Magnolia Network's Tara Mangini's Advice For Getting Started In Interior Design - Exclusive

Armed with nothing but a love for old houses and the freedom of creativity behind the design process, business partners and real-life couple Tara Mangini and Percy Bright have established themselves as key figures in the design industry.

As the faces behind the successful Jersey Ice Cream Co., the duo works to expertly renovate old homes and maintain their charm while breathing new life into the space through imaginative design. And while the work of Jersey Ice Cream Co. is widely sought after, the couple is currently busy working on a house of their own that they bought in upstate New York. "The Story of Home" on Magnolia Network follows Mangini and Bright as they renovate their historical homestead and documents the ups and downs of the design process.

In an exclusive interview with House Digest, Tara Mangini explains the non-traditional path that she and Bright took to get started in interior design and offers advice for other creatives interested in doing the same.

Mangini's interior design origins

Given the success of Jersey Ice Cream Co., it's easy to forget that neither Tara Mangini nor Percy Bright is conventionally trained in interior design. After bonding over their love of vintage flea markets, the couple organically transitioned into trying their hand at design.

"We met in Philly 12 years ago, and we had both been doing stuff in graphic design and advertising," Mangini says. "There was some thread of something creative happening. When we met, Percy had recently bought a house, and shortly after that, got laid off from his job. ... Free time, no money [is] the classic combo."

Mangini adds that being free from pressure to get it right allowed her and Bright the time and space they needed to find their way as designers. "We have this fortunate experience of having an actual house to work on that was low stakes," she says. "It wasn't for a client. It was for us. ... We were doing it so absentmindedly in the background, not trying to go right at it, that we were able to fall into it and loosely do it without this pressure and paralyzing, comparing to other things. We were so blind to all that it was able to unfold."

Mangini's advice for other creatives

Tara Mangini insists that with enough creativity, passion, patience, and persistence, anyone can be successful at design with or without formal training. She recommends starting with similar, low-stakes situations for creatives who are interested in trying their hand at interior design.

"If you can create some low stakes but creatively free situations for yourself, to try without all of these stakes and pressures — the pressure kills you," Mangini says. "The pressure kills creativity and comparing kills it. To find yourself in this free vacuum is ideal [but] really hard to do. It's something that we've been trying to get back to since our first project where no one's expecting anything. To know that everybody's still figuring it out — we are very much still figuring it out day to day. 'What should we do? Does this look weird? Is this weird? Are we crazy? Is this cool?'"

She adds that no one ever really has it all figured out and that she and Bright still sometimes struggle with the process. "There's a constant push and pull, and trying and looking and seeing," she says. "It's definitely not like, 'We've been doing it for 12 years, and now I walk into a room and I know exactly what to do.' I talk to people and they're like, 'I'm struggling.' I'm like, 'Who isn't?' People struggle. That's the process. It's a million decisions, second guessing, changing your mind, making mistakes. That's how it goes. If that's how it's going for you, that's okay."

Stream Magnolia Network's "The Story of Home" now on discovery+ and the Magnolia app.