My Life The Blog

Oops. I Meant to Do That.

I just got back from a weekend away in San Francisco with an inspiring group of fellow bloggers. While at dinner, a few of us were talking frankly about living with so much of our lives online. “Is it difficult to know where to draw the line?” someone asked us. “To know what’s suitable for sharing?”

The other women (whom I know and admire, and whose blogs I love reading) both answered immediately. Yes. It’s hard. There has to be a balance of being aspirational and approachable. They talked about consciously adding in a few ‘oops’ moments to some of their posts, to counter the possible air of perfection. And they get it — I get it. Nobody wants to read the blog that makes someone feel bad about themselves, and nobody wants to be the person causing those feelings.

“I probably include too many ‘oops’ moments,” I joked. “Maybe I’m not aspirational enough!” I mean, that rug? I don’t know about it. I’m having second thoughts, which is probably annoying to you guys. It’s annoying to myself. But I do something, I get excited, and I share. The layout of the library? It’s tricky. Incorporating all of our home’s oak and fir? I’m doing my best to do it justice. Sometimes I know exactly where I’m going with the design of this house and sometimes I’m figuring it out along the way, and perhaps I share it too soon before I’ve got it all sorted. But that’s what’s fun about having this space. That’s what I love writing about, and that’s what keeps me happy day after day and excited about blogging here.

For a long time, I thought I was doing it wrong. I watched people grow their businesses by taking on contributors and assistants, by posting more frequently, by analyzing results. More. Bigger. Better. I thought I needed to follow suit, and I learned that it wasn’t for me. There are so many rules and tricks to blogging with the intent to grow, often as quickly as possible (it is literally my job to teach them). Remain relatable. Include photos of yourself X% of the time. Work Pinterest with tutorials and the right image formats. And you know, the formulas work! But they also lead to burnout (and I do include that caveat in class as well, lest I lead my twenty-year-olds astray). Other bloggers do what’s right for them and I love to watch and learn, but ultimately I need to do what works for me even if it isn’t ‘the right way’ to do things. This blog is dear to me and incredibly important to our family as it’s our income, but I want it to succeed in a way that feels true.

I think about spaces. I think about our home, and the fictional fifteen other homes I would decorate if time and money and locations were unlimited. I think about style and the easy reinvention of a wardrobe that comes with a great new pair of shoes or a killer dress. I think about turning out amazing meals and mixing the perfect drink and having children that will eat quinoa as easily as they will Coco Wheats. I have an idea of where I’m going but I make mistakes and I share as I go because that’s life, not a business strategy. I’m so appreciative of having people alongside me, even as I waffle, rethink, redo, and correct. That’s life, and that’s part of the fun.

Plants by Lila B. Design at Stable Café, San Francisco
Photo taken over the weekend at the beautiful Stable Café in San Francisco. Note the burned out light bulb. ‘Oops.’

Sources & Paint ColorsNeed design help? Let's work together.

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  • Angela
    April 27, 2015 at 2:16 pm


  • Bethann
    April 27, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    So appreciate you keeping it real and the highs and lows of blogging! I appreciate the authentic!!

  • Katharine
    April 27, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    I’m glad you share all the indecisive moments about your rugs and rearranging the library. Too many blogs are filled with all the “perfect” moments, but never the real ones that make things seem achievable. I NEED someone like you to tell me it’s OK to move that rug or sofa or piece of art around until it finds its rightful place.

    Don’t change, Nicole. :)

    • Making it Lovely
      April 29, 2015 at 10:11 am

      I’m such a fan of moving things around. First, because sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to get it just right, and second, because you can switch things up around the house without having to buy all new stuff when you’re ready for a change!

  • Vanessa J.
    April 27, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    “I probably include too many ‘oops’ moments,” I joked. “Maybe I’m not aspirational enough!” I mean, that rug? I don’t know about it. I’m having second thoughts, which is probably annoying to you guys. It’s annoying to myself. But I do something, I get excited, and I share.”

    Nichole, Keep doing it. This is exactly why I like reading your blog. I like seeing your process, why you make choices, and when you try things that don’t work. While I appreciate your style, it isn’t my own, I don’t come here for inspiration so much as your friendly approachable demeanor. Don’t change!

    • Making it Lovely
      April 29, 2015 at 10:09 am

      Thank you, and I’m glad to hear that you still love following along, even if we have different styles. I read other blogs with different aesthetics too, and I always wonder if that’s common or if people tend to seek out the styles that most closely align with their own. Glad I’m not alone in that!

  • meg
    April 27, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    i second (third? fourth? fifth?) the sentiment of: you’re doing it just right.

    the honesty and so-called ‘oops’ moments you offer on your blog remind me that no one gets it right every time. so if i pick out the wrong paint color the first go-round, it’s okay! not even professionals get it right the first time every time. it’s no big deal–my mismatched pillow can go in another room, the leftover wrong paint would look great on a dresser i’ve been meaning to refinish, and even if it takes me a few tries to get to where i’m excited to say ‘lookit my home!’, at least i’ll know that when i get there, every single thing was done (or redone) with intention and love–not because i wanted it to look ‘perfect’, but because i wanted it to look like home. my home.

    thanks so much for sharing that journey as you create your home, too. it’s lovely to see, every step of the way.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 29, 2015 at 10:13 am

      The pros definitely have their ‘oops’ moments, but they don’t usually share them. Which makes sense, because clients are trusting them with their money and the look of their homes, so they don’t want to think ‘oh, this person doesn’t know what they’re doing.’ But the truth is, very rarely does everything work out exactly the way it’s first envisioned! It’s just that we don’t see that they bring in two different table options, or a ton of pillows and accessories to see which will make the cut. Every so often a big designer will pull back the curtain a little, and we get to see that a ha! they make mistakes sometimes too!

  • Laura
    April 27, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Honestly, I love this.

    There was one silly thing that popped out of this post for me–“OMG! I’m not the only one who severely debates rugs, buys them and then questions if there’s a better one out there for me. Will I ever find the soulmate for my floor?”

    Girl, we aren’t perfect and there’s so much beauty in our flaws. And let’s get real–Victorians are no easy piece of pie to furnish and decorate.

    Cheers to more mistakes and more successes!

    • Making it Lovely
      April 29, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Victorians are tricky, and houses without white trim are tricky. Double whammy! (I’m enjoying the process of decorating this house though. I love it so much.)

  • jenn aka the picky girl
    April 27, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    From me, a non designer, reader, teacher, director, sometimes-blogger who adores painting and fixing up her 100-something-year-old home…thank you. I love seeing that you aren’t always sure.

    I have never felt that one of my rooms is actually finished. My family and friends rave about my house and its rooms, and I feel fraudulent (even though I stake no claim in the designer world). So to see you have doubts and hesitations is really validating for me.

    And honestly, there’s no one right rug. There’s the one you like right now. That may change in a couple of years, and awesome! I hope I’m always changing and editing my own style.

    And kudos on this post.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 29, 2015 at 10:17 am

      I don’t think of rooms as being finished in that way either. There’s always the possibility of switching out the lamps, or hanging a new photo, little things that we do over time. Even our last house, as ‘done’ as it was, was never completely finished. I don’t think people (at least people who are interested in decorating) ever do a room and then leave it forever and ever, amen.

  • Laura
    April 27, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    I second all of these comments. Your blog is great BECAUSE it isn’t always inspirational. Keep it real!

  • AnnMarie
    April 27, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    I don’t often comment, but I love reading your blog precisely because of all the things you said in this post. I like some of the slick, corporate blogs as much as the next person, but I really enjoy reading blogs like yours — where “real life” is a little more present and your voice comes through strongly. So thank you. And don’t change! (Unless you want to.)

  • Cyndi
    April 27, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    I’m such a fan of your blog, maybe because you do keep it real. We can’t be perfect all of the time, and – I speak for myself- see through those always perfect over the top blogs. It’s important to live in the moment as well. Thanks for your honesty… Love that cafe shot, and the burned out bulb adds to the charm.

  • Diane
    April 27, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    I love that you include oops and second-guessing. It teaches us all that we don’t get everything right the first time and that creating a nice space is a process, not something to be checked off. I repainted my bathroom three times to get the right shade of green (and then I moved and couldn’t remember how I mixed the paint!). I can completely relate to searching for and thinking about the perfect rug, then second-guessing my choice. Heck, I bought a vintage wedding veil thinking that would let me stop looking and move on to the next thing, but I still look. In these arenas, at least, no choice is irreversible.

    Maybe it’s the curse of the creative person. We can imagine possibilities, and that imagination doesn’t have a convenient off switch. Please keep doing what you’re doing!

    • Making it Lovely
      April 29, 2015 at 10:21 am

      I consider myself to be good with color, and I’ve repainted rooms too! Maybe you’re right — creativity is a wonderful thing, but then you can’t turn it off and have a million ideas and what-ifs.

  • Malia
    April 27, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    I love the oops posts. They’re one of my favorite things about your blog! And they give me confidence to try things and not worry if it doesn’t work out the first time. Thanks!

  • Amy Gallardo
    April 27, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    I’ll just simply say- being yourself and authentic is what I love about reading your work. And a mini aside- I live right near there on 20th!

  • Allison
    April 28, 2015 at 1:49 am

    I echo everything that’s been said. I love the realness! (And honestly, your home is aspirational from where I’m sitting.) :) I also love personal posts.

  • Pikaeva
    April 28, 2015 at 4:47 am

    But… But… Nicole, I started reading your blog when you were in the first house, well before you announced your first pregnancy. When you ran Pink Loves Brown.

    Your house was indeed so-so and you did make it lovely. Too much pink for my taste ;-P but you did a wonderful job. Back then everything was small. Your house was small, your projects were small, your blog was small, your Internet persona was small. I mean this in a good way. Small and lovely.

    But then something happened. Sometimes I have the feeling that it all started with the finished basement. At the very least it was a metaphor of what happened: you embarked on what was your biggest renovation project… but you 1) didn’t seem to wish/be able to show us the final result, and 2) the finished basement was empty.

    This is what happened with the Victorian house, with a vengeance. And with your blog. Nothing is small now. Your house is huge, your blog is sprawling in a thousand directions (nuts? water? lightbulbs?), you are ‘writing elsewhere’, teaching, traveling, attending conferences… Everything is huge… but empty. Like your finished basement. You don’t know what to do with it, we don’t know what you plan to do with it. You don’t know because this is not you. Not you. Your adjectives are: small, pink, lovely, twee. You excel at that. You did excel at that. You don’t excel at what you are doing now.

    Pretty soon someone (perhaps your sister) will whiteknight and say that you are an extraordinarily hard-working person. We already know that. Which makes it even more frustrating, as you are expending huge amounts of energy on something that just does not work, and will never work, because this house/this approach is the wrong project for you. You want to keep a blog about transforming the so-so. A huge Victorian is not the so-so. You want to make it lovely. A Victorian cannot be lovely, by definition. You’re in a dead end here.

    Rescale. Spiritually, professionally and habitationally.

    All the best.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 28, 2015 at 10:44 am

      Pikaeva, thank you.

      I look at sponsored posts as a prompt. So “nuts, water, and light bulbs” were, to me, a glimpse into the mornings that I teach in the city, something that has worked for me to drink more water (a goal for many), and the changes that can come on a small budget and sharing little updates in various spaces in my house. With sponsored posts, I always aim for something that is relevant beyond simply posting an advertisement, but clearly if it’s not coming across that way, then that’s on me and it’s something I’ll have to work on. I appreciate the criticism, because I can take that and get better.

      The basement, I can tell you with a bit of hindsight, was a little sad. I had no idea how much harder it would be with two kids instead of one, especially with them being so close in age and Eleanor still needing so much with her not even being two yet. I went into labor as workers were finishing up the basement, and came home to a house with the major work done, but with my time and energy going toward my family. I have done the same thing here again as well, getting pregnant shortly after moving in and now taking care of the baby. Brandon is home this time around, which is a huge help, but I’m still devoting huge portions of the day to nursing and to being with the rest of the family. I was talking to a friend recently about how I feel like I’m finally coming out of the fog, gaining a bit of myself back and my time, and how excited I was that I have this big house waiting for me to work on! The blog is so interwoven with my life that it’s going to grow, slow, and change alongside it, and I feel like I’m ready to grow again.

      I do think a Victorian can be lovely though — that is one thing I will disagree with. I have done pink and twee and I’m still drawn to those things, but I’m also interested in other styles. I’ve been blogging for eight years, and decorating for longer, and what you’re seeing is a natural shift in style. I have an overall vision for the house and I’m making my way there, but it will take time and I’m so looking forward to sharing as I get there.

    • Mandolin
      April 28, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      I have to say that I agree with this comment. I have been following you from the very beginning, before Eleanor was born and you had a business as well as a blog. Now your blog has become your business and I feel like your heart isn’t in it anymore. I have been tempted many times to stop reading because of all the awkward, unrelated sponsored posts but I’m not ready to give up on you yet. I feel like maybe you just need time to regroup and rethink the direction you want your blog to go in. I am however, majorly disappointed that most of the posts here lately are 1. Sponsored, 2. Link round ups, 3. Photos of your children (as lovely as they are) with vague posts about how busy you are.
      I feel like the above commenter has your best interests in mind and reminds me of a teacher who is being especially picky about what kind of project you turn in, but only because they know you can do better.
      We’re still rooting for you, Nicole.

      • Making it Lovely
        April 29, 2015 at 10:49 am

        Yes, someone else in a different post pointed out that the frequency of sponsored posts feels too heavy, and I think they’re right. It’s a bit unusual in that there are a lot of opportunities coming right now to work with brands (there’s usually more of a push later in the year, as the holidays approach), so part of it is that. I’ve been accepting the ones that I feel are a good fit and trying to schedule them out so that they aren’t right on top of each other, but I’ve had a hard time getting a post up everyday, so the ratio has skewed toward sponsor-heavy. It’s something that I’ll be more aware of now that it’s been called to my attention.

        I like your analogy, and I want to rise to meet the expectations.

    • Erin
      April 28, 2015 at 1:15 pm

      I’m also a long-time reader here, and for what it’s worth, I agree with the comments above, too.

      I understand why bloggers do sponsored posts, but personally, I find them insincere and — in the case of some of the posts you’ve done — completely irrelevant to what the blog is about.

      I only check in here randomly anymore to see if maybe you’ve gone back to your design roots, and I am always a little disappointed when I see that you haven’t. I get it — your life is much different than it was 5 years ago. Life changes, people change, interests change. Maybe a re-brand is in order?

      I’ve just seen so much of this in blog land lately…bloggers who once loved what they were doing (and it showed!) who are now just phoning it in while they try to figure out what’s next/if they want to continue.

      I so WANT to be excited by your blog again, and I wish you the best regardless of what you end up doing.

      • Making it Lovely
        April 29, 2015 at 10:51 am

        People change, but blogging has changed too, and I think that we’re all trying to navigate through something that shifts and moves quickly. Please know that I do still love blogging though, and I’m taking all of these comments to heart. I want you to be excited too, and to look forward to what’s next, and I’ll be doing my best to make that happen.

    • Jill
      April 29, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      I have been so disappointed in this blog since the purchase of the Victorian. I loved your other house and enjoyed watching you transform it to lovely. I don’t like the new house much and your design and decorating efforts reflect more what you can ‘get’ from your sponsors than your style. I don’t see the house coming together at all. Your choice of color and furnishings puzzling.

      I agree with the other comments … nuts, water, Target ‘stuff’ – seem very odd and I expect these posts are simply income. Freebies bring an avalanche of comments. Maybe you are right, blogging is changing. Yours is the only one I follow that has changed for me.

  • Grace Girl
    April 28, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Thanks for this article! There were so many things that hit close to home being a fellow blogger!

  • Christine aka lifeinprogress15
    April 28, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    I love your blog because it is normal. It is not a slave to sponsored posts. Sometimes that gets old real fast and you feel you are being taken advantage of as a reader. Don’t change a thing!

  • Julie
    April 28, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    I love that you post about your process and your indecisiveness. Makes me feel better about my own failures and obsessions in my quest to make my house a place that I love. Keep being you, even if it isn’t perfect. There’s plenty of aspirational perfection on the internet already.

  • judy
    April 28, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    I must say I am baffled by the post that finds you in the wrong place at the wrong time and in your nightgown no less. I attributed the state of your blog to the state of your body. Producing a new human being in 9 short months is a herculean feat. Then finding new home selling former home while juggling 2 children with one on the way and financial responsibility is awe inspiring! I read a lot of blogs and everyone has the commenters who disagree but that’s what is fun about interacting with people we don’t know about topics we are interested in. You always had faith in yourself and your abilities which are also awe inspiring. Don’t lose that in an effort to please everybody all of the time. We know that’s impossible. I think the lack of hundreds of comments just means you’re living a more hum drum time of life and most readers are after something more exciting than their own day to day life. And experimenting is not a mistake it is the way we find what works the best.

    • Making it Lovely
      April 29, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Thanks, Judy. This is true, but I do enjoy that juggle.

      I look at it as sometimes having the time and ability to design and decorate and do a million other things to my heart’s content, and sometimes having to shift that attention (rightly so) to my kids, my family. It feels like the balance is shifting back toward being able to put more into my work again (which is creatively fulfilling), so I’m looking forward to all that is to come. Of course I know that one can’t please everybody, but I do welcome input and criticism, because it inspires me to put forth my best.

  • judy
    April 28, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    And anyone who could look at your beautiful home and say you are not in the absolutely right place must have a totally different decorating Vibe and you can’t give up yours and change to fit the taste of every comment that way lies madness

  • Sarah
    April 29, 2015 at 11:24 am

    I’ve been following your blog for years and I like the sponsored posts. You’re a successful businesswoman and those posts reflect that. Plus I trust you to know what is “good”. When it’s time for me to get a new water filter/pitcher I’ll buy the one you used bc you said it was good. I tried blue apron bc of your posts and love it! This blog feels authentic and lovely to me and I hope you realize how much enjoyment you bring to your readers.

  • Megan
    April 29, 2015 at 11:51 am

    First, I want to reiterate what others have said – that you’re blog is good and and perfect for your authentic approach. I think that too often, bloggers, while aspirational, don’t show enough of the mistakes. Or the 14 options they tried before picking one. And mistakes and trying different things are how we, as humans learn. And personally, I enjoy learning along with you. So keep up the good work and don’t cave in to the pressure to be more perfect.

  • Crystal
    April 29, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    I appreciate the real and the shift in your design tastes. I have also been reading since before Eleanor was born and before I had kids, and I can appreciate your shift in style and design. I can also appreciate the demands on your time. I am drawn to very different things than I was 8 years ago and have way less time to make my ideas happen. It’s called evolving and it’s comforting to know I am not the only one who changes her mind.

  • Laura
    April 29, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    That’s why we love you, love your blog. You are real, not just an image.

  • Glenda
    April 29, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    I like that you keep it real. Mistakes and all, because NO ONE is perfect. Let’s be real! I love the pictures you share of your beautiful home. No such thing as perfect, so do what feels right for you. Follow your intuition. Keep growing!

  • jess
    April 29, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    We’re so bombarded with beautiful and perfect images of beautiful and perfect homes that can sometimes make those of us who are a little less than perfect feel like we’re failing. I respect the authenticity of your “oops” moments and appreciate when other bloggers do the same.

    Although I sometimes roll my eyes at sponsored posts (mainly because they all seem to happen at once across every blog that I read…), I never feel like yours are totally out of sync with your blog.

    With regards to the changes on your blog… that’s real life! You change, you buy new homes, you start new challenges. I personally love reading about the design challenges related to decorating a Victorian. I live in an almost 100 yr old house, so I find it inspiring to see how you’re navigating this new adventure, mixing styles, and making it lovely. :)

  • Taylor
    April 29, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    I have also been following since your Pink Loves Brown days and I have to respectfully disagree with the commenters above that feel like you’ve “sold out” or that your work is somehow empty now. First of all, you’re a real person and not a content machine, and it’s a delight to follow along with your life and your family. And how wonderful for you that some sponsored posts allow you to actually ENJOY your life and your family instead of being glued fo the computer and stick at networking events constantly. Why someone would resent that is beyond me. Second and only tangentially related, I just wanted to share that the decorating stuff, those “oops” moments and mistakes; for me, those are not the things that have humanized you over the years. I come here to see aspirational decorating; I enjoy it when it’s perfect. Don’t feel like you need to apologize for or soften what is clearly a gifting you have. For me, seeing your kids grow–you having the bravery to talk about your husband losing his job–those posts are why I enjoy reading. So…while this post is lovely and heartfelt and definitely makes me feel a little better about how my living room art never quite feels right, I do not think you should have to make excuses for your success or for being good at something, and especially for being compensated well for it. I hope you continue to grow, succeed, and enjoy your life in the process. Thanks for many years of great posts.

  • Beth
    April 30, 2015 at 9:53 am

    Loved this post Nicole. Thank you for your blog. I agree with what everyone else is saying: I love coming here because of you. :-)

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  • Lauren
    May 1, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Nicole, I’ve been following you since Pink/Brown, too. You’re one of the few I haven’t dropped since becoming more sponsored (Young House Love, Little Green Notebook – all gone). I think the divide is in relatability. When you were at your old house, your life seemed real (more tangible for those of us who are in the non-design areas of the working world). Now, your online life has clearly taken off: you got a house big enough for three families, your husband stays at home, your blog has as much advertising as original content. You’re no longer the creative next-door neighbor, you’re the successful lifestyle blogger with a lifestyle that most of us don’t understand (and, I’m not just talking about money).

    In general, we (the public) tend to drop these blogs when they lose a sense of the originality that brought us there (otherwise, we’d just go pick up a Crate and Barrel magazine). I realize there is a natural progression of life: success, maturing tastes, life needs, etc. But, there is also a group-think that loses us quickly (if I have to see one more minimalist apartment with the same d*** kitchen on Design Sponge, I swear…).

    Just some food for thought.

    • Lauren
      May 2, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      So, what I mean is that the imperfect is actually what draws us in =).

  • Sara
    May 2, 2015 at 1:12 am

    I love your blog. I love your style. I love that you are being asked to do sponsored posts: it means you are getting paid for doing what you love. I love your devotion to your family. If I don’t like a post, I scroll right on by. You have convinced me that oak doesn’t have to be ugly when everyone else is screaming paint it or replace it. You inspire me to decorate my house in my own unique way. Your post about the blue rug was so inspiring, even though you nixed it in the end. It helped me decide that my cognac colored sofas will look really great complimented by a blue rug. So thanks. Thanks for daring to be different in this blogland. You don’t owe us anything. :)

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