Sunday, March 6

Innovative Thinking reinforced at Design Blog Conference in LA last week

What ideas do you have that make you
different from everyone else?

I've been thinking about the word

a lot lately and as you can see I even made

my March topic on Nest.
It seems almost a coincidence that this was the central theme discussed at the interior design blog conference I attended last week in LA.  It was a packed 3-day schedule at the Sofitel Hotel in West Hollywood.  The event was organized by Adam Japko of Design Sherpa and author of Wine Zag blog.  Adam served us champagne at 10:00 am in the morning -- not your average conference, huh?  Well, the back story is Adam is passionate about wine, and he assessed that our passion for design is as intense as his love of wine.  In addition, Design Sherpa offers a variety of services to designers and design bloggers, so there was some chatter about that as well. 

Adam Japko of Design Sherpa and blog, Wine Zag
photograph courtesy from Wine Zag
We learned about technical aspects to blogging and how to optimize your Google rating as well as how to take our blogs to the next level with branding and knowing one's audience.  We spoke to magazine editors and other bloggers -- It was a glut of information given in one big spill and quite frankly I'm still processing it all. 

If you surveyed the room at the Conference in the large space at the Sofitel Hotel in West Hollywood, there almost seemed no connection between the people speaking.  From well established editors of famous magazines, to young girls seemingly straight out of college, to successful interior designers with high end businesses, it seemed a disconnect at times as to why all these people shared the same stage and offered us advice and thoughts on the blogging world...but more on that later. 

Anne Maine of Traditional Home has worked many years on this successful magazine, and told us of an exciting collaboration between Traditional Home and Lonny Magazine -- TradHome -- I'm sure you'll hear lots about it in the coming weeks.

Straight after graduating from college I worked a 9-5 job at a magazine, so I get the value of paying one's dues. There's nothing like learning on the job that helps to reinforce all those classroom notes.  I love interior designer and blog author of HollyHock Suzanne Rheinstein's style and elegance and how she utilizes her years of art history training and education to bring her clients well-curated rooms.  At the same time, Barclay Butera's rock and roll style has strong appeal, and he is very adept at thinking quickly on his feet, able to give his clients exactly what they want (even if they aren't sure they know it yet).  I do get it how different approaches to interior design can be successful, but blogging about design is still a bit of an anomaly to me and many successful bloggers don't have much experience in design, yet create spectacular blogs.

Suzanne Rheinstein showed us slides of her amazing, detailed work and it is obvious she is a very well educated and trained designer...I was in awe!

 Then we heard from Grace Bonney from Design Sponge.  She is like the pioneer in the design blogging industry (this is a young industry, folks) and Grace is truly one of the first to blaze the trail and create a financially successful blog about interior design.  She looks like she's just finished taking her sorority vows yesterday, but when she spoke it was refreshing to hear she has lots of wisdom to impart.  The list goes on, and some were impulsive and improvisational, while others were patrons of the industry.  One person called blogging "the wild card" in the changing world of online entities.  It's all very cutting edge and there is no doubt we are all learning as as we go.  Some were primarily working interior designers that barely blog but know this is what you need to do to stay in the game, while others blog and tweet as a full time job.  Tobi Fairley took to the podium and made us smile with her charm and wit, and in a self deprecating manner pointed out that blogging is what landed her work on the cover of House Beautiful magazine because she doesn't feel many editors are trolling Arkansas looking for talent.  She credits blogging as taking her design business to another platform.  She is a talented designer and I love her designs.

Loren Ruch of HGTV gave us a different perspective and it
appears television uses myriad ways to work with bloggers

Stacy Kunstel designer, stylist and author of StacyStyle was our moderator during the editor panel and she did a fabulous job of interviewing the titans of the Shelter magazine industry, keeping them focused on the blogging industry and how we can collaborate together

 talk about innovation, Stacy Kunstel has her hands in many creative projects. I visited her at the recent NY Gift Show -- these candlebras are gorgeous and you can learn more about them on her other blog, DunesandDuchess

 So you ask, what is the common thread here? 

I came away with my head spinning a bit, and after a few days of contemplation,
I see the wisdom in all combined. 

back together again -- a small group of us had bonded when sponsored a few weeks back by faucet company Brizo and Jason Wu during Fashion Week, and it was fun to be together again at Design Blog Conference. 

It was when Ronda Carmen spoke that it started to click for me. She took all the rhetoric, wove it together and it started to make sense. She spoke about how it is important to toot your own horn and be honest and clear about what you can provide that is different from other design bloggers. Basically, what is your niche? How are you different?  In order to be a successful interior design blogger one must be innovative. So, the word of the week is INNOVATION!  Ronda stressed the importance of articulating your brand and audience, as well as setting goals. Will you get more clients? Sponsors?  What is it that you hope to gain? Who is your audience?  Thank you, Ronda, because if you hadn't stopped me in my tracks I may have kept on blogging, photographing, interviewing and all the other ways that inspire me to capture all these beautiful images and experiences to bring to my audience but as a left brain gal (and not always a right brain gal) I may not have focused my energies on thinking long and hard about what I wanted at the end of the day.
Ronda Carmen of All the Best was recently given the title of Brand Ambassador for the upscale linen company Sferra -- now that's Thinking Outside the Box! 

I started journaling about design because I felt I had something unique to offer and wanted to write down my thoughts. After years working as an interior designer I often had many creative projects going simultaneously. I have become a bit of an expert in many areas, from entertaining to interior design. I enjoy the historical elements of design, as well as the architecture and the amazing talent it takes to make beautiful handmade goods.  My clients seemed quite happy with what I provided to them, but my friends started to gush about how well I entertained. I have a way of putting together parties and events, bringing an eclectic group together and injecting the same amount of creativity that I put into design into the food and decor of an event. So, I dreamt up the name Nest by Tamara and that sort of emcompasses all that pertains to the home: the decorating, the cooking, the entertaining, how the kids fit into all this fun, the weekend guests, and the events that unfold all year long in our home.  Everyone says I'm quite good at all this stuff, and humbly, I guess I've done a few things I'm quite proud of (Ronda says to toot your own horn, but that feels weird to write down).

a birthday dinner I threw for my husband - using his two favorite colors, orange and blue, and an all-seafood (his favorite) menu in August and story I wrote about casual summer entertaining
  Now, I must admit I wasn't as good at being in the corporate world, and yes I wore my suits with sneakers commuting to work in the 80's (geez that's a style image I'd like to forget and boy am I dating myself here), talked over the water cooler, but quite frankly it was not me. So, I was very happy when I decided to go back to school and get another degree in interior design. I began getting valuable experience freelancing for designers, stylizing windows and photo shoots, and later, in the midst of raising two amazing kids, starting a design business. I love being a mom more than anything else I have ever done, and both my children have been involved in my blog at one point or another.  My daughter loves to cook and take photographs.  Last June they actually cooked my husband and I a nine course dinner for our 18th year wedding anniversary and I just had to document this amazing endeavor - it became a blog moment.

Now what does this have to do with Innovation you ask?

Well, quite a bit actually. I have carved out a niche for myself as not just an interior designer but a designer with a philosophical perspective.  I did this naturally and without planning it, and I journal all the amazing stuff I see in my industry as a place to show my clients, friends and viewers how to take the mystery out of some of it, relax a little and enjoy the process.  It hit me over the head while at the conference that I have been doing this all along, but without purpose. I just like the process of writing a blog.  It is fun, and although time consuming it has changed my life in many ways.  I now look at each and every experience I have in a different light and often say to myself

"what would my viewers think of this"

 and I start taking photos and writing essays in my head.  I write all my stories using original content, often taking a page out of my life, but not featuring my life as the main focus of the story because I enjoy profiling others who are craftsman and who honor history and artistry.  Many times over the years I have been awed by someone or thing and now as the author of Nest I get to bring that to my viewers (and 35,000 of you stopped over at Nest in the past few months).  I think many of us who are passionate about design find this approach interesting, which is why many of my readers are other interior designers.
 How am I different?

I love all these beautiful blogs with elaborate photographs from magazine spreads with arrows pointing to the parts of the room that they love and maybe even how they look like their favorite dress. Because I started my career at a magazine I am sprouted from a time when you wouldn't use a photograph of an interior without getting permission from the photographer, so that part of blogging scares me a bit. I have done it but not often, and I link back and mention the name of the designer and photographer if I can.  I made a decision early on to take my own photographs or those from others I interview. I try to approach blogging like an interviewer and bring great inspirations to the blog, kind of like the behind the scenes look at what we designers do because it really is very cool.  So, this allows you a unique perspective, and all from my eyes whether I am interviewing a friend whose home I love or a craftsman that makes beautiful stuff or a product that has inspired me, or a dish I am preparing and serving at a party, or a showhouse or a historic home I'm visiting. All the stuff that goes into creating a well designed, curated Nest. Every time I read the story on Nest about my interview with a modern day stone carver that learned the trade from the Italian masters and lives in residence at New York City's St. John the Divine, I am reminded of how much I love this industry.  Chris' committment to stone carving is fascinating and the tour he gave me of his studio and the church grounds will stay with me for a long time. 

my February 2009  story about Chris Pelletterri carving a statue in his working studio at Saint John the Divine
and it looks like he's teaching a stone carving class now!

"by patronizing artisans like me, people like you enable beautiful things to be created that will bring joy not only to those of us on the earth now, but also to future generations"    Chris Pellettieri
 So here we were 200 bloggers filling a room, a captive audience.  Adam did some research and showed us the daunting statistics and millions of viewers we influence daily....apparently we are blazing  a trail....let me ask you what are you doing on your blog or any part of your life that is different from others? 
How are you innovative? 

Leave me a comment (click on the large dandelion at the top of the blog) and tell me because I truly want to know, plus you may win some stylish pillows to boot. 

start clicking away on the keys folks and leave me a comment (I totally want this typewriter)
photograph thanks to Pinterest and KristinLawlor's fun blog

What's Happening Next Week?

Please stop back next Monday for a glimpse of one of our recent dinner parties.  I told you about a fun and educational Culinary Club I started with some "foodie" friends  -- here's last December's Italian dinner party.

Italian Pot Luck Dinner after we all took a trip to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, bought our goods and each made a dish.  These delicious cookies were delivered gratis from friend Kathryn Collins of  HEY COOKIE - they were as delicious as they were pretty!

Each month we choose a different cuisine, investigate it by hitting a local neighborhood surrounding NYC that specializes in that food, and later we share a dinner party inspired by our trip with each guest bringing a dish.  Russian night turned into a fun, hilarious and chocolate vodka infused event...please stop back Monday for a run through Brighton Beach in Brooklyn and our festivities hosted by Russian-born Irene and her husband Rob. 

Another fabulous Pinterest photograph


maison21 said...

thanks for the great recount of the DBC! ronda couldn't be more correct- toot your own horn! after all, if we don't toot our horns, why would anyone else want too either?

as far as innovative thinking and blogging, i think there will always be someone who will write better, take better photographs, be more informative, etc., etc., so being truly innovative is often quite difficult; but what isn't difficult, is just being yourself online. remaining truly authentic, and true to your own voice and vision is that one thing no other blogger, or designer can replicate, or do better than you can, so in a sense, just being "you" is the most innovative thing of all!

paula said...

How am I innovative?
Well, for one thing, I made a coffee table out of a storm drain.
I force bulbs in glass block.
I tack oak branches around my front door and decorate them with twinkly lights.

Thanks for the eye candy on your site, here.
I found you because I have an interest in Folly Cove Designers and the fabrics they made.

Paula Erickson

The Fine Life said...

Thank you for posting about your experience at DBC2011. I am a bit of a babe in these woods, so I am taking in bits and pieces of the conference from many different perspectives. I imagine my response would be quite like yours: Who are all of these people, and how are we connected? Well, the truth is that we are all connected, and we always have been. We just have a better lens to view the world with now. I am beginning to realize that I am more than my degree, my practice, or any of the really important titles I hold (Mother, wife, daughter, sister, volunteer…). I am the sum of ALL of those things, plus so much more. So, I blog without a box for now, somehow knowing that I will find my groove, just like you found yours. When I started blogging, I vowed never to copy anyone else’s style. I have tried to life my life that way, as well. As long as I stay true to myself and my values, it will all unfold as it meant to, even if I only see it in my rear-view mirror.

Karena said...

Tamara, I loved your column in July because I lived in San Diego 13 yrs and loved your profiling of the great ways to entertain in a casually elegant manner!

I think I break out of the box because though I am an artist I feature other artists of all genres,including interviews about their inspiration,etc. This also helps my readers look at art design, architecture, etc in a new light. They seem to become more willing to break out of the box themselves!

I adore the pillows and they would look great in my teal, yellow, turuoise and coral den/office..

Do come and enter my Artful Offering!It is truly beautiful!

Art by Karena

stacystyle said...

What a great wrap-up on the Design Blogger Conference! I love hearing everyone's take-aways from our time in L.A. Next time we meet "IRL" I want to hear about your first job at a magazine!
Thank you so much for the shout-out to me and our little company, Dunes and Duchess. I really appreciate the support and your generosity! xosk

Judy said...

I love your creativity! I have always loved decorating even at an early age. My mom taught me how to refinish furniture when I was 8 years old, so needless to say I can fix up a little table in no time with gold leaf and white paint.
I loved how you took the wicker chairs and paired them with the farm table, my next project indeed!

Nena said...

You’ve definitely have made me re-think about what can be used to decorate the wall above a headboard. For years now, I have been scared to place anything of significant weight because I felt it was unbalancing with the bed but after looking through your blog, I really think I have let my fear of having something fall on my head take over. Since I live in Southern California I really do have to take that into consideration, but I have gone to the extreme and reframed from placing anything. Thanks for pointing this out to me, now off to buy some sturdy nails and wire!

Nena said...

You’ve definitely have made me re-think about what can be used to decorate the wall above a headboard. For years now, I have been scared to place anything of significant weight because I felt it was unbalancing with the bed but after looking through your blog, I really think I have let my fear of having something fall on my head take over. Since I live in Southern California I really do have to take that into consideration, but I have gone to the extreme and reframed from placing anything. Thanks for pointing this out to me, now off to buy some sturdy nails and wire!

Art Style said...

Tam - Your talents are many. Not only do you throw a smashing dinner party (We can't get over Ina's morel chicken you prepared to perfection last night), but you are one of the few bloggers that takes a design topic to new levels, ferreting out the most fascinating to make a rich conversation. I particularly enjoyed your coverage of Edith Wharton's home in Lenox, MA and how she broke from a dark Victorian aesthetic to create a light, Palladian style home at the turn of the 20th century.

My best, L

Fauxology said...

Ronda did it for me, too, Tamara. It all came together at that moment and I saw how some things worked really well and how some things needed to change (more tooting my own horn which is hard -- but Ms. Fairley planted that seed as well). I love the way you pulled this DBC recap together -- but then, I have always enjoyed the way you write. I think my blog is innovative in that in speaks of the trades (in my case, decorative painting) within the design world and help keep designers and other fellow trades updated on our industry. I might have to work on verbalizing that better. ;) Have a beautiful day, Tamara!

jb @BuildingMoxie said...

toot your own horn (your commenters do it.oh irony)! and somebody's got to drop the Y (chromosome that is) over here -- I too thought it was a great recap though I did not attend the conference (as you know)... and wonder if you felt quite like I did in NYC (just sayin') and I really am only on the fringe, fringe of the design thing. but I do love your energy and presentation << that's what brings me back.

innovation -- I think the one thing I have done that is truly innovative (with my blog) -- is purposely open it up to as many different persons as possible (Regina .. .twice in fact and she rocks). I began to look at it as less of journal and more as a regularly updated website and use the blog as point of association and connection ... that said -- I tend to land on this topic with Maison21 and FineLife - very thoughtful comments that I am going to reference in a post I am writing. When I do post which still does represent about 60% of our posts… I simply try to be myself and it is harder than it sounds – but it does in fact make me, well… unique.
Beautiful posting . . . and whew… long comment. jb

quintessence said...

So much food for thought. Clearly this conference got everyone's creative juices flowing. Thank you for the fabulous recap - maybe next year I'll be able to hear it all in person!

Summer is a Verb said...

Of course, I'm partial to the Christmas guest recipe posts, being that I had the honor to contribute. And, I'm currently trying to think outside the immediate gratification box as I just gave up shopping for Lent. Everything I think I'll die without having will still be there in 40 days. And, ya never know, the novelty may even wear off by then, et voilĂ , I never needed it to begin with...XXOO

Suzanne Lasky/S Interior Design said...

Great stuff as always. One of the things I enjoy most about blogging; both reading others blogs and writing my own, is the ability to 'speak' in the first person voice. It is the conversational aspect of it that makes it personal versus reading articles in most shelter magazines.
thank you for all that you share!

Suzanne Lasky-S Interior Design

kk Taylor said...

Just beautiful. Always looking for inspiration and I just found it. I'm ready for spring inside and out. Sometime you must just "ask" for help. I own a bed and breakfast in the Texas Hill Country. Lot's of inspiration can be found in Fredericksburg, TX.

Carolyn Daily said...

I don't know how innovative this is but, I bought two bookshelves from Wal-Mart the other day. They are both a walnut colour. I wanted black but they had sold out of the black. I decided that I am going to paint them a leopard print. It'll be time consuming, but I think they'll look sharp once they are done. said...

I so enjoyed reading your thoughts on DBC2011! I thought it was amazing how they were able to take all of these people of different threads and weave a story of social media and design. I loved it! Thank you for sharing!

divinepainter said...

Your recap on the blogger event was very powerful. Thanks for sharing. A lot of food for thought. I especially agree with what you wrote (and I am paraphrasing here) about recognizing a "blog moment" as you live your life. How true! I sometimes feel like my blog is writing itself! These blog-worthy moments pop up now and again and call to me earnestly, "pick me! pick me!" We are truly blessed when we have so many moments to choose from.

Sarasota Photography said...

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