I realize I don’t put a lot on this blog about the things I’m working on, and so I’d like to share some tidbits from a project I’m wrapping up. A few months ago, I was contacted by a lovely family who purchased a second home in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood and needed their new empty condo completely furnished. Sound like a dream? I know… Continue reading “Project Snapshots”
The other day, we made a quick jaunt out to Ikea (our favorite spontaneous weekend activity), and came back with more than we needed – as usual! Ikea is like Target for me – it doesn’t matter if I only need one thing, somehow I always end up in the check out line with a full cart! (As AirBNB hosts we always have a need for something, plus MJ loves Swedish Fish..)
My absolute favorite section is the As-Is, where they put discounted merchandise that’s often perfectly good. I’ve gotten lucky so many times, with so many different kinds of products. We’ve found complete duvet sets that were previously on display, large picture frames for $4 because they changed the packaging and wanted to get rid of the old ones…. you get the picture. This time, we came away with a sisal rug that I’d been eyeing! I wanted to buy it anyway, but at 40% off how could I say no?
These last few weeks have been a strange mix of emotions. I yo-yo back and forth between terror, acceptance, denial, anger, disbelief, and so on. It has been so difficult for me to return to normal after the election and pick back up with a chippy attitude on social media and here on this blog. It’s almost as if I suddenly feel that the things that used to interest me have lost a bit of value in recent weeks. What difference am I making in the world by choosing someone else’s furniture for them on Pinterest? What does my future as a luxury service provider look like if the economy tanks?
I know that is not the way to look at things. I know that what I do matters – if not to everyone, it matters to the people who I do my work for. Now more than ever, I think the idea of staying home is appealing to me – and it’s not just the colder temperatures. And making this home of mine one that I am happy and comfortable in is increasingly important. I can’t imagine I’m the only one.
For now, I will keep working, and do what I do as best as I am able. I make my home the one I want to be in. I help others create the backdrop to the stories of the lives they want to lead. Whether it’s their first home, a second home, or an update, this is something that will always be important, no matter the state of the world outside. To be at ease in a safe and comfortable space is a feeling that is sought after again and again. I have been living in the same apartment for 4 years and constantly rearrange the items on my shelves, moving plants from one room to the next. Every now and then something crashes to the ground and I start all over again. My home is more than the rooms I inhabit. It is a state of being, a reflection of both who I am and who I hope to become.
The other day while I was out doing some site visits in the suburbs, I stumbled across the brand new Writer’s Theater in Glencoe. When I say it’s brand new, I mean it’s not even done yet, but that didn’t stop me from rushing in and taking photos. The gallery catwalk is protected by the wooden slats to prevent birds from crashing into the windows. The firm even labels the project as bird safe on their website.
As someone who just recently had to rescue a frightened bird from the jaws of my cat, I can definitely get behind some bird-safe windows – especially if they look like this! (Side note: the bird was fine, but it will likely never come near our windows again.)
Sadly I did not get to tour the inside of the actual auditoriums, but I guess that just means I’ll have to come back for a play!
If you are not familiar with Studio Gang’s work, please take a moment to peruse their portfolio, and then book the next flight out to Chicago. Jeanne Gang is a certifiable genius, and her work was a constant source of inspiration for me while in design school. Everything she touches becomes beautiful.
When MJ and I first moved into our apartment over 3 years ago, we saw it as a HUGE fixer upper. We even started a blog to document our updates, and proudly shared the little things we did to make the place our home. At that time, I was working full-time and going to school at night. All of the juicy bits of progress happened while I was out of the apartment, making it difficult to document and blog about our experience. The same thing happened when we got a puppy, and now I suddenly have a dog.
So when we moved in, we had a list of improvements we wanted to make, and first on my list was figuring out the kitchen. From the very first post on our defunct blog:
The kitchen is huge, but has about 12 inches of usable counter space, 50% of which is being taken up by the coffee machine, and the cabinet placement makes using the sink nearly impossible.
Yeah, WOAH. It’s crazy to me to think that I saw this photo on craigslist and thought “I want to live there!”. We didn’t have a plan for how we would address the kitchen but we just knew we had to. That summer, we started hosting on AirBNB for extra income, and by the fall we had enough money to do a big overhaul. We turned the kitchen into this:
We tore all the old stuff out and replaced it wth Ikea cabinets and added a backsplash of 2×4 subway tiles behind the sink. We added infinitely more storage and increased the quality of our lives in the kitchen by 10,000%. The old sink cabinet literally disintegrated and fell to pieces as we carried it down the back stairs. So gross.
What’s also gross is that for the last 3 years, we have been cooking in a kitchen without a hood fan. At a recent lunch presentation at SubZero, I learned that every month, you create 1 pound of airborne lard from cooking, and when you don’t have a fan to filter it out, it lands on all of your cabinets, pots, pans, the top of your refrigerator… the list goes on.
ONE POUND OF AIRBORNE LARD.
Combine that with floating pet hair from 2 cats and a dog and you can now imagine what we’ve been dealing with. (Read: My life is a nightmare and I’m being only a little bit dramatic.)
The wall that the stove was on held all of our spices, pots, and pans, and was positioned directly above the lard factory. Every time we wanted to use a pot that wasn’t in regular rotation it had to be scrubbed first. I have to say I honestly never really looked at this wall before, but holy cow, it is full of visual clutter! We also had very poor lighting above the cooking area, so we snaked a plug-in pendant through all of that and hung it above the stove.
After making the decision to stay in our apartment for another 2 years, we decided that enough is enough and a fan needed to come into our lives. We picked up a chimney style range hood (on sale at Ikea for $199!), and immediately set to tearing everything down.
Then we opened the wall, ran the electric, patched, painted, and installed the fan. (Yes, we rent. No, we aren’t worried about getting in trouble.) Since we weren’t going to deal with ductwork, we have the fan set to recirculating through a filter. It’s less than ideal, but since what we had before was worse, the decision sort of made itself.
And voila! Pots and pans live elsewhere, making the whole space a lot cleaner and less terrifying. We still have to figure out what to do with the other spice rack we took down but for now, we can deal knowing that we are no longer spewing grease all over our kitchen. Hooray!
Note: I sometimes get shy about sharing bits and pieces around my home because it isn’t magazine beautiful. It’s my home. The place where I live. I take not so great photos of it with my iPhone. In a way that seems more personal than if I were to post photos of myself because of how imperfect it all is. But anyhow, I’m trying to get over that, and I hope you can, too.
As you may know, recently I wrote a ranty post about working for free (don’t do it if you can avoid it). I am a firm believer in not giving your talents away unless you get something back. That’s the key concept behind a lot of work exchange programs at fitness studios, and what lured me in to participate in Bottom Line Yoga‘s work exchange. Sit at the desk for a few hours a week, and in return, receive an unlimited membership that would otherwise cost you hundreds of dollars. If you can afford the time, you’ll end up doing something good for your body and your wallet.
One of the greatest things about a freelancer’s life is having the ability to determine my own schedule. If I want to sign up to do a yoga work trade, I can go right ahead and do that, and fit my freelance work in around that. Living in Bridgeport, there are ZERO yoga studios in my neighborhood. The gyms that offer yoga are dance studios, boxing clubs, or some other non-yoga focused fitness clubs that offer yoga almost as an afterthought. The classes show up on the schedule once a week at a really inconvenient time. The yoga class at my gym is a total joke, and it’s hard to get into the right mindset when you can hear weights dropping outside the door, or when guys with no respect for the group fitness class come in to use the punching bags. So you know, it’s obviously less than ideal.
The cost of a yoga membership in Chicago is just a little bit out of reach for me. On top of my regular gym membership, to pay $125+ for yoga just does not make sense for me right now. Inspired by some advice from Scrappy Yogi, I decided to look for a work trade program that would allow me the benefit of membership in exchange for a few hours of my life each week. Bottom Line Yoga has two locations in the loop, just steps away from the train – so not too bad of a commute for me. On Mondays, I man the desk for few hours, checking members in to the open studio nap and meditation time, and bring my laptop so I can get whatever work I need to done. It’s a double duty situation for me, and it’s so far been working out great!
The classes I’ve attended have been amazing. Since it’s a loop worker focused studio, many of the classes are during lunch hour, and the studio does not get super crowded. The increased personal attention has allowed me to get into some poses that I had always thought were too advanced for me. Never again do I want to cram myself into the back of a 6 pm Core Power Fusion class!
On top of everything else, the studio is such a relaxing, well curated space that is a pleasure to spend time in. The mix of mid century modern furniture with vintage found elements creates an inviting environment with a casual style. Mondays have become a day to look forward to, instead of filling me with dread and destroying my Sundays with anxiety.
I’ve always wanted to design a yoga studio…
A few months ago I posted some inspiration for a master bath I’m currently working on with another designer. Well, construction has finally begun, and we’re past the point of no return! While it’s just a routine renovation, this project is especially exciting for me due to my level of involvement.
You know when you work for a big company and you do all of the lame boring grunt work and then your boss swoops in with the flair and puts her name on everything? Well it’s not like that this time and I couldn’t be happier. Even though the project is through another designer’s company, I’m involved every step of the way, and getting valuable experience (and credit for my work) that I never before received while working at a big firm. It’s refreshing!
But experiences aren’t all super exciting. Some of them are painful and awkward, and I dread making the phone call, and even worse, leaving the voicemail to tell someone I’m really mad and not happy with what they’ve done.
Not sure if you can really tell, but that’s my drawing up there with a contractor’s markup changing the design. And then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, they built it. Without asking me, or the client. Not cool! Their reasoning behind the change made it clear they wanted to do things the easy way, and if I wasn’t so invested in the project, I would probably have let it go. Give it to the boss to deal with and move on with all the other fires I had to put out that day.
But this time it’s different. This time, it’s personal. This is my portfolio they are messing with! If I wanted there to be an ugly tub situation I would have drawn it that way! So it was on me to send the stern and chiding emails, and make the round of phone calls to ensure that this got taken care of the right way (aka my way!). And it worked. This morning’s site visit left me reassured that there was a remedy for the error, and all would be done according to plan.
This is nothing out of the ordinary for anyone in the design world. Stuff gets messed up ALL. THE. TIME. The color is wrong, something came in broken, it doesn’t fit through the door, the electrician put the plug in the wrong place, etc. etc. etc… Anyone who says they’ve had a project where something didn’t go wrong is probably lying. Interior designers are constantly freaking out and fixing problems big and small on a daily basis. In the grand scheme of things, this problem was a pretty small one. But for me, this was a big step in my independence and professional growth. I’m celebrating the fact that I dealt with the icky feelings and said what I needed to say without disaster or compromising professionalism.
It’s not all bad though. Just look at this gorgeous stone we’re getting for the counter tops:
I have to admit, I drove all the way out to the suburbs, and am a teeny bit disappointed they didn’t give me a hard hat to wear in the warehouse. But this slab is amazing, and worth the missed opportunity for a hard hat selfie. Maybe you can’t see it from my iPhone pics, but the stone is satiny soft, and glowing with magical powers. I can’t wait to see it installed and share with you!
As someone working in a creative industry, it just about sets me on fire to know that day after day, designers and other creative professionals are exploited without shame. For some reason, creative work is not valued among non-creatives, and it is accepted as totally reasonable to them to ask for free services. Case in point below:
< Insert string of angry expletives here. > The people posting the ad had enough money to buy a new construction home in a wealthy area of Chicago. They have a budget for an entire house full of furnishings in the “modern luxe style” but ZERO for the professional help they want to put it all together? Instead, they are preying on students who need portfolio projects in exchange for real compensation for their work. Sorry, but no thanks! An experienced designer would charge tens of thousands of dollars in time alone for the work it would take to handle a project of this scale. 4,000 square feet is HUGE, and specifying furniture, accessories and logistics takes weeks of detail oriented work!
I urge anyone who sees this type of ad who is need of building their portfolio to stop and think about what they are doing. People who ask for free services usually get them because there is always someone wiling to do the job. But when you agree to work for free, you perpetuate the culture of creative exploitation, and actually make it harder for others to be fairly compensated.
Creatives, do not undervalue yourself! The commercialization of the internet has created a world of writers who are asked to create click bait content for bigger websites in exchange for exposure. Anyone with a laptop and a few software programs can pose as a graphic designer. And while it’s nice that technology has made it easier for more people to pursue their passions, the competition has gotten out of control. It’s tempting to take a job that promises to build your portfolio, but you do NOT want to work for people who do not value you and the work you do. Would you ever go to the dentist and ask for a free root canal? Would you dare to tell your nanny that she is lucky to wipe your kid’s butt in exchange for the experience? NO. You worked hard to get your education and training, why are you going to give it away? I know you have bills to pay, but taking on a commitment to someone who doesn’t care about your bills means you have less time to find work for someone who does.
When people agree to work for “experience”, they are sending out the message that asking for free creative services is acceptable. Professionals who have invested years and money into their educations, equipment, and reputation are often overlooked by those in favor of someone with less experience who can do “the same job for less”. I encountered this when planning a wedding and lamenting over the costs. I now am so happy I decided to hire a professional photographer to document my day – she was worth every penny!
But I need to build my portfolio!
I totally understand that everyone has to start from somewhere, and that place is usually the bottom. But there are other ways to develop a body of work that you’d be proud to show other people without totally screwing yourself financially, and stripping yourself of personal integrity. For instance, find someone you know who has something you want, and offer a trade. My good friend is a working professional photographer who has traded services with other creatives in order to build her portfolio in the direction she wants to grow. The difference with a barter is that you initiate the trade, you set the terms, and you gain something that you value and otherwise would have to pay for.
Another option is to take (or keep) a job that’s not really what you want, and create the work you want to show on the side. This takes a real commitment to your craft, whatever that might be. Another friend of mine started a natural beauty line in her kitchen. Six years later still runs it our of her apartment, all in her off-hours while working a day job. Every day she gets closer to making it her full time job, but for now it is her passion and her patience is paying off.
If you have a passion for something, you will find a way to bring it into your life. You do not need anyone to tell you they are helping you by letting you work for free.
To those new homeowners, you get (and deserve) what you pay for. When you seek out an inexperienced college student to handle an important and life changing project, you will likely get student quality work – even if that person is talented. Many interior design students may work while in school, but entry level positions usually entail working in a resource library tucked far out of sight of any client. Their interaction with contractors and vendors are limited at best. When you are not willing to pay a professional, you are also sending out the message that you are not seeking someone with high standards for professionalism, integrity, and accountability. You are saying you don’t place a value on the experience of the designer who has solved countless problems in the real world, and you don’t care whether or not they have an extensive network of other contacts built up over years in the industry. And that’s a huge mistake. And you deserve to make it if you’re asking someone to do valuable work for free.
My views on this issue are nothing nobody’s heard before. You can learn more about the struggles of being a creative freelancer at Freelancers Union, as well as what you can do to help make change. It’s a great resource for the independent creative to learn about their rights and how to navigate difficult situations that arise while doing business.
For everyone out there navigating this type of situation, stay strong!
As I write this, I’m sitting in a client’s home, waiting for some contractors to finish taking their measurements. We are redoing the whole house, starting with the master suite. There is a lot of work to be done, and I thought I’d share some progress updates here as we go along through the process.
Here’s a peek into the existing master bath:
Crappy iPhone picture quality aside, this place is in need of a serious makeover. I don’t even know where to begin! The black marble, the sea of 12″ x 12″ beige tiles, the weird tiny vanity shoved in the corner… it’s all going bye bye.
The client wants his bathroom to have a spa-like feeling. We came up with two concepts for him: a light palette (Day Spa), and a darker palette (Sexy Man Spa). Below is some of the inspiration imagery that I pulled together from Pinterest.*
The Day Spa focuses on light, natural wood finishes, light stone tiles, and light stone, or concrete counter tops. Clean & Serene. We’re showing stand alone tubs, to free his bath of the tiled deck and make it feel more spacious in the room, and turn the bathtub into a focal point.
The Sexy Man Spa includes darker, slate tiles, interesting patterns and textures, and darker wood finishes. This look is a bit more masculine, but still serene and clean – perfect (I think) for his bachelor pad.
Collecting concept images is always fun, since it means you’re at the point where the project could go in any direction. The hard part is picking a direction, editing out the ideas you love but have to let go of, and making a final decision from a sea of endless possibilities. For every image you see of a great idea, there were probably 500 other great ideas that never came to life! You can follow me on Pinterest for a more in depth look at my design style.
What do you think? Which bathroom would you choose?
*Note: I’ll always do my best to credit the image sources, but in some cases it’s difficult to find the original source, due to the nature of how we consume images on sites like Pinterest and Tumblr. In that case, I’ll link to where I found the picture.
Recently, my full time job and I broke up. I went from feeling constantly anxious and overwhelmed to suddenly free, in a big way. And while it’s still sometimes a bit of a terrifying prospect, I made the decision to go back to freelancing full time and working from home. It’s been a huge lifestyle adjustment, and I’m still getting used to it, but already I feel that my general outlook on a day to day basis has improved exponentially. Below I touch on a few of the biggest things I’ve noticed so far, both good and bad.
Sleeping isn’t just for the weekend anymore. No matter how hard I try, I will never be a morning person. Now that I no longer have anywhere to be at 9 am on a regular basis, I’ve been catching up on my Zz’s and waking up when it feels right. Sometimes this means getting up at 7:15 for a breakfast meeting across town. Other days I am sleeping until 9, and then staying in bed to read my book. The freedom to be able to listen to my body and stay in bed until it’s done resting without feeling an immense amount of guilt is life changing. But, that means the day doesn’t end until the work does. And if there’s more to do (which there always is), it’s about picking a good stopping point. It’s all about balance!
Going out isn’t just for the weekend anymore, either. At some point in my late twenties, I lost my ability to go out three to four nights during the week. This is most definitely due to grad school exhaustion. Flash back to a few years ago, if I wasn’t staying late at the office, I was out on a date or with friends at a show any given night of the week. MJ accuses me of lying in my OKCupid profile, in which I answered “Often” to the question “How frequently do you drink during the week?”, because I somehow have morphed into an old crab since we got together. Weeknights were for going to the gym and making home cooked meals that I diligently purchased all the groceries for on Sunday. My anxiety about straying from the routine I had established prevented me from having any spontaneous fun. I suffered from extreme Sunday Depression. If I wasn’t grocery shopping, meal planning, and doing all the laundry and housework to prepare for the week ahead, my anxiety would go through the roof. Long story short, I wasn’t enjoying my life. In just a few weeks, that anxious, control-freaky stuff has started to fade and I am more relaxed and starting to enjoy my every day life more. The crazy thing is, I didn’t even know how unhappy I was!
Staying Disciplined can be a little bit tricky. It’s easy to stay on task when you have the constant fear that someone will walk behind you and catch you screwing around on the internet. Even though I knew nobody judged me, I always felt a pang of guilt when someone came over to talk and saw my Gmail open, or the green tabs flashing, indicating an active chat conversation. But now that I’m at home, I can look at Instagram as much as I want, as many times as I want! If it’s super nice out, we can take the dog to the park, instead of looking wistfully out the window as the sunshine fades away into darkness. I’ve found that making to-do lists with Wunderlist and keeping up with them has been super helpful to keeping me on task. I’ve also started to sprinkle my day with motivational podcasts like Creative Peptalk and Being Boss, to stay pumped and excited about my chosen path.
Showering & General Appearance. This one’s a little embarrassing, but my previously strict routine of showering every day is out the window. I had an obsessive hair-washing schedule, but now I can’t keep track and just wash it when it’s noticeably disgusting. Gross, I know. I am, however, still a freak about putting makeup on when I leave the house. Even if I’m just going to the gym, I still have on at the bare minimum tinted moisturizer and mascara. Just because I didn’t shower doesn’t mean I have to look like it, right? I also love that now those fun impulse wardrobe items get to come out and play, like my cloud print leggings from Anna Dorfman of Door Sixteen‘s K Is For Black shop.
Being together. All. The. Time. Did I mention already that MJ also works from home? Well he does. The way that our apartment is laid out, if I’m in my office and he’s in his with the door open, I stare at his back while he’s at his desk. This also means we can hear each other’s phone conversations and music. When I put headphones in, he can’t see them and will talk to me without my knowing. Magically (and probably because we’re both busy), we’re not sick of each other. Yet. I think it’s extremely important for couples to spend time without each other and have independent lives. If I spend all of my time with him, nothing will ever happen that he won’t know about already and then I can’t effectively talk his ear off. I know this isn’t always going to be our daily existence, so I’m not going to stress about it too much. Plus, judging by the fact he hasn’t murdered me in my sleep by now, I think that’s a good sign that he isn’t too annoyed with me yet, either.
I do what I want. Lastly, I think the biggest (and also scariest) part about the whole situation is that I am now in 100% control. I’m no longer restricted by a non-compete contract. While yes, this means I now get to explore options and do the kind of work that I want, and this also means that it’s completely up to me to find work and keep building clients.
I’d love to hear from others who have seen both sides. Do you prefer the daily structure of an office environment? What things do you do to keep yourself on task when working from home?