On designing and blogging (and throwing out all the rules)

I came to this realization in the past year that I do not want to be an “influencer”. I felt immediate shame following this realization. What’s wrong with me? Am I just not ambitious enough? What kind of designer doesn’t want thousands of people following them (to be clear, I wouldn’t mind a bigger following, just not the work required to get there)? Ever since I started this blog, I have enjoyed writing and sharing my projects as a creative outlet. However, I have never identified with the “blogger persona”. It has never aligned with who I am. At my core, I am a person who loves to create , a slow living lifestyle, and not living in the lime light. It has felt at times that there are two parts of me that feel at odds with one another. The need to create/share, and the need to have a quiet simple life with my family.I have wrestled with these questions for so long, and this last week it came to me.

First and foremost, I identify as a designer, not as a blogger/influencer. There is a very clear difference, and there’s a reason I have never monetized this blog. Secondly, my love for slow living is at odds with the other side of me who wants to have and grow a business. I don’t want to “hustle”, and never have wanted that. (Please note: here I’m defining “hustle” as doing everything to reach the top, I’m not referring to anyone who is trying to earn a basic living). Am I allowed to say that? I don’t even think there’s anything wrong with “hustling”, except that I know it is completely wrong for me. I don’t want to push products on people- rather I want to encourage people to be more resourceful. I don’t mind sharing the things that have made my life easier or brought joy even, but I don’t want to be another voice in that arena. I am also jealous for my family time, and my privacy is very important to me..

Ps. I’m so excited to learn more about gardening, and this book is incredible.

Ps. I’m so excited to learn more about gardening, and this book is incredible.

Over the years I have gone through short bouts of trying to fit the mold and keep up with the demand for continuous new content, regular posts on specific days, and it’s never worked for me. I want to write when I feel inspired, not to keep up a schedule. I want to share DIY projects when I have them, not create DIY projects for the sole purpose of creating content, and I want to take on clients because it’s right for me and my family, not because I need something to share for fear of becoming irrelevant. It’s difficult to drown out all the noise of “shoulds” for blogging schedules, algorithms, and other business growing related strategies. Don’t get me wrong, social media is amazing (getting your portfolio out there for free!), but our digital culture is demanding more and more……and personally I’m not willing to give what’s being asked. I have to “do me.”

So where does that leave me? The same place I’ve been this whole time- just with a very clear goal on my end. The goal is to continue designing and learning and seeing where that takes me, not to “hustle” my way to the top. Yes I want to grow my business (especially as my girls get older), but I will be over here on my little piece of the internet not following the rules, posting when I have something to say or share, continuing to say “no” to projects that aren’t right for me and my family, and saying “yes” to the right things.

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To end, here is a picture of our fire pit in the works. We want to get a new fire pit eventually (I might be spray painting it for the time being), and add some pea gravel to define the space. The best part? There’s no time-table, after all- it’s on my terms.

Get the Look (with the help of Craigslist)

A while back (over on instagram) I asked you guys if you were interested in me sharing my craigslist finds with you, and how I would style them. The response was a resounding “YES”. Everyone is always quick to tell me that there are no deals to be found in their city, and while some areas of the country are definitely tricky (I’ve lived in DC, NY, IN, WA, OK, and MA so I know!)- I truly believe that there are rare/cool finds to be had everywhere if you are willing to spend the time looking and willing to drive a little out of your way. The trick is to look often, broaden your search, and to use good search words. After that, I think the problem most people have is seeing past the crappy phone pictures (in bad lighting) that people tend to post of their stuff on craigslist. Most of us (whether we realize it or not) are visual, and a bad picture scares us away. Let me tell you though- the bad pictures are where the deals are at.

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Take this bedroom by Amber Interiors ( she kills it, per usual), that antique bench adds depth to the room. Sure, you could buy an imitation antique from a large chain store, but it’s not the same thing……vintage brings an element to design that a modern copy cannot in my opinion. That’s not to say that I don’t own a few imitations myself, but when it comes to aged wood, I prefer the real deal. This one is selling for $200, and I bet you could barter this down to $125 or $150 (which I’m all for doing, as long as it’s fair).

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If I really wanted the look of that Amber Interiors bedroom, this is what I would pair with that bench from craigslist. After this, all you need is some cool art ( I prefer original, vintage, or from an artist you love rather than the mass produced art if you can help it.) and you are set with a budget bedroom!

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Eleni's Nursery

It seems fitting that the first post on my new website is Eleni’s nursery. When we found out we were having a third girl, it took me a while to come up with a design that I was excited about. After all, I’ve done three girl nurseries in our house. This time however, I went a decidedly more feminine direction when I fell in love with this floral wallpaper from Anthropologie. From there, I decided on a color pallet of mustard yellow/gold and mauve. Getting the mauve paint color that I was searching for took some trial and error- it either looked too muddy or too pink. After painting the room and repainting it, I settled on Behr Pearls and Lace. If you are searching for the perfect mauve, I will say that lighting has everything to do with getting the right color- what looks mauve in this room could look pink in another room.

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This was my first wallpaper experience, and as always I learned a few lessons the hard way. I originally bought a wallpaper paste that was not pre-made (just add water it said), and that was a HUGE mistake. Once I went back and bought the pre-mixed paste, things started to go a lot more smoothly. Because of my original mistake, there are some imperfections that are probably most noticeable to me (I am my worst critic), but I was too pregnant and too exhausted to care when I was done. Thanks to my mother-in-law for being incredible and for helping me pull this off, it was quite the “bonding” experience:).

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I love that the half painted wall adds a dose of modern with the rounded edges of the armoire and the feminine wallpaper.

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I needed a rocking chair that did not have a tall back (due to this wall) or take up a ton of room. This one has been perfect, it’s comfortable and still wide enough for me to sit with one of the older girls. I think we will be using it well after Eleni is past the baby stage.

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You will remember a lot of these pieces from various areas of our previous homes. Whenever I’m designing a new space in our house, I always start with shopping around my house.

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I love a touch of whimsy in kids rooms, and styling with garlands are a simple way to add it to a room.

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One of the few purchases I knew we needed for this room was a plush rug. Because this room is too small for a changing table, I wanted a rug that wouldn’t hurt her head or kill my knees in the middle of the night.

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I found this vintage armoire on craigslist for $100, and if you follow along with me on IG you will know that I debated painting it. In the end, I love it as is- and painting it felt like too much with the wallpaper. It is also super functional - meeting our need to hang a few items ( the “closet”in this room, if it can be called one, is too shallow for a hanger), and provide extra storage. Connor and my cousin’s husband nearly killed themselves getting it up our narrow staircase, so it’s not going anywhere for a while….which is totally fine with me!

rug/armoire (vintage)/crib/wallpaper/mauve pillow/rocking chair/mauve blanket /garland/alphabet sign/ceiling light- old from Serena & Lily/ sconce - old from Urban Outfitters / stool

Winter Survival- For the Home

Truth be told, I would rather be cold than hot on any given day ( I've come to believe that my core temperature is naturally a solid 10 degrees warmer than most peoples). So while everyone else is groaning about February's freezing temperatures , I secretly prefer it to the humidity of August. And while I love my fair share of exploring, for everyday life I'm a homebody at heart and have embraced everything surrounding the Scandinavian idea of "hygge". As defined by the dictionary, hygge is " a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.". When I think of bringing hygge into my home during these winter months, I think of it in terms of the five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste). This is how I'm infusing hygge into my everyday life:

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Smell
Nothing beats the smell of homemade bread that's just come out of the oven. Though I took a break from baking myweekly bread towards the end of my pregnancy, I'm anxious to get back into the weekly ritual. Soups and stews make the whole house smell amazing and make snow days more cozy.  This recipe is still a family favorite.


Sight. 

Since the girls are stuck indoors a lot more these days, I went ahead and bought some fairy lights for their room. It's an easy way to make it more fun to stay indoors when the days are shorter.  I used to feel wasteful lighting candles for everyday living, but this year I changed my mind. While I could easily put candles under the "smell" category, the sight of a flame coming from a candle instantly ups the cozy factor. Since we don't have a fireplace, this is the next best thing. When the days were really short in December, I would light a candle when it started to get dark (at 3:45 here in Boston!), and rather than feeling depressed about the short days, it felt cozy being inside.

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Taste

Nothing says cozy to me more than a hot cup of coffee. I'm a creature of habit, and drink out of my favorite mug every morning, and every morning it makes me so happy. Though it's not exclusive to winter, there's something about a favorite mug that makes me enjoy the experience of being indoors sipping my coffee. Saturday mornings with flapjacks and maple syrup in another winter treat my family enjoys, and pretty ceramics only add to the experience. 

Sound

There is something about a record player that is very nostalgic for me, years ago I splurged on the u-turn audio record player and I haven't looked back. I use it every day, and during winter months I love an old jazz record, like Ella Firzgerald.

Touch

Soft (fur) throw blankets and sleeping bags (for the girls) for movie nights are a must in my house, the thicker the better.

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1. Fairy Lights
2. My current favorite candle
3. Farmhouse Pottery Maple Syrup Pitcher
4. Ella Fitzgerald record
5. Dutch Oven
6. Record Player
7. Fur throw
8. Tea Kettle
9. Farmhouse Pottery Mug

Organizational Tips that are Saving my Life

Like everyone else, I've been in high organization mode this past month (and Marie Kondo's new show is only helping). The only problem is that I do not have a ton of time to devote to organization these days, plus I'd rather be snuggling my newborn. But, I do believe that small changes over time make a huge impact. If you're like me and don't have the time to do a complete organizational overhaul, here are small improvements/tweaks, that have been "saving my life":

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1. One category or room at a time , one drawer at a time:
Because I very rarely have an entire day to dedicate to organization, I have started giving myself a week per room. Then each day I divide it into a small manageable task, such as one drawer. Sometimes I will also do it the Marie Kondo way- by category. For example, I will tackle all the books in the house. Set a thirty minute timer on your phone, and just give it thirty minutes a day. You will be surprised by how much you can accomplish when it's focused on one small, specific, achievable goal.

2. A tie rack for necklaces to hang (inside the closet)
Jewelry has been a hard thing for me to organize ever since we had kids. My girls are prone to get into my jewelry, even if it means climbing furniture to get to it. While thankfully, there's less climbing these days- I still find that keeping it out of sight is less tempting for them. That is why I hung a tie rack (high enough for me to have to reach up, and out of site for them) for my necklaces to hang inside my closet. It's not the most beautiful jewelry storage solution, but it's inside my closet so I don't mind.

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3. A basket for the in-between clothes.
Both Connor and I will often have clothes that aren't quite dirty enough to be put in the dirty clothes, but they aren't clean enough to be put back in our drawers. We tend to lay them on the floor or bed in a haphazard pile and it is a constant source of angst. Our room is small, so it makes a big difference when clothes are lying about. So I decided to have a basket for the "in-between dirty and clean" clothes. That way it's neat and tidy looking while we are living life.


4. Organization rule: If there's too much stuff for a cabinet, it's time to purge not get a bigger cabinet.The nice thing about having a small house is that it forces you to reassess your things and purge regularly. I subscribe to the rule: if it doesn't fit in the cabinet anymore, don't buy more storage.....get rid of things until it fits in the cabinet. After Christmas when you have received new items is a good time to look at what you have and make sure you aren't accumulating more than you can manage.

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5. When possible, make items smaller for storing.
An example of this is buying drinking glasses that stack. (We recently swapped our old ones out for these to make more space in our small kitchen.) Sometimes we keep the boxes that come with purchases (shoe boxes are an example of this) to stay organized, when in fact they are taking up needed space. If they are detracting from your organization- recycle them. Another idea (that I'm hoping to try this year)is using linen bath towels. They take up way less room to store,  are beautiful, and apparently they dry very fast.

How to Purge: 8 Questions I Ask Myself

 About three or four times a year I get into this crazy mode where I want to pull everything out of our closets and drawers to organize and reassess whether we should keep or donate items.  For me, when things aren't organized, my stress level goes up. The biggest inhibitor to organization is owning too much stuff, and the biggest inhibitor to getting rid of said stuff is the games we play in our minds. Very rarely have I regretted donating an item, but it's still a struggle sometimes. These are some questions/tactics I use to help myself get over the hurdle of whether or not to purge:

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1. Would you be willing to buy this item if you saw it in a store today, and if so - how much would you be willing to pay?
Basically, how much value would you assign this item if it was not yours? Studies show that we place a higher value on things that we own simply because we own them. This question helps me to be more objective when deciding between keeping or giving away.

2, How does the item make you feel?
I can't tell you how many things I have kept over the years that I hated because "there's nothing wrong with it". If you don't love an item, whether it be clothing or a gift you were given (and you feel guilty not keeping it)....find a home for it where it will be appreciated.

3. Put the item out of sight for a period of time- did you miss it?
I do this regularly with papers and crafts my kids bring home from church/school. First I leave it out on the counter for a couple days so they know that I appreciate their hard work, then I move them to the top of the fridge for a few days. If the girls ask about it, I can bring it down and show them.  Inevitably, they forget about it and the item goes in the trash (unless it was a special piece that I want to keep in their memory box). We enjoyed what they made for a time, and then it's done. This same principle can work for things that I'm having a hard time parting with but dont use/wear. Put it in a special box for a few months to a year, and if you didn't open the box- give it away!

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4. Do you need this many
How many times has the thought "but I might need it someday" kept you from getting rid of something? This is a mindset that plagues me when trying to get rid of something....often things that   I have too many of, because in a future hypothetical situation,  "I might need 3 picnic blankets" etc. (That may or may not have been a real life example.) When we first married, I registered for a ton of bath towels......I think I had close to 20. When we bought our current house, I got rid of half.....because in 12 years I have never hosted 20 people, and that many guests would not even fit in our house. We also do not have a ton of storage space. Another example is the wooden place setting holders I was given (leftovers from a friend's wedding). After holding on to them for years, I realized the likelihood of me hosting a sit down dinner party for 25+ friends was slim. If that hypothetical future thing even happened, whose to say that I would still like them. Meanwhile, these were taking up space in my home and life.

5. Is it damaged in any way, and if so-is it worth fixing?  
Whether it's a stained piece of clothing or furniture that's broken- if you have been storing it "to fix it someday", decide to do it this month or give it away if it's not worth it to you. Also under this category is expired spices and medicine (get rid of them).

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6. Is this item simply a "filler" item or do you actually love it? 
So many times we fill our homes with cheap pieces until we find the right piece. There are a few times we have to do this out of necessity ("we need a kitchen table right now and this is all we can afford"), but even those times I think shopping vintage/used is a good answer. I would suggest getting rid of the filler items and having an empty space that's ready for the right piece. Empty rooms are fine!

7. Have I used the item in the past year?  While sometimes there are exceptions (looking at you, pregnancy), generally speaking if the item you are considering keeping/giving away has not been used in a year then it's probably collecting dust somewhere and should be given away. 

8. Is it beautiful or useful (preferably both)?  
This can vary from person to person. What is useful to me is not to someone else- but take note of what you aren't using (kitchen utensils are a good example), and consider if it should be taking up a spot in your home.