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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The 390-acre property has 2 miles of frontage on the Rogue River

By LIBERTINA BRANDT
Tue, Sep 27, 2022 8:47am 2 min

Former “Dallas” star Patrick Duffy is putting his roughly 390-acre Oregon ranch on the market for $14 million.

The property sits along the Rogue River outside the city of Medford in southern Oregon, according to Alan DeVries of Sotheby’s International Realty, who has the listing with colleague Matt Cook.

Mr. Duffy said he bought the first roughly 130 acres of the property in 1990 for roughly $1.5 million with his late wife, Carlyn Rosser. The couple spent roughly two decades and about $3 million buying surrounding properties when they went up for sale, said the actor, who has made the ranch his primary home since the early 2000s.

“My family always felt like we were stewards as opposed to owners,” said Mr. Duffy, 73. “We kept the boundaries sacred.”

Mr. Duffy said he first saw the property while fishing with a friend. The property contained a few structures, including what is now the main house, but was mostly wilderness, he said.

“It was pristine,” he said. “There was no paved road. There were some trails through the woods and about a mile—a little less than a mile—of river frontage.”

Mr. Duffy said he flew Ms. Rosser out to see the ranch, and they bought it. The main house has four bedrooms, and connects to a gallery where the couple displayed their art collection. They converted a caretaker’s cottage into a one-bedroom guesthouse with a loft. They also added a building that contains a hot tub overlooking the river, a structure for an indoor lap pool, and a wine cellar built into the side of a mountain, all within walking distance of each other.

As they purchased adjacent properties over the years, they acquired eight more houses and several pastures that are rented out to local ranchers. One of the homes was demolished, six are rented to tenants, and one is used as the ranch manager’s house, according to Mr. Duffy.

“We became a working ranch but not with our own animals,” he said. “It added the most beautiful, bucolic sense of the place.”

A homestead that dates back over 100 years still sits at the entrance to the property, he said. In it he found an old stove, which he restored and put in the main house. But the majority of the roughly 390 acres remains wilderness. The property now has approximately 2 miles of river frontage, according to Mr. DeVries.

For roughly a decade, Mr. Duffy and Ms. Rosser used the ranch as a family getaway from their primary home in Los Angeles. Then in the early 2000s, when their children went off to college, they decided to move there full time.

Ms. Rosser died in 2017, and Mr. Duffy said he plans to move full-time to either California or Colorado. He will keep a few parcels of land that aren’t attached to the main ranch, according to Mr. DeVries.

Mr. Duffy is well-known for his role as Bobby Ewing in the TV drama “Dallas,” which ran from 1978 to 1991. He also played Frank Lambert on the 1990s sitcom “Step By Step.” Today he runs an online sourdough business, called Duffy’s Dough, with his partner, Linda Purl.

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