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Nicole McLaughlin’s Personal Rock Climbing Wall Helps Her Stay Grounded | Architectural Digest

Hitting the right angles: The Grasshopper wall uses a secured pulley system to change inclines, increasing climbing difficulty as the slope steepens.

Nicole McLaughlin


Back in 2020, the designer teamed up with Crocs to reimagine the famous rubberized clog with a rock climbing-inspired twist. It was a natural decision to photograph the campaign in her own studio. Nicole says, “It’s where I come up with my ideas and where that idea was birthed, so I thought why not keep it very true to the process, but also connect the dots to a rock climbing wall?” In creating the shoe, Nicole brought her vision to life by imagining a rock climber’s dream pair of Crocs—complete with a cinchable chalk bag boot shaft and finished with rope and carabiner clip details. With approval from the brand, the next step was seeking out a perfect backdrop to compliment her thoughtfully tactile design elements.

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Right around the time Nicole was finalizing her design, the stars aligned. Grasshopper, headquartered in Salt Lake City, announced they were developing a smaller-scale climbing wall that could comfortably fit into a home environment. “We basically got to have the first unveiling of the Grasshopper home wall, which is super cool,” Nicole admits. 

And as if the prototype wall wasn’t already an especially rare find, Nicole explains that most conventional home setups aren’t typically large or high off the ground. “I knew that I wanted to have something like that in my space, but I never would have imagined having something of this magnitude.” Thankfully, Grasshopper’s wall ended up being just the right fit. And after enlisting the help of experts from Greenpoint’s GP 81 rock climbing gym to assist in the puzzle-like installation process, the angle-adjustable wall now stands comfortably by a windowed corner in Nicole’s studio.


When Nicole traded Boston for New York City in 2019, one thing she brought along was her love of rock climbing. “A huge reason why I liked it was because you’re so locked in on the problem-solving element of rock climbing that you’re not even too focused on the exercise,” she says. An ardent fan of outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking, Nicole found that even though there weren’t as many opportunities for nature excursions available in New York City, she could still simulate the experience through indoor bouldering at a local climbing gym.

In addition to keeping her in peak condition both mentally and physically, climbing is a significant source of inspiration for Nicole’s work, which she references through her use of technical zips, pulls, and reflective materials. “It isn’t just a love for the sport, but a love for the entire lifestyle,” she says. As an added personal touch, the designer likes to invest in colorful climbing holds she finds online to add some flair to her setup and keep it feeling refreshed. “It’s really fun to look at, and it’s inspiring to me,” she says. “If you can make your hobby an aesthetic fixture in your house, why not do it?”

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