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Darien Decorator Turns Hobby into a Career

If you’ve ever wondered if you could make the transition from decorating your own home to being a professional decorator, talk to Carey Karlan . She’s done it, and she couldn’t be happier.

“Decorating used to be a hobby,” she says. “I was forever experimenting in my home.” Her day job, before children, was selling TV advertising in New York, managing an $18 million budget. In her spare time, she took classes at the New York School of Interior Design and devoured design magazines. With two children and needing more space, the family moved to Darien, Carey’s hometown, where Carey set about decorating the new home. “I glazed the walls,” she says, “I stenciled the walls. I was forever changing things.” Life was good until two events rocked her life. First, she had triplets and found herself with five small children. Then her husband left.

“I couldn’t go back to work in New York with all the children,” she says, but she had to find work. She started sewing curtains to make some money. She worked on the decorating committees for charity events in town. Then she found a job in New Canaan at the now defunct Persnickety. By the time the design store closed eight years later, Carey had built up a roster of regular customers. “I decided it was time to go out on my own,” she says.

The triplets have a year of college left, and during the intervening years, Carey has built a loyal clientele. Until two years ago, business came from word of mouth, but the economic slump changed all that. “I’m not computer savvy,” she says, ”but now I have a website with professional photos.” Carey’s work was recently published in New England Home. She made it to the magazine’s “A-list” and won an award. “It’s exciting to be my age and still going strong,” says Carey. “Decorating isn’t a hobby any more. It’s a serious undertaking.”

If you’d like to see Carey Karlan’s work , take a trip to Bedford Corners, New York. Carey is a featured designer at the 2nd Designer Showhouse of Westchester benefiting Cerebral Palsy of Westchester. The showhouse runs through Sunday June 12. Showhouse hours are Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's closed on Mondays. Admission for the Showhouse is $30 and includes a Showhouse Journal.

Have you ever helped a friend decorate his/her house? Has Carey's story inspired you to take the next step and become a professional decorator? I'd love to hear from you.

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