Lynn Byrne is an expert in decorative arts and design history, who also has written extensively about art, travel, and interior design. She studied decorative arts at Parsons and is well-known for her popular Design Dictionary that explains design terms and themes found throughout history. Her award-winning blog is a staple in the art, architecture, and interior design fields.
The Back Story
I have always been a dreamer. I was the little kid whose mother begged her to put down her book on a beautiful summer day and go outside and play. I would take my book and climb a tree in the backyard to continue reading. As a child, I was shy and quiet. That might surprise people who meet me in real life today, because over the years, I have learned to be outgoing.
Neither of my parents, nor any of my aunts and uncles, went to college. It was all about the kids. Getting a good education was paramount. Without exception, my siblings and cousins are professionals: lawyers; doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, successful businessmen. You get the picture.
In my family, college wasn’t something you automatically did after high school. You went to college with a plan: to learn what you needed to get a good job afterwards. Period. So what was my plan? After I read To Kill a Mockingbird as a young teenager, I decided I wanted to be an attorney.
That meant when I walked on my college campus on the very first day, I knew I was going to be a political science major and go to law school. Undecided? Forget about it. Plus, I needed to keep getting straight A’s so I could get a scholarship to help pay for my education. Yes there was pressure.
I learned that I loved looking at art in high school. I had a wonderful French teacher who introduced me to the Impressionists and other artistic movements. But that was an aside. In my parents’ opinion, interest in art did not lead to a job.
Once in college, I took an art history elective and fell in love. I wanted to change my poli sci major but my parents quickly squashed that idea. How would I ever get a job majoring in art history, they asked, reminding me that I needed to pay back my mounting student loans. Art can be a hobby they advised. Read books. Go to museums.
And so I did.
Going to museums was what I did for fun, even in my late teens and early 20’s. I always bought the audio tour and got lost in whatever exhibiton I attended. When I could afford it, I bought the accompanying catalogs. I dreamed that, hey, maybe after law school I could become General Counsel of the Met. (Turns out I came fairly close to that dream).
I graduated from law school and started my legal career as corporate attorney at a Wall Street firm. When it came time to furnish my first apartment, my older brother taught me that buying country antiques can be cheaper than Ikea (at least back then). I wouldn’t have “throw away” furniture, but things that could increase in value. I added decorative arts to my list of interests, reading up on all types of furniture and design.
Three years in at my Wall Street firm, a colleague recruited me for my dream job. I took a huge pay cut to work as a corporate attorney at the art auction house, Sotheby’s and it was so worth it. Sotheby’s wasn’t the Met, but it was damn close.
I loved working at Sotheby’s. The legal matters were fascinating. Even better I was surrounded by beautiful art and antiques everyday. I had a front row seat in the top echelon of the international art and antiques scene and it was fabulous. We were encouraged to look and learn at Sotheby’s; it was part of the corporate DNA.
Fast forward a few years, and while I retained my passion for art and antiques, I picked up a few new passions–like a husband and three young boys (2 are twins). I tried life as a working mother. I was employed part time at Sotheby’s for a few years and worked there until the twins were one.
Sotheby’s eventually wanted more time and I couldn’t give it to them. With 3 kids under the age of 3, it was too much for me. I decided to stay home full time. I embraced everything about making a loving home: cooking for my family, creating special celebrations and designing a comfortable abode. More new passions.
How to wrap this up? Many of you already know our house burned down and that rebuilding it led to my second career in interior design, and third career as a design writer. That house landed on the cover of This Old House magazine.
What you may not know is that I began studying interior design at Parsons just for fun, years before I ever dreamed of being a designer. I finally got to indulge my passions and I loved my classes in architecture and decorative arts most of all.
Shortly after dropping our twins to college, my husband and I sold that career-changing home and moved to New York City. We now split our time between NYC and Montauk. I adore living in the middle of the city’s cultural milieu and cherish the nature and family time in Montauk.
I continue to pursue all of my passions and I enjoy sharing them here with you. I write this blog for fun! If you read it, you know how much I love going to museums, how I am a design book addict, and I how you can’t drag me away from a good antique show. Now you know how I came to love those things.
Thanks for reading.