The September Issue
self-taught designers

12 Self-Taught Designers Finding Their Footing Through Social Media

Whether you’re a casual Instagram user or spend hours a day scrolling through the app, you understand the power that social media has in bringing people together. And this connectivity has also helped launch the design careers of a number of home decor influencers, many of whom never envisioned pursuing the field at all.

Below, 12 design Instagrammers share* how their experience with the app introduced them to a totally new industry—no formal degree required.

Rashida Banks

“Design has always been a part of me. When I was a child, I remember watching all of the OG HGTV shows, like Trading Spaces and While You Were Out, wishing I could be on the show. My mom would order me all of the decor catalogs so I could pick out new bedding every so often. I never thought design was something that was available to me, but then along came social media! I left my government job over four years ago to explore the possibilities of entrepreneurship and design. And I haven’t looked back since. One of the things that I enjoy most about this path is watching my audience gain the courage and the ideas to decorate their own spaces. My platform was created to show them how to be designers of their home. And it brings me great joy to see them living out the mission!” 

Chelsey Brown

“I was working a 9 to 5 job when I started my blog. I loved my career, but at the end of the day, I felt like it wasn’t giving me enough creative freedom. I was already decorating my friends' apartments at the time and obviously had a passion for interior decorating. I would watch TV shows, read books and magazines, and none of them had content about decorating small rental spaces. So, I decided to fill that niche and start City Chic Decor! I didn’t think anyone would actually read the blog, but a few years later I now have a book based on it!” 

Eureka Haney

“My first break in interior design started with a friend that saw my house and asked me to help her style hers. I owned a medical billing company at the time and really enjoyed switching my decor. So when she asked, I was more than happy to help. From there, word of mouth traveled and I started getting recommendations to do doctors’ offices and homes.

I gather my design inspo from nature. For me, decorating is a feeling. Colors of the season, wood tones, textures, and fabrics—all these elements give you a different feeling based on where they’re placed or how they’re used. I’m a huge spring and summer fan, so naturally I feel like some of the best inspo for my decor comes around this time.

I enjoy the self expression of creating a space.” 

Mallory Fletchall

“If you would have asked me just a few years ago if I could imagine myself in any sort of career having to do with either design or social media, I would have laughed—loudly. Now that I find myself in exactly that position, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. While I do not take on design work in any traditional capacity, I do share our home and the design processes I implement in my own spaces, which in turn, helps inspire my audience to discover and fine-tune their own interior style, or at least that’s always a hope of mine. 

My design path is far from traditional, and the foundation of it is social media. It’s a strange thing when I really think about it, but that social media foundation allowed me to see what’s possible when we connect with others via a shared love for interior design.” 

Erika Wasilewski

“I was a talk radio host for nearly 10 years here in Cleveland, Ohio. About five years ago, my health started to decline, and it took me a really long time to get a diagnosis of PoTS Syndrome.  Essentially, it causes dizziness, fainting episodes, headaches, and a litany of other symptoms.   While I was home on medical leave, I decided to start an Instagram home account just to pass the time and allow me to connect with other people with a shared passion for all things home and decorating! I really had no idea it would become a thing or a viable career for that matter until I started gaining a following pretty quickly and brands started reaching out to me to collaborate. 

I’m very fortunate to have such a supportive following of like-minded people who have also been my little cheerleaders with my health challenges as well. Many of my followers deal with their own health issues, and it’s wonderful to have this community of empathetic souls. I turned to design, DIY’s, and decorating when I really was at a low point in my life wondering if I’d ever work again or live any kind of quality life. Creating a beautiful home around me has helped me heal in so many ways, and being able to share the journey with others has been such a rewarding experience! Coming up with projects to work on and rooms to makeover has also kept me motivated and as active as I can be. I hope to improve my health a bit more in the future and continue to grow my home and lifestyle platform to bring accessible design to many.” 

Hattie Kolp

“I never planned to pursue a career in design or on Instagram; I didn’t even know I liked design! When I took over the lease to my childhood apartment in 2018, I quickly began making it my own by picking furniture, choosing new paint colors, and doing some small scale DIY projects. I started following a number of home decor accounts on Instagram for inspiration and quickly became obsessed. A few friends encouraged me to start my own design Instagram—I was hesitant, but finally at the beginning of 2020 I made my own, and my timing could not have been better! I began just by sharing my own projects and pictures of my apartment and found that sharing publicly was not only the best motivation for getting things done, but also I really enjoyed connecting with people and making new friends. Before too long I was getting DMs from people asking if I would do design for them, and I realized this was something I could make money off of. The rest is history!” 

Casey Finn

“I started The DIY Playbook back in 2013 as a side hobby from my day job as a television reporter and producer. At the time, I was a twenty-something without much money, and I was looking for inexpensive ways to make my apartments look a bit better. I instantly fell in love with DIY and thought a blog would be a fun way to share my recent projects with my family and friends back home in Chicago. As a journalist at my day job, I already knew I loved writing, so a blog on the side seemed like the perfect hobby. 

Well, the blog ended up taking off and it grew steadily over the last eight years. So much so that I was able to leave my job in television in 2017 to pursue The DIY Playbook full-time. I now spend my days documenting the renovation and design projects of our 100-year-old home here in Chicago, sharing it with readers all across the world. 

I’ve learned a lot over the past eight years and my style has definitely evolved (reading some of those early blog posts makes me cringe!). My favorite thing about my job is the community I’ve built of (mostly) women who are looking to personalize their own homes and maybe even tackle a few DIY projects. I think the home improvement industry can be really intimidating for some and I’m happy that I’ve helped women gain the confidence to tackle projects around the house all by themselves! 

Amanda Walker

“I was inspired to pursue a non-traditional design route because in the social media age, I was able to be directly inspired daily by talented designers and DIYers. During that time I was honing my craft, skills, and creativity through DIYing our builder grade 1980s home. 

I was already doing what I loved and had a major passion for it, but once I took the leap into content creating everything took off from there. I believe a big part of the reason I excelled is because the passion and inspiration was already focused in.

I love innovating new designs that are fresh and not within the rules and constraints of strict interior design. I’ve enjoyed the community aspect so much, as well as building new friendships also around DIYing and design!” 

Shelby Vanhoy

“Social media has helped guide me to find what I’m most passionate about, and while I feel like I’m far from reaching my end career goal, social media has certainly helped me realize the different design opportunities that exist to those interested in the field that were not an option even 10 years ago. It has also allowed me to make an income from sharing this passion online, although it was not necessarily my intention after graduating college. 

I went to school for biology but later discovered that I have interests outside of biology that are more fulfilling for me—I love helping others create a home that they love. After we bought our first house, my social media content shifted and I noticed a dramatic increase in interest from others decorating their homes. Our first house was not necessarily my first choice, but as we learned more and more customizable DIY options for our home, we discovered we could make any home something beautiful, even with a smaller budget. 

As life went on and out of state moves followed, I continued to share my passion for home decor, whether we were in a house in a suburb or an apartment in the city. No matter the size of the space, I was determined to create a home that felt good, and I could tell that others wanted the same for their homes.” 

Nicole Blackmon

“Becoming a mom and finding myself at home alone when my son was in school allowed me time to really delve into design more. I found social media to be the perfect outlet to share my passion for all things home. It connected me with others that loved design as well, and it’s just grown from there. I’m so thankful for all of those companies I’ve worked with and brands that I’ve been introduced to through this outlet!”

Anne Sage

“I majored in English in college and then spent six weeks at a masters program for interior design, but left because I hated all the technical aspects of interior design—measurements and numbers, blech! I just wanted to make things look pretty! Now, after spending almost 15 years writing about design and also styling and shooting interiors for online content creation, I’ve learned through experience what makes for a memorable and emotionally resonant space—and I put that learning to work for my clients. Oh, and ironically, these days I love the technical side of things most of all. You can never measure too many times, in my book!” 

Drew Scott

“I first started on YouTube as a menswear channel, which then evolved more into a DIY interior channel; however, the two audiences never crossed over. I enjoyed creating DIY content so much more and decided I would start a second channel just as a hobby/passion project. At the time, I was working part time at West Elm and started to really grow an interest and passion for interior design. Everyone told me to stick with my menswear channel and content. However, once my DIY interior channel started growing, I realized I really wanted to focus my time and energy on creating and evolving the Lone Fox brand. I soon began to profit and find more inspiration from that channel versus my menswear channel. My channel really took off during the pandemic because everyone was home, watching YouTube and updating their spaces. I reached 1 million subscribers in February!”

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

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