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My ‘Style’ journal

They say you can’t learn style – that you either have it or you don’t. To me ‘they’ sound like people who think ‘they’ have VERY good style. The problem with that theory is that it doesn’t factor in exposure (or lack thereof), and passion – a genuine love/obsession for style. I think there is something to be said for some people having more of a knack for it and I certainly know of some people with decades of experience in the business with just terrible taste and style, and it can be baffling. But I’ve found that most people can have good really good style if they have the exposure, experience and some good old fashion passion. Let’s use me as an example …

I was raised in a small town on the coast of Oregon in the 90’s, FINE in the 80’s, before the internet, before the ‘maker generation’, before original style content bombarded the web on a daily basis. We had magazines and coffee table books and that maybe one ‘Jennifer Convertibles’ style store in town. And if you think I was 8-years-old and buying Elle Decor, you are wrong. I was sewing clothes, decorating my forts in the woods, canning tuna and on an extra exciting day recovering a lampshade. We lived out in the country, with six kids, and were very industrious. My exposure to design and style was NIL. I have no idea if there were any professional decorators in our town then (doubtful) but I certainly didn’t know that this was a thing one could actually do for a living. Both of my parents are teachers. I knew that Doctors and Lawyers existed so that was clearly an option, but I kinda thought anything in the arts was meant as a hobby. I moved to a suburb of Portland when I was 15 and then went to U of O for college where I got my degree in History. I think I thought I was going to be a writer or a teacher but I honestly had NO IDEA. I certainly didn’t think I was going to be a prop stylist, spokesperson and let alone a blogger.

Brian and I moved to New York after school (YES, we’ve been together now for 15 years) and he went to grad school while I tried to ‘find myself, ‘ for lack of better term. A few things became clear: I liked to be around pretty things, I still loved to craft, and by god I LOVED to shop. I remember going to the first gift show (trade show for pretty things) and was in total awe. I met Jonathan Adler there (when he had a tiny shop in Soho) and I LOVED his vibe and style and soon thereafter got a job as a shop girl in his store (while bartending at night – retail doesn’t exactly pay your rent in New York). It was while working there that I met stylists who came in to shop for shoots. I asked them what they did and they said ‘mainly just shop and make things’ and I thought, ‘Yes, I would also like to do that’. I courted all of them by writing a pretty compelling cover letter and landed a consistent gig with Cindy.

At that point I was 23 and I was LOVING it and learning so much. It was a freelance gig and the cons of freelance are lack of consistency and stability as many of you might know. So an assistant job opened up at Martha Stewart, which is basically the graduate school of styling, and I wanted to go for it. Cindy had just stopped working there to go freelance so she had lots of connections and got me an interview. There is pretty much no other way that I would have gotten my foot in the door. I had very little experience or even exposure to design and style. I had to pay for college so most of my job experience was waiting tables, teaching piano or walking dogs – I wasn’t exactly doing summer internships with Milo Baughman. I had no portfolio at all. I had made a few things – a few really ugly things (that post is still coming), things that I could claim I ‘designed’ but it was 2002, it was literally before most people had personal computers (I didn’t) and when most stores/designers didn’t even have websites. I think I checked my email ones a week. I’m very old.

But I didn’t want to come to the interview with nothing, so I bought an old black and white coffee table book about New York and began collaging the inside of it with anything that spoke to me – fabric, paper, tear sheets from magazines and catalogues, miniature spoons, you know anything. It was intensely amateur and totally terrifying, and yet now looking at it, it’s just wonderful.

But why just talk about it when you can see it for yourself:


Woah. I know. Most people would have thrown that thing in the garbage, but not this hoarder. Oh no. I’ve kept every single thing I’ve ever ‘made’.

So many of the pages I look at with sheer confusion,  what was I thinking???? But then there are some that totally make “sense” to me. For instance in this spread below I taped in a set of miniature Victorian flatware. I think I loved that it was a. miniature and b. ornate/antique. Or maybe I was hungry that day and craving a cutie (tiny orange) and wanted to eat it like a grapefruit with a spoon. I don’t know. But I’m still kinda attracted to this page.


I’m sure this one was about the colors and the ‘whimsy’ of that credenza – so 2002.


While nothing in the below screams out my taste now, I can see why I chose everything – it’s bold and striking with some whimsy, some straight lines and a little bit feminine/victorian.

This royal blue velvet swatch is still something that I LOVE. I think I found a huge scrap of it at a thrift store and I’m pretty sure I just rubbed it against my face for years, like how a fat rich banker might with his piles of 100 dollar bills. Laughing quietly to himself. It’s my favorite and it’s good to know that some things haven’t changed in 12 years.


Then there were some pages where now I’m like I just don’t understand … What connection did I have to the cover of that book? Or was it just that it was old and that I loved reading? That burgundy and gold paper on the opposite page is I guess not terribly shocking since I still love gold, but it still doesn’t seem to warrant effort. Maybe I got desperate, who knows?


Baby pink lace (below) shouldn’t be all that shocking, but it’s not my proudest moment.


And this white floral paper is certainly still up my alley, although it’s not terribly special.


Clearly I’ve ALWAYS loved flowers. So much so that I named my first blog ‘The Brass Petal’. I am rebranding now and flowers are a big motif in it. I was asked by Brady if I thought that I would get sick of it because flowers are so trendy right now and then I slapped him on the ear and lectured,  “flowers will ALWAYS be in because they are the most beautiful natural thing on the planet”. So no, I won’t get sick of a beautiful flower ever in my life.


I actually really love how this collage, below, turned out with the colorful mixed-up napkins on top of the black and white, across from that simple graphic door. Of all pages to frame, this one might be it.


I did include some of the pieces of furniture that I had ‘made’ like this one below. I had taken some furniture design classes at Pratt and this was one of my originals – a TV stand, because back in the day we had these really deep TV’s if y’all can believe that. Like 18″ deep. So clearly this was my solution for that. I don’t like it, but I’ve certainly done uglier things.


I remember sitting there as Fritz Kartch’s desk (one of the main editors) as he looked at this book. I’m pretty sure he was totally speechless – unsure how to react to this chick and her totally weird, non-sensical book. I had no skills, no experience, but I had this weird book of clippings and a chair full of personality.

I didn’t get the job. I wasn’t shocked nor was I sad. I went on to assist Cindy for 4 years (which made more money and I got a huge variety of experience, not just the MSL world). And the rest, well, is history.

I guess the point is that no matter what creative field you are in, you can succeed with some good old-fashioned passion and a lot of exposure. You don’t have to be born into it, you don’t have to have been surrounded by it your entire childhood, or even educated in it. You just need those two things. Passion without exposure equals what you see above – a random book of pictures that might lead somewhere but isn’t going to get you the job, and just exposure without real passion can make for a pretty lazy and therefore kinda lifeless creative existence.

I think there are a lot of us out there – the ones that aren’t born and raised in the industry and yet found ourselves here and successful. And when I was in my 20’s still figuring it all out, it was those stories that I clung to – the hope that my lack of exposure wasn’t going to be my demise. It wasn’t.

So what do you guys think? Can style be learned? Or do you think it’s innate? Or both?

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Kayla AKA Kilo Bravo
9 years ago

Wow – I really really appreciate this peak into your history. It’s crazy to recognize how much has changed by way of the internet and computers from just 10 – 12 years ago. Looking at this I am actually reminded of a terribly juvenile book I made for a friend circa 2004 that was trying to get a teaching job at an elementary school – I literally stayed up all night gluing CONSTRUCTION PAPER CONFETTI STRIPS to the cover of her resume/cover letter/lesson plan book. It seemed totally appropriate and also so meta at the time, and I’m still a little proud of it, but also horribly embarrassed that she walked into that interview with that thing (if I remember, she did not get the job. We will never know exactly why not). I think style can be learned, and exposure has so much to do with it. For the longest time I claimed I couldn’t put my finger on my own style – until I finally saw something that really spoke to me (true story, I stumbled on your blog) and my introduction to MCM became this wild and crazy love story where I could barely remember life before… Read more »

9 years ago

You are not alone in remembering the pre-internet era. What did we DO with all that free time?!

I digress. This book is perfect in its imperfection. It reminds me of an Anthropologie catolog in places, esp the tea towel spread! I kind of want to hug that book, we all have something like that from our past that reminds us of how we got where we are now. Style has to be learned, if you stuck with everything you loved when you were 20, you would be in big trouble when you were 40 (oh, Forever 21, you LIE).

Thanks for sharing that book with us, it made my morning! Going to unearth my saved issues of MS Blueprint now. Loved that mag.

Michelle (aka mybelle101)
9 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

Yes! I was totally thinking it was very Anthro-esque!

I also shudder to think about some of the projects I did in college, though I am still proud of some of them. I graduated in 2002 with an Arch degree, so we were *just* starting all that digital design, CAD, and 3-D modeling on the computer. It was a nightmare…I laugh now as my boys effortlessly put together models in Google SketchUp, thinking how that same thing would have taken a week or more with FormZ in 2000. This next generation has NO. IDEA. how far things have come in the last 10-15 years!

9 years ago

Oh my god FormZ! What a blast from the past, I’m now reliving those horrible hours upon hours of waiting for rendering, only for the computer to crash at like 97% done….
(fellow arch student of that era)

9 years ago

I kind of love the idea of taking a book and adding your own collages in there… maybe not some of the particular things you put in there ;). I always look back at some old sketchbooks and always wonder what the heck I was thinking. I love hearing your stories of when you first started out.

9 years ago

Hi Emily-thank you for this, so interesting and insightful to read. So funny I created a style boo, fashion and interior design based as well. I am so happy about it and love it and it, similar to your book, was a collection of images that I love. Is it perfect, maybe not, is it stylish,100% and the best part, It’s original! I am all about keeping the wheels of creativity turning, and creating spreads and colleges is a practical way to design when you don’t have your own space or clients to practice with. So for that reason, creating books like this is such a great idea, it gets your ideas down and holds them forever.

9 years ago

Can style be learned? I feel like style is subjective. How do you learn something that’s subjective?

So what makes a designer successful? I think that comes down to new ideas that interpret each of our own subjective style. People hire other people or buy their products because they want that subjective personal style turned into a physical space. If your design or product speaks to more people, you will be more successful from a client/monetary/work standpoint. So maybe, just maybe, those who are the MOST successful are really the least unique — interesting thought, no? (that’s not to say I’m not obsessed with many designers who are popular!)

I think about how some rooms in interior design photos are not my cup of tea at ALL, but I’m sure others love them. Does that mean they don’t have style? No…it just means they’re not my style.

9 years ago
Reply to  Karla

I agree! I cringe when on HGTV or Project Runway they talk about someone’s “taste level”. As if taste isn’t in the eye (or mouth?) of the beholder. I don’t think there are vertical levels and implying there is feels like snobbery.

9 years ago
Reply to  mary

Very true. I have to remind myself this once in a while. Some people I know might have what those hosts would call low “taste levels” but they are insanely happy and probably spend a whole lot less of their hard earned money on decor. Unlike me. haha!

Susie Q.
9 years ago
Reply to  Karla

I also think that to have “style” you have to want to have style–you have to work to cultivate it. Some people could care less about it, thus others *might* look down on them and say they had no style…and maybe they don’t, but who cares? I guess if you’re trying to make your living based on your tastes, this is something you’d definitely be working on daily. I personally feel like I spend far too much mental and physical energy on interior design when I know for A FACT that it’s not something I want to do professionally. I know this bc I did work as an interior designer, and I’m much happier not doing that now. Oh well, ramble ramble ramble.

9 years ago

This was a really amazing peak into your mood board time capsule. It’s awesome to see the changes / growth you have made but still remaining true to your inner eye and voice. I’m an artist and a few years ago, I started making it a point to keep all my sketch books so that the future me can look back and hopefully have a similar moment like you. It’s also really nice to see that sometimes things don’t change and you tend to repeat the same things over and over again but that you can catalog the growth in those projects over time.

And yes, flowers are always in and I never get tired of drawing them (^.^)


9 years ago

Emily you are so down to earth. I’m glad your trip has been so successful. Now is when I would say don’t ever change but I don’t have to because I don’t think you know how to be any other way than honest and a straight shooter (that’s from the old westerns played on those huge TV’s).
I think a person can learn style if they have the eye for it but sometimes that is only their style. You might lean towards a certain style but through your blog (which I read everyday it is my first cup of coffee go to)we see how you design beautiful spaces for your clients no matter what style.
Thank you for sharing so much with your readers and fans.

9 years ago

Oh my goodness…this post. It’s like you wrote this just for me! I am a small business owner and recently had a not-so-nice client question my “training”. And by question, I mean suspected criminals are treated better than I was. Which then made me step back and question myself and my career. Not a good day. Anyway, I have a similar self-taught, series of fortunate opportunities background that all started in a small town with an inspiration journal. So, yeah. This posted really spoke to me. Thank you so much for sharing your background and your first portfolio and your thoughts on the topic. I always love your blog, but this really made my day!

9 years ago

LOVE this! I’m a lot older and just figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. yikes! Thanks for keeping it real!

9 years ago

Flowers. Are. The. Best.
And you are too Emily!

9 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Flowers are the best,
And Emily is too!

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

9 years ago

This post is so great! I definitely think style can be learned, as mine has developed over time with the right exposure as well. Thank you for sharing this story. I’m still trying to figure out how to make my own creative path, and this gives me the same hope you once needed too.

9 years ago

I think style is a kind of skill–some people have natural talent and some have to work a little harder but it definitely takes training, and that’s the exposure you talk about.

It was totally ballsy and wonderful of you to take your style scrap book into a Martha Stewart interview. I’ve also gone into interviews with nothing but desire, a few scraps, and attitude of I CAN DO THIS PLEASE BELIEVE ME. It’s terrifying and important. Thanks for sharing your journey! You may have gotten trained up in the last 10 or 12 years, but it’s pretty clear you had game to begin with.

9 years ago

Aww love it Emily – you are sooo creative! I’m an interior designer in NYC, and growing up I also had no clue that interior design was a “real job”. My parents are scientists, and I studied Chemical Engineering in college. But I looooved watching “Trading Spaces” on TLC – that show completely blew my mind. It was like omg, THAT’S what I wanna do!

9 years ago

Thank you for this, Emily! I needed to hear this. If I look at my own path, I definitely think that style can be learned. I now have the education (a Bachelor of Interior Design), the passion, and the talent (if I do say so myself), but I’m missing the connections. I grew up in a small town and have traveled for the better part of a decade — mostly for my education — but have ended up back in my small town. I love it here and I love being near my family, but I miss the connections. I often wonder if I should drop everything and move to the city to network. I am 31 now and feel as though my time to get into the business is dwindling. This post has restored my drive to get out there and network. Thank you so much!

9 years ago

Thank you for this! I’m wracked with uncertainty everyday about whether I need to spend $80K going back to school to get into a field i’m passionate about, and plenty of people in the industry say “Yep! Just gotta bite the bullet…we all did.” But your story is really inspiring and seems like an approach I’d much prefer. Do you think it’s harder to do now that creative jobs aren’t well-kept secrets?

I love this. I too wanted to go to New York as a young woman to do somehting in fashion/design. I wasn’t as brave as you were. I too grew up always, always making something and redesigned my bedroom a gazillion times (driving my mother crazy). Thank goodness for the internet because now through my blog I am finally realizing my dream (although small). I think some passion or innate ability has to be there from the start but then it can be taught and learned. I know for me, color has always been a big part of who I am. Growing up my friends would always marvel that I could recognize the exact same shade of green or blue while we were out shopping over and over again. An eye for something has to be there and then composition, scale, and style can be learned. Just my opinion.

9 years ago

What a great step back to see how far you’ve come! Brava! I think style is something you grow into, as you start to believe in yourself more and you start to understand what speaks to you and why. The internet can be helpful as a guide but it can also make you have design ADD! I think if you are solid in what you love and who you are, then the style just grows as you do, too! And thanks for the reminder that a person needs to keep on keepin’ on when it comes to following your dream!

9 years ago

Em- You are such an inspiration to me, it’s insane. I’ve been OBSESSED with design and all things surrounding it since I was able to sit up on my own as an infant and thumb through my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens and Sunset magazines laying around the house (thanks, momma!). I’ll be 25 this year and have FINALLY accepted that after years of jobs unassociated with design (though, I did love being a pastry chef and wedding photographer… still creative fields, thank you based god) it is time I chase my dream. I have the passion, go-getter attitude (chock full of sarcasm), but I lack the experience (does making design boards for my mom’s 80’s oak kitchen makeover count? what about drawing blueprints of mid-century remodels to scale while sitting on the toilet for an hour listening to my brother scream at me to get out of the bathroom? no? okay.) Basically what I’m trying to say (you can ignore the toilet comment…) is: thank you. From the bottom of my heart, this post is exactly what I needed to read. And your tone throughout this post speaks to me–literally, I read it aloud and then had a silent… Read more »

9 years ago

I loved reading this, Emily! You’re always an inspiration! I love your final thoughts on passion and exposure. They hit a cord with me! You rock big time.

Love, Poppy

9 years ago

A glance through the comments tells me I’m not alone here, but I’m at the same point in my life/semblance of a design career of trying to find myself. I tell myself every day that it’s no rush, but I have to admit I feel the pressure to get a “real job” (I’m currently working as an au pair/part-time graphic designer in Paris). Everyone here just oozes style, which is pretty intimidating. Guess it’s time to start a style journal!

9 years ago

I so admire what you’ve done. Putting yourself through college, holding down three jobs while following that creative drive that eventually paid off in spades. Not to mention your other major accomplishment – that beautiful baby boy! You are an inspiration to all of us, young & old (like me).

9 years ago

I simply adore this post. It sounds like you were very resilient and self-assured at 23. Bravo!

You mentioned you courted all the stylists that came in Jonathan Adler by writing “a pretty compelling cover letter.” I ‘d be interested to see that if you still have it, and to know, in your now experienced opinion, what makes a cover letter compelling?

9 years ago

I completely agree about exposure! And the ability to learn, fueled by passion can produce great results. It’s something I’ve thought about before, and all the incredible blogs out there are a testament to it. I’m hoping beautiful design continues to become more attainable (without professional help) in ordinary homes, because people will have more exposure to quality design. And I hope retailers will stop selling awful things (I’m talking about the overabundance of “contemporary” rugs and poufy microsuede sofas).

Thanks for sharing more of your background with us.

9 years ago

Thanks so much for posting this, Emily. I’m almost 26 and have kind of known that I wanted to be an interior designer since I was 18 (well, 14 if you count the years I spent obsessively redecorating my bedroom). For whatever reason, I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself by going to school for interior design because I wasn’t 100% sure that it was what I wanted but… it is. Now I’m still trying to figure out how to get my foot through the door. Thanks for reminding me that it’s okay to put yourself out there, even if you don’t yet know what the hell you’re doing!

9 years ago

Fabulous. Thank you so much for sharing this Emily. I am an artist and an art teacher and I strongly disagree with the common idea that artists and designers are born with artistic talent. This both belittles the artists who have worked years to develop their abilities, and cuts short anyone who struggles with creative pursuits. You pointed out what I think is the key in the” innate vs. can be developed debate” – passion. People pour time and energy into the things they enjoy. Why would creative people be that different from other fields? Michael Jordan was born with potential for height and athletic grace; he spent years practicing, grabbing opportunities, and gaining skills to become the Emily Henderson of the NBA.

9 years ago

I love your blog and have been following along for a while now, but I have never commented. Your work is genius and you are a true artist. I’ve drooled over all the beautiful and inspiring interiors you have shared here, but I felt compelled to let you know that out of all your posts, this is the most beautiful and inspiring of all. I’m glad you found yourself… and the design world is glad too.

9 years ago

Thank you for sharing! I love coming to your blog and finding interesting things here! Fun to see your past style.

9 years ago

Great post! I’m in that place right now with just finishing school, and trying to break into the industry while still supporting myself to make rent. Really great to hear this side of life – just a good moral booster.

I think creative people are just that, creative people. They’re always doing something, but not immediately understand until of course they meet someone who is so not creative (which sadly are many).

9 years ago

Great post! I’m in that place right now with just finishing school, and trying to break into the industry while still supporting myself to make rent. Really great to hear this side of life – just a good moral booster.

I think creative people are just that, creative people. They’re always doing something, but not immediately understand until of course they meet someone who is so not creative (which sadly are many). If that makes any sense..

9 years ago

Seriously, this reminds me of so much of how I spent high school and college. So many collages (pre-Pinterest, we made collages!), bits of this and that. I just went through my old hoard and found so many pieces of art and gifts from friends… seems like it was just so much of part of what we did. We didn’t have the constant glut of images, so we made our own. They weren’t as “good”, but damn it was fun. There was less of a sense that it HAD to be good because there was so much less to compare it to. But another point your story makes really well, and something I try to always emphasize to the younger folks, is a) how hard you have to work to make progress in whatever your field is, and b) getting a job because of a job application is really rare. Most of the time, jobs come because you know people and one thing leads to another. So young people out there (Christ, I’m so old), WORK HARD and TALK TO PEOPLE. Also, you have to BE NICE Because if you’re not nice, nobody wants to work with you. Unsolicited advice.… Read more »

9 years ago

I think this book proves you have always had style. If we could out ourselves back into 2002 I think it would mostly “make sense.” Obviously you have improved but I’m impressed! I think this is so cute and such a fun thing to have saved.

9 years ago

This post is so inspiring! I love hearing about how you’ve built your career. I hope you have more posts like this in the future!

9 years ago

Such a generous post and lots of fun to go on some of your journey with you, and to have it to reflect upon. I am not in what some would think of as a ‘creative’ field, but I am passionate and creative about my work … and this post reminds me that I’m due for another good dose of exposure . Exposure helps keep my passion alive!

Jordan G
9 years ago

This is so fun to walk back in time like this. Thank you for sharing! We all start somewhere, and we’re all embarrassed of what we started with. How will we feel about our current work in 10-15 years? It’s strange to think about!

On a side note, did you see Fixer Upper last night? Joanna totally channeled her inner Emily Henderson. I think you would love what she came up with – it is very reminiscent of your house and your style.

9 years ago

Hello, suburban southern California here, and I grew up at a time when everything was painted flamingo pink with green edging. Gross. And I knew it then, too, which pleases me very much, but of course my taste was learned. I think what you touched on but didn’t name is GRIT – when you keep going even if you are told ‘no’ or get knocked down a few times. I think grit is what separates anyone who does things well because they have tried so much and so hard to those who try and stop when they are told ‘no’.

9 years ago

Love the post – thanks for sharing your story!

9 years ago

That book is the bomb! Fritz Karch seems pretty eccentric from where I’m sitting; I’m surprised he didn’t love it. (He was probably worried you would outshine him.) I think all of us who’ve travelled this path should start a club. It looks like there are a few of us here. I moved to NYC at 19 after growing up in a tiny rural midwestern town. I got an appointment at FIT to show a portfolio–I had no clue what I was doing. Looking back, I’m grateful the staff didn’t guffaw. Eventually I worked as an high school art teacher. I had so, so many students and parents tell me that you must be born with artistic talent to do well in art. I strongly disagree. I think you can learn to draw well if you are willing to work at it–most people don’t really have the desire/passion to do that. It’s hard work. I think you can have an inborn passion and maybe excellent fine-motor skills that will propel you along, but it’s mostly practice and experience. As far as personal style goes, I think it’s growing and changing constantly. While exposure to style and design feeds personal style,… Read more »

9 years ago

“I certainly didn’t think I was going to be a prop stylist, spokesperson and let alone a blogger.” Well, you seem to be so much more to your readers. Let’s add mentor and muse. This is a wonderful post and you nailed it with passion and exposure as the keys.

9 years ago

As someone who is in the process of applying to get my masters in Interior Architecture (graphic design background here) this made my heart so happy. Thank you for being so honest and giving me hope that my love for interiors WILL be a possibility.

9 years ago

I love reading stories like that. Though I often still feel like you guys in the US (or anywhere but Germany really) start figuring stuff out way earlier than us. I’m 26 and a post-grad student (everyone does masters degrees here though) Most people, as I will, finish university at 27 or even older. We all reach the same point as you did when you were 23 after university, only we are in our late twenties by then!

As a social scientist and supporter of Bourdieu I certainly believe that our social and cultural context determine what we like. However, as your life changes your tastes changes too, I think that is what feels like you are learning to have taste, when really it’s just changing. Most importantly though, those factors do not give you some sort of superior as in better taste.

9 years ago

So funny to read this today. On the weekend, I found a similar book I had made, back in the pre-Pinterest world. I was, like you, baffled by some things, but in flipping through, I noticed that my taste has refined somewhat over the decades, but that I remain true to my core aesthetic. I found it reassuring, as I sometimes get fed up with the overwhelming quantity of NEW CONTENT on blogs and in magazines and worry that I let my true self get swayed by trends that don’t really speak to who I am, creatively, personally, aesthetically. Thanks so much for sharing– I think your book is really beautiful and I love that it is solid, tactile and contains so much personality.

9 years ago

I have really been loving your blog lately…I always love it, but even more so now. Great variety of content and today’s was particularly inspiring!

9 years ago

Sooooooo you mean not applying for your intern posish like I wanted to was stupe? I have some experience and years of school under my belt and still felt (in a world of driven 18 year olds already in design school with no responsibilities) under-qualified :/ I guess it all comes down to good old fashioned ‘Chutzpah’! This story is inspiring (you’re a badass) and heartbreaking (cause I should have been bad assier) Too many times I sell my creativity short because “there’s always someone cooler than you.” I know it’s lame. I knew before and I know now. Thanks you for nailing this post!

Emily Klug
9 years ago

I wish your blog had existed back in the 90’s when I was trying to figure out what I could do with my life. Our childhoods were very similar except sub Pennsylvania for Oregon, 2 kids for 6 kids, and factory workers for teachers. But where you had the guts (and the guy) to move to NYC I schlepped myself to be with my totally wrong guy in rural Indiana. Then had a baby. Then a divorce. I know I won’t be satisfied to do what I currently do for the rest of my life (design AV systems in autoCAD) it’s so boring. Have I missed my window forever or do you know successful people in the field who only got there after their kids were nearly grown?

Style is mostly innate I believe but it can be convincingly faked with enough exposure. Passion is innate but so is laziness and complacency unfortunately.

I’d rather be lucky than good.

Emily Klug
9 years ago

Also I’d LOVE to know who in the business with poor taste you had in mind although I know you could never ever call them out on your blog.

I la-la-love you for this post Emily! I’m 23 with a degree in business, working a 8-5 front desk/accounting assistant job while taking interior design courses at Portland CC. I’m just keeping my eyes and ears open for that opportunity to come my way for experience and exposure. I so badly just want to be designing/decorating/styling and am so anxious to get there. Your story is truly so inspiring, and motivating.

Style is a combination of learned & innate. Some people don’t care, and that’s okay. You have the sense, or you don’t. If you have it, you just absorb everything around you and you filter it…that becomes style.

Thanks again for always being open and honest about all of this. So many of us really appreciate it.

9 years ago

Hi Emily, I really really enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing your story. A little bit of my story: being raised by (in the late 80’s in china) by a mother with a very good taste, I’ve always had really cute clothes growing up even there wasn’t that much available back then. And I came to the States and went to high school and college, and loved to shop, mainly for clothes but also just pretty/cute things in general. I took 3 years of Art class in high school and cried once over the phone telling my mom how I wanted to switch from science to design after a bad chemistry mid-term in college. But I never did switch. Back then I didn’t know much about the world of interior design. So many years later, now in my late 20s, I really really want to get into interior design. Of course I have no real experience besides decorating my own home, but I am really happy with just how far I’ve come along with decorating my own home. I should have known I loved this when I would spend my college friday nights re-arranging furniture in my dorm room.… Read more »

9 years ago

I’m so encouraged by this post! I studied Illustration and graduated last year… And while I’ve always loved to draw, I wouldn’t say I grew up particularly cultured or that I was ever current on trends or pop culture… which, when I came to art school and met so many people who had seen all these films and read these plays and dressed fashionably and listened to music I had never heard of, I felt so intimidated. I have been blessed to have my share of successes, but this past year out of school has been challenging emotionally for a number of reasons… especially the struggle to fight off the fear that I simply wasn’t born with that extra special creative gene everyone else seems to have. I think the hardest thing with the Internet is learning to not compare yourself to others and seeing past the curated perfection of everyone’s facebooks, instagrams, blogs…etc. So…when a blogger like you is vulnerable about their own journey, it truly is an inspiring thing! Thank you so much.

9 years ago

This post is one of my favorites, I love the fact that you still have the book.

I think being in a creative industry is challenging at times… and you sometimes wonder to yourself ” What the hell am I doing”? Yes, we could have been nurses, or x-ray technicians .. but we really do have wonderful jobs. We get to use our creativity to solve problems, make peoples lives better and play with beautiful things all day. It may take a little longer to get your feet on the ground financially but I believe it is worth it! Also this made me laugh so hard that I cried ” I think I found a huge scrap of it at a thrift store and I’m pretty sure I just rubbed it against my face for years, like how a fat rich banker might with his piles of 100 dollar bills. “…

You’re a gem!

9 years ago

Emily, it is so refreshing to hear more about your story and background. I’ve been working in healthcare my whole adult life and making stuff on the side for years. I’m ready to start making a transition to a more creative field but have zero experience outside of home projects. I have been so intimidated to apply for jobs, even internships, because I don’t have much of a portfolio. Somehow I just landed an awesome DIY internship and I’m so excited to get some experience and create some cool stuff with some awesome women… Your story is definitely inspiring, thank you for sharing!