Local home stylist shares her secrets for low budget design

From the outside, Nichole Stolin’s home blends into the landscape–an unassuming duplex on the edge of Missoula among pastures and quiet roads. But walk inside and you’ll feel like you stepped into a catalogue home, the kind you find yourself pining over but never quite knowing how to obtain. 

The first thing you’ll notice is the way the open-floor living room, kitchen, and dining spaces tie together in warm browns (often with orange tones), bright white walls and built-ins, beautiful mid-century modern furniture, wicker shelving, and a glossy leather-style couch accented with an eclectic collection of furry and geometric-designed pillows.

But the most striking way the corners of the room tie together is with the heavy presence of plants.

“I build everything around my plants,” Nichole said, laughing.

Nichole is a plant fanatic. Besides her dogs, Grover and Finn, the plants are her babies. She learned how to care for—rather than kill—plants from her husband, Mike, and now she’s the one with the obsession. Cacti fill one window in a long clean line. In another window, plants hang down from the ceiling in macrame pots and others grow up from their pots on the floor so that there’s a vertical design to the space. 

They’re all textures and shapes and kinds: Jade, succulents, swiss cheese plants, and euphorbias.

Upstairs, the couple’s bedroom has a jungalow feel with a deep aqua blue comforter on the bed and a row of plants that serve as a kind of headboard. It’s simple and uncluttered so that you can appreciate each plant and piece of furniture.

Nichole was inspired to make her home stylish even on budget. 

“We didn’t make a ton of money and buying new is so expensive,” she said. “I did a little research and I really liked the mid-century modern look. And so I decided that I wanted to create an adult-looking home—a cozy place that didn’t look like a college apartment—on a super tight budget.”

Nichole has made some great finds. She has a three-legged TV credenza she found in Frenchtown for a good price, a wicker bookshelf she bought from a college student, a peacock chair for her bedroom, and a General Electric TV cabinet, which she uses as a sophisticated liquor cabinet.

“I told the woman I bought the cabinet from, ‘Oh I love this era of stuff!’ and she said, ‘Me, too, but we’re getting out of it, so we’re selling all of our stuff.’ I was like, ‘Oh, I’m so sad for you! But I’m so excited for me!’” 

Thrifting between Lolo and Butte, and places beyond, Nichole has come up with an assortment of cool pieces that provide function, but also feel like pieces of art.

Nichole says that you can find home decor online, but often the best items aren’t on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, they’re at estate or farm sales, which are often listed on separate pages but can be found with a quick internet search. And even if you do find what you’re looking for on popular thrifting sites, you’ll often pay top dollar for it.

“If you’re into the Bohemian look or the wicker stuff you can find it on Craigslist, but you’re going to pay $200 to $700 for a peacock chair and $50 for a plant stand,” she said. “So it’s definitely best if you can find grandpa and grandma who are getting rid of something.”

Nichole has had a few major scores. A woman once posted a dining room set with six chairs, a table, and three leaves for just $150. Nichole knew it must be worth more, and the woman agreed, but she insisted she just wanted it out of her house and so Nichole paid her the money and shoved the whole thing in the back of her Subaru. 

“As soon I got home I Googled it and saw that it was Broyhill Brasilia and I was like, ‘Yeah!’” she said. “It’s valued around $4,000.” But more than the deal, it was getting to own something so special, with its simple elegance and multi-striped chair covers that catch the eye. 

Nichole’s visual inspiration comes from books like The New Bohemians Handbook: Come Home to Good Vibes and popular home decor Instagrams such as Kismet House, Mango Manor, Spencer Monk, Pati-DIY & Home and Bridget Ambrose.

It’s not easy creating a stylish nest like Nichole’s, but if you put in the time and energy it can transform your space into a sanctuary where life is art.

“Be patient and use all your resources,” Nichole said. “You never know who might have a little gem hiding somewhere. Ask your friends. Go everywhere and go often, because the good stuff will get swooped up.”