I love decorating my home, and especially this year for the holidays I’ve really gotten into it. Since mid-November, I’ve been searching for pieces that can make my apartment feel more festive, be it pinecones, garland or mini Christmas trees.
So I was very excited to chat with Sean Kelly, interior designer and founder of Styled by Sean, a full-service interior design company, that combines creativity, passion and expertise to take clients from clutter to clarity. Styled by Sean provides not only interior design for its clients, but offers turn-key moving solutions, home organization, personal styling, and holiday and event decorating. With a team of talented designers and organizers, each client is treated as individual and unique, and all solutions are customized for each project. Styled by Sean works with individuals, families, real estate developers, vacation homeowners, and even owners of Airbnb’s to create unique home décor solutions.
Sean is a Philadelphia native and Temple University graduate, who has worked coast to coast in executive management and interior design. He began his career working with a variety of celebrities and costume designers, assisting on network television shows and home style and organization. Sean was recently featured on PHL17 (you can catch his segment here) where he spoke about holiday décor, which is some of what we’ll cover today.
Keep on reading for our interview and for some holiday decorating tips!
To start off, how did you begin a career in interior design? I feel like it’s a career many people are interested in having, but don’t know where to begin.
I always had a sense of interior design since I grew up with my grandma, who was always changing the house.
My career actually started out wanting to be in entertainment. I went out to LA where I was an entertainment broadcaster. I thought that’s the direction I wanted to go in, but it just wasn’t for me. I stayed in LA after college and when into costume designing, which was very creative but was very time-consuming. I really liked the fact that I had control over like a whole production – I just didn’t like the entertainment aspect.
So I knew I really didn’t want to be in entertainment anymore, at least in that not that direction, so I moved forward and did a complete 180. I became a personal assistant to a high net-worth individual and was managing multi-million dollar estates. That process was so fascinating to me because I felt like that was my calling, it was all kind of making sense. I did that for about four years, and thought that if I could do this for a person at this caliber, why can’t I do it as a business? I just went straight for it.
Pretty soon there a family friend of mine whose entire home I did, she really trusted me on that. Her referral turned into ten other referrals, and those turned into 30. Now I have good contractors, developers and everything turned into a well-structured business. In my 20s, I did whatever it took to get everything to where I can work for myself.
Is there a certain piece or home décor item that really had you excited to begin a project?
A lot of what I do in a room is centered around one piece. I’ll go into a store, it could be a mom-and-pop shop, it could be literally anywhere, and I’ll see something I like. I once found this breakfast tray which I put it at the end of a bed, so I made the whole bedroom design around this tray. It had black stripes and neutrals, and I felt the vibe from that tray and went with it – from the comforter, to the rug, to the curtains, to the wall art. Everything made sense from that little tray.
With my clients, I get to know them and their personality. Tell me what you like, what you don’t like, what are you doing on the weekends. I would say telling me what you don’t like is more important than what you do like, because then I can make something really individualized for you.
For those of us who don’t live in multi-million dollar estates and live in apartments, sometimes we feel, “What’s even the point in decorating for the holidays?”. What would you recommend to people who live in smaller spaces on how they can utilize their space for holiday décor?
You have but a month to six weeks out of the year that you can really bring in these festive things that bring you joy. So I really think like the importance of it isn’t the materialistic part of it – it’s just that you walk in and it’s a little bit of change that brings you happiness. Cost-wise, you really don’t need to buy all new things, just incorporate the rest of your house and your style into your decorating. When I walk into a holiday party and I see that people put in some effort, that party’s mood is elevated. You feel even more welcome, and you can feel that there’s love.
I can’t stress this enough to my clients – they feel like they’re in this box of, “I have to decorate red and green” because that’s what was seen in a magazine. I feel like a lot of people don’t know that there aren’t rules in interior design. There are maybe standards that people have, but there are really no rules. Make it your own, and with small spaces you just got to be creative! If you can’t have a huge tree, put a tree on a tabletop! And a tablescape allows for beautiful personalization and gives your table a moment to shine. It tells a story and will always bring you back to the event. Don’t feel like you have like do something out of the box – do what will make you feel happy.
Any other advice for styling your home?
When I was living in LA, I also would organize celebrities closets. I feel like organization is incorporated so much into interior design, and when re-decorating your home, that’s the first place you should start. When you walk into a messy house, it’s very hard for anyone to visualize what can be done in this space. I have a highly-trained team that does all the organizing – they will walk into a space and organized everything. I feel like it’s such a sense of relief for my clients.
Finally, describe your personal style in three words.
Minimalistic, eccentric and contrast.
Here are some more of Sean’s holiday decorating tips:
- Choose a theme to carry throughout the home. Make it something personal – it can be floral, a hobby, hometown, etc.
- Seek out unexpected objects – personal items that mean something – photos in picture frames, personalized plates, wooden toys or signs.
- Focus on likes, dislikes and traditions. If football is a favorite at Thanksgiving time, try putting a football on a pedestal in the center of the table and work around it as a focal point.
- Reuse, recycle, restore. Use items already at home that could have multi-purposes and create uniqueness. Home and holiday furnishings, which includes decorations, ranked 5th in list of planned holiday expenditures, according to Statista, one of the world’s leading business data platforms.
- Work room by room. Don’t spread out the decorations. Focus on one area then move on to the next.
- Keep it interesting! Try to add at least one new aspect each year and switch it up. Décor does not need to look the same year after year.
- Think outside the box with the Christmas tree! Use one object as a focal point – either a ribbon or large ornament. Start at the front and center first and work around from there. Get creative with the tree topper and bottom!
About Styled by Sean:
Styled by Sean is a full-service interior design company that provides a turn-key moving organization service. With a team of talented designers and organizers, each client’s projects are customized. The main goal at Styled by Sean is to take life from clutter to clarity. Whether packing for a big move, reorganizing a space or looking to spruce up a home or office, Styled by Sean has the perfect solution. They offer unique services and full packages that can get every space where it needs to be. Styled by Sean works with individuals, families, real estate developers, vacation homeowners, owners of Airbnb’s and even children of senior parents moving parents into senior living communities. In other words – anyone who needs a moving solution and/or design. In addition, clients who only need organizational support will find Styled by Sean a great resource.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity