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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, 2022Grey 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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In the year to May, an additional 497 markets joined the million-dollar club.

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Tue, Jun 28, 2022 2 min

A record number of Australians spent $1 million or more to purchase a home in the past 12 months according to CoreLogic’s annual Million Dollar Markets report.

Over the year to March 2022, CoreLogic collected 596,733 sales nationally up 19.8% from the 497,923 recorded over the previous year. Of those sold this year, 23.8% sold for $1 million or more.

In the year to May, an additional 497 markets 450 houses and 37 unit markets) joined the million-dollar club bringing the total markets to 1367 or 30.4% of house and unit markets analysed in May to a median value of $1 million or more.

“High consumer sentiment, tight advertised supply, and low-interest rates fuelled strong home value growth throughout 2021, resulting in a new record high annual growth rate of 22.4% over the 12 months to January,” said CoreLogic Research Analyst Kaytlin Ezzy.

“Despite values having risen across all capital cities and rest of state areas annually, we have seen a divergence in growth conditions across markets over the year to date.

“Since January, dwelling values across Sydney and Melbourne have started to decline, while values have continued to rise across South Australia and Queensland. More recently, Canberra, which had previously recorded many months of consecutive growth, recorded its first falls in dwelling values in some years in May.”

Sydney suburbs made up 26.3% of the new million-dollar markets with more than half of all Sydney sales over the 123 months to May transacting at or above $1 million.

In Sydney, 448 house and 104 unit markets have a current median value of $1 million dollars or higher, an increase of 26.6% from the previous year.  The new million-dollar markets are largely concentrated in the city’s South West (30) and Outer South West (15) as well as the Central Coast region (20).

In the year to May, 51.9% of transactions in Sydney sold for $1 million or more. Bellevue Hill in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs is the most expensive house market, both across Sydney and nationally, with a current median value of $8,024,682.

Elsewhere, in Melbourne 212 house and 11 unit markets had a median value at or above $1 million in May majority of which are located in Melbourne’s Inner (39), Inner South (42), Inner East (30) and Outer East (30).

30 metres of water frontage across a 1733sqm block.

By Kanebridge News
Fri, Jun 24, 2022 < 1 min

With views up the coastline to the NSW central coast comes this magnificent double oceanfront block — a rare setting for the ultimate family holiday retreat.

Boasting level lawns that spill down to 30-metre of ocean frontage, the 1733sqm plot plays host to a three-level 5-bedroom, 4-bathroom, 2-car garage home in one of Whale Beach’s most tightly held cul-de-sacs.

A contemporary masterclass in style, the home showcases free-flowing spaces with glass-wrapped interiors in a layout that accommodates family and friends.

Within the main living spaces comes a state-of-the-art kitchen with Calacatta marble and stainless-steel benchtops accompanied by a full suite of Gaggenau appliances and a separate walk-in cool room.

Other living zones found on the ground level include a games room and sun-drenched terrace with its own Miele appointed kitchen.

Outside sees a 15-metre resort style pool to soak up the sun and watery views, while the poolside studio is fully self-contained and perfect for extra weekend guests.

Accommodation is comprised of three luxurious ensuite bedrooms — of which several open directly to the terraces. The master bedroom has access to the home office, large walk-in-robe and cellar or store room.

Further luxurious additions to the home include a gym, jacuzzi, pizza oven, BBQ and Ecosmart fireplace.

The listing is with LJ Hooker Palm Beach’s David Edwards 0415 440 044 with the POA. palmbeach.ljhooker.com.au

It comes as falling volumes and declining prices reflected a weakness likely to continue in the established homes market.

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Wed, Jun 22, 2022 < 1 min

The nation’s housing sales fell by $8 billion in the three months to March when compared to the previous quarter according to data provider CoreLogic’s quarterly Pain & Gain report.

It comes as falling volumes and declining prices reflected a weakness likely to continue in the established homes market.

The fall in nominal profits from $38 billion in December echoed the decline in loss-making sales to $261 million from $355 million. Declines in housing values only kicked in after the March quarter, with the extent of loss-making sales predicted to increase.

CoreLogic’s analysis of 106,000 establish home sales in the March quarter showed the proportion of profit-making sales fell to 92.7% from the December quarter’s 94% peak figure.

The March quarter saw the first time profitable housing sales fell in a year and a half — unit profitability declining faster than houses.

The pandemic was the last cause of such a decline, in the three months to August 2020.

The major markets of Sydney and Melbourne are the cities most at risk due to higher interest rates, and therefore made the biggest contribution to loss-making sales over the quarter — the rate of unprofitable sales in both cities rising to 4.8%.

 Hobart was the city with the highest proportion of profit-making sales for the 15th straight quarter. Just 1 per cent of the Tasmanian capital’s sales made a loss in the March quarter, down from 1.6 per cent in December. 

Further the report fleshes out the different pace of growth between houses and apartments that has made units more affordable into the March quarter. Between the onset of Covid-19 in March 20202 and this year’s March quarter, combined capital city house values rose 25.8% compared to units at 10.6%.