A South Salinas woman builds a design business, one attractive photo at a time. | Face to Face

Toni Mogensen recalls sitting on her couch, a colicky newborn and a kindergarten-age son the main focus of her life, and telling her husband that she should just go ahead and do it. She should just post.

As she remembers, it was “about the millionth time” she had made the same statement, and about the millionth time her husband, Bryan Flores, gave her the same response: “Do it then! Pull the trigger, woman!” She hit post on a picture of her living room – a cloudy white sofa loaded with throw pillows, fronting a fireplace mantel decorated with lanterns and small green and white gourds and topped with a painting Flores did, on distressed barnwood, of a giant white pumpkin. Her hashtags: #falldecor #fall #pumpkin #myhusbandcanpaint served as a call out to others in the Instagram design community: She had arrived and she was looking for like-minded friends.

That was September 2017. Now, three years later, the newborn is a pre-schooler, the kindergartner is 9, there’s pandemic homeschooling going on and Mogensen is a bona fide Instagram influencer, amassing a following of more than 88,000 as she posts pictures and tips about home decor. Flores is often conscripted into Mogensen’s schemes. “I was wallpapering from 1am to 4am the day before the magazine photo shoot,” he says.

The magazine photo shoot happened because Mogensen entered a contest sponsored by Cottages & Bungalows, a design magazine that was searching for a brand ambassador. After a national competition, Mogensen was one of three finalists and had to submit a do-it-yourself project. She came up with a pumpkin-shaped bowl made of concrete, with step-by-step directions on how to accomplish it.

On Sept. 15, with a text message from the magazine’s editor – “Go check your email right now!” – Mogensen found she had won and would become the magazine’s brand ambassador for 2021. (And she’s on pins and needles again because it means she has to produce a column for the magazine, on DIY decor, every other month for the next year.)

“I told Bryan, ‘This is crazy. I’m now writing for a national magazine because I followed my dream.’”

She spoke to the Weekly about that dream and her style.

Weekly: How did you get involved in decorating and design?

Mogensen: I have always loved decorating, ever since I was little. My mother was constantly moving furniture and objects around, and I wanted to make my room my room. In college, I would have to add decoration to my space. It was always a passion of mine. I didn’t study it or go to school for it, it’s just a passion. I would be looking at blogs that inspired me, or scrolling Instagram and thinking, “Why aren’t I sharing?”

What kind of response did you get from that Instagram community?

I really got a connection when I put myself out there and said yes to everything – joining a group to do a project and share together. The home decor community is such a good community. People are welcoming and I felt that from the beginning.

How do you describe your style?

I love all styles, especially mixing old and new. I would describe it as a rustic-romantic vibe. I love a touch of rustic – a chipped box, yeah that’s decor, that’s gorgeous. And baskets, you can never have too many baskets.

Your Instagram features mostly projects in your own home, but have you expanded out to do work for others?

I did a bit of work with Monterey Design Company, decorating their office. I have clients online and a neighbor wants me to redo their home office. I’m looking to do more Christmas work, decorating people’s trees, along the lines of, they tell me their theme or preferences, I buy everything and then decorate for them. People want that kind of service.

Since we’re all stuck at home now, what are some easy ways to freshen up our home spaces?

Change out pillows and throw blankets. Change out artwork and change the focal point of a space. For over a year, that was about all I posted.

Paint is a big one for me. You can change out a side table or a dresser in a day with paint. The power of paint is so incredible.

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