The following is the first in a series of stories celebrating Nest Studio’s 10th anniversary. In this edition, Founder and Creative Director Jessica Davis looks back on the company’s start, growth and offers a glimpse of things to come.
After a decade in business, it’s fair to say that Nest Studio has exceeded all expectations. Because in the beginning, there weren’t many.
Founder Jessica Davis designed her first two hardware collections as part of a licensing agreement with a friend’s lighting company. The story could have ended there, but after sharing photos of the pieces on her blog, the inquiries began rolling in. Readers loved what they saw but didn’t know where to get it.
In 2012, Jessica decided to invest in a small production run of her hardware so people could buy it online. Nest Studio was born.
Shortly after, she designed a third collection that buyers immediately gravitated to and caught the attention of ELLE Decor. “Once it got in there, I thought, okay, this is more than a little side business. A big design publication is actually interested in it,” she recalled.
Davis realized she could forget her fallback plan of going back to work for a large corporate design firm. Nest Studio’s pull was strong, as were its pulls.
From that modest start as a one-person hardware business, Nest Studio has flourished into a brand with fans and influence around the globe. Elle Décor recently took notice again, this time naming Davis to its prestigious A-List Class of 2022. It’s an honor that Davis said provided a measure of professional validation to both the visions of Nest Studio and her design practice, Atelier Davis.
“It was unexpected, but it’s something that’s always been on my radar and something that I’ve strived to have under my belt,” she said.
Looking back on the journey, Davis attributes Nest Studio’s success to a mix of old-fashioned hard work, a willingness to take creative risks, a dedicated team and more than a few lucky bounces.
Davis points to the release of the Classic collection of luxury cabinet hardware as a moment that elevated Nest Studio to the next level. Inspired by the groundbreaking work of early 20th century designer Dorothy Draper, the series remains Nest Studio’s best-seller. Davis characterized the hardware as “transitional” for its ability to fit just as well in both traditional and modern settings.
Davis also attributes Nest Studio’s early collaborations with other artists for helping it build a voice that was unique from any other hardware companies. The first came during a chance encounter at a West Elm Trade Show in New York City, which she initially thought was a bust.
“It’s funny – I’ve done a lot of things where the original intent or purpose did not pan out, but other great things happened because of that,” she said. “Even though not a lot of people from the trade came to the event, there were a lot of other small local artisans who were displaying stuff there, some of whom have really grown over the years. One of them was Jonathan Castro.”
Castro, a ceramic artist whose work is inspired by traditional Japanese pottery, collaborated with Davis to create the Glaze collection. The handmade pulls pair ribbed ceramic knobs that call back to his pottery work with satin brass backplates.
The collaboration opened the doors to the use of new materials and novel ways for designing hardware that separated Nest Studios from the pack. Further examples include the Pinch collection developed with Stephen Antonson, Stitch with Valeriy Khvan, and Lauhala with Ku & Moe.
A Changing Landscape
Jessica Davis at home in her Atlanta Studio
The industry Davis entered in 2012 has changed markedly, and in her opinion, largely for the better. It is more diverse, tech-driven and democratic. The products look different and so do the players.
“Over the past 10 years, there have definitely been more women entering the hardware industry. It was sort of a good old boys club when I started and now there are more niche lanes,” she said.
Social media has been one of the major catalysts of change. Designers can now use platforms like Pinterest and Instagram to connect with vendors and sourcing around the world and spark transformational business relationships. Social media has also served as an entry point for practitioners in hardware-adjacent fields who are infusing exciting new perspectives into the products.
The pandemic has also altered the landscape in ways that are still being understood. Fewer people visited showrooms due to COVID-19, and that business shifted to the online space, which Nest Studio, a digital business from its outset, was well positioned for. The energy has begun to rebound in showrooms, although like so many societal trends of the last two years, it will take time to tell what changes are permanent.
“The lines have blurred between what’s accessible to the trade vs. the general public. Nest has always been geared toward both,” she said.
Tubular showcased in Atelier Davis' Memphis Deco inspired space for the 2022 Apartment Therapy Small/Cool Experience (Credit: Apartment Therapy and Small/Cool NYC)
Davis is always working on the next collection, exploring unexpected partnerships with both designers and brands (in and out of the hardware space) to keep Nest at the forefront of design. Stay tuned for more details.
We are celebrating our Legacy Collections; Classic, Facet and Transparency, the luxury hardware lines that launched Nest Studio and remain best sellers. Nest Studio also continues to add to its collection portfolio; offering added versatility, and exploring inspiration over time. Our newest collection, the Tubular Series made its debut in Atelier Davis’ Memphis Deco inspired space for the 2022 Apartment Therapy Small/Cool Experience.
The Classic Series, one of Nest Studio’s Legacy Collections,
continues to be a client favoriteI
In the longer term, Davis envisions Nest Studio branching out to design bathroom accessories, lighting, plumbing and other items that could be a natural expansion to the hardware lines in terms of their materiality. She’s also intrigued by the possibility of experimentation with 3D-printed works.
Davis said the first 10 years passed by too fast to believe, but she learned plenty along the way. She offered some parting advice for aspiring designers who’d like to make the move she did in 2012.
“It’s a little bit cliched, but it’s all about hard work, trying to keep learning and not being afraid of the business side of things,” she said. “Some creative people claim they’re not good at that and that can be an excuse. It’s all about educating yourself on it even though it’s not sexy or glamorous. That oftentimes is the difference between whether your business succeeds or not.”