You might know Danica Gadeken from her design blog, Nadine Stay, where she features inspiring and soothing spaces of her beautiful home. Perhaps, you have shopped one of her graceful home collection pieces. As part of our series, Life of an Interior Designer, we spoke with Gadeken on her non-linear path to the design world, her thoughtful transition to expanding her business, handling fear of failure and mistakes, and what lies ahead for Nadine Stay.
How Her Passion for Design and Her Husband Inspired Her to Start Nadine Stay
Ever since Danica Gadeken can remember, she has always loved interior design. It has always been about the home. Gadeken’s home has always been her comfort zone and sanctuary. “As a kid, I felt so proud and accomplished when I rearranged my bedroom, and I eagerly gave tours afterward. As a new college student, I decorated my dorm in a way that felt like home to ease my homesickness.”
She would come up with ideas to create a friendly and inviting space and furnish it with love and warmth. She would design the space to reflect her style and taste. Gadeken never thought of those simple pleasures as a passion or career until she met Chris, her husband, who encouraged her to find a passion and go after it full force. “It’s cheesy, I know, but until I met Chris, I didn’t know how much joy and excitement I could have from pursuing a dream. And that has ultimately turned into Nadine Stay.”
In May of 2014 (precisely two days after graduating from college), Danica Gadeken started her own refurbishing furniture business from the money she received for graduation. It was a bold move that proved her design and life skills. It pulled her away from her comfort zone, which changed her work ethic and gave her the confidence that Nadine Stay would be successful. Over seven years, what began as a furniture refurbishing hustle has since turned into a home décor shop and interior design blog that shows design less intimidating & more inspiring.
On Launching Nadine Stay & Keeping Her Business Thriving During the Pandemic
Gadeken’s career path into interior design and launching Nadine Stay was anything but linear. “I swore I was going to be an elementary teacher up until my junior year of college when everything changed.”
Similar to other small businesses, 2020 was a year that Danica Gadeken will never forget due to the ongoing pandemic. “Like most other small businesses, panic began to settle in when the pandemic started. I think we were incredibly fortunate because while people were stuck at home, they wanted…needed…a home they were proud of. Either out of boredom or necessity, I saw people get the courage to tackle that kitchen remodel they’ve been putting off for years. Or paint their bedroom a color outside of their comfort zone. Or redecorate their living room to better reflect their style,” Gadeken shares.
Considering Gadeken has been blogging for four years now, she has a binder’s worth of projects she is excited to share! Compilations of projects both under her belt and in the works. The experience is thrilling as she continuously shares her design advice, DIY projects, and home reno ideas with people who are eager to learn.
I think we were incredibly fortunate because while people were stuck at home, they wanted…needed…a home they were proud of.
On Handling Failures and Mistakes as a Designer & Entrepreneur
Being an interior designer is a never-ending learning journey, and Danica Gadeken is still figuring out how to manage failures and mistakes as an interior designer. However, she shares that when it comes to entrepreneurship, up until a couple of years ago, her mindset was, “If it scares me, I’m not going to do it.”
“And because of that, I know I’ve missed out on some incredible business ventures and relationships. But in the more recent years, I’ve had a bit of a realization that in order to reach these big dreams I have in my head, I’m going to have to do some things that make me nervous…that get me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been trying to separate fear from my decision-making because fear alone isn’t a good enough reason to stay put. I think Suzy Kassem said it best: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
On Her #1 Piece of Advice for Aspiring Designers
Speaking of picture-perfect, Danica Gadeken has built a notable community on Instagram. So, what should aspiring designers and bloggers keep in mind to break through on the competitive and crazy platform? “I think it depends on what your ultimate goal is,” Gadeken explains.
The #1 piece of advice I can offer is to try your best to not put all your worth in your Instagram stats. I know of SO MANY successful businesses that don’t have a presence on social media. You don’t need to be Instagram famous to be successful.
“If you want to start taking on design clients, hiring a professional photographer who has experience with interior photography is the best investment you can make to build your portfolio. Sharing projects on Instagram that you want more of is a great way to tell people what services, style, and aesthetic you can provide. (A little tip I learned is to include the cost of photography into the rate you charge your clients.)
Sharing behind-the-scenes stories of you putting together mood boards or selecting materials is both interesting and educational. And I’ll also say, I created several 3D renderings using people’s real homes (with their permission) and shared what I would do with their room just for fun. I instantly received requests for client work! Although I don’t offer that service, I realized that even just 1 rendering gave my entire audience a glimpse of what working with a designer can look like. Food for thought. (P.S. I used Foyr to create my 3D renderings, and it’s a really user-friendly platform.)
On the flip side, if you simply want to share your own interior design journey on Instagram (or if you want to create an interior design blog like Nadine Stay), show up on Instagram stories as frequently and consistently as you can. Show behind the scenes, the project you’re working on, the realistic timelines, and then share a beautiful photo in your feed of the work you’ve been doing. Invest in yourself to learn photography! You can hire someone to photograph your Instagram/blog content, but I found that being able to snap a quick photo at the moment is much easier.
But the #1 piece of advice I can offer is to try your best to not put all your worth in your Instagram stats. I know of SO MANY successful businesses that don’t have a presence on social media. You don’t need to be Instagram famous to be successful.”
On the Future of Her Business
Danica Gadeken and her partner are currently documenting their design journey on Nadine Stay’s social media channels. Gadeken shares, “I just had a conversation with someone about how Nadine Stay is the sum of a series of transitions. I started as a furniture refurbishing side hustle in 2014, and over 7 years, it’s gone through at least 5 phases to what is now an interior design blog. So, I’m fully confident that numerous transitions still lie ahead. I suppose you and I will both have to stay tuned to find out what they are.”
UP NEXT: Life of an Interior Designer: Brit Arnesen on Her Desert Deco Style, Gaining Confidence as a Designer, and Her Proudest Professional Accomplishment