When I was a child of 5, I accompanied my Aunt Sylvia and her husband, a handsome navel officer back from the war, to furniture stores and helped them decorate their first apartment. This, I’m sure was yet another indication to my long suffering parents, that I was not quite a normal “child”! I continued helping people “fix up” their homes through my teens and into my early married years, and never once thought of decorating as a career. It was a skill I took for granted just as I knew I could never be a seamstress – after having sewn my class project, an apron, to my skirt, shirt and slip in 5th grade.
After a few years as an elementary school teacher, I went out on maternity, and my husband became a homebuilder with a model to decorate in order to sell the rest. He turned to me and I recoiled in horror, thinking that the success of his first development would rest on my shoulders.
So I took a decorating course, helped him sell out his development in 6 weeks, never went back to teaching 2nd grade, and the rest is history! Not quite – but what if I had gone back to teaching (as my mother wanted), would I still have continued decorating for fun and no profit? No doubt about it. So – are we born natural decorators with “the design gene” included in our make-up, those without, poor souls, doomed to a life of color, style and space impairment no matter how much HGTV they watch?
Much later, after years of being an executive director at an interior design institute, I was tempted to brag that I could even teach a monkey to decorate. In truth, I believe that anyone can do a good to very good job of it and some, without a day of schooling, a great job.
So what’s the secret to the success of those schooled and unschooled? What makes people tell others they have great taste, can put a room together that looks like a million on a shoe string, and knows just how to arrange that artful bookcase?
I think it’s a lack of fear. People have often asked when I’m interviewed, “Did you ever do a job where you yourself didn’t know the outcome”? I’m quick to answer that I often take risks in stretching my creativity but I never in my 35 years as a professional and the 25 as a dilettante, ever was afraid of how something would turn out.
So to all you beige people out there and those who spend their weekends shopping, but not buying, I encourage you not to be afraid. Don’t sell yourself short. Make a plan, go to places where good design ideas can inspire you, think a little outside of the box and let your personality permeate your home. If you start out with clean, neat and organized, you’re half way there. Relax! Breathe! Have fun! Spending money on decorating is a good thing for your home, your family and most of all – you.
I often wonder what would have happened if my dear Aunt Sylvia had laughed at me or refused to take me shopping with her that day. The world of nuclear physics might have gained another.
Check out my book, The Most Often Asked Interior Design Questions to learn about floor plans, color, fabrics, wood flooring, art history, working with a designer and much more in a simple and easy way to understand. Visit the Natalie’s Store Tab or call 631.862.6198.