’ve sewn cushions and clothes; handmade jewellery; and carved a sculpture from stone.
A pattern emerged through all of my creations; I like to produce items that are useful, beautiful and uncomplicated with materials that are thoughtfully sourced - ‘mindfully minimal’ as one magazine recently put it. After taking an evening class in ceramics I fell in love with clay and designed and made my first collection; The Breakfast Collection.
You said you have a background in interior design. Tell us a little about that and how you transitioned into the work you do now.
When I left school I got a job as PA to the Directors of an international interior design firm in London. As the small office grew busier, I was pulled in to assist the designers. I learnt on the job and followed my creative instincts and eye for design, working my way up through the company finishing as a company Associate after ten years. It was an awesome job and a wonderful experience to travel internationally designing luxury hotels and residences – which I turned out to be pretty good at.
In 2014, I decided to start Nina+Co in order to work on smaller, more intimate projects and find interesting opportunities for collaboration. It has allowed for more creativity across a broader range of projects, and has enabled me to create my own product range, The Breakfast Collection, with more in the pipeline. I have the freedom to choose who I work with (only the loveliest people) and to apply my ethos to everything I do.
Tell us about Nina+Co being an “adaptable creative studio.” Nina+Co is me plus all the other creative talents I work with along the way. It’s a name that encompasses all my creative projects, collaborations, and freelance design work.
I adapt a bespoke team for each project, drawing from a pool of creative friends and freelancers with talents tailored to suit each venture.
The studio is a frame of mind, it is wherever I choose to switch on for work each day which might be a hot desk, a coffee shop or at home.
What inspires you? Nature. Materials. Architecture. Better living. I’m drawn towards minimal, clean lines. Simple, uncomplicated, useful design. Travels and new experiences offer a wealth of inspiration.
What’s your design process like? How does an inspiration become a reality?Breakfast, my favourite meal of the day, was the inspiration for my ceramic collection. There’s something very wholesome and intimate about sharing your more fragile moments at the beginning of the day with friends, family or colleagues. This plus a love of clay was the catalyst for me to design the product range.
I first sketched the shapes and hand-built prototypes with clay in the ceramics studio. I then enlisted the help of a skilled craftsman to throw and turn and carve the more precise shapes that I wanted from which we could create the moulds. We experimented with materials and glazes and found the winning combination.
The Breakfast Collection is handmade in small batches by The Ceramicists in their London studio. The finest quality earthenware clay is sourced from nearby Cornwall, nothing is wasted in the manufacturing process, and finished items are dispatched in packaging made from fully-recycled and recyclable materials.
How important is it to you to have a focus on sustainability? I feel it is essential for the continuing existence of life on this earth to strive for sustainability.
You are based between London and Amsterdam. What benefit has risen from being based out of two amazing cultural hubs? London is a lot of little villages merged together into a heaving mass and Amsterdam is like one very large village. This really affects the way people move around and interact within each city. I love the approachability and receptiveness of the people in Amsterdam and I also appreciate having grown up in London which makes it easier to find and connect with the right people there.
It it really helpful to spend time in new places to gain a better understanding of how people live in different cultures. It helps me to realise what’s important and what is residual and unnecessary.
You said that Nina+Co collaborates with designers. Who is your dream collaboration? It would be cool to learn from and create modern designs with traditional artisans in remote places to bring their crafts to a wider audience.
What has been your crowning achievement so far? The transition from working for someone else to working for myself has been the most challenging and most rewarding achievement. I’ve learnt so much about myself in the process, it has been invaluable to my development as a person.