How Online Interior-Design Classes Kicked Me Out Of My Décor Doldrums
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How Online Interior-Design Classes Kicked Me Out Of My Décor Doldrums

After two years of coming up with ways to make her house more livable during the pandemic, our décor columnist didn’t have any creative spark left.

By MICHELLE SLATALLA
Thu, Jun 23, 2022 4:08pmGrey Clock 4 min

I am not depressed. I swear. I have a very good reason for sitting here, watching TV in the middle of the day: I am trying to avoid thinking about my kitchen cabinets.

During the past two years—as I upgraded my home office, bought outdoor furniture and by the way became a binge-watcher with at least 11 Scandi-noir series under my belt—I failed to notice the most-used room of my house was getting used too much.

If I were to turn my head to look away from the screen, which I will not because Detective Wisting is examining a skeleton in a shallow, snowy grave, I would see an entire wall of built-in cupboards. Once, they were a lovely shade of charcoal. But now the colour has faded to ash, with paint worn away around the knobs, exposing the primer beneath.

Who wouldn’t be depressed?

There was a time when the challenge of a looming paint job would have sent me straight to the paint store for a billion swatches and tester pots. But after two years of focusing on practical ways to make my house more livable for the way life changed during the pandemic, I don’t have any creative spark left.

“How do I get out of this rut?” I asked my husband, who had just made popcorn in anticipation of countless hours in chilly Helsinki as Detective Nurmi tries to unmask a possibly corrupt and certainly venal real-estate development company.

“If only staring at a screen, being entertained, was the way to solve life’s problems,” he commiserated.

Wait. Maybe it is. Could I get some ideas from bingeing an online decorating class?

In fact, my friend Jennifer had recently binged—and raved about—a class that celebrity interior designer Kelly Wearstler launched in 2020 on MasterClass (where a $15-a-month subscription provides access to all 150 of the site’s classes).

It turns out there are many pay-as-you-go online crash courses aimed at amateur decorators like me—which go far beyond freebie YouTube channels offering bite-size house tours and questionable production values.

I could enroll in courses that ranged from practical—“How to Design a Room in 10 Easy Steps” ($13.99-a-month subscription at Skillshare)—to inspirational, featuring the British architectural historian Edward Bulmer taking you through his own home for “A Guide to Pigments, Paints and Palettes” (about $100 for 23 lessons at UK-based Create Academy). I even considered an $80 course in “Designing Your Home the Nordic Way” at Nordic Design Institute.

But out of loyalty to my kitchen, I wanted something practical. And the class had to be visually polished and highly entertaining—because after two years of binge-watching, I demand charismatic characters, strong plots and drop-dead backdrops.

Luckily, all the online courses offered free trailers, lesson-plan descriptions or teaser lessons. After bingeing the clips, I narrowed my options to courses at either Create Academy or MasterClass because they offered tantalizing glimpses of high-profile designers’ lives, homes and opinionated personalities.

“We try to create immersive experiences that are the closest thing to being with the person you are learning from,” said Olenka Lawrenson, the head of brand at Create Academy. “We want you to go into our instructors’ homes, have a cup of tea with them, go shopping together.”

At MasterClass, said Nekisa Cooper, vice president of content, “we try to find instructors who are the best in the world at their craft and then take you behind the scenes to see how they think and make decisions, as they give you practical instruction.” Ms. Cooper also said 75% of subscribers end up taking classes in categories—cooking, writing, music—other than the one that attracted them.

Among the MasterClass offerings: guitar with Carlos Santana, cooking with Yotam Ottolenghi, magicians’ tips from Penn & Teller.

“I’ve taken close to 100 myself,” she said.

“As a binger, I admit I am swayed by your all-you-can-watch subscription model,” I said. “I would rather take any one of those classes than actually confront my kitchen cabinet problem head-on.”

“I think you might like our new class with designer Corey Damen Jenkins,” Ms. Cooper said. “He teaches you hard skills. He helps people be courageous. He gets the creative juices flowing.”

Sold.

After subscribing, I devoured seven of Mr. Jenkins’s lessons in one sitting, learning that the Manhattan-based designer grew up in Michigan, where he tenaciously knocked on 779 neighbours’ doors to get his first client.

His lessons were addictive, and most under 10 minutes long, featuring an energetic and charismatic Mr. Jenkins leading a walk-through of a jewel-toned living room he recently designed, or expertly wielding a glue gun to create a colour board of fabric, rug and paint swatches. “Put large dollops of glue,” he said, adding, “This takes practice. I’ve been doing this since 1996.”

Did the lessons restore my creative spark? I’m not sure, because the next day I couldn’t really remember any of Mr. Jenkins’s specific tips.

“Why is this not working for me? I love watching the classes, but I’m not retaining any useful information,” I said to Alejandro Lleres, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign whose research focuses on the best ways to learn new material.

“You’re bingeing,” said Prof. Lleres. “One thing that happens with binge-watching a TV show is that sometimes six months later you’ve forgotten everything.”

“True, I can barely describe the plot of any Scandi-noir series. I think in one of them a body got cut in half on a bridge,” I said.

“Think about shows in the past where you had to wait for the next episode,” he said. “Between episodes you spent time thinking and remembering, and now you probably remember them better.”

He advised me to pace myself: “If there are any exercises, do them. That will help.”

The next day, I re-watched a lesson on coordinating color. It was just as interesting the second time around—and this time I took notes.

“Have you learned anything?” my husband asked.

“Paint colour is the last element you should pick in a room because it ‘locks you into a visual vernacular,’” I said, reading from my notes. “I’m pretty excited, though.”

“About paint?” he asked.

“And about enrolling in that Nordic design class as soon as I get back from the paint store,” I said.



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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

MOST POPULAR
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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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