Building a dream
He's a newspaper columnist, the editor-at-large for Style At Home magazine, and has graced television screens across Canada with his stylish, no-nonsense decorating tips.
But Karl Lohnes, whose family originates in Nova Scotia, credits his years of success to a weekend job at a friend's family-owned home décor store in Toronto.
"After I graduated from marketing and advertising, I worked at a bank, and in a telephone company, and on Saturdays selling furniture and home décor. I started meeting people at this weekend job, such as architects, designers, and magazine editors sourcing products. It just fascinated me," said Lohnes.
"When I was living in Oakville, Ontario, I met well-known journalist Sally Armstrong. At the time, she worked for Canadian Living magazine, a magazine I was familiar with because it was on my mother's coffee table. I became intrigued by how editors could create whatever they wanted," he continued.
"Then, one day, while working on a Saturday, an editor came in and said I was great at helping customers and selecting home décor items. She offered me a job as the editor of a magazine. What happened? Someone noticed my passion, and this was the start of Style At Home magazine."
Lohnes, who often visits Nova Scotia, where his parents were born, to see relatives, became one of the founding editors of Style At Home magazine. He appeared on HGTV's This Small Space for seven years, and was a home expert for CTV's Canada AM.
"I wanted to stay in the home, décor, and lifestyle media, so I took night school courses to further these skills. I wanted to make sure I was giving people the right information and not just presenting ideas without knowledge," he said, while acknowledging it takes hard work and drive to achieve these goals.
After years on television, Lohnes returned to writing at Style At Home magazine – 20 years from the day he left – and also writes columns that appear in the Home section of The SaltWire Network newspapers. He says it all happened organically.
"I had a true passion for this industry. It took a lot of dedication and studying, and I would see an opportunity and go for it. But I think we are the happiest – and do our best – when we follow our passions because then the paycheque seems like a bonus at the end."
Lohnes evolves as more people consume information online, to attract new readers and viewers.
"There are people that don't subscribe to print but read online. It can be difficult to get into that niche because I am still passionate about the hard copies, but I must think of ideas that would work for all formats. You have to write and present for the target audience."
His decorating and design tips can include working around a laptop in a home office or incorporating technology into the decor – but all ideas are relatable to people from everyday walks of life.
"I write for people like my niece in Amherst, N.S., where they have limited supplies but can pick up these decorating tips and apply them to spaces with just a visit to the Home Hardware store," he said.
"I believe if you can't present smart, easy ideas, you're eliminating 90 per cent of your readers or television watchers, and I'm honest with my genre. I show trends, with tips, and bring it back to the everyday person."
Not even the lockdowns to curb COVID-19 could slow down his creativity.
"It's all about the little things that help you enjoy the same space more, such as replacing the most outdated item in a room with something new. You do not have to transform the whole space. It can be something small. I converted my dining room table into my home office," he said.
"Now I work in a different environment, from the dining room, and gain a new perspective while reorganizing my home office, so when I return, the space will feel fresh and inviting again."
He concluded with some sage advice.
"No matter what you do in life, you must change, try new projects and grow. Doing the same thing repeatedly – no matter how much you love your work – can otherwise become tiresome. Change is a good thing, so long as you are following your heart."