10 Questions with Interior Designer Lynn Dayton
A successful chef turned interior designer and store owner, Lynn Dayton has approached every venture with passion and imagination. The entrepreneur and mother of two talked to us about her Wellesley store, her interesting career path, and why giving back is so important.
1. You used to be in the culinary arts. What inspired your career in food and why the change to interior design?
I’m a professional chef. I studied classical French construction of food for years and worked in San Francisco. From that, I got into event planning and got to be very creative and inventive. And that was a lot of fun to do the events considering not only the food but the design as well. I think the culinary career was inspired because I don’t remember a time that I didn’t love food. I grew up in northern California in an abundance of creativity. I started in the economics field in accounting software, and I was never as satisfied as I was with cooking. So, I decided to take a leap of faith and make it a career. And how I got into decorating from that—that was kind of a natural transition. I think when you really care about how things look and your home is important to you, it’s a natural progression to apply creativity to your own space.
2. How has your background in the culinary arts helped your design career?
I think in one particular way it’s helped by having to create something with what you’re given. Cooking with ingredients that are in-season or local is a lot like working with a client that comes to me and says, “I love this sofa” or “this is a family heirloom.” And you have to be sure that item is a focus or huge part the product at the end of the day.
3. So, after living in San Francisco for many years, why Boston for your home and your store, Dayton Home?
What brought me to Boston was my pursuit of food. I was accepted to Boston University for my Masters in the Gastronomy Program, which was essentially the history of food. There was a lot of sociology and social anthropology to food—why people eat the way they do, why food looks the way it does. It fascinated me. And at that point I was pursuing a writing career. I was very fortunate and got in touch with someone from The Boston Globe and did some writing for them, some original recipe development and some food styling. I was newly married when we moved here, so we bought a house and settled in. Then we had two children here, which just really cements you to an area. I love it here, and I wouldn’t dream of opening the store anywhere else.
4. What inspired you to create Dayton Home?
I wanted to see the kind of store that I wanted to find, which was a place I could find more when shopping for décor in my home. When I was a do-it-yourself interior designer, I felt the merchandise was so limited and ubiquitous in style. And then, when I was working with designers, I would go on buying trips to design centers and the world just exploded open with choice. And I thought, why can’t I get these? I thought, wouldn’t it be great to see some of these brands when you walk into a store? So that was really the catalyst: to build a store that brought things to the curb if you will.
5. How would you describe your personal design style?
My style would be considered really transitional. I really favor the very classic styles, but I look forward to trends and transitional elements. I like starting with the classical elements and adding the elements that make it personal.
6. What tips do you have for someone trying to attain a similar style: mixing classic with trendy?
Sometimes people decorate by jury. They ask too many opinions then they can’t decide. Sit down, and ask yourself “what do I really love? What speaks to me?” Don’t be afraid to mix it up. There are no rules in decorating anymore. At the end of the day, it’s what speaks to you and what works.
7. You are very dedicated to giving back. What inspired your philanthropy?
I think it’s my passion for storytelling—it’s an important aspect of life for me. I love documentaries, and I loved cooking shows when I was a chef. And all the content I loved particularly was always driven by public television. That’s been one of my great passions in philanthropy, driving that ability to have that how-to content available to people and documenting history. And in WGBH’s case, it’s like listening to a documentary without the pictures. And my other great passion is animals. In Boston, I looked into MSPCA, which is an amazing institution that does incredible animal research and focuses on the human connection and the gift animals bring to our life. And I love the people that I meet and the stories I hear over there.
8. As a mother of two, what tips do you have for moms designing with kids in mind?
They are so fortunate to shop now. There are so many fabrics that are washable. They don’t have to sacrifice comfort or design for wash-and-wear. They need to go with what inspires them. The best thing they can do is think about how they use a space. Someone might say they want to design a kitchen and family room, and in discussion, you realize they eat more in the family room, so that needs to be taken into consideration. Another thing, for a mom decorating with children, is they should go more traditional with bigger pieces like a sofa that will see them through transitions as a family.
9. What is the most difficult part of your career?
Getting clients to trust themselves. It’s not a life-altering decision. Just go try it!
10. What’s up next for you?
I look forward to buying for the store. The next step is to start buying internationally, see what amazing things I can bring back to Wellesley. I’m thinking Spain, Portugal, and France. France embraces so many styles—things there have age and a story. Spain and Portugal have lots of elements that are not as integrated into design here as they could be. They use color a different way. It’s always exciting for any artist to see that.
Check out more of Lynn Dayton’s work below: