Meet Shawn Lang, artist, product designer, blogger—and all-around nice guy.
Shawn Lang found his calling—bringing well-designed objects to market—years ago. He’s put his stamp on everything from eyewear and jewelry for some of the chicest brands in the fashion industry, to embellished giclées and handcrafted dimensional art for Ethan Allen. Now, completely in his element, he’s silk screening original designs onto canvas bags and kitchen towels and selling them on his website, thefarmhouseproject.com. His audience may have changed over the years, but his passion for beautiful things hasn’t.
Shawn was always interested in art. He grew up on the Jersey shore, the youngest of five kids, and was always drawing, sketching houses, and building things. “I loved playing with Legos so much, my mother thought I was going to be an architect,” he says. “My passion initially was for fine art, but she convinced me that being an artist wouldn’t pay the bills.”
Shawn is soft-spoken and deliberate, relaxed and agreeable (a quality he says helped him navigate some stressful situations, especially in the fashion world). We sat down with him recently and asked him to tell us how he went from high-end product designer to down-home entrepreneur. (Fun fact: Shawn was also a professional figure skater for 20 years!)
You’re a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology and you were at the top of your game in New York City when you decided to take a product design and merchandising job at Ethan Allen. Walk us through that decision.
Soon after I earned my degree in product design, I had a series of unique opportunities that allowed me to work with some very talented people in the fashion and home furnishings industries. For ten years, I managed and designed leading fashion and home collections for such brands as Tory Burch, Coach, Ralph Lauren, and Michael Kors. I loved my work.
In 2012, my husband, Kris, and I decided we wanted to move to the country. We found a historic farmhouse in upstate New York that needed a lot of love—and we embarked on a renovation of literally historic proportions. I started documenting progress on our 218-year-old home, sharing mostly bad iPhone photos and unedited copy with friends and family. I was still working in the city and wasn’t really looking to leave my position when I saw the posting for director of wall décor for Ethan Allen. I knew I wanted to move into the home design field, and with my design, merchandising, art, and printmaking background, it turned out to be a perfect fit. That was spring of 2014.
Enter The Farmhouse Project?
Yes! The time was right for The Farmhouse Project, a lifestyle blog about two gents restoring a farmhouse in upstate New York! So, it quickly grew into something more. We started writing about the local area, the restaurants, the farmer’s market—and realized we had something of interest, that there was an audience that wanted to engage with us. So, we engaged back. We developed projects with some well-known partners, like Bed, Bath, & Beyond, Houzz, Design Sponge and Pendleton. After four years, we decided to focus on branding. A lot of our followers were saying, “We want to buy something from you.” And being a product person, I was like, “We should sell stuff!” I knew if we didn’t do it then we never would. I also knew I couldn’t develop the brand and hold down a full-time job, so I made the decision to leave EA.
And did you?
Not really, no. Just as I was preparing to take a leap of faith to work on our blog, I found out that EA was relaunching its blog, The Art of Making Home. I’d already given notice, but knew I had to consult or freelance anyway, so I put myself out there.
What are you doing for EA now?
I’m a part-time consultant on our social media team; I develop content and edit and publish blog posts. Social media director Miller Opie and I work to make EA social media relaxed and cool. There’s beautiful photography available to us, and we’re able to break our content down in a different direction. We do decorating tips, craft ideas, cocktail recipes. It’s about how people really live, which is what I think social media should be about. It’s nice because I live and breathe social media at home and now I do it at EA, too.
Tell us about your design style.
I’ve always been a big fan of interiors. My style throughout years of living in the city was always more modern, but when we bought our house in the country … well, we knew we couldn’t make a 218-year-old house modern. I’ve definitely changed things up; I’m now very interested in historic style.
What did you learn from working at Ethan Allen?
A knowledge of the home industry, and I have to say it’s been invaluable. I learned a lot about working with vendors and developing products that people want. My experience at EA proved to be a foundation for much of what I do in my business.
What’s next for the Farmhouse Project?
We’ve been focused on partnering with online publications, but we’ve been talking with iconic magazines like Country Living, too. Our small product line is getting some attention, so we’re doing a lot with e-commerce. At some point we’d like to buy a space, create a destination, maybe a bar or a store—and see where it takes us.
About that figure skating?
I usually don’t tell anyone, but I was seriously into it. I started skating when I was four. I went to nationals a few times, traveled around the world, and my goal was to go to the Olympics. But I got burnt out in my early 20s. By the time I decided to quit, I had four coaches, so I disappointed a lot of people. I had just had enough. I wanted to be in Manhattan, I wanted a college life, I wanted to pursue my art. It was a difficult decision, but the best one I ever made. I grew up fast as a figure skater. It taught me to be responsible, mature, and how to make business decisions at a very young age. It’s experience that I use in my career to this day.