My Story: Nicola Hadfield

A multi-award-winning South African designer, entrepreneur and Notties resident, Nicola Hadfield shares how far she’s come in her successful decades-long career, what inspires her, and what she’s working on next.


Tell us a bit about yourself and your amazing career

My love for the interior design industry evolved over time. Because I could manage this career working from home as a single mum, I was able to create my own timetable to ensure my children remained my priority. Born into an artistic family, I was surrounded by their stylish taste. Even in ‘their day, their homes were featured in local Natal newspapers!


My interior design career spans over 40 years. Before founding SA’s first-ever interior design exhibition, Decorex SA, in 1994, I ran my own interior design business in Johannesburg and Plett, staged niche art events, and was a keynote speaker.


My mother, siblings, cousins and sons all grew up and were educated around the Midlands area, so moving here eight years ago was a ‘coming home’. I now have two married sons, two granddaughters living on the North Coast, and a grandson and two step-grandchildren in London.


What inspires you as a designer?

Nature and travel. Any design project that boosts social, cultural and economic development inspires and motivates me. I love people, understanding their cultures and subtly translating them to suit the South African environment by sharing this information in my decor trend talks.


What is the highlight of your career?

I have so many! I have lived a long life and worked hard. Firstly, it would be my nomination by the iconic Pam Golding for the US Star Group’s “Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World” Award. Secondly, I was invited by Oxford University to share my female entrepreneurial spirit with MBA graduates. Thirdly, I was appointed as an Honorary Life Member of IID Professions (The African Institute of the Interior Design Professions) by my peers for the recognition of my efforts to highlight South African design on the global stage.


What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Looking back, my biggest challenge was trying to get someone to believe in my “idea” to present a quality interior design show in South Africa during a politically risky time in 1994 and with no backers.


What are some of the projects you are working on now?

Launching “A Beautiful Day” in the Natal Midlands keeps me very busy! After several years of living back in the Midlands, I couldn’t help noticing how much quality design talent there is here, coupled also with the rapid (post-COVID) economic growth rate emanating from this beautiful part rural, part slick part of SA. So semi-retired, I felt the same urge to use the skills I had learnt to stage an intimate niche exhibition in Nottingham Road. In the past, I staged several of these niche events in Johannesburg and the Cape which I had branded “A Beautiful Day”, and it felt right to launch one right here. This event is being held for charity – to highlight the desperate plight of the local Mooi River SPCA. I am creating a win-win event to encourage people to experience the local beauty whilst enjoying an inspiring design event and simultaneously helping our local Mooi River SPCA.


What advice can you give aspiring designers?

Study the basics of business first and then release your creativity. I have seen too many interior designers fall by the wayside by focusing purely on the artistic element and not respecting the business side. Read, ‘follow’ great designers, travel as much as you can, and trust your instincts. Quality must always be your guiding light.


Facebook: @nicolahadfieldenterprises 

Photos by Lianne Ashton