Kitchen The Blog The Victorian House

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 — 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.

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

You Might Also Like...

  • Kelsey
    July 30, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Jumping out of lurker status to say, GO FOR IT! You have figured out a way to work your butt off and monetize the things you love–writing and home renovation. I never understood the tendency of the blog audiences to rain on parades, so to speak.

    I haven’t changed my blogroll in a few years. It used to be the case that I couldn’t keep up with all the new content getting pumped out. Now it’s sometimes just crickets on my feed. The survivors are the ones who are making a buck or two. I appreciate the free content and find it entertaining and inspiring, so I’m more-than-willing to see sponsored content. I actually purposefully click on affiliate links and things to help support professional bloggers.

    Let’s see a COOL kitchen! (Also, I feel like I need to see some William Morris wallpaper somewhere in your house. :))

    • Anne
      July 30, 2015 at 2:51 pm

      I’m with Kelsey. If you can get the free stuff, do it! I’ve noticed they also often come with reader giveaways which I love and I want to see the pretty things. :)

    • Gisele
      July 30, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      Totally with Kelsey on this. You earned it, we continue to follow you after a million years and we want to see your fancy-superstylish-all-in kitchen!

  • Michele
    July 30, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    I agree with Kelsey!

  • Logan
    July 30, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    As a reader I have no issue with any sort of sponsored posts you might have since I’m sure it would be quality sponsors and products. I enjoy reading every post and I’m sure you’re very conscious of what you allow to be featured on the blog.

  • Dipal
    July 30, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Longtime reader here. I think you’ve adapted quite well to the new normal in blogging and your POV always come through, no matter the product. And that’s precisely what keeps me coming back to your blog, your point of view. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  • Stephanie B
    July 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    It seems like a lot of blogs I read are struggling with these same questions right now. I’ve noticed that when DIY bloggers accept blue apron or any food-related sponsors, they get questioned by their readers. I think it’s because that content is so different from your usual content.
    Personally, I’ve lost interest in your blog now that you’ve moved to an enormous house in OP. It’s just harder to relate since your projects are much larger and the work is more extensive and beyond the realm of anything I could afford. I personally see no problem with you accepting expensive items since this is your job, but it puts you further out of touch with certain readers like myself. Good luck deciding how to deal with sponsorship – it’s a tricky subject for sure!

  • Wilma
    July 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    in the end, it’s YOUR kitchen. what do YOU want to see? make the kitchen what YOU want. after all, it’s your house. if it was me, i’d probably take the sponsorships, and end up with a nicer kitchen :)

  • Laura
    July 30, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    I say to do what you love with your kitchen. BUT, I really hope you get another vintage stove. We bought a 40″ 1950 Universal off Craigslist and it worked fine in our home, but there were some pilot light issues, so a Chicago guy (who is well versed in old stoves, found him in an article on vintage stoves), gave her a tune-up for $100. He said she’d be good for another 10 years before needing another tune-up. It was the selling feature of that home. The total cost, with tune up, was $350 and I could cook Thanksgiving dinner for 12 just fine with it and we used it daily. Good luck in all you do!

  • Sarah
    July 30, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    If accepting freebies doesn’t drive the cost to well beyond what a normal home owner would do, I say go for it. Especially since you aren’t planning on designing around freebies. It’s products you would have worked your tail off and saved for anyway. Can’t wait to see the results and am not at all dismayed that the stove will be finding a new home.

  • Brooklyn Limestone
    July 30, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I think you should do what is right for your family and budget. As long as you are being transparent, you shouldn’t worry. You will have fans and detractors no matter what you do. I totally get where you are coming from but the reality is that some people enjoy sponsored content that is relative to the blog’s subject (count me in that group) and some hate it but neither group is going to help you renovate your home.

    • LauraJane
      July 30, 2015 at 3:26 pm

      Couldn’t agree more. No one else is going to pay for your renovations, and I think so long as the product is relevant to your readership, then it’s fine. People will have their opinions and may think you’re stepping out of line to buy a $5k stove because they never wood, but those people may not blink at spending $5k on a vacation, so to each their own.

      I’m looking forward to seeing what you do! :)

      • LauraJane
        July 30, 2015 at 4:47 pm

        Ahem: would, not wood. lol.

  • Eileen Kelly
    July 30, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I say bring in the sponsored goods! You and you alone know what is appropriate for your family, your home and your blog. As a Realtor my point of view is the home. That’s what I know. And from that point of view, I think it is important to do a kitchen that is in-line with price point of your home and ads true value. I think a higher-end kitchen would be a better fit for your home/location. (Sometimes I think the squawkers are just jealous!)

  • Allison
    July 30, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    In terms of fun reading, I’d enjoy an unsponsored redo partly because a small budget tends to lead to creative solutions, interesting DIYs, and more relatable for how the rest of us have to approach renovations. For you though, it seems like you could get a result you were happier with by seeking out some advertising partners. I’d hate to see the opportunities you worked hard to earn be missed… You are the one who has to live in the house after all. But if you do go the sponsored route, I hope it will be more in direct connection to the redo (e.g. a light fixture company or the like, not just shilling for some non-design-related company like the recent Coffemate posts which, like others, I found a bit of a stretch). Whatever route you choose, as a longtime reader, I appreciate how open you are about how and why you accept advertisers being involved in your blog and I’ve always felt that you respect your readers.

  • Tina Slocum
    July 30, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Nicole,
    I see sponsorships and goods advertised equaling a well earner paycheck. Your blog is the major way you support your family and earn a living and the sponsorship you provide in your posts greatly help companies sell their products. It’s a win/win situation. The posts are also very informative and fun. You also take turns with unsponsored posts for a lovely mix.
    Personally, I’d love to see an all out a more involved design with higher end with finished details. But ultimately, whatever is your choosing, because it’s your home and I love your creative process. Pick the design and finishes you can live with over the years and love.

  • sarah
    July 30, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    I really love that you’re asking these questions :)

    I personally love big, high impact projects! While I totally understand that modest renovations on lower budgets may be more relatable for many readers, I can’t help but enjoy the eye candy and vicarious living through folks who are able to do more than I normally would. It provides wonderful inspiration, too, especially when you post high/low articles (showing a higher end item and a similar budget-friendly find).

    In terms of individual components vs overall sponsorship, I’d have to say that I tend to prefer when a blogger receives items they sought out on their own, or that they would have purchased (or would LIKE to have purchased) without the sponsorship. That way you can speak to the features you really like about something in a more personal way, without sounding like you’re writing copy for an ad. If that’s achievable via an overall sponsorship (i.e. you really like a lot of things from one company), that’s awesome.

  • WES
    July 30, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Ultimately it is your decision and I will admit to some pangs of oh I wish I had a blog to test drive stuff and get it for free. But the fact of the matter is you do earn that because you hustle and I know that is not the life for me.

    I do not read as many of your posts as I did before the increase in sponsorship, you are still in my RSS but not everything is a must read partly due to sponsorships. I find the posts harder to relate to because of the costs associated.

    It is hard for me to get inspiration when you are sourcing from things that are out of my budget, where as before I felt you were more in my budget range. Another factor is that you have done a lot of work quickly and that is partly because you can get some of these items for reduced cost of free in return for exposure on the blog. You certainly pay for them just not in cold hard cash like most of us do so budget doesn’t have the same weight for you as it would for many readers.

    It is beautiful work but overall it just seems very unrealistic and unattainable in terms of time frame for turning projects around for readers.

  • Megan
    July 30, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    Your creativity is, as always, appreciated regardless of a sponsorship disclaimer or not! We are able to read your content generally FREE OF CHARGE, so the occasional “commercial”/ad should be expected. I think the entitlement of blog readers has gone too far; do what will make you happy, and we will follow. ;-)

  • Jennipher
    July 30, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    i think you should get as much as you can for free. I mean, honestly – why not? I just paid nearly $100k for my kitchen renovation (definitely got my dream kitchen) and you’d better believe if any companies had offered me the items for free I would have been all over that like white on rice! Go high end, get what you can, and please share all the details!

  • Emily
    July 30, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    I’ve been lurking for about a decade, but wanted to peek out to chime in with those above and say: GO FOR IT!

    I’ll also throw in a feminist card and say that you are straddling a few spheres here that have been traditionally undervalued–the domestic, the maternal, and design. If you can make money (and whether it’s goods, services, or cash doesn’t really matter to me) from those undervalued areas, it’s worth the complexities that commerce always brings to pursue what will feel best for you as a professional and for your family. Some vague and diverse concept of “relatability” is less important to me than seeing you earn what you deserve for your work. After all, if the beautiful design can be a little aspirational, shouldn’t the model of getting paid to do what you love be aspirational as well?

    • Heather
      July 30, 2015 at 3:05 pm


  • Kelsey L.
    July 30, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I personally find it much more inspiring and interesting when a remodel is not sponsored. I would much rather see what you love, not what you worked with because you were given it for free. I think those give-and-take decisions of working with a budget are what force us to be creative. The process of prioritizing and finding creative solutions is much more interesting to me than styling a bunch of free stuff.

    When I go back and read the archive of this blog and others, I just find the old days before everything was sponsored to be so much more relatable and creative. I think blogs are so popular because they are realistic and have a personal voice, unlike magazines. That seems to be getting lost when everything is sponsored.

    Also, I don’t think there is anything wrong with you making a living from your blog. When everything is an ad, though, you lose credibility.

  • Aimee
    July 30, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I want to see the cool kitchen. I do find the sponsor items when they are snacks and blue apron to be boring. But that might be because of the oversaturatuon. It feels like every blogger/podcast ever have those sponsors so it gets to be a little much. I like to see homemakeovers and I want to see the best one possible from you. Do what you can. Blogging might not last forever anyway so I would get all I could out of it if I were you. I also like the in progress stages instead of just before and afters. I like to see how you are living with it as it goes.

  • Stephanie
    July 30, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    It’s bad when people see more sponsored content than original content. I think you have an ok balance so far but I have definitely stopped following many bloggers because there was just too much sponsored content and I didn’t feel like I could really trust their opinion or position any more. I think it’s amazing that you have this resource and it is a great alternate source of income to get a whole new kitchen for free, but I think the key is to make it relatable to your readers. If you know your audience, their tastes and their budgets that should greatly affect how much sponsored projects you accept and write about. The more free things you get is fantastic for you but it also means that the design becomes more unattainable for many of your readers. I can pick up any magazine and see beautiful and very expensive home improvement and design projects. But with your blog I feel I can relate. You are a normal person with similar interests to me and I like seeing what you can do. Without major sponsors. The more the project is valued at (regardless of actual cost to you) the less I can relate. That doesn’t mean I don’t like you anymore, but we all have limited time we can dedicate to reading blogs and if I don’t relate I simply can’t make time. Does that make sense? So with that said, I can’t wait to see what you do but I hope you do consider the final value of your projects more than anything when accepting sponsors. I expect some sponsorships for sure but I think the important thing to be aware of when doing projects with sponsors is can my readers relate to a project of this scope? I hope this helps. :)

  • Esha
    July 30, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    I completely missed the sponsorship conversation in the comments on your last post, so I’m weighing in for the first time on this. I basically skipped over your last Blue Apron post, but I would LOVE to follow along with your kitchen remodel and would have no problem with any sponsorship on that front. I feel like there are different types of sponsored content, and posts like your Blue Apron posts just feel like straight advertisement. We’re not learning anything about design or a product we’ve never seen before (since they’ve already sponsored content for you), and even though the post was written with your unique voice and your sense of humor comes through, it feels easy to draw a straight line from the Blue Apron PR email you were sent to the post you created (please include X images, link to X recipes, mention our unique partnered promo code!).

    On the other hand, I’ve seen sponsored remodels on other blogs and when the sponsorship means free paint or a free stove oven mention in the middle of lots of unique, creative content about the ups and downs of remodeling an old house and the blogger’s unique design perspective, the sponsorship doesn’t phase me at all, and to the advantage of the sponsor, I’ve definitely made decisions on what paint or tape or whatever to buy when I have my own projects based on what a trusted blogger has recommended in the course of their own projects.

    To use one of your posts as another example, I remember a few months ago, you had a few sponsored posts about lightbulbs. I think these were an easier read than the Blue Apron stuff because I think I remember that you had decorated your rooms around the posts, but I think I would have appreciated these even more if they came up in the middle of your re-doing your kitchen lighting or something like that.

    • Ashley
      July 30, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      I agree with this as well. I don’t mind the sponsored posts if they are in keeping with the general posting on the blog, but some of them have come across as straight commercials. The Coffee Mate ones in particular landed like a thud to me.

      I also somewhat agree with a posted upthread who mentioned that being able to remodel or redo a home with a lot of free stuff somewhat separates you from a readership who largely does not have the money to do those sorts of remodels. Part of the fun is seeing how things work step by step and how you make do in transition. If you could only do one thing every few months to your kitchen, how would you make the rest of the room work and look attractive until you could get to it? That is more realistic for me. There are plenty of decor porn mags, I am looking for inspiration I can apply to my real life.

      That said, I appreciate your willingness to ask for reader input on this and consider it. It is your blog and I don’t have bitterness about your handling it anyway that works for you. You deserve to make money from the work you do.

  • Sara
    July 30, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    I think as long as it is fully disclosed and not a large number of posts, it is fine. There are some blogs I stopped following because every post was – and here is my carpet from XXXX store, here is the pillow, here is the bedding. We get it, they pay you.

    I think it is also a problem when sponsorship leads bloggers to choose something that no real world person is going to spend SO much money on. Seriously – VFancy Appliance Company is a sponsor, so you chose a $10K fridge? Do you live in Hollywood? Who is going to do that if they have to pay actual money? It sometimes puts the finished product so far out of reach that the inspiration factor is eliminated.

  • Jordan
    July 30, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    I find sponsorships boring because they are not as honest as picking out something for yourself, even if it was something you would have bought anyways. Kitchen sink for example – if you were purchasing it yourself, you would likely look at multiple brands, pricing, etc…but if it is sponsored, although you are still choosing a sink you love, it is likely just your favorite from whatever manufacturer is sponsoring the post. That said, if it were me, I would try and strike a balance between self-funding and sponsorship. Blogging and sponsorship is your living, and as long as they are thoughtfully chosen, I don’t see and issue with using sponsors to fund some of the projects, so long as it is not all of the projects.

  • Yvonne
    July 30, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    I also agree with Kelsey. I’m always surprised when readers expect original content and zero sponsorship and accuse someone of losing their voice if they profit in any way from their blog. I don’t do my job for free, so why should you? Get the kitchen you want, however you like, and I’ll be watching. I did appreciate how thoughtful and constructive the comments were yesterday, though… You don’t much see that in internet land anymore.

  • Jackie
    July 30, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Yep. I agree with many of those who posted before me. If it’s a sponsored post, I will nine times out of ten, skip it entirely.

  • Alison
    July 30, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Also delurking and I also agree with Kelsey. This is, in a way, a part of your income. I find that you disclose sponsored posts very clearly, and I agree that your POV always comes through – I don’t feel like I’m reading marketing copy. That’s essentially why I’m still here – I also can’t relate to living in a huge old house, I’m in a newly built apartment complex and not even really buying furniture right now, because we’re going to buy a house soonish.

    I don’t really draw a distinction between the individual items vs an overall sponsorship, but I do always appreciate it when sponsored items are clearly noted. That way I can relate to the whole thing more easily. And I think those disclosures also provide the blogger with a chance to say “I got this for free, but here’s a more affordable version that I was about to purchase and/or here are some ideas at various price points if you like this look.”

  • Natalie
    July 30, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    I haven’t read any of the comments above because I just want to share how I feel about this (so apologies if this is a retread). I don’t mind sponsored items here and there, at all. This is particularly true for items where the baseline product doesn’t have a huge price gap from the “fancy” stuff. So if you do subway tile, but instead of doing super basic white tile, you do the fancy chamfered edge tile or something else that costs a couple bucks more a square foot, I don’t even bat an eye. Same goes for a nice light fixture and individual items, in general.

    By the same token, if Viking were to sponsor your kitchen remodel and give you $10-15K worth of appliances, that would feel like too much to me. I think the defining difference for me is that, while your home is certainly more beautiful than mine, I like to see something that is aspirational in a somewhat attainable way. I want the work you do in your house to connect with me and my own home. Which is SUCH a tricky balance to strike because it’s so subjective.

    Basically, if your home starts to look like the kind of place I could only afford if I was pulling down a high six-figure salary, I would be sad. I love how approachable your blog has always been. It has always been a place to get inspiration (i.e. it looks a lot better than my house) without feeling like my home could never look this good (it doesn’t look like I need to spend double my annual salary to achieve the look you’ve created).

    • Val
      July 30, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      I agree with this. A certain amount of swag-for-exposure is great and does not detract from my interest in the renovation at all. But there’s a limit when it comes to really high-end stuff. The blog is somewhat aspirational for me in any event, as our lifestyles and homes are very different. But if it looks just completely and staggeringly out of reach or like something that no one but a Trump would ever pay full retail for, well, that’s just not all that engaging. The subway tile example is a good one.

      I would love to see a High-Low post for this, that would be fun. Like, here is the sponsored range that we’re getting in this price point, but check out these other similar styles in a few lower price points. Here’s the fancy wallpaper we scored, but check out this stencil that’s a nice alternative. And DIY-ing at least *some* components (soft goods, art, etc.) always helps ground the project.

      Also, the feminist critique on the matter a few comments up was super-interesting. Food for thought there…

  • Aymee Zayas
    July 30, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    I have to admit I unfollowed you on Instagram yesterday b/c of the sponsored post. I will still read your blog but I have sponsorship hangover, as a reader. Seems like an easy way out when bloggers don’t have new, real material to post (but what do I know).

    However, I think you should go the way of sponsorship for your kitchen, where offered. It’s what you get from working your ass off on your blog!

  • eileen
    July 30, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    You are a fantastic blogger and you are entitled to be well compensated, whether that’s monetarily or in trade. If anyone takes issue with it, they can choose not to read. I think you will still find yourself with a robust, engaged audience.

    Go for it–create the kitchen of your dreams. You’ve earned it.

  • Natalie
    July 30, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Also, good on you for asking!

  • Maureen
    July 30, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Echoing many of the sentiments above. You have to do what’s right for your family and why shouldn’t you reap some of the benefits of your line of work? I’d love to follow along with your reno regardless of whether it’s sponsored or not. If you do decide to go the sponsored route (you should!), it would be nice if you could still discuss costs/price points. We’ve all seen those amazing before and after shots, but there’s rarely a bottom line (or even an estimate) where cost is concerned.

    On a related note, I always appreciate and enjoy your frankness and transparency with us. Thank you!

  • Meg
    July 30, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Some of my favorite posts that bloggers do are run downs on choosing to purchase an item based on a variety of factors, including price. The big comparison, hemming and hawing type posts. I’ve seen you do this, with furniture for example, and I love those posts. How were john and sherry at YHL able to support their family on a blog without sponsored content and freebies? I guess bigger readership so better advertisement prices? Anyway, I really like when posts are all about keeping it real. I could pick up a high end design magazine if I wanted something with a wow factor that is totally unattainable for me. I also completely understand that we do not pay to read your blog so you have to make income how you can and have the best balance you can. Good luck!

  • Andrea Jane
    July 30, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    My thinking is this – if it is in keeping with the normal content of your blog and is something that isn’t so out of reach for the rest of us (that don’t have sponsors gifting us Aga cooktops or the like) then I think it is okay.

    The sponsored posts that leave me gritting my teeth are the ones that really have nothing to do with normal content of the blog (Blue Apron/Nestle). Especially Blue Apron sponsored posts which are everywhere right now.

    This is just my honest opinion and I hope it isn’t coming across as harsh. I don’t begrudge you earning a living and I understand that sponsored posts are part of that, but it used to be that your blog was the first one I scanned my feed for new posts and lately, more often than not, there is a feeling of let down when I see it is another sponsored post for something I don’t think has anything to do with the normal tone and subject matter of your blog.

  • Michele
    July 30, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    I need another Blue Apron sponsored blog post like I need a hole in my head, and at this point, someone needs to tell the people at Blue Apron to try another marketing strategy, because this one is actively preventing me from trying their overpriced service.

    That said, I think sponsored content – especially when it’s consistent with the nature of the blog to begin with – can be great. I certainly don’t begrudge you or anyone else using it, because as we all know, the days of twenty-somethings creating a Blogspot account to detail the inner workings of their minds are long gone. Blogging is about monetizing now, and that’s exactly what smart bloggers do.

    I DO have one suggestion though! WHAT IF the sponsored elements of your kitchen were interactive in some way? As in…what if readers had an opportunity to weigh in on the choices you and Brandon make when choosing sponsored items? Like, perhaps you and Brandon narrow it down to three choices, all of which you like, and then leave it to readers to make the final call? It could make for a really fun new take a sponsored content AND it might also lead to a kitchen that is even better than you imagine. Though on the flipside, I suppose it could also lead to a big fat mess of a kitchen. LOL

  • Vicki
    July 30, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    I say go for it. You deserve the income, we are getting to follow along for nothing! :) I always skip posts that are just sponsorship for the sake of it. Just not interested. But using free goods in a useful way like the kitchen does not diminish the actual post. And I think I would get quite excited for you to actually know which items you have managed to get free. Ones that you actually like and want in your home permanently.

  • Shelley
    July 30, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I don’t have a problem with sponsored posts as long as the blogger shares both the bad with the good, and sadly, that’s something I’ve yet to see. I want to hear the truth, not what a sponsor is paying to you say.

  • Caitlin Wallace Rowland
    July 30, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    I agree with many of the comments above, go for it if it produces high-quality content that can be an inspiration for your readers.

    I think sponsored content is totally fine as long as it is completely relevant to the content you would already blog about. I have also stopped following a lot of blogs with sponsored content, as I felt like I couldn’t trust their opinions in the posts. Many of the products jumped out as things that they wouldn’t be blogging about if they weren’t free (mattresses, light bulbs, water filters, etc…). The Blue Apron thing is another one of those. Many blogs have been sponsored by Blue Apron, but many of those blogs haven’t posted a single recipe or food post ever before that! I don’t really consider Blue Apron, water filters, light bulbs, or even mattresses to be content that a home decor blog would generally post about.

    The way that it sounds, it seems like using your sponsorships for items for a kitchen renovation (since you are a decorating blog) would be the absolute best kind of sponsored post! Great inspiration and end product, but also totally relevant to your normal content!

  • Lynn
    July 30, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    I’ve been noticing as i read blogs lately, that i rally dislike the feel of a blog that’s covered in ads. Which you don’t do. It’s totally different to have a post about lighting that’s brought to you by a sponsor. This is your job. This is how you make your income. I think it would be silly for you to turn down these items. Especially, as you said, that you’d only accept things you WANTED. not just because they were free. As a reader, i’d appreciate knowing that you’re giving your honest opinion about the item. Not sure if you will be allowed to share if you’re unhappy with something, or its potential shortcomings. I’ve always hated radio spots where well known local DJs are singing the praises of a mattress or cable package and i just ask myself, do they even really have that item? do they really care? I think as a reader it would be nice to know if that fancy pants sink falls short of expectations for some reason.

  • Carolina
    July 30, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    The only time I have an issue with bloggers getting free product or sponsored posts is when the blogger seems to be obnoxiously writing over and over again about some issue hoping for a free re-do. You have never done this, at least not that I have noticed. This blog is a big part of you “job” you should glean whatever income you can from it. Go for the big beautiful kitchen, you’re more likely to be able to keep the victorian vibe with higher end finishes! Good Luck and Can’t Wait to See the Finished Project!!

  • Jenny
    July 30, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    I never comment, but I feel compelled to do so on this. This is your kitchen, your family and your life! Do whatever will make you happy with the end result. I won’t be any less interested in the process or outcome, just because the cost was subsidized. The sponsorships I dislike are the ones that seem forced. You have a kitchen, you need to remodel it, so go for it!

  • Sara Beth
    July 30, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Take the free stuff. Make an awesome kitchen for your home and your family. Don’t make a commercial/ad by making it all about the product. That’s the line for me as a reader. You can still be entirely authentic and accept free goods.

    It’s the small brought to you by post that I find annoying. Blue apron, light bulbs and water filter’s are things that don’t deserve an entire post. Doing a kitchen remodel fits your blog so accepting free goods for that makes sense.

  • Monica
    July 30, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    the scope and budget of a project is not going to be relatable to everyone who reads about stuff, and I strongly disagree that DIY should be the benchmark for relatability.
    What -is- relatable to the most people is decision-making: how much gets spent where, the timeline, who does the work, etc. It might be safe to add that not getting everything done at once is relatable too; though there lies a problem of expectations (self-inflicted by bloggers? from readers? probably both…)

    I don’t think a blogger presents a less “real” life for having sponsors. Having sponsors doesn’t make one a fictional character. How many of us have had “sponsors” in the form of help from family and friends–in helping with a move, or cleaning, painting, donating furniture, etc.?

    Anyway, I vote for you having a kitchen that you love. I think you do a good job describing the decision-making stuff (like this post, your posts about rugs, … etc.) and I will continue reading your blog for the thoughtfulness and realness and how you get towards making things pretty.

  • Adrian
    July 30, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    The content on your blog is definitely more varied. But I’m OK with that. When I started reading you had one little one, now you have three. Life changes. You by no means call your blog a ‘home decor’ blog. It’s a lifestyle blog. And is written so.

    In terms of Sponsored Posts, I think it’s a little unfair of readers to want you write, document and photograph your entire kitchen renovation for free. I know that blog advertising brings in some revenue, but it’s not a lot. Sponsors = Revenue and your writing and time are not free (nor should they be). Sponsors, especially how your described how you would choose yours above will be a great addition to the story/project. The only suggestion I have is that you perhaps share why you decided to go with whatever Sponsor you did based off of the features, etc…

    Thanks again for sharing your life! I can’t imagine being a blogger is the easiest job. But I just wanted you to know I have enjoyed reading all of your stories! :)

  • Jenny
    July 30, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    We don’t live in your house; you and your family do, and you need to do what will make all of you the happiest. To not take advantage of the hard work you’ve done over the years with the blog that culminates in sponsored projects to enhance your kitchen renovation, would be like me saying I can’t spend my bonus on a bigger/fancier ___ even though I worked incredibly hard to get that bonus.

    I also live in OP and several of my neighbors have done kitchen renovations in the last year using the same kitchen designer and are all very happy with how things turned out. Let me know if you’d like the name of the person.

    Good luck!

  • Aoife
    July 30, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    I can’t see anything wrong with sponsorship for your kitchen as you have suggested it. At the end of the day I always feel that renovations bloggers make should be changes they are happy with, just like any of us would want for our homes. It’s your home. You pay the mortgage to live in it everyday. It should be designed to your taste and budget. Why not make savings where you can. You will never please 100% of any audience.

  • Jessica @
    July 30, 2015 at 3:28 pm

    Do it. Have at it. Design a wonderful space and share, share, share. THIS is your job. This is not something you’re doing to make us less bored with life though that’s a nice side benefit. It’s no different than any other business and I don’t know why people make such a big issue about it.

    I get paid for what I do and so should you. Anyone who takes issue with that needs to take a trip back into the real world where bills need to be paid and kids fed.

    Rock on, Nicole!

  • alison
    July 30, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    i wanted to chime in also, as a reader who has maybe commented once in a years of reading, to say that i so appreciate this post. i am usually pretty turned off by sponsored posts, and honestly rarely read them- but i’m thankful that they’re clearly sponsored, and there’s real transparency. i agree with almost everyone else that you should go for it, and please keep writing these kinds of “unsponsored” posts about your progress and thought processes- it’s really fascinating and worthwhile. thank you!

  • Feisty Harriet
    July 30, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    I think sponsorships are part of the Big Blog gig, and I can appreciate that. That being said, I do love to see DIYs or other solutions that don’t involve a giant sponsorship because it seems more relatable. BUT, it’s YOUR kitchen, not mine. I guess if you’re discussing what TYPE of sponsorships I also think they are not equal. For example, if you could fanagle free appliances and/or free lighting but still were pretty creative on updating cabinets or something else I could still relate with your upgrade on a very real level because while I’m not replacing my (mostly new and high functioning) appliances anytime soon, I would love some design-y ideas on how to update other parts of my kitchen. Does that make sense? If you bought your own appliances but then got custom cabinets/hardware/backsplash/tile/counters in a sponsorship the post would be a lot less relatable to me.

    But, again, it’s YOUR kitchen, not mine. (And, by extension, it’s YOUR blog, not mine.)


  • Beth
    July 30, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    As a lot of others have said, I know sponsored posts are a fact of life in blogs and I don’t mind them per se. I think the key is transparency, finding relevant sponsors, and using sponsors that make sense in the budget/general range of your blog and audience. In terms of transparency, I appreciate when bloggers acknowledge that receiving free stuff is compensation and effects the review given. For instance, I know Kate at The Small Things got a lot of push back when she “reviewed” her third or fourth $800 stroller with a note that she was “not compensated” – of course she was compensated!

    Between “sponsored by X” generally and “here is a free thing,” I prefer the “here is a free thing” because it seems more transparent and relevant. Even better are the sponsored post where a sponsor can offer options and a blogger can discuss the differences. Those are the most “real” and the ones I am most likely to read. I also don’t mind sponsored posts that provide jump-offs, i.e., I think Behr or someone sponsored something with you a couple of years ago that was a mini re-design of a room based on paint. I liked that and it didn’t seem forced.

    Finally, I too thought the recent coffeemate posts and Blue Apron posts were forced and off-putting, although I actually thought the clock project was very cute. I do not, however, mind seeing things like that on instagram. I see tons of pictures of food on instagram already, so something like that is fine.

  • Andrea
    July 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Emerging from lurkdom to ask: would you really make this choice based on your readers’ preferences? that is, shouldn’t it be based on your needs and your family’s needs?

    An analogy, sort of: I’m a professor. I study non-U.S. history. Part of my salary involves travel money, since I am expected to go to conferences to present my work and to do research in archives abroad. I also apply for, and win, grants to do those things. Would it be better or more authentic somehow if I were to pay those expenses myself, and reject the institutional travel funds? not apply for the grants?

    This is part of what you do. You have worked hard to be at the point where you can attract this kind of support. Why should you shy away from it, because some random people on the Internet prefer to cherish some weird sort of Horatio-Alger-DIY-blog myth?

  • Molly
    July 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    I think it’s awesome that you are seeking input from us on this matter, but seriously – YOU DO YOU! We trust that you’ll disclose the gifted items and will only accept items that you really want (it’s your home, after all). You should benefit from the success of your blog. As you said, a gifted item is a source of income.

  • Nitya
    July 30, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Hi Nicole,
    I like that you are open and transparent about this tricky subject. I would say there is no harm in going ahead. I know that in the end the result will still have your unique signature. Excited to see how this unfolds. Best always,

  • Courtney
    July 30, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    So you’ve probably made your decision, all of these comments make GREAT points but all I have to say is…. YOU DO YOU, GIRL! ;) Your kitchen will look gorgeous and know that you EARNED it!!

  • sarah
    July 30, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    i say go for whatever you want… you could do a modest redo but why? you will just want to make other changes in the (not too distant) future so why not get as much “free” stuff as you can get? i think one thing that alleviates the sniping (i think people might be jealous…i know i am but i don’t blame you!!) is some sort of give-away that correlates with the project. like if Lowes is sponsoring much of the new aspects of the kitchen then why not attempt to do one of those contests where the winner gets a gift card or something toward the renovation of their own kitchen? people could sign up for their email list or it could be something more intricate like creating a mood board (using Lowes products just to continue the original example) or a wish list. could be interesting for the sponsor and the readers as well. i’d love to see some mood boards or design ideas from fellow readers. just a thought… and i can’t wait to see what changes you make! in the mean time, stop changing light bulbs!

  • Lora
    July 30, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    as long as you let us know which items were given to you I really don’t care how you put together the funds for the kitchen (or any room for that matter). I’m always more interested in your thought process and the end result than how you paid for it.

  • Cassie @ Little Red Window
    July 30, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I say if you can get it go for it! As long as it’s disclosed and doesn’t contain a ton of wording that was clearly written by the sponsoring brand, I don’t mind.

    Although I will say two things, number one, one of the most interesting things that sponsored posts are often missing and that makes a designer’s work interesting to read about, is consideration of alternative options. If you get free light fixtures from one specific line for example, even if that’s something you may have picked anyway, we’re going to miss out on seeing the broader range of things you considered because you’re just choosing between what they offer you. So if there’s a way to keep that, that would be nice. The second thing is, I personally prefer sponsored posts that stick to a blogger’s area of expertise.It seems like for a kitchen remodel they would be fine, but while I do enjoy your lifestyle posts in general, the Blue Apron ones just don’t hit the mark for you. I feel like that’s not something you would write about it if it weren’t sponsored. Does that make sense?

  • Danielle
    July 30, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    I have read your blog for years. If this is what you need to do to keep it going I am totally fine with that! Keep up the good work!

  • Ann
    July 30, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Hello, I’ve just started reading your blog and don’t often comment, but my personal opinion is that if I were offered free goods to renovate my home I would leap at the opportunity, so why should I be offended if you do the same. Take the fabulous opportunity you have been given, you’ve worked hard to achieve it.

  • Elizabeth
    July 30, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    I wouldn’t mind a bit if you got a free stove or sink or paint and promoted a brand that way, but I’m put off by the “sponsored by Nestle”-type posts that make the blog feel very impersonal.

  • Kristen
    July 30, 2015 at 3:53 pm


    Well – I’d love to see a kitchen redo – we are slowly redoing our 1950s kitchen, and I’m trying to save the vintage appliances and cabinetry as much as possible. We are going slow — so far we have shelled out for electrical/rewiring and are doing a new ceiling next week. We will probably do this reno slowly and over the course of the year because of not wanting to shell out for the whole thing in one shot. Anyway, my point is I would love to see your ideas, and sooner rather than later! Also my vintage kitchen appliances are pink! You are the only blogger I know who really embraces the pink!

    In terms of blogs — I am happy to see sponsored posts when it seems integral to the purpose of the blogs — but when the link to the product seems tenuous — like food stuff in a decor blog — I am a little put off. I did Blue Apron in January/February though, and I found it a bit labor intensive and I gained 12 pounds while I was doing it (oops!) – I seriously wonder if their calorie estimates are waaaaay off.

    My two cents – sorry to be so randoms!


  • jenw
    July 30, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    At the end of the day I can’t/won’t/wouldn’t choose to do 90% of remodel type things I see on blogs. I don’t need it to relate to something I can do, really. Goodness knows I liked watching HGTV in the day…but I can’t relate to the scale on which Candice Olsen rolls…but it sure was fun watching her shows! That’s how I think of the huge sponsored projects on blogs…entertainment for which the producer (you) has been compensated. I like blogs that have a mix…regular, normal person, non-blogger type stuff with bigger more involved projects that I won’t be tackling. HOW you pay for that stuff is neither here nor there for me. It’s none of my bizzzzness.

    The posts that are clearly only for sponsorship do get pretty dull and I honestly skim them…your light bulb series comes to mind here for me. Yeah, I get the reveal lightbulb are nice…but 3 posts showing me the difference a lightbulb makes was 2 too many. :)

  • Angie
    July 30, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Your house, your blog, your decision. I have no problem reading about a renovation that makes use of gifted/sponsored items. I love the inspiration!

  • Lisa
    July 30, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    I have unsubscribed to many blogs lately because I feel like I’m reading commercials. I understand that bloggers need to make a living. However, as a reader, I’m not going to keep coming back when I read entries that I can easily tell are only for the money, don’t otherwise fit in the theme or style of the blog, and there’s little to nothing added that displays the blogger’s unique perspective, skills, or passion. Bloggers who are successfully incorporating sponsorships are doing what they would normally do, with some help. This sounds like what you are proposing with your kitchen remodel. I know this is a difficult line to walk, and I appreciate you asking your readership what they think.

  • Cara
    July 30, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    I’m not opposed to sponsored posts. You worked hard to build a blog in which something like that would be possible, so you have every right to take the support. And in the case of a kitchen, which is a big, expensive project, the upgrade makes a lot of sense. I can’t imagine you’d do any remodel project without at least a few DIY touches of your own. I think where it gets icky is when you read 4 bloggers in the same day, sometimes veering pretty off-topic, talking about the same sponsored item. Or when it’s a real stretch to equate your topic to granola bars or something. I think readers can see right through it and it diminishes some of the authenticity they came to love about that blog in the first place. So it’s a lot to think about, but I’m sure you’ll figure out what’s right for you.

  • Melissa
    July 30, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    I don’t mind sponsored posts at all … blogging is work! It takes time, energy and creativity, which bloggers should be compensated for. I also think sponsored posts help bloggers develop a more beautiful end product and therefore give readers a look at what they can potentially do (or find cheaper alternatives to do). The only time sponsored posts bother me, is when they are from companies that have a proven record of poor corporate responsibility (I commented on your coffee mate post on this). It also reflects poorly on the blogger as they are supported companies that cause harm to others.

  • Katie
    July 30, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    I am of the mind that the people who complain about all sponsored posts grew up in a time where advertising wasn’t on every page of the internet. I’m so used to it that I overlook it. Having sponsored posts is your income and they don’t bother me as long as it seems like you are being honest with your feedback. The only times I am not a fan of sponsored posts is when they are A) repetitive or B) irrelevant. A sponsored kitchen renovation would be the most relevant kind of sponsorship you have, so that is a natural partnership and I would love to see it. I kind of saw the relevance with the creamer bottles because you were speaking with a designer about lovely design in a very unexpected place. However, I am completely burnt out with Blue Apron posts across the blogsphere. You take lovely photos of the food and I’m sure it is a convenience being a family of 5, but every blog is doing them (and don’t get me started on Kiwi Crate).

    I see a lot of complaints that with your move you have graduated to a fancier/more luxurious design style and readers think that these things are out of their reach. I would like to see some combination of what readers have mentioned above. Take, for example, sinks. Pretend you are partnering with Kohler. Maybe you show us different Kohler sinks you considered, at different price points. This shows what a great eye you have (and you do) and it also says, “Hey Readers, you can get this look too.”

    As for my readership, you could move into the Trump towers and have your hallways paved in gold and I would still read. I love your aesthetic and your voice. Keep it up.

  • Kate
    July 30, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Nicole, thank you for offering us free high quality content on a regular basis. I’d love to see you redo your kitchen with the help of partnerships. I come here (and to other similar blogs) to be exposed to some decorating ideas that are practical and budget-friendly and others that are completely aspirational. This blog is a resource for me (I search the archives fairly regularly) and I’m glad that partnerships make it possible. I agree that some partnerships feel/read more naturally than others (I too feel over-exposed to Blue Apron) but as long as your unique voice and perspective aren’t compromised by partnerships, I’m generally not turned off.

  • Hally
    July 30, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Here’s my problem in answering your question…. I would love to see you have the kitchen of your dreams. I’d love to watch you install it piece by piece. However, I don’t think I actually would keep in touch with the blog if you were able to do the majority of it for free, because while I’m in the middle of a kitchen remodel as well, that’s simply not possible for me. I don’t want to be exposed to products I cannot afford. I’ll be honest, I’m not poor, but I’m also not unreasonable.

    I got into reading blogs because people that were like the rest of us, came up with new and inventive ways to make things look pretty and clean. Bloggers were using unexpected items for different uses, creative colors in bold ways, etc. I’m likely more inclined to search out bloggers still doing those types of projects, than to keep up with a blogger who has flowed so far away from the original vision or feeling of a diy blog.

    Perhaps it’s a bit of jealousy on our part. Who wouldn’t love a brand new Viking gas stovetop for free?? But that’s so unrealistic for the majority of your readers.

  • Kat Wachter
    July 30, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Hi Nicole! I think it’s great that you’re asking for feedback from your readers, and I’d like to weigh in. Although I was not one of the readers whose comments you referenced at the top of the blog, lately I have been opting to skip your posts that are sponsored. While I love your house, and I think your aesthetic is just amazing, I feel that the sponsored posts have been both too frequent and too disjointed from your blog to be worth reading. For example, I have skipped your recent posts with Coffee-mate. Regardless of whether you personally enjoy Coffee-mate, it doesn’t really have anything to do with your blog. Your blog is about home dec, and while you ostensibly tied it in with a DIY tray (which, incidentally, I think is really cool, and I love projects like that), it seemed tacked-on. Likewise, your posts about the GE light bulbs. Although yes, we all have light fixtures and yes good light bulbs are important, it seemed tangential to the rest of your work here. (Incidentally, you also recently plugged those pale pink light bulbs – not in a sponsored post, but with an affiliate link – and I immediately followed the link and added a pack to my amazon cart. I’m trying to understand why the sponsored GE post rubbed me the wrong way, whereas your off-hand mention of pink light bulbs made me immediately want them, and I think it’s because the genuineness of it came through? Like, you were honestly just sharing the pink light bulbs because you really like them, not because you were getting paid? I’m not sure, maybe you can answer that question.)

    I think they key for bloggers and sponsored content is that it has to be something that goes with your blog content, and it has to be something that you really, independently, personally like. For example, Emily Henderson and Jenny Komenda recently did sponsored posts with Target that I thought were successful. The sponsored content gelled with their blog content, and they seemed genuinely excited about the Target products. I bought stuff from Target immediately after reading both of those posts. (I am, apparently, Target’s target audience!)

    So, getting back to your particular question: I think that you can and should re-do your kitchen for free with sponsored content. I would love to see how you transform that kitchen. It would be consistent with your blog, and it would be (hopefully) stuff you really love, and that love would shine through. Just be sure to mix in some DIY projects and tutorials for the rest of us!

    I hope this helps!

  • Olivia
    July 30, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    I don’t think the issue is just the sponsored posts. It’s a combination of lackluster content (multiple lists of things you want to buy are not interesting) AND multiple unrelated/boring sponsored posts. The lack of compelling content is particularly obvious when I consider the current blog content vs. your past blog content.

    If you did multiple quality posts about your kitchen renovation, I wouldn’t care at all if the renovation was done with ALL gifted materials.

  • Rebecca
    July 30, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I’m not sure why you would ask readers about sponsorship for a design project when things like Coffeemate go sailing through without any similar questions. Surely sponsorship for a kitchen remodel is a better fit for a design blog than Nestle’s Coffeemate?

    If there’s going to a sponsored kitchen, I’d also like to see more comprehensive posts, rather than posts that are basically a few photos of Pinterest-type boards or shopping wish lists with affiliate links, or that have only a tenuous connection to your house at the moment, like Sugru and Corian and Floor & Decor. For example, I’d like an actual post on the advantages and disadvantages of the various countertop materials you might be considering, not a clickable laundry list of affiliate links. It would also be great to read a thoughtful post about the choice of wallpaper vs. paint in a kitchen, no affiliate links necessary.

    And I think a good way to space out all the sponsored posts would be to write about your various house/kitchen concerns and plans, instead of saving it all up for a post like this. It would have been interesting to have “status updates” on the electrical and fixtures, and other areas of the house.

    • Anna
      July 30, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      This is spot on – I think this post on “finding the balance” is a little disingenuous. It feels like you are deliberately changing the conversation, it seems like, to avoid criticism about what’s been perceived, fairly or otherwise (I say fairly but I understand others would disagree and I don’t say that in a mean spirit), as an increasing number of blatant sell-out posts (Blue Apron, Kiwi Crate, and the real kicker – Coffeemate) rather than design posts. In other words, if you read the Blue Apron post comments, what everyone seemed to be upset about is the ‘infomercial’ type content that is just not connected to design. A sponsored kitchen on a design blog, that makes total sense to us, and you’re always great at disclosing sponsorship, so I say go for the sponsored content.

      Soooo… I think this post was quite clever in that you’ve managed to get everyone focused on DIY-related sponsorship by asking us about your kitchen renovation, and not far more controversial the Coffeemate post :) And if you’ve done that because you’ve already made the decision to move on from the stuff that doesn’t relate to design (similar to what Chris Loves Julia did earlier this year) – then I say, good on you, and I’ll definitely be back to see how the kitchen turns out. I like your house and your taste a lot.

  • Elizabeth
    July 30, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    I appreciate that you’ve asked your readers for input. As a long-time (but mostly silent) reader, I’ve enjoyed seeing your spaces and your vision for them evolve.

    Over time, I’ve found that the blogs I keep reading are the ones that are more clearly related to what I could possibly do. It’s easy to find aspirational stuff online. It’s hard to find achievable inspiration. So a sponsored, high-end kitchen remodel probably wouldn’t interest me as much as a more modest one conducted with a budget that forced you to be careful and creative. Or it might be that the cost of keeping readers like me engaged in a high-end remodel would be more creative or comprehensive content (I’m not at all sure what that would look like — your original art mocking up your vision? your descriptions of your options?). That would be more work for you, when a kitchen remodel is itself a busy and stressful time.

    Sponsorship more generally certainly creates questions of balance for bloggers and readers. For instance, I’m quite tired of Blue Apron plastering itself all over all the blogs. But I understand that blogs couldn’t continue to exist without a profit model. Frankly, I’ve come to look at sponsored posts like television commercials. I understand that they are essential to the blogger’s ability to keep blogging. I don’t resent them. The only time my opinion of the blogger was affected by sponsorship was when I saw a dog-owning blogger sponsored by a very poor quality dog food; whether she did it just for the money, or whether she couldn’t be bothered to look the brand up, I lost respect for her either way. I’m sure that different readers have varying comfort levels with sponsored posts, and it must be really difficult for any blogger to balance the need to keep the lights on with the need to engage readers with different responses. After all, the purpose of a sponsored post is for the blogger to deliver readers’ attention to the brand. It’s kind of a Scylla and Charybdis for you. I really enjoy reading your blog, and I wish you the best of luck in finding the balance that works for you.

  • Kelly H.
    July 30, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Like others, I’m soooo over Blue Apron posts and anything else purely sales related. I will never be over a “check out this amazing new kitchen tile made by _____” or “I updated my stove to this beauty by _____” posts! Love your taste in design, don’t care what you eat at night. ;)

  • Staci
    July 30, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you for acknowledging this and asking for reader’s opinions. I will admit that sometimes there is the “green monster” of jealousy– why can’t *I* get a free sink, a free dishwasher, etc. However, I enjoy the luxury of a fixed work week, taxes and retirements arranged by my employer, and paid vacation–something a freelance blogger can’t say. Every career path has pros and cons and with a bit of thought I think we can all be aware of this.
    I think the most effective way bloggers can be sponsored while still coming across and genuine is by being sponsored by a larger company that has many brands to compare and contrast. Lowe’s or Sears for example, for appliances. You can compare and contrast Samsung, GE, Whirlpool, and tell the readers why you picked a certain model. I know that it can’t always be like that, but I think that what readers are looking for is the decision-making process, something relate-able when/if someone like myself ends up in the middle of a kitchen re-do. How are the kitchen decisions made? What was her focus–bringing a Victorian kitchen into the 2010s while still fitting in with the home aesthetic? I think this is what readers want.
    However, at the same time, I think that does NOT exclude posts that “all bloggers” do in waves (I’m looking at Naturebox or Blue Apron). I started ordering Naturebox because a certain blog finally convinced me it isn’t just for families with kids. So, while “haters gonna hate” is much too dismissive, please don’t think that sponsored posts alienate all of your readers. IMO up to now you have handled them with grace.

  • Kirstin
    July 30, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Go for it Nicole! I am a long time reader and have never been bothered by sponsored posts. You are still going to do the same work to get it on the blog, so you might as well get more for it. You do such a great job here that I am not bothered in the least. Good luck!

  • Danielle
    July 30, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    I say do whatever works best for you – but I realize that’s not a simple concept when this blog is helping to support your family. I guess I don’t understand why people are turned off by sponsored posts. Of course it helps if they’re done well, and I think you do a great job already. It never feels like a commercial – it feels genuine, like all your posts.

    Do the people that are offended realize that magazines are essentially one big sponsored post? Vogue can’t support itself only on the $20 I give them for a year’s subscription. Those ads are where it’s at! And of course they influence the content.Did we learn nothing from The Devil Wears Prada? ;)

    But I realize that some people think blogs are somehow different, held to a different standard.I can only say that I am not one of those people. And like a previous writer (Katie!) said so eloquently, “you could move into the Trump towers and have your hallways paved in gold and I would still read. I love your aesthetic and your voice. Keep it up.” I couldn’t agree more!

  • Kristen
    July 30, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Do it! It’s your house and you have to live in it. It will be fun to see what you can do with some additional sponsorship. Your sponsored posts are like your house–classy and thoughtfully done.

  • Caroline
    July 30, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    There is a huge difference between doing a kitchen remodel with the help of free sponsored stuff and your post after post about products like Coffee Rich. Your writings about these products are really straining (and aching) to find some kind of relation to your life. They read so “try hard” and false. It is really frustrating to read the above post and realize you don’t see this difference in posts about a sponsored remodel- and how you use Coffee Rich and Method Dish Soap.

  • Kristina
    July 30, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    I haven’t left a comment is years, but I suppose this time it feels appropriate. I, too, am a loooooong time reader, like you-didn’t-have-kids-back-then reader. I think I found your blog on Flickr and was all, “Hello new favorite house! I like your style!” Your blog introduced me to this entire interior design blogging world and I always felt your finds and decorating taste seemed ahead of the trend. It helped that we were about the same age and it seemed our income levels matched. Hence, you focused on DIYing or furnishing things that seemed attainable and doable. But somewhere along the way, you started to make bank. No longer was the blog filled with witty Christmas card designs or your homemade curtains from a gorgeous fabric. It became something else entirely. You stopped the stationary line (which seemed confusing) and then the sponsored posts started. And then the massive house. Everything from then to now has seemed EXPENSIVE. Sponsored posts make me feel like your content isn’t genuine. A post on Cool Whip? Why would I care? I have never come to your site for your cooking or baking ideas so why would I read a cobbled together post about it? I don’t know how else to put this, but I now assume ANYTHING you write about is sponsored on one way. West Elm rug? Sponsored. Paint on a clock face? Must be sponsored. I miss the Nicole who tiled her own backsplash. Not the one that’s looking to get an Ann Sacks tiled kitchen … for free.

  • Sue Howard
    July 30, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    I totally agree with Molly! It is your house and your success! I have been following you for years and also live in the Chicago suburbs, so I have even gone shopping “with you” in Oak Park following your store recommendations. Also, I love reading how you struggle with a decision such as painting the wood in your former home’s dining room or deciding what to do with this house’s upstairs hallway without the linen closet or how you were panicked when the Oak bookshelves looked a little too Oaky in the library until you styled them. I truly think that while your ability to capitalize on the success of your blog may have changed over the years and you are writing and teaching in other venues, your writing sounds like the same person I started to read many years ago.

    If someone wants to see only “realistic” renovations, then they can stick to more DIY blogs. I also like what Cassie @Little Red Wagon had to say below in regards to knowing the range of options and perhaps what you would have chosen in a high, medium & low ranged price, if you were not using a sponsored item.

    Thank you for sharing your life with us!

  • Lauren
    July 30, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    I vote that you go with the sponsorships that fit your dream for the project. I have to say, I stopped reading regularly after The GE Lightbulb Posts. Though I do recognize that those lightbulbs really made a difference, I’m not going to read a blog about lightbulbs. Though there’s something to be said for the creativity tight budgets require, please help us to dream!! That’s a lot more fun than lightbulbs.

  • Kristin
    July 30, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I haven’t read all the comments so this may have been said, but here goes :)

    I don’t mind sponsored posts about products or services that are part of a larger project, or something you would have purchased anyway that fits well with the overall direction of your blog. It’s when there are lots of sponsored posts about stuff that doesn’t seem relevant that I tend to get scroll-y and non-click-y. I’m looking forward to your kitchen remodel either way.

    I’ve been reading your blog for years and have always enjoyed your style and tone, so I hope you can find a good balance that works for you! All the best!

  • Taryn
    July 30, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    TV has the same challenges, actually. Product placement is pushed hard in most shows and everyone approaches it differently. Any new girl fans out there? I remember an episode when CeCe screws up one of her modeling gigs–which just happens to be for Ford. She is a mess, so Jess steps in. And Zoey Deschanel does some quality Lucille Ball style physical comedy in the background of what is essentially a Ford commercial, announcer reading about the car and all.

    Most viewers probably didn’t think of that as product placement as all. Or maybe they did. But the important thing is that it was very, very funny. It was on tone with the show. And it made perfect sense in context, since CeCe is a model, after all.

    I think the issue blogs run into is when sponsored content seems to be out of context. You rarely share recipes and this isn’t a food blog, so Blue Apron seems weird and out of context. Readers think “I didn’t come here looking for a recipe; I was tricked; this is deceitful.” And then they get mad at all sponsored content. (ex: Chris loves Julia faced similar backlash when they published a random post on a filtered water pitcher. They’ve since changed their sponsorship policy to focus only on sponsors for projects they had planned anyway, so basically materials/fixtures. I haven’t seen any more complaints over there, no that I watch closely).

    On the other hand, I’ve been wanting to see how your kitchen will transform whenever you were ready to take it on. That stove always seemed cool, but like a challenge to really live with to me. You having sponsors and sharing some cool product choices with us while you take on a remodel is totally contextual. It makes perfect sense.

    So anyone who gets mad at that is probably just jealous? You do you, girl.

  • Vanessa
    July 30, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    For what it is worth, I’ve always liked the way that Daniel over at manhattan nest handles this issue. He simply says “this project is being paid for by X-company”, and gets on with it. I always feel confident that all designs are his own and aren’t being influenced by the sponsors. As long as there is transparancy I’m okay.

  • Roxy
    July 30, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    I don’t visit your site nearly as much as I used to — I’m in the same boat as the alumni readers, from back in the day before the sponsors, etc. It’s apparent to everyone that your blog is taking a completely different path. It’s evolving, as you are evolving and you’re doing it as a business as opposed to doing it for fun. Similar to John and Sherry’s situation, I feel like it’s heading to a place that you have no control over and you’re so far into it that there really isn’t any turning back. So you roll with it and keep hoping to attract new readers and cross your fingers that you don’t lose your old ones. Sadly, you’re no longer someone that a lot of people can relate to. Things come free (not completely, as I know you’re still working your ass off) and bigger price tags are more your style now-a-days. That isn’t typical for a lot of readers — we can no longer relate. YOU’RE changing but we’re still the same. So it only makes sense that we would go searching for the next new blogger that we CAN relate to. And that’s not a bad thing, it’s just the reality of it. I’m sure your readership is still through the roof, so it doesn’t matter either way, but for all of the readers that are completely FOR the free reno, there are probably just as many people against it…so no matter what you decide, it won’t make a difference. You win some, you lose some.

  • Virginia (The Heartographer)
    July 30, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    I don’t have a problem with the way you incorporate sponsorships. I’ve noticed a dearth of posts around the time of your newest baby, understandably, and in the back of my head I worry/wonder what it’s like to cobble together an income when the main breadwinner is busy breastfeeding and whatnot on semi-leave. I was therefore frankly kind of *glad* to see what might otherwise be an uptick in sponsored posts; they mean one of my favorite bloggers is getting paid, which puts my mind at ease both about your general state in the world as well as my general state of consuming your work.

    That said, I run my own small business, and I don’t do sponsorships but only because my business (I’m an online dating coach) isn’t conducive to sponsorships I feel good about for my readers (I only get approached by sex toy companies and custom printable condoms, haha). I might be more sponsor-sympathetic than your average reader.

    I guess my point is, I’m an incredibly picky sort of reader and human, but I’m also humane/worried about the people behind the content. And I really don’t care, which I hope means you can do whatever works for you knowing that at leaset one of the more picky voices out there isn’t going to mind.

    Most home design blogs are somewhat aspirational, so I’d love to see a slightly more aspirational kitchen that you finance with help from Viking or whoever. If it comes down to me picking between stuff like that and stuff that’s more about LED light bulb or CoffeeMate label design sponsorships, I actually think the kitchen is more in keeping with what readers like me find interesting and exciting anyway. (Not to say don’t ever do those other sponsorships—do what gets you paid and keeps you blogging—but I find the kitchen *better* than those recent examples I can think of, so if anything I say you should have *less* conflict about this sponsorproject than about sponsored posts in general! But then, that’s just me.)

    Good luck with whatever you decide; I’m excited to check it out!

  • Julie
    July 30, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    In the past I’ve had companies approach me to do sponsored posts, and I’ve always said no because when I see blogs I read do sponsored posts I automatically don’t read whatever they are writing about. Not sure if it’s that I feel I’m being sold to or what that makes me switch off so quickly. However I am beginning to open up more to the idea of doing sponsored posts… now that I’m out of grad school, I’ve got serious bills to pay, and heck, if I can make some money off my blog, why not. I’m trying to decide how I want to work with brands and in what capacity… I’ve had just one blog for years, that is a mix of personal life and design, and I think what I am going to do is separate them and have a blog that is just personal/creative writing, and non monetize it at all, and have my blog that’s linked to my design business be monetized. Who knows… do whatever you works best for you. I know we are all figuring it out along the way. You’d better believe though that if I could get a nicer kitchen by working with a brand I would be all over it.

  • LRC
    July 30, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I just read through all the comments and came away with the thought “what great readers you have” as the vast majority of the comments are respectful and seem to genuinely and honestly answering the question you posed without being tacky.

    I am happy for you to receive free goods for your renovation and feel that you are doing your self a disservice by not accepting products when they do fit with your aesthetic and need. While people may think “Well, I don’t receive free items”, I think you’ve earned them by your creativeness and attentiveness to the blog you created that we all read and look to for ideas and inspiration. Hopefully, you can find the right balance as suggested by many commenters that you have free products but also still have some DIY or cost saving ideas and still document the process for decision making. How designers arrive at decisions is some of my favorite blog content. Emily Henderson does this very well. I think you do also.

    I think it fails to let you evolve if you try and cater to people who want your design content to be the same as when you started the blog. It seems common for your design eye and purchases to maybe become better/more expensive as you move from house to house. For example, we all probably spent less money on our first apartment décor than on things we bought first home we owned. It’s a natural progression in my opinion.

    I do look forward to a kitchen renovation as I hope you would return to more in-depth posts. I’m with the majority of your readers that I don’t mind a sponsored posts if it fits with the overall blog. It seems lately your blog posts seem to supplement a lack of typical posts with sponsored posts like Blue Apron, Sugru and Coffee Mate. I’d add that what you may not see as the blogger is that not only am I seeing your Blue Apron post, but I’m seeing others at the same time. It is like Blue Apron sets a schedule that every 6 months they are going to give bloggers an incentive to push their product. Or how I saw sugru (if that’s the right name) on a blog and thought what an interesting new product. But then I see it on two other blogs within a week and I’m disappointed because it feels insincere. Everyone just happen to have a tiny problem that can be fixed with Sugru all in the same week. Maybe I’m just too much of the core demographic of advertisers so I see all the product pushes multiple times!

    I want you to make money from your blog because I believe you have earned it. I just also want to still find the content that you are writing about interesting. I also fully acknowledge that you have a very little one at your house (kudos to you for blogging at all!), so maybe the content lately shouldn’t be judged as being necessarily typical or where the blog is heading.

  • Kristen
    July 30, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Dang – take the free stuff, girl! I think if you are being open about what you’re accepting, it won’t diminish how we see your reno at all. Compared to finding out that it was all sponsored after the fact, it adds an element of interest rather than feeling like it was all a big commercial!
    You have a wonderful opportunity here, and it all comes down to the fact that it’s still your taste and personality that is coming through – like you said, you wouldn’t take free stuff just because it’s free. {{And if you’re writing proposals for some of the things, that’s shopping right there, it’s just being paid for with your time and effort rather than your wallet.}}

  • Laurie
    July 30, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    If it fits you. Sponsor ( & disclose) away. But please give your honest review of any product.
    I don’t really relate to cooking for a family and I don’t honestly cook at all, so a blue apron post may not be read as carefully, but I’ll still swipe through pics.
    I’m here for the decor though, and fashion. I love to hear about things there and am all for seeing more and better. If you will honestly live with it, then you deserve credit for sharing how you chose and how it fits in your life.

  • Nicole
    July 30, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Nicole! I have been reading your blog for years, and while it is a daily read for me, I have never before felt compelled to comment. I really appreciate how open and authentic you are being about the status of sponsoring on your blog, and how that sponsoring will play out depending on how much/little you decide to move forward with. I will not be turned off if you do decide to go a more sponsor-heavy route – it does’t matter to me. However, what I would really appreciate seeing is a mood board of a either a more modest kitchen (if you choose to get sponsors), or a more custom/high-end kitchen if you pay for most of the items out of pocket. I am on the brink of a kitchen reno myself, and my contractor husband and I plan on doing much of the work ourselves (including cabinets), and I think some insight on how you choose to invest given limitations (or the lack thereof) would be really enlightening for a lot of us. Thanks!

  • Tricia
    July 30, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    I don’t mind sponsored posts if they make sense in the context of the blog. So I say, go for it! If there are any naysayers, they are probably only griping because they are jealous they aren’t getting a free kitchen. I know I am! :)

    Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I totally skipped the Coffee-Mate posts. They didn’t interest me at all, but I don’t mind that you felt it was the right choice for you and your blog- I just didn’t read them!

  • Stephanie
    July 30, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    I haven’t read the other comments here, so I don’t know the general consensus yet. But I say go for the larger sponsored renovation. You work hard to create this blog and sponsored opportunities are a huge perk/reward of a blog well done.

  • Anna
    July 30, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    Advertising is a necessarily evil. I should know—it’s my job. I think in this case, the quality of the advertising (and the content you’ll be creating) makes it worthwhile. Hopefully, by taking these kinds of jobs, you can avoid taking ones that don’t add value to your blog (or to your readers).

  • Frobly
    July 30, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    I’ve been reading a long time as well and I’ve found the change in the blog to be somewhat disheartening. I really do not mean to be rude, but often it feels like you are phoning it in in order to cash a check. And of course, that’s your prerogative but it does mean I check in a lot less frequently. Regarding free stuff from sponsors – it’s definitely a balancing act. You say it will only be stuff you’d buy & use anyway, but past sponsorships kind of put that in doubt. And the jealousy thing…I mean, if it felt like you had been putting out great, solid content all along, I don’t think most folks would begrudge you a fancy new stove. But when it seems like you’ve been coasting and your audience feels bored and restless…well, can you understand why they might feel like “Geez a free stove? For what? I’m busting my butt at a job I hate for 50 hours a week and I never see my kids and my stove is almost as old as hers! Where’s my free stove?!” I’m not saying it’s necessarily fair, but it’s a human response. And it’s certainly not just you. So many of the larger design blogs have gone down that path; it feels endemic. Maybe you can work with sponsors that are a little more unique so it’s actually bringing something new to your audience rather than another Lowe’s/Home Depot spot? I don’t know how realistic that is though. One more thought and I’ll shut up! :) One thing I liked about YHL was how they gave sponsored things away to their readers. If you could work with your sponsors to occasionally reward your readers, I think that would be nice and go a long way towards mellowing the jealousy. Let folks share in the bounty. Ultimately, it your blog and your business. You have to do what feels right to you.

  • Mary
    July 30, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    I say “go for it.” People in business accept gifts all the time from vendors. I don’t think it’s a big deal at all. It’s business.
    If your life is going to be disrupted by a remodel, you might as well make it worth your while & get all you can & make it the kitchen of your dreams.
    Just don’t forget to post some pictures of your adorable kids from time-to-time.

  • Nichole
    July 30, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    I say you have been more than transparent with the sponsorships. Don’t let the nasty undercurrents of jealousy and envy that are wrecking our society, wreck your business.

    I just did a “lipstick job” on my kitchen and it’s going to be close to $30,000. Crazy! You get whatever sponsorships you can from brands you trust and make your kitchen awesome!

    What people really want is new and consistent content. A big (and coincidentally much needed) redo provides that.

    Good luck and don’t let the whiners win!

  • J
    July 30, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    I think this echos a lot of what people above are saying, but I personally hate when bloggers seem to get a defensive/huffy about people’s reaction to sponsored posts, and think it’s some sort of black and white between having sponsored posts, or none at all. There also seems to be some subtext of frustration among bloggers that readers just don’t “get” that sponsored posts are the future of blogging, which I think is very condescending to your readers.

    I think for the vast majority of people (including myself) we understand that this is your livelihood, and you need to make money. However, in the case of this blog, there’s just been a huge dearth of ANY content of interest for a LONG time. If a blogger is providing a lot of interesting content, I’m a lot more likely to forgive a large percentage of relevant sponsored posts, or even the occasional super random and out-of-place sponsored post. If you’re providing never-ending affiliate link lists of things that you’ve bought/things that you want to buy, and then throwing in tons of really boring sponsored posts (light bulbs, coffee creamer, blue apron, etc. come to mind), it gets old VERY quickly. You keep reminding us that you have a new baby, other commitments, so busy! etc. – but you also have a stay at home spouse, and you readily admit that this blog is your primary source of income/job. Maybe you’re making enough to support your lifestyle phoning it in like this, although I can’t imagine that will last indefinitely. If you’re at all interested in reader satisfaction, then I think it’s time to try harder.

  • Hilary
    July 30, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Sponsor away! I’d love to see what you could accomplish with a larger budget. Make it wonderful and unique and true to you.

  • Jenn
    July 30, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    The “free” items you/other bloggers get aren’t really free (guessing you have to pay taxes on them, never mind the amount of time to arrange it all and make sure all the companies are happy). So they don’t necessarily end up being the cheapest option, compared to say buying a used stove.

    I have a high tolerance for sales-y posts, but start avoiding blogs when they become more focused on products I am not interested in. That is just how blogs and businesses evolve though!

  • 1 2 3