To discover your husband’s having an affair is devastating for most people. To find out from your young children must be almost unimaginable. But that harsh reality was Nicky’s. Most women, and men, would find it hard to come back from such betrayal and Nicky, by her own admission, had to pretty much hit rock bottom before her inner voice told her to get up off the canvas and fight for her, and her children’s future.
But, from those days of extreme emotional lows, was reborn a new, stronger soul, and a happier one. And probably, even Nicky would argue, if it hadn’t have happened, she may well have not rediscovered her passion for interior design. She now lives in the beautiful Vale market town of Cowbridge, but we caught up with Nicky at her new Airbnb pub project in the beautiful Swansea valley.
How did you get into design and renovation industry?
Thinking about timescale to 1995, Changing Rooms was on the TV (Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen etc.), and I absolutely loved it. Going back a little bit further to when I was a child, probably between the age of nine or twelve, I had this fascination with design.
I recall going into my parents’ bedroom saying, “mum you go downstairs, and I’m going to surprise you and redesign your bedroom for you.” She still talks about this now, she’d have Estée Lauder makeup and Yves Saint Laurent perfume on the dressing table, and I would redesign it for her and make it all neat and say “surprise!” And mum would say, “Gosh it looks lovely. Thank you.”
I would go shopping for kitchen accessories as a child, Woolworths was my favourite store. With my little basket and pocket money I would select red mugs, utensils, and other items I could match and know mum would like. Once the kitchen was cleaned, I would set about re-styling it and loved doing it.
Did that passion continue into your working life?
It did. I worked for Chanel on the cosmetic counter and, again, I was just really good at staging and would make the displays look nicer. I also had a job with Boots the chemist (this is going back to when I was very young), one of my first jobs. I’d redesign and stage the cosmetic counter and noticed it made a difference to sales.
So it’s something you’ve always done?
It a passion of mine. I took a home study exam for interior design and I flew through it because I was just good at it. When I lived in the Midlands, watching Changing Rooms, I started to makeover friends and neighbours’ houses. I was designing, painting furniture and stencilling. I was noticed by the College in Solihull and asked take on a course for them in the evenings, one day a week. I would teach ladies how to do paint effects and stencilling.
You could have ended up teaching!
It came to an end because I moved from the Midlands back to Wales and, at that time, it wasn’t as popular here. Times had changed and wallpaper started to grow in popularity, becoming feature walls, and my life had changed as I started a family and had two little ones to focus on.
I left it then for, I would say around fifteen years. Friends used to say to me “you should go back and do what you always did, you were brilliant at it”, but I didn’t because I had the family. So, my background really is just self-taught, which I think is the best part about it. I’m proud of that. I just always loved my books and magazines and anything to do with interiors.
Why do you love what you do?
Today for example. I was up at 6.30am, at the pub by 8am and I didn’t leave until after 9 o’clock. I could have kept going and going. I just love what I do. The music is on in the background, and I just don’t stop. It’s lovely when you find your passion. I do push myself too hard sometimes, I realise that. I have to make sure that all the rubbish is away, and the room is finished so that the following day I can start a new task within the project – I am very hard on myself.
What was your first project?
I’d painted a school that my children were moving to Wales. We went into the school in Penyfai in Bridgend. They told me it was a lovely little Church of Wales school in the village, and I went there and was really disappointed. It was really run down and neglected – lots of portacabins. I was really sad. My children had come from a brand-new school in the Midlands. So, I spoke to the headmistress, and she loved my idea, I started painting the playground for them. Painted flowers on the walls and hopscotch, snakes and ladders and parents loved it and asked me if I could do themed bedrooms for their children. So, I did, painted murals, furniture (Disney themes, football).
What are you working on currently?
Wales’s first Airbnb pub, which I’m really excited about. This came about because my new partner called me and said I have a business friend with a pub and he’s stuck with what to do with it after Covid. Straight away I thought I can transform it into an Airbnb experience, it will be an amazing venue! I’ll make it work. I spoke to the landlord, and he said, “Business has changed since lockdown I have to find another way to save the pub.”
So, when I told the landlord, who also has the Gower Brewery, what I could do and we started walking round the pub, I had my vision, and I was reeling ideas off immediately. We could put a children’s area in, something for teenagers, mums and dads, and grandma, and he was blown away and said, “I’m not selling.” He said, “I love it, and have always loved it, so I’ll keep hold of it and you can transform it for me.” So here we are! My current project. It’s been really hard work, but I’ve loved every dust-filled minute. It’s going to sleep up to 26 people, and it’s gorgeous. I’m so proud of it.
What types of projects excite you?
The pub, my cottage. Taking properties apart and rebuilding them and letting others enjoy them. I’m able to walk into a room or building and instantly feel a feminine or masculine energy, or a negative or positive, and I can feel this vibe very quickly so I can sense whether it would suit a female or a male. I can turn a home with no light and transform it so that it’s full of light and then people walk in, and they feel the positive energy too. Same happened when I sold the family home, you can feel positive energy, love and happiness in a home.
Is it only commercial projects you undertake?
The business is still young so I’m taking on private and commercial. Anything that interests me: show homes, pubs, holiday lets, retail shops, lots of things!
How do you juggle the work/life balance?
It can be really tough. I purchased The Old Stables Cottage in Pembroke at the beginning of December, and I really haven’t had a day off since then. It’s been back-to-back projects with different properties. I don’t have any time off. Even on the weekends I’m out, sourcing stock, buying materials, ordering, picking items up. They say it’s not work if you love what you do, and I do! I really love doing what I’m doing.
What do you do in your spare time?
What I really like to do (and Covid was good for this), I like to walk on the beach with my headphones on and just listen to podcasts, and anything to do with positivity. Walking on the beach, in the countryside and mountains. That’s how I like to relax when I have time.
You took yourself away to the Atlas Mountains recently. That’s certainly getting away from it all…
It was booked for 2020 but postponed due to Covid. I chose to do it because it felt the right time after a very difficult period with the divorce and getting back on my feet. I’m doing okay now, and I felt like it was the right time to give back to charity. So, when I heard about the Atlas Mountains and how there was only ninety families in the mountains living in mud huts, I wanted to find out more about their lives, and to help if I could. I went with a group of other business ladies and there was a great feeling of sisterhood. Hopefully we could share some of our entrepreneurial skills and ideas with the women there.
The Atlas community don’t have the luxuries we have and, as a cooperative, we weren’t just doing it for them, we were helping the women there gain their own independence by saying that if they used the school building they can make necklaces and baskets that they can take to market and make money.
We thought if one of the ladies could make necklaces, Karen from Goose Island in Cowbridge could sell them. And, if one of the ladies made pottery, then I would be happy to buy from them and I could put them in my holiday lets and would be an outlet for the Atlas Mountains ladies.
My second reason is that my daughter is twenty-one and I wanted her to experience it. It’s a one-in-a-lifetime experience and we were all blown away by it. When we started off in the mountains, we could hear the prayers. Combine this with beautiful scenery, stunning sunrises, and sunsets. It was emotionally charged.
At one point, we went to the top of the mountain – it felt like you were in heaven. And when we were with the ladies and their children the gratitude was immense. They were so grateful – we felt like we were really making a difference. I would recommend anyone to do it.
They need a lot of equipment and technology which isn’t cheap. Together we raised the money to build a community centre/school which gives them a place to gather and work. It was a lovely experience, I do believe that when you give, it does come back to you in abundance when you help others.
Design wise, who inspires you?
Believe it or not, and you’ll probably think this is strange, there probably isn’t anyone. I get my inspiration from brands I love, Ted Baker or Laura Ashley, I get a lot of inspiration from fashion. I do have an obsession with clocks. They are in every room. But I suppose it’s my own take on things that people like.
You are very glamorous…
Of course, I’m a lady! I love it. I love my make-up, my polished nails. I’m very feminine. I love everything to do with being a girl. I love my nail varnish, handbags, shoes and perfume.
But it’s not all glamour…
No. Most of the time my hair is in a pony. I’ve had no make-up on. My nails are chipped. I’m in a pair of heavy boots. In fact, the boys laugh because I have my own toolbox, my own sander, and electric screwdriver. Typical day turning up on site. I’m the only girl. The rest are all labourers. I’m forever saying how untidy they are, they just leave their dust and dirt everywhere and I say, “Look! There are no dust and dirt fairies here. Cleanup after yourself!” I end up picking up items and tidy while I work.
I imagine every day is different and that keeps it interesting…
A typical day starting off with a project means ripping it all out, getting a skip in, clearing it all up, getting it prepped, painted and decorated, all in white initially so we see can see what we’ve got. Then I start sourcing the furniture. Sometimes my clients don’t know what they want. I can walk into a shop one day and I’d see a wallpaper for instance “peacocks” and that’s the start point for the room makeover.
Another room could be a masculine room because of the vibe – I’ve just panelled a wall, added King & Queen cushions and it looks fabulous. Another room could be cactus plants, more teenager. What I’m able to do is look at a space and quickly know what to do with it. I always take into account who’s going to use it; children, parents, grandparents, so there isn’t a section of a room in the house that doesn’t have something there for everyone, even if it’s wellington boots or a hide away for the family dog.
What we’ve done in the pub is put in kennels so that when the guests are entertaining, they can put the dogs away safe while they enjoy the evening with a glass of wine and not spent looking for a lost pet. I know it is important to families and a feature they love.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I’ve been evolving so much. My life has been such a journey and, over the last two or three years, I’ve just created a whole new persona. I was once a wife and mother. I’m still a mother, but I was a mother with children at home, a nine-to-five job, two dogs and I’d do the same thing every day – go to work, come home, walk the dog, make the food, put the dishwasher on, get up have a shower, go to work. It was just a job. Was I happy? No, I wasn’t, but you do what everyone else does. You have a curry on a Friday, watch X Factor on a Saturday night, it was literally the same routine every week.
My life has changed so much now. It’s mind-blowing and I say to myself, “Oh my God, why did I spend time on tears when all I had to do was rediscover what I love doing”. And yes, my life has changed, and with it came the invention of Nicky Bright, because I was going through my divorce, and thinking about a business name. At the time, I thought “Stay Wales” was a good name, but it wasn’t, “Nicky Bright Holidays” was born. I felt alignment to it as if everything was meant to be, and change my name legally to Nicky Bright, out with the old in with the new me.
Looking forward, all the holiday lets will feature the Nicky Bright branding. I will create new properties all being unique, whether it be an Indian or Italian theme, inside I will have products I source on my travels – from Morocco to the Atlas Mountains even my own brand that I’m creating. When a guest enters my properties and like what they see, they can buy it from my website.
What drives you?
I want a good life. I want a great life for my children. I inspire them not to fail, to never give up. I say, “Never give up, always succeed!” If you work hard and keep at it, it will come to you.
Describe yourself in three words…
Focus. Action. Result. Can I add a fourth? “Fabulous!”
You can like and follow Nicky on her social channels. Just search Nicky Bright and Nicky Bright Holidays.
Read Nicky’s earlier feature in the spring edition of Vale Life. Just click here.
To view this feature as it appeared in the summer edition of Vale Life, click here.