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Finding the Balance Between Sponsored and Not

I had something else planned to share today, but in light of recent comments (which were polite and respectful, thank you), I want to let you in on my thought process with a big upcoming project. And I would love your feedback.

Our home had more pressing issues to tend to before we got to the kitchen. We addressed the heating system, remodeled the second floor and turned a superfluous kitchen into a bedroom (Calvin’s nursery), consolidated the multiple gas lines and accounts into one and did the same with our electrical service (in addition to rewiring everything).

There is a room off the back of the kitchen, a former sleeping porch, that would be wonderful to open up and incorporate. Direct access to the yard! Breakfast for the kids in an eat-in kitchen! The ability to not have our stove right next to the fridge! It requires opening a load-bearing wall though, and new flooring, new cabinetry, the works. It’s a maybe someday type of project, and it’s not something that we’re looking to do right now. The kitchen works well for us overall as it is now — we have plenty of storage, the cabinets have some quirks but they’re fine, and we do at least have the modern convenience of a dishwasher.

That antique gas/wood-burning stove, though! I’ve been hesitant to get rid of the it because I have a love/hate thing going on, but it’s time. We’re a family of five now, we cook dinner every night, and the stove makes it harder than it needs to be. We’ll be selling it eventually and I’m sure it will have many more useful years ahead of it, but we’re ready for something else.

Antique Stove

We’ve also had some electrical problems that are driving a redo. There is a sconce, a ceiling fan, and three pendant lights in the kitchen. The light above the stove sparked and burned a light bulb in Brandon’s hand as he was changing it out one day, which was more than a little scary. In an unrelated event (I think), we mysteriously lost power to a portion of the second floor. While our electricians were fixing that problem, they found active knob and tube that was missed during our initial house inspection, and thus began the rewiring of the entire place. The bulk of the job is done now, but it was suggested that we wait to finish the rest when we didn’t have a newborn. We agreed and then we were waiting until after we hosted my sister’s bridal shower in the house (which I will share next week), and now we’ll be able to get back to it as soon as we can get back on the electricians’ schedule. A ceiling is coming down, walls are being opened, and the house is going to be in a state of chaos for a while, but I’m looking forward to getting this work done because it has been holding other projects back.

In the meantime, we had the faulty kitchen pendant rewired and thought all was well, but then I was changing a bulb recently in the pendant above the sink and the same thing happened. The sparks were pretty spectacular! So now we aren’t sure if the problem lies in the house’s wiring (the kitchen has not been done yet), the vintage lighting fixtures, or both. The problem will be investigated, and I’m hoping it can be fixed without destroying the tin ceiling.

Tin Ceiling

So. New stove. Rewiring or replacing the lights. While we’re at it, I would also like to put in new counters, swap out the sink and faucet, remove the wallpaper, paint or put up new paper, and add ventilation with a range hood. Maybe paint the cabinets, bring in some tile, and revamp or replace the kitchen island too. I’m in the early stages of planning everything right now, but the crazy thing is that (to be perfectly honest) the blog puts me in a position to do much of the room for free.

The business of blogging is always changing and those of us that have been doing this for a long time are always adapting, and I’ve addressed the topic of sponsorship before. I teach, I write elsewhere, and I cobble together a living from other opportunities, but the primary source of my income is sponsor-driven and has been for many years. I’m not sure what our budget for the kitchen will be yet, but let’s say I can set aside $10,000. We will likely hire someone to put in the ventilation and there will be some repairs needed after the electricians do their thing (the extent of which will determine whether we DIY or hire out), so those costs are somewhat fixed. With the rest of our budget, I could buy a mid-priced range, save money by painting instead of adding tile or wallpaper, rewire and keep our existing lighting (assuming it can be deemed safe), reuse the sink and faucet that we took out from the kitchen on the second floor, and watch our pennies with all the rest.

Bloggers hold influence, and therefore companies are often eager to get product into our hands in exchange for coverage. Any goods that I accept, either those that have been proactively offered or that I seek out with proposals, would effectively increase our overall budget and allow us to allocate our cash differently. It could mean the difference in my design between a standard 30″ stove and a higher-end 36″ range (the added six inches comes with a huge price jump), or it could mean more beautiful lighting and a new sink. I wouldn’t accept something just because the (free) price is right, but if it was something I would have purchased anyway, I simply look at it as another form of income — one that allows us to accomplish more than we would have been able to do otherwise.

There are a couple of remodels going on in the blog world right now that will be incorporating gifted items, some of which have been more clearly disclosed than others. The ongoing One Room Challenge series, is fun to follow, provides a ton of inspiration, and it is made possible in large part by sponsorships. Knowing this doesn’t diminish my interest as a reader, but perhaps my perception is different because I am on both sides of the issue.

Accepting sponsorships or free goods allows me to create a more beautiful finished product (I’m happy), offers coverage for the brands I partner with (they’re happy), and produces more original content for the blog (I want you to be happy, too). I get that it’s not easy to relate to a kitchen done entirely with free goods, but I think there is a balance to be struck and I can’t make the call in a vacuum or an echo-chamber. I can discuss these things with friends, family, and fellow bloggers, but then sometimes I’ll make a decision and it prompts a completely unexpected reaction. So let’s talk. Would you prefer to see a modest kitchen redone without the help of free goods? Or a more involved design with higher-end finishes and details that were made possible (either in part or entirely) by seeking out partnerships? Do you draw a distinction between accepting individual components (appliances, tile, etc.) or an overall sponsorship (brought to you by _____)?

I’ve always aimed to be transparent in these matters, so you tell me. What would you (ideally) like to see? I’m listening.

Life (and Projects) Lately

Oh hai there! Train of thought post, coming your way.

I feel like I’ve been running around doing a million things, but I have as yet to document them all here. So here goes! Stuff that has been going on and will continue to go on and that will make it here in the form of photos and words and whatnot. Ready? Ready!

My coffee table was styled up and shot three ways for Make it Better magazine. I have some outtakes and different angles that are super pretty, so I’ll put that together as a post for next week.

One Coffee Table, Styled Three Ways

• The wallpaper in August’s bedroom has been stripped and the room has been painted green. I am not in love with the green, but it is an improvement over peeling wallpaper.

Green in August's Room

• Speaking of wallpaper, two rolls of the stuff are en route for the upstairs bathroom. Also, art has been chosen and ordered for the downstairs bathroom. I get all weird about not sharing things until they’re done, but sometimes I think back to the random little updates I used to post ages ago when I first started this blog. I mean, seriously? My Pinterest and Instagram kind of replaced all of that, didn’t they? I’m digressing here. Blogging is weird, and so is this post.

No photo! Unless you want a screenshot of my receipts?

• Some new art went up! Here’s a preview.

Art for the Hallway

:)

• Not too terribly long ago, I setup the prettiest dang Easter brunch. (I know, we’re nearing summer now. Hush. I’m proud of the way this turned out and I’m sharing. We also decorated eggs, if you’re inclined to see.)

Juice and Coffee
Paper Lanterns and Pinwheels
Easter Decorations: Paper Lanterns and Pinwheels, Garland, and Easter Bunnies

• I visited another designer showhouse, the Merchandise Mart’s DreamHome 2015. Do we want pictures? I have some pictures. These were from my favorite room, designed by Anne Coyle.

Merchandise Mart DreamHome 2015 Dining Room, Designed by Anne Coyle
Merchandise Mart DreamHome 2015 Dining Room, Designed by Anne Coyle

• I spent some time in San Francisco last month with a few of Target’s Made to Matter brands (Soma, Olly, and Suja) and a bunch of fellow bloggers. Always nice to be back in one of my favorite places, and in such good company. (I love this picture of us, taken by Thayer Allyson Gowdy.) I’ll be seeing some of these fine folks again in a couple of weeks in Salt Lake City when I’m back there to speak at Alt Summit.

#sunrisesf photo by Thayer Allyson Gowdy

• We had a birthday party for Eleanor, not at our house. (First time!) She loved it. At the last minute though, she asked for a science theme, so I went to the nerd store (ahem, science surplus store) to buy favors and decorations. Flowers in beakers and flasks, and voila: science theme! Kids are easy to please. Me too, judging by the amount of happiness these signs brought me.

Science Store Humor

• Two new additions joined our household after Eleanor’s birthday, bringing our total of living beings here to ten. Meet our guinea pigs, Speedy (the white one, so named because she is quick), and Gingerbread (named in advance, so we tried to find one that matched the moniker). They squeal and make little noises and are cute, and I like to pet and pick them up as much if not more than the kids do.

Guinea Pigs

• The pantry closet in the kitchen got organized. The old man on the oatmeal box no longer stares at me each morning as I make my breakfast and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I miss you, oatmeal man! I do like the matching containers and colorful bins that have replaced him though. I wrote about the whole thing on Crate & Barrel’s new blog.

Wrapping Paper Sheets and Clear Shelf Liner
Pantry Shelves with New Liners

• I’ve been fattening up a baby all day everyday. I know this is not news, but dammit it takes up a lot of time!

Calvin

• This happened between the time I went from upstairs to down, and back up again. Every stuffed animal (and daughter) in the house had a party on our bed.

So many stuffed animals.

And with that, I think we’re all caught up. Phew!

Workplaces

Our house is warm! Our house is warm! We woke up this morning to a not-freezing house, even though we’re getting hit with another arctic blast. The thermostat downstairs is set to 70° and it’s actually that temperature. Thank you, plastic-wrap window film.

We’ve also closed off the small room downstairs, a former porch off of the kitchen, that should be my office. I moved my computer out of there last month when it became clear that the space had some insulation issues. Fingerless gloves are all right, but I don’t really want them to be part of my work day. I’m at a desk in one of the bedrooms on the third floor now instead. We’re lucky to have the space to be flexible, but we have other plans for the room I’m in now.

I was photographed recently for Splash, the magazine in the Sunday edition of The Chicago Sun Times, and the focus was on workplaces. The turnaround was quick, so they shot in my living room instead of my home office. The issue came out yesterday, and you can read it online here.

Chicago Sun Times Splash, Making it Lovely

Proud! (Hello, laptop and @ sign. It was a story on bloggers, so props.) But then here is why we didn’t shoot in my actual workspace…

Temporary Office

Not so proud.

That’s my temporary office. The desk and lamp were Brandon’s in the last house, and the chair is one of four waiting room chairs I found in an alley ages ago. We’ve had them kicking around forever. Crazy wires and a general lack of styling? Super pretty. It’s working for now, but I do want a dedicated office space here in the house that I can make nice. I’m just not sure where that’s going to be yet.

We have to figure out what’s going on with that room downstairs at the back of the house. It’s open below with a storage area beneath (accessed from the yard), so perhaps better insulation from underneath would help during the winter? Or, if we really want to get crazy, we could knock out the load-bearing wall between it and the kitchen, and make one amazing kitchen. That’s a huge project though — one that is on our maybe someday a decade or more down the line list. I don’t think we want to bump that up right now, but if we did, we could really gut the space and address its issues properly.

I’m thinking out loud here a bit. What would you do?

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