Archive - Business RSS Feed

The Tote Bag I Designed for West Elm

I worked for west elm, briefly, when they opened their first retail location nearly ten years ago. I remember being so excited that my favorite catalog was finally opening a brick-and-mortar location, and that it was going to be right over in Oak Brook! I had left my full-time job at the bookstore that summer, so I applied to earn a little extra money there during the holiday season while I continued my other part-time job and tried to make a go of my stationery business. Now, as they were moving from their original Oak Brook location on 22nd, into a new space in Oakbrook Center, I was working for them again. This time, drawing and designing a tote bag to be given away for the grand opening.

Free West Elm Tote Bag, Drawn and Designed by Nicole Balch of Making it LovelyIMG_7539-Edit640

I sometimes think of the digital mood boards and room designs that I create in Photoshop as my version of window shopping. Way back though, before this blog, I used to sketch rooms, furniture, and clothes that I liked on paper. Doing this illustration project for west elm was a lot of fun, because it tapped into that old practice. I drew ten or so of my favorite products from west elm, and then another ten local landmarks, first in pencil and then outlined with a Micron pen. Then I scanned my drawings, cleaned them up in Photoshop and vectorized them in Illustrator, and then added color. I also played around with the layout, choosing my favorite illustrations and constraining them to the proper size.

Illustrations by Nicole Balch for West Elm

The people at west elm that I’d been speaking to as I worked on the project were not from the area. They had initially requested images that say “Oak Brook” so… the McDonald’s headquarters and Oakbrook Center? Right. If you’re wondering why the tote is more Illinois and Chicago-themed, there you go. We expanded the range.

West Elm Tote Bag Drawn and Designed by Nicole Balch of Making it Lovely

I visited the new store, which just opened today, and it’s gorgeous. I’m so honored to have had this opportunity to work with them again, in such a fun way! Thanks, west elm.

West Elm's Oakbrook Center Living Grow Wall Behind the Cash Wrap

p.s. Cookies, with my illustrations!

Cookies

Clear to Close!

Finally! Late last week, we got the clear to close from our mortgage lender. New house, here we come!

Garden Path

Brandon and I wanted a conventional, no-surprises kind of loan. I knew that my self-employment would probably be an obstacle, but we were pre-approved for a huge mortgage. Since we weren’t actually going to borrow as much as we could have (because whoa that feels risky), we hoped the process would be easy. Nope!

When we bought our first house in 2007, I was self-employed then too. But those were the days where you could just declare your income with a low doc (or no doc) loan, and be good. You know, those loans that contributed to the whole housing bubble and subsequent crash? Yeah, thankfully the banks aren’t doing many of those anymore.

So we knew the process would be different this time around. We had a lot of equity to go toward a down payment, but to qualify for the mortgage I had to give our full tax returns from the last two years, explain transfers and deposits from the last few months, provide bank statements from all accounts (business checking and savings, personal checking and savings, custodial kids’ accounts), do a choreographed dance routine, and recite a sonnet from memory. Then the market rates changed (for the worse, then for the better again), some documents changed, and I had to do it all over again. That was super fun! We discussed some creative financing options with the lender, but in the end we were able to secure a good rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage. We’re happy. And relieved. (If you’re in the greater Chicagoland area and looking for a mortgage, or to refinance, contact me if you want the name of the woman that helped us. She was fantastic.)

Assuming everything is still on schedule, we’ll close on the house next Wednesday. Looks like my presumptuous “Our Victorian House” category title will hold up!

Pink Loves Brown, Closing Up Shop

I intended to take only a brief maternity leave from my stationery shop, Pink Loves Brown, after August was born. Just as I had done with Eleanor. The first time around, I closed for six months, and I foolishly thought that I could reopen much quicker the second time around. I was a WAHM already — I’d been around the block! I knew what to expect! Six months? Let’s go for six weeks!

I didn’t know what to expect. The shop stayed closed a little longer. Then a lot longer.

Pink Loves Brown at the Renegade Craft Fair, 2007

We considered reopening the shop last year when Brandon lost his job, but we decided against it. The blog, and the opportunities that came along with it, would support our family far better than my stationery line. Going full-time here has gone well, and so I quietly (finally) closed the shop a couple of months ago. I don’t know why it took me so long to write about it. I shuttered something that was successful, which is a hard thing to explain. I sometimes think of the way I write about our life as having my hand on the five-second delay, not because I’m hiding anything or afraid of letting something slip, but because havings a tiny bit of distance helps me get perspective. Closing the shop was difficult. It was a huge part of our lives.

Pink Loves Brown in Venus Magazine, 2008

I started my stationery business in 2005, after requests started picking up from friends and family (and friends of family) to design invitations. Like many new stationers, I became interested after designing my own wedding invitations. After a few custom invitation projects, I realized that I was more interested in creating a line of greeting cards and stationery, and so I focused my attention there. The shop did well, and picked up a fair amount of press coverage. I came out with new design collections every 4-6 months, and promoted them on the blog and through my shop’s newsletter. Over time, I added buttons, magnets, bookplates, and paper suitcases to my shop’s wares.

Pink Loves Brown Pocket Mirrors

Pink Loves Brown Personalized Stationery

We finished the basement with the intention of moving my studio down there (along with creating the laundry room, play room, and storage space). We did move everything downstairs, but only utilized the space for personal use. There are only so many hours in a day. The time I devote to work, time away from Brandon and the kids, needs to be spent as productively as possible. That meant letting the shop go and closing that chapter. I know it’s not a surprise, and that I should have come to this point much sooner, but here we are.

Pink Loves Brown Paper Suitcases

In an effort to clear out my inventory before we move, I’ll be selling the remainder of my paper suitcases for the next week. All sales will be final, and only the paper suitcase category will be active. Everything else in the shop will be listed as “out of stock,” but I do still have plenty of inventory left. So all of the other stuff you see in the shop? Freebies, with purchase! Bonus goodies will be included with each order, grab bag style.

(And if you’re a local stationer in need of card stock, envelopes, or cellophane card sleeves and boxes, let me know. You’re welcome to my surplus of supplies if you’ll come pick it up.)

Pink Loves Brown Stationery Sets

Some of you have been reading for a long time, and you probably remember when the shop was open. Some of you have even been customers! The shop was a huge part of this blog’s journey, and whether you’re new here or have been around since the beginning, thank you.

Update: The paper suitcases are now sold out (I’ll ship everything out by Monday morning at the latest), and someone will be picking up the surplus supplies.

Page 4 of 50« First...«23456»...Last »