How I Taught Myself To Become A Home Expert

How Lonny's Editor went from design novice to pro.

Editor Shelby Wax's bedroom in San Francisco. 
Editor Shelby Wax's bedroom in San Francisco. 
Photographed by Ana Kamin.

If you have read any story on Lonny in the past three years, there’s a high probability that it either was something I wrote or edited. I have given design tips, featured cool creatives, and highlighted beautiful homes on the daily — well, minus weekends —for quite a while now. Interiors are a major part of my life, and my career is based on inspiring readers with beautiful spaces. I’m constantly asked if I studied design or worked as a designer before taking the job, but the answer is actually quite the opposite. When I interviewed for my first role of Associate Editor, I was honest. I had no major experience in design outside decorating my own bedroom.

One thing I love about journalism is it is a job where you are always learning. You do research on a particular subject and interview experts so you can become one yourself. Then you take a turn and teach your readers. So while I didn’t have a design background, I did know how to learn and how to write. I knew when I took on the job at Lonny, I was going to have to get an education in design.

The first few months, it definitely took me a bit to attune my eye. I did a lot of googling to teach myself terms like wainscoting (which, who knew, is actually pronounced wayne-skitting) and design movements like Memphis. Every time I interviewed someone for tips, I saw that conversation as an opportunity to learn more about how to properly style a home. I also loved having my amazing team to give me direction when choosing decor items to feature or to share creatives I needed to follow.

But the best education of all was constantly looking at photographs of beautiful spaces. If you are in the presence of good design, you can find new details to appreciate, recognize how pieces work together to create a visual experience, and figure out your own taste. From the homes we originally shot to what we curated on our Instagram feed, I was downloading a database full of aesthetic inspiration into my memory.

Now, I feel quite confident that I am an very well-versed person in the world of design. I can easily make references to interior trends over the years, provide informed tips to readers, and know nuances between styles. I love my new knowledge because we are always engaging with design. From your own home to the restaurants, offices, and stores you enter every day, there was always some sort of thought that went behind the creation of that space. It's fun to look at these places as a whole, but also with a more informed perspective. And while I still may ask for some advice before pulling off a major renovation on my own, I could definitely ideate a vision for what I would love to create. 

So that’s how I became a “design expert” without ever having to go to school. I got an education on my own — immersing myself in the imagery, engaging with creatives on social media, and reading advice from the pros. Sure, my job warranted me going on this deep dive. But if you are interested in brushing up your skills, you can easily do it yourself. As much as design has a language and history, it really is a personal experience and curation of what you love.

As Lonny's Editor, you can find me writing about interior tips, scouting out the coolest new spots, and rallying behind amazing female entrepreneurs. You can reach me at shelby.wax@livingly.com or on Instagram @shelbywax.
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