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 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 altogether.
She attended Villanova University, but she 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.
“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.
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.
From getting her first few clients off of 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.”
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