Meet Lauren Nolan-Sellers, a local teacher turned interior decorator with 31,000 Facebook followers.
• On quitting her steady job: “I feel like anybody who’s really made an impact on the world has done it scared. They’ve done it not knowing. They’ve done it without certainty."
• Struck by inspiration: “I want to walk into a house and be punched by a million ideas.”
When Lauren Nolan-Sellers left her teaching job in Philadelphia in 2012 to pursue her passion for interior decorating — with no training and no plan — she experienced a bit of a moral crisis.
“Honestly, sometimes I’d be like, ‘There’s starving children and I’m worried about a throw pillow,’ ” she said.
But what Nolan-Sellers learned is that changing the space where people live can sometimes change their lives. And understanding that changed her own life.
Nolan-Sellers, 41, grew up in Yardley with two biological brothers, six adopted sisters, and, at any given time, three or four foster siblings. She estimates her parents fostered more than 100 children.
“We’d have a running joke, ‘Is that someone’s friend or is that our new brother?’ because my parents never differentiated,” she said. “So what I thought was a fairly typical childhood, I guess wasn’t.”
Nolan-Sellers attended Villanova University on a soccer scholarship and became captain of the women’s soccer team, but struggled to figure out what she wanted to do after graduation.
Unsure, she decided to get her master’s degree in education and taught grade school in Philadelphia for about seven years. She didn’t love it.
What she did love was her wife, Wendy, and the renovation process they went through together as novices on their first house, in Norristown.
No matter that most of their knowledge came from HGTV or that they had to borrow tools from neighbors to get the job done. The project was the most fun Nolan-Sellers had ever had.
“I could not shake the feeling of, ‘I love this,’” she said. “But I was still scared. I had a steady paycheck.”
So Nolan-Sellers stayed the course, continuing to teach and taking small decorating projects on the side. Then, she and Wendy decided to start a family.
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The couple decided Nolan-Sellers would carry first, but a medical pre-check revealed she had a 10-centimeter cyst on her ovary and stage-four endometriosis. She had to undergo multiple surgeries before becoming pregnant.
Then, during delivery, she went into kidney failure.
“They didn’t know if I was going to make it or if she [the baby] would make it,” Nolan-Sellers said.
After mother and child — Kamryn, now 7 — made it through healthy, Nolan-Sellers wasn’t so worried anymore about that steady paycheck. With the support of her wife, she decided to pursue her dream of becoming an interior decorator.
“I had this life-changing epiphany. It was like, ‘You almost died,'" she said. “So I called the principal and was like, ‘I’m not coming back,’ and I hung up the phone and said, ‘What did I just do?’”
Nolan-Sellers took several online decorating courses to give her the foundation she needed to back up her design instincts. Wendy took over behind the scenes.
Nolan-Sellers knew she’d have to compete against candidates with more formal educations if she tried to join an existing firm, so she decided to start her own, which she named Trust the Vision Decor.
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“The name came because clients would come in halfway through projects and they’d be like, ‘What’s going on? You’re destroying my house!' and I’d be like, ‘Trust the vision, it’s going to be OK,’” she said.
From getting her first few clients off Craigslist to decorating for such local notables as former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, Nolan-Sellers has designed the career of her dreams, and she’s seen it make a difference in the lives of others.
“I didn’t expect the way that we could change our clients’ lives,” she said. “I didn’t expect that because someone is now proud of their dining room, they decide to host their family they haven’t seen in 15 years.”
In addition to her business, based in her South Jersey home, Nolan-Sellers also runs an online Aspiring Designers Academy and a Facebook page with more than 31,000 followers where she shares decorating tips and answers questions.
Two years ago her wife gave birth to the couple’s second child, Kaleb, and the family recently renovated their new house in Turnersville into a home.
“What makes a house a home is the dwellers of that space seeing themselves reflected there,” she said. “It’s not tables. It’s not chairs. It is, when I walk in I feel like this space is mine. It is a part of me and I am reflected in it.”
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