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My favourite room: Interior style runs in the family for Nikki Cummins Black

As a child, on more than one occasion, Nikki Cummins Black remembers leaving home for school as normal, and arriving back to a newly decorated hallway or kitchen, all done by her mother! She never realised then that at a later point in her life, interiors would become her lifeline

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Fashion and interiors stylist Nikki Cummins Black in her living room with her adorable toddler, Indie Belle. Nikki put in the mantlepiece which she found online. The white feathered circle above it is a ceremonial headdress from Cameroon

Fashion and interiors stylist Nikki Cummins Black in her living room with her adorable toddler, Indie Belle. Nikki put in the mantlepiece which she found online. The white feathered circle above it is a ceremonial headdress from Cameroon

The kitchens came as standard in the new-builds but the owners were able to pick the colours of their units. 
Nikki Cummins Black opted for light grey on top and dark grey beneath. The mirrored splashback was very much her own idea

The kitchens came as standard in the new-builds but the owners were able to pick the colours of their units. Nikki Cummins Black opted for light grey on top and dark grey beneath. The mirrored splashback was very much her own idea

Indie Belle's room is very girly. Note the stars on the walls, and the tulle canopy over the crib

Indie Belle's room is very girly. Note the stars on the walls, and the tulle canopy over the crib

Nikki calls this guest room her Dunnes Stores room - the headboard is by Carolyn Donnelly, the bed linen is by Francis Brennan and the lamps are by Helen James, all designers with Dunnes Stores

Nikki calls this guest room her Dunnes Stores room - the headboard is by Carolyn Donnelly, the bed linen is by Francis Brennan and the lamps are by Helen James, all designers with Dunnes Stores

The headboard in the master bedroom is by Ventura and the mirrored bedside lockers are from shabbystore.co.uk

The headboard in the master bedroom is by Ventura and the mirrored bedside lockers are from shabbystore.co.uk

The flooring in the dining area and throughout the ground floor is engineered oak. Nikki got the mirror and the antiqued panels flanking it on shabbystore.co.uk

The flooring in the dining area and throughout the ground floor is engineered oak. Nikki got the mirror and the antiqued panels flanking it on shabbystore.co.uk

Nikki in her beautifully paved garden. "Joe from Platinum Paving Dublin was truly amazing. I had it all planned out on a spreadsheet, but he came to me during the renovation with ingenious little changes that made it much better," says Nikki. She trims the topiary hedges herself

Nikki in her beautifully paved garden. "Joe from Platinum Paving Dublin was truly amazing. I had it all planned out on a spreadsheet, but he came to me during the renovation with ingenious little changes that made it much better," says Nikki. She trims the topiary hedges herself

Nikki loves colourful china and has a cherished set which was given to her by her Auntie Heidi, but she says she saw these Royal Albert pieces in House of Fraser and bought the lot in half an hour

Nikki loves colourful china and has a cherished set which was given to her by her Auntie Heidi, but she says she saw these Royal Albert pieces in House of Fraser and bought the lot in half an hour

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Fashion and interiors stylist Nikki Cummins Black in her living room with her adorable toddler, Indie Belle. Nikki put in the mantlepiece which she found online. The white feathered circle above it is a ceremonial headdress from Cameroon

If there's one thing we've learned over the years - and the current crisis is a reminder - it's that life goes on, and people do their level best to not only survive the tragedies life throws at them, but to laugh, or at least smile, in the face of adversity, even when their hearts are smashed into tiny fragments.

It's that way at the moment; we're being stalked by fear and death, but we're looking for humour and tenderness everywhere, as the constant jokes on WhatsApp and silly videos doing the rounds will attest to.

So it has been for Nikki Cummins Black, who has been hit twice in recent years by tragedy. First, there was the death of her beloved brother in a work accident, far from home, in Australia, and then the loss of her precious twin baby girls at 20 weeks. Yet Nikki is always sunny and smiling, with seemingly not a care in the world - on the face of it, she's a happy-go-lucky individual with a great love of fashion and interiors.

And very valuable preoccupations they are, too - the interiors and doing up her lovely home, which she shares with her husband, Cork man Martin Black, are what kept Nikki sane after the heartbreak of the twins.

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The flooring in the dining area and throughout the ground floor is engineered oak. Nikki got the mirror and the antiqued panels flanking it on shabbystore.co.uk

The flooring in the dining area and throughout the ground floor is engineered oak. Nikki got the mirror and the antiqued panels flanking it on shabbystore.co.uk

The flooring in the dining area and throughout the ground floor is engineered oak. Nikki got the mirror and the antiqued panels flanking it on shabbystore.co.uk

"I was on maternity leave and I didn't know what to be doing with myself. We had just moved into the house and doing it up kept me going. I found it hard to sleep, so decorating became my religion. I'm not an online person, but at three o'clock in the morning, I'd be on the internet ordering furniture," the beautiful brunette recalls with a smile.

Growing up in Knocklyon in Dublin, the only girl in a family of four children, interior design was Nikki's first passion, something she inherited from her mother.

"I definitely get my love of interiors from my mam. For as long as I can remember, she has been doing up our family home on a rolling basis, room by room. Over and over," Nikki laughs. "As a child, on more than one occasion, I remember leaving as normal for school in the morning and arriving home to a completely newly decorated hallway or kitchen, with new wallpaper and curtains which she had made herself! It was sometimes like living on the set of 60 Minute Makeover."

After leaving school, Nikki did a diploma in interiors architecture, but she became sidetracked into fashion when she got a job in Rococo, an edgy, fun boutique. It was back in the early 2000s, during the Celtic Tiger when people were happy to spend fortunes on their style.

After three years there, Nikki, then 25, decided to open her own fashion shop, and it took off. "I found a premises in South Anne Street; it was basically a hole in the ground. My brothers are all tradesmen and they helped me do it up frugally but nicely, and I called it Nijou," she explains.

"I went to China, to Shenzhen and to Guangzhou, where I stumbled across the fashion quarter. You could get all the trimmings there, and I bought my bags, and rails there - everything I needed, and all of it was really nice," she says.

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Nikki in her beautifully paved garden. "Joe from Platinum Paving Dublin was truly amazing. I had it all planned out on a spreadsheet, but he came to me during the renovation with ingenious little changes that made it much better," says Nikki. She trims the topiary hedges herself

Nikki in her beautifully paved garden. "Joe from Platinum Paving Dublin was truly amazing. I had it all planned out on a spreadsheet, but he came to me during the renovation with ingenious little changes that made it much better," says Nikki. She trims the topiary hedges herself

Nikki in her beautifully paved garden. "Joe from Platinum Paving Dublin was truly amazing. I had it all planned out on a spreadsheet, but he came to me during the renovation with ingenious little changes that made it much better," says Nikki. She trims the topiary hedges herself

Nikki went to London, Paris and New York fashion weeks to pick up stock for the shop and she also designed her own range, Antique Beautique, which she had made up in China.

Working with the Chinese was a learning curve. "They were lovely to deal with, but part of the culture is to say yes. So you'd ask, 'Can you do it in a particular colour?' And they'd say yes, but you might not get that colour. Or you'd ask for 10 of a style and they'd say yes, but you might only get six. But I managed," she volunteers, adding, "I always stayed in Hotel Shangri-La and I used to wander around the area; that way I found stuff that was better and nicer."

Nikki adds that during the good times, her designs flew out the door. "Women weren't batting an eyelid at spending, say, ¤500 on a dress. Some of my own designs were €200, and a woman would take two, one for her sister - it was mad," Nikki says with a laugh.

She ran the shop for six years and got out of the business when she began to see a fall-off in sales around Christmas 2010.

"During my time with the shop, I used to get phone calls from banks offering me loans to open a second premises," she recalls. "I was tempted, but I knew the shop was me, people came to buy from me, and I couldn't be in two places, so thank god I never took any of their offers."

When the crash came, she saw the mindset of women change almost overnight - from never wearing a dress more than once to suddenly only buying in Penneys and wearing something again and again. It was time to get out of the business, which Nikki did some months after the crash. Happily she walked away while still in profit.

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Nikki loves colourful china and has a cherished set which was given to her by her Auntie Heidi, but she says she saw these Royal Albert pieces in House of Fraser and bought the lot in half an hour

Nikki loves colourful china and has a cherished set which was given to her by her Auntie Heidi, but she says she saw these Royal Albert pieces in House of Fraser and bought the lot in half an hour

Nikki loves colourful china and has a cherished set which was given to her by her Auntie Heidi, but she says she saw these Royal Albert pieces in House of Fraser and bought the lot in half an hour

After that, she got the opportunity to do some fashion styling for various magazines and that led to styling interiors shoots as well, which really helped to hone her personal style.

Then tragedy struck in February 2015. "My lovely brother Alan had gone to Australia to work the year before. He'd met a girl, Anita, and they were going to come back to get married. My mam and I were organising the wedding for them here; a big do, with pipers and everything. They'd actually sent out the 'save the date' cards the day of the explosion," Nikki recalls. "Alan was an electrician on his second day in a new job. He and three others were in a room when it happened. No one knows what really happened. One of the others died too, and the two left were badly burned," Nikki recalls.

"People came from all over for his funeral - from Korea, Russia; he had an army of friends, and we're still in contact with a lot of them. When something like that happens, your life is changed forever. It's as if you're in a nightmare. My dad and mam's philosophy is 'We need to be there for the rest of the kids', and it's our philosophy, too - all of us to be there for each other and not make a terrible situation worse."

One person who was also there for Nikki was Martin, at the time her fiance. "Martin spotted me at my friend's wedding; she is his cousin. We didn't speak at the wedding. I think Martin was too shy to approach me," Nikki says with a laugh.

However Martin, who is CEO of BKK, the financial advisory service, is nothing if not resourceful, and he hatched a plan with his cousin. "She arranged a dinner party and invited both of us and then, cheeky minx, she gave him my number. It took me about nine weeks to agree to go out for coffee, then we went for some dates. Very old-fashioned. In August 2013, he formally asked me to be his girlfriend," Nikki says fondly. "He's a really positive person, he has a way of looking at everything that is so special. He thinks he's a grump, but actually he's a ray of sunshine."

It's obvious that although it took time, the financial consultant - who boasts high-profile clients such as entrepreneur Liam Casey, managing his global business PCH and personal investment portfolio - well and truly won her heart.

Martin and Nikki were engaged at the time of Alan's death, and he was a huge support to Nikki. They went ahead and got married, but only had close family at the ceremony and reception.

"It was very low-key. I didn't even try on the dress beforehand. I feel sorry for that wedding, looking back," Nikki says. "We got married on May 15, 2015, at 15.15pm. Martin joked, 'Wouldn't it be great if we had 15 kids?'"

Soon after they moved into their house, a new-build near her parents, and to the couple's joy, she got pregnant almost immediately. She couldn't believe when the scan revealed that she was expecting twins, and even better to Nikki, identical twin girls. "I'd always had an obession with twins. I couldn't believe they were going to be identical. I felt like the girls and me, we were going to be triplets. I felt like I'd won the Lotto," she says.

Sadly, halfway through the pregnancy, there were complications; her waters broke, and the babies, Hope and Grace, didn't survive. "I gave birth normally and they were perfect," Nikki explains.

The following six months were hell, but she says doing up the house kept her sane. "It was a miserable time, all I could do was house stuff. I was a bit of an insomniac, so there I'd be, measuring spaces in the dead of night. Container-loads would arrive from England," she says. "Up to then, I'd never even bought a top online, now I was ordering tables, chairs, mirrors, beds."

However, she wasn't buying blindly; she had established what her style would be, and stuck faithfully to it. "I love shabby chic, so I went for a lot of antiqued mirrors with brass accents on the chandeliers, and distressed furnishings. I found two websites in particular that I loved, Shabby Store and Rockett St George," she says. Nikki also loves grey and it's the backdrop to every room.

"I'd never heard of the book, and when I told someone my house was 50 shades of grey, she said, 'What, is it all whips and chains?'" Nikki recalls with a laugh.

The house is three stories comprising 3,000 square feet, with four bedrooms, two of which are en suite; an office for Martin; a large kitchen/dining/living room; a family bathroom; a sitting room, and a room that used to be a playroom for their adored daughter Indie Belle, which they changed when she started walking.

Nikki realised Indie - now 22 months - would never play in that room as it's to the front of the house, whereas the kitchen is at the back, so she turned the playroom into another sitting room. "She's with me every minute, although my parents are a marvellous help with her," Nikki says.

Nikki made all the decisions on the decor herself; while Martin is a top financial strategist, he leaves strategy around the house entirely to Nikki. "He totally trusts me. He has a lovely attitude," she says. "With him, it's very much, 'If Nikki likes it, it must be amazing'."

And she has created an amazing home for her lovely family.

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