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Trendsetters at Work, House Beautiful Magazine

Jennifer Cooper. E! Entertainment

As the editor in chief of House Beautiful, Sophie Donelson knows a thing or two about making her dreams a reality. In fact, the seasoned writer has been working in journalism since high school, where she interned at her local town paper. To hear her thoughts on getting ahead, taking career risks and the importance of splurging on home décor, keep reading! 

What was your first job?
At age 12 or 13 I worked on a blueberry farm in rural Massachusetts where I grew up. I had to pick the leaves and branches off the tiny, wild blueberries. The farm's owners used to correct my English as we chatted to pass the time. That summer broke me of my tween habit of saying "like".

How did you get started in your career?
I went to school at Emerson College in Boston and used to pitch my old journalism assignments to local papers. But even before then, in high school, I interned at the town paper.

How did you first get started in journalism? And when were you first inspired by home décor and interior design?
My first job at Hamptons Cottages & Gardens opened my eyes to the interior design world. I grew up in a creative household with a mum who was constantly tinkering with furniture arrangements, hanging art and painting walls, but my introduction to the professional side was through work.

Trendsetters at Work, House Beautiful Magazine

Jennifer Cooper. E! Entertainment

What is a typical day like for you?
There are no typical days! Some days I'm in LA or Atlanta speaking at a design industry event, visiting showrooms, attending parties and meeting with the area's writers and bloggers. When I'm in the office, I'm typically in back-to-back meetings from 8:30 a.m. through 8 p.m. approving layouts, hearing story pitches from editors or discussing upcoming editorial plans with the business side.

Tell us about your office décor. When did you last give your office a makeover?
I just completed an office makeover. I just had my friends at Kate Spade New York help me revamp my office and its 100% #girlboss now. I don't live with pink at home, so it's truly fun to walk into a sparkly, flowery and happily pink space every morning. The brass details on the lamp and Designers Guild wallpaper go with the knickknacks like vintage paperweights and old gilt mirrors.

What's the best part about your job?
Receiving flowers and scented candles regularly. It's like being courted, I love it! Just kidding. Honestly, the people. Decorators, writers, photographers, fabric and furniture designers and the patrons of the industry; they're a wildly-creative and inspired bunch and friendly to boot.

What tips do you have for someone decorating their first apartment/home?
Concentrate on finishing and loving the room or nook that gets the most use. If it feels like you only sleep at your home, then splurge on linens and find a toothbrush holder and waste bin that you love. When in doubt, spend a little money on your mattress, sheets and top-of-bed blanket or duvet. It's always worthwhile.

Trendsetters at Work, House Beautiful Magazine

Jennifer Cooper. E! Entertainment

What interior design trends do you see picking up for 2016?
Quieter, nuanced color. (And yes, I write this all the while having a fuchsia office!) I've been seeing a trend away from bold color and toward layers of pale color–not just neutrals. Think shells and sea glass. With pretty, subdued shades, you can actually use a lot of color and maintain sophistication.

Where are you favorite places to shop for home goods?
I love the hunt, so, put me at an antiques or vintage shop and I'm happy. I also love boutiques where you really understand the shop owner's point of view. Nathan Turner's LA shop is a favorite!

What's the most daring career risk you've ever taken?
The two times that I left a job to freelance. Not only was it fun, I made friends, connections and learned a lot about my personal work style.

Who are some of your career heroes?
Lately I've been admiring how Charlotte Moss has built and evolved her company as the leader of a design firm, an author and a philanthropist. She lives it. She hosts, gives great gifts and is a compassionate friend and community member.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Don't kiss up, kiss down. I.e. your assistant may very well be your boss one day.

Trendsetters at Work, House Beautiful Magazine

Jennifer Cooper. E! Entertainment

Finish the sentences below:
Today for lunch I had… a giant salad with tofu, kale, poblano peppers, black beans and spicy Caesar dressing. I also had a diet Dr. Pepper and a few squares of Vosges Bapchi's Caramel Toffee bar.
The first website I log onto every day is… housebeautiful.com to see what my editors are up to. But I'm usually on Instagram as soon as I wake up.
My usual Starbucks order is… hot hazelnut coffee, splash of milk no sugar – but at my local coffee shop, not Starbucks.
If I wasn't doing this job, I would… not be as challenged or as happy.
My favorite room in my house/apartment is… my sunny, pale-peach dining room.
List five things that are on your desk right now… pink markers and pens, a zillion magazines, a painting by my godmother, air plants and layouts for approval.
The book I'm reading right now is… Spark Joy by Marie Kondo.