As a first-generation Nigerian Canadian, becoming a designer was never on Nike Onile’s radar. Instead, she studied biotechnology and spent the early part of her career in healthcare. In the off-hours, Nike used painting, sculpting, and designing as an artistic outlet, all of which gave her the courage to pursue a new path on her own terms.
Today, Nike leads Studio Ode, a multi-disciplinary firm specializing in residential and commercial projects across Canada. Though she doesn’t consider herself an interior designer in a traditional sense, Nike views her work as simply bringing meaning to the way people live. Whether creating content for her popular Instagram account or designing new spaces, Nike’s artful sensibility touches every extension of her brand, and we’re thrilled to learn more about her process.
We’d love to hear more about how you first got your start in the interior design industry and how your business was born.
My journey to design was unconventional. Though I am an artist to my core, I followed an academic career in Life Sciences and got a specialist degree at the University of Toronto in Biotechnology. Most first-gens are familiar with parental pressures to select career paths that are most likely to end in success. As a child raised in a traditional Nigerian household, there was not much room to deviate from “the honorable three”––doctor, lawyer, or engineer. In my quest to find the most artistic specialization in medicine, I decided to be a plastic surgeon. Thus began my journey to a very unfulfilled life in the healthcare industry. Years later, I found myself working as a regulatory affairs professional at a natural products consulting firm with a deep knowledge that this was not aligned with who I was meant to be.
I found momentary relief through painting and sculpting, so when I bought my first place, I did what I do with all my canvases—capture inspiration and fill the space with meaning. This was the start of my interior design career. I didn’t go to school for interior design, but the artistic principles are the same when it comes to creating something that moves people.
How would you describe the Studio Ode signature aesthetic? How do you tailor + adapt that to different clients and projects?
There is always an element of spirit and soul that presents itself in my design process. It takes form in so many different ways. I’ve heard it said that every object has a soul—a lived experience that translates to the space surrounding it, and I believe this whole-heartedly.
Things, space, and people are communicating all the time, so in my process of achieving harmony. I quiet the noise (visually, spiritually, physically), eliminate the fluff, and pay attention to what’s most important. From there, I pull forward only the elements that fulfill the eyes, heart, and splendor of life.
“I am an artist who happens to be painting in three dimensions, using furniture, art, and textiles as the medium and space as my canvas.“
In addition to running Studio Ode, you regularly appear on the Canadian talk show Cityline sharing your design expertise. How do you balance it all?
It is a combination of 2 things: flow + creative “season-ing.”
I only take on what I feel inspired to take on. This helps me to flow and work authentically. The other integral thing is rest, and I find that by following my natural creative seasons. I am not disillusioned in thinking that I must hustle constantly. No healthy living being does. So I allow my natural seasons to emerge—planting seeds and breathing new life to work in my spring, blossoming in my summer, harvesting and taking inventory in my fall, and being silent, present, and resting in my winter.
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What business advice do you wish you’d received when you were just starting out?
I am, at my core, a creator. I was born with this ability to see things differently, and it took me years to claim my power and realize its value. And as I recognize my own magic, it allows me to see that everyone has their own brand of genius. I wish someone had told me to focus on that and silence the noise.
What’s the #1 practice that helps you thrive as a designer.
People. The people I create for are the most integral part of my process. My approach is quite different from most conventional designers because I am actually not a designer. I am an artist who happens to be painting in three dimensions, using furniture, art, and textiles as the medium and space as my canvas.
In my process what I am actually doing is taking people to the boundary of where space and self merge, and the direction of the work is always dependent on my muse, the home dweller. For it is them, their story, and how they need the space to relate to them that catalyzes my work.
Design: Studio Ode
Coffee or tea?
Book currently on your nightstand:
“I didn’t go to school for interior design, but for me, the artistic principles are the same when it comes to creating something that moves people.“
Design: Studio Ode
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
Go-to inspiration source:
My inspiration comes from many places, but if I had to draw two common threads through it all, I would say: Us and Nature. When it comes to people, I am fascinated by how we live, what makes us feel alive, and how we relate to each other. The relationship we have with ourselves, those we have with others, and how that translates to space is a fun place to get to work in every day.
Recently, I have been drawing a lot of inspiration from nature. There is so much Mother Nature has to teach—her expansiveness, her ability to evoke emotion, and just her immense beauty! One of the best parts is that she lets me hone in on that essence and borrow it in my work.
A recent trend you’re loving?
Curves. With straight lines stealing the show for quite some time, there’s a balance of form that’s ready for its time in the spotlight. Round, soft-edged and feminine forms are at their peak, showing up in architectural solutions, furniture choices, and decor. Though not a new trend, I love seeing more straight-lined open concept layouts softened with the flow and movement of furniture without corners.
What’s next for Studio Ode?
This year has been quite an exciting year of growth. Studio Ode is excited to add projects across Canada to our roster, including residential projects across Edmonton, Montreal, and Ontario. We are also honored to further expand our design and experiential reach with public installations projects, including a featured installation at Nuit Blanche 2022 for the City of Toronto.
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IDCO Studio is a boutique creative agency specialized in beautiful and unique marketing solutions for interior designers. Focused on branding, web design and Instagram marketing, IDCO Studio is a woman owned and operated team of creatives based in Austin, Texas. The Identité Collective, which began as a business blog quickly grew into a collaborative community focused on providing business strategy and visual inspiration to the interior design community.
Now you can find our shop of resources, templates and custom branding and web design work over at IDCO Studio – leaving The Identité Collective as a permanent resource for our beloved design community.