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The Expert Podcast

Jenna Lyons’ “Sweaty Ballerina Hairdo” Method Gives Every Room an Elegant Contrast

Words by Laura Dahlgren
a woman in a suit and glasses posing for a picture

Photography by Mei Tao

Jenna Lyons loves a contradiction.

"I’m often looking for the thing that is the opposite of what you would expect," says the Expert, entrepreneur, and real housewife. "When I worked in fashion, we called it the ‘sweaty ballerina hairdo,’ this idea of taking this perfect ballerina bun but making it imperfect with wispy pieces sticking out. To me, that's what's interesting."

Jenna has applied the same principle to her interior design work, seeking out unique finishes and ornate materials but treating them humbly, resulting in spaces that never feel too precious or overdone. On this episode of The Expert Podcast, Jenna sits down with host Jake Arnold to chat about the career evolution that led her to interiors, her favorite tips for decorating and gift-giving, and what it was really like to film The Real Housewives of New York.

a bedroom with a chandelier hanging from the ceiling

Photography by Simon Watson; Design by Jenna Lyons

On Playing with Opposites

When it comes to guiding principles, Jenna looks for contrast to create idiosyncratic and engaging spaces. "I would never do something where a room is 'of an era'," she explains. "If a room is very modern, there has to be a more ornate element. If something is very weathered, I want a shiny object that sets it off a bit."

a kitchen with a marble counter top and black cabinets

Photography by Nicole Franzen; Design by Jenna Lyons

On Practicing Patience

Jenna’s taste in fashion and interiors emanates authenticity—a result of patience and a rare attribute in a culture of instant gratification. "Oftentimes I feel really lucky that my apartment took two years to finish because some of the stuff I found, like my countertop, I would have never come across if the design had happened quickly."

a room with a chair and a table with a vase on it

Photography by Simon Watson; Design by Jenna Lyons

On Tackling Decision Paralysis

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to shopping online for the home, so Jenna approached her Showroom curation with the same goal as her decorating ethos—to demystify a process and get folks on the right track. "There are a million beautiful things online, which actually makes it hard," the designer explains. "You get into this paradox of choice and you can’t find anything." Her edited curation makes it easy to mix and match in a coherent way.

a green table with a bowl of fruit on top of it
a picture of paris on a wall above a table

Photography by Simon Watson; Design by Jenna Lyons

On the Secret to Good Gift Giving

"If you want something for yourself, give it to someone else," Jenna shares. "I refuse to give something that I wouldn’t be excited to receive. I also think a good gift is something that adds to your life or something that you might not spend money on yourself. Those are the kind of things that I like to get."

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photography by Simon Watson; Design by Jenna Lyons

On Putting it All Together

"Everything is about how things work off each other," Lyons explains. She likens decorating to crafting the perfect tablescape. "If you look individually at a glass or a basic plate, it doesn’t do that much on its own. But when you put it all together, it’s magical." Host Jake Arnold agrees. "Something is either an event or a non-event. It’s good to know what is and what is not."

a room filled with lots of shoes next to a window

Photography by Simon Watson; Design by Jenna Lyons

Listen to the full episode on Spotify or Apple Podcasts now.