Over my years of speaking and writing about design and beautiful living I've been repeatedly asked the question “Are you born with design talent or can it be learned?” I've never shy about my belief that the stellar talents who light up the world of design are gifted with natural talents that have been honed, much like an athlete's, to a high level of precision and expertise. This does not diminish the role that education, in its many forms, plays but it also turns a spotlight on natural gifts and abilities and their undeniable place in the equation.
Dismiss training, whether it be in a college level classroom or an apprenticeship to an established master, would be foolish. While there are those who possess natural gifts in the areas of design those who excel in the profession are those who couple their natural talents with a focused and systematic system of learning. These are the designers who rise to the top of the profession, who set trends and which work we see regularly in print. To pull natural talent from the equation is disingenuous and ignores the perfection of skill sets over time and repetition. The analogy of an athlete perfectly illustrates this point. Whatever natural talents exist, no athlete will rise to the top of their discipline without careful and consistent training. And even those with less natural talents will benefit from such careful and consistent training and become incrementally better athletes than had they dodged the training.
Where does this leads us, in a conversation about training your creative mind to create a more beautiful home for your family and friends? I think it makes the case for the amateur decorator (those possessed of a love for design and decoration but who does not pursue it professionally) to weave into their life opportunities to train their mind and aesthetic muscles at every possible opportunity. And there are many opportunities that present themselves regularly to those hungry to better their design skills:
1. Travel – Nothing can beat actually experiencing important interiors personally wherever they are located in museums, historic or private homes. Sketch, photograph, write descriptions and absorb the essence of these often remarkable environments and by so doing hone your eye and aesthetic sensitivity.
2. Read – Books, print publications and online resources offer a wide array of important text and images for the hungry student of design. Dig deep and you will be rewarded with knowledge, insights and exposure to environments you'd otherwise never cross paths with.
3. Attend – Local, regional and national organizations (Royal Oaks Society, Institute of Classical Architecture … etc.) offer opportunities for lectures and other events that expose attendees to the rich and deep subject of design and decoration.