The Business

Thankful Thursday - My Wife, My Life

So, it's Thursday. No, scratch that, it's Thankful Thursday! Today, I am taking some time to reflect on how thankful I am for my wife and for the life we share. Warning: I'm about to get mushy. Not only am I fortunate enough to be married to my best friend, the love of my life, and now the mother of our beautiful son, I am also lucky enough to own and operate a business with her. We get to spend most days together doing what we love, and for that I am thankful.

I've heard some people say that they could never work with their spouse, but Valerie and I feel the complete opposite. I guess that's what happens when you meet and fall in love at (where else?) work. That's right, we met in 1999 while working together at Perkins and the rest, as they say, is history : )

Anyway, I am truly blessed, and a ton (if not most) of it has a lot to do with her. So, thank you, Valerie, for not only marrying me, but also for pursuing your dream and allowing me to be a part of it!

Thankful Thursday - Babies and Clients

For a little something new.. today I'm writing my first post in a new series/category - Thankful Thursdays! I'm sure you've seen this type of series from other bloggers out there, but while I have wanted to include posts of this nature on my blog for a long time, this is my first! As you can imagine, by the name of it, it's a opportunity for me to take just one day out of any given busy week to write about something in my life, and in my work, that I am thankful for.. and today I am feeling particularly blessed and thankful, so what better time to break in this blog category for the first time, right? As the title of the post states, today I'm thankful for both the baby that's growing inside me, and the amazing design clients that I am truly lucky to have! I know, I know, these two things seem pretty unrelated, but you'll soon see why I combined them in today's post - let me further explain.

First of all, I am less than two weeks from my due date! Ahhh, that's crazy! I can't believe this pregnancy is almost over and that, in just a few short weeks, I'll be a first time mom to a little baby boy. This pregnancy has flown by and, I must say, it has treated me quite well - no major pregnancy complaints here - so, I've gotta be thankful for that!

Pregnant me!

But in addition to a happy healthy pregnancy, I'm more importantly thankful for this little life that is being entrusted to me! As it gets closer and closer, I'm really getting super excited for the day we finally get to meet our son, and I'm looking forward to each and every day after that.. when we get to hold him, nurture him and love him endlessly. I am already so thankful that I get to call myself his mommy! Oh, and I can't mention our little boy without, of course, mentioning my thankfulness for my amazing husband! I am so looking forward to the little family of three that we are about to become - how cute?

Ultrasound

So, how does all this baby talk play into my thankfulness for my clients? Well, here's how. So, we've been really busy working away on several client projects over the past many months (which is probably why the pregnancy flew by), and as we are getting down to the wire with the pregnancy, we are also getting down to the wire with wrapping up those client projects before I will be taking some maternity leave to enjoy time with our new baby and get into the swing of new parenthood! Well, I'm realizing that it's a difficult thing to plan for time off when you own your own design studio - there is no one to pick up the slack, or take over your duties while you're out! Ahh..

So, with my clients as a priority (as they always are), I've been trying to make miracles happen and neatly tie up loose ends and complete projects before our baby makes his arrival. But, to no avail! This week, I have realized that time is no longer on my side, and our baby boy could make his entrance any day now. Wow! If that's not nerve wracking enough, I've concluded that it is simply not feasible to think I can perfectly wrap up all client projects, then "clock out" for maternity leave, hehe. Instead, I'm sure I'll be working intermittently on design concepts, product purchasing, project management and scheduling installations simultaneously while I'm also nursing, changing diapers, napping and cooing over our new baby boy! But, here is where the thankfulness comes in.

Every conversation I've had with any of my clients regarding my pregnancy, my impending labor/delivery and my maternity leave has proven that I truly have the best clients! Their kinds words and overwhelming understanding about any delays to their projects, extensions of their design process, or how my work flow may change a little once I have the baby, have made me feel so thankful! Their understanding has allowed me to feel confident that I will be able to take on this new role as a mom, while still operating a successful design studio. I really couldn't be luckier to have such amazing clients who have all been super supportive during this new journey of my life. I like to believe it speaks to the great relationships and great service that they have come to expect from me and StudioVB. =)

Speaking of clients and client projects.. I thought I'd share a sneak peak of a recent client project that we completed just a few weeks ago - just in the knick of time!

Shea Project - Fireplace

Shea Project - Sofa wall

Shea Project - Window wall

Anyway, from the baby gifts our clients have gotten us, to the sweet words about how great I look during pregnancy (thanks by the way), to the advice on what to expect with a newborn, to the offers of bringing our little guy along to client meetings.. I appreciate our clients more than they know. Oh, and I also have to send a little shout out to all our trades and vendors as well, who have been equally as accommodating and understanding!

I'm thankful each day that I get to do what I love for a living and come into the homes of great people who I not only get to share in their lives, but who also invest on a personal level in mine! So, there you have it. Today, I'm thankful for clients and babies - one specific baby especially, hehe!

"Why We Matter"

I came across this great little video today about "Why Interior Design Matters", so I thought I'd share it with you! This video was the first place winner of a competition sponsored by the Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA), the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), and the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) along with media partner Interiors & Sources. The competition was explained as "a call/challenge to all professionals and professional organizations in the Interior Architecture/Interior Design field to create videos for our general public to educate them on how our profession positively affects society in innovative and entertaining ways."

I'm, of course, happy to re-post this video to help do exactly what the competition sponsors had hoped - educate the general public on how hiring an interior designer benefits society and the economy! On top of the video's complete yet concise explanation, it is also very creatively executed!

So, take a second and check it out!

This video was created by a group of students at Radford University - a job well done!

Getting Some Exposure

Last week, I was contacted by the Patriot News, our local newspaper here in Harrisburg, for an interview on a story about Home Design Trends for the New Year. I, of course, was happy to help and therefore participated in a phone interview with a reporter from the Patriot. Well, today the article was published on the front page of the Life section of the newspaper! Yay! Check it out below. The images aren't the best, I know. I snapped them on my iphone (which is due for an upgrade)!

Front Page spread.

Close up of front page.

Second Page

Overall, I am really excited to be featured in such a big way and, of course, get some exposure for our design studio and hopefully reach out to people who may not know about us and our services. Unfortunately, I'm not 100% pleased with the article content, but that's just probably the perfectionist and control freak in me, ha. I think with the nature of interviews, and specifically phone interviews, things often get misunderstood, misquoted or taken out of context - which happened in this case. Bummer.

Nonetheless, I know it's an awesome opportunity, and I am grateful!

So, I've copied the article below (reformatted for the blog) for those of you who can't pick up the Patriot today. You'll also see that I've striked through the quotes that were misquoted or misunderstood.

This Year, Home Design is all About You!

Wondering what the hot home design trends will be for 2012? The answer, at least in some instances, is whatever you want it to be.

"2012 is going to be an eclectic mix. It's not going to be something that's very definable," said interior designer Valerie Betz of StudioVB, at 218 Verbeke St. in Harrisburg (studiovbdesign.com). "It's not going to be this style or this country a particular style or particular look. It's more about taking a deviation deviating from one particular style and being more eclectic."

Still, Betz did note a number of home trends appearing on the horizon.

Sustainable Design

Being green in the home was a big trend last year and will continue to stay popular in 2012 according to Betz.

"Green design crosses the entire gamut of products used in the home or in decorating your home," she said. "It's everything from how the flooring is laid out to how it's painted flooring to paint. It's huge, up and coming and hopefully will be here to stay."

Most green design involves using furniture or other products that produce less waste in the manufacturing process or use more rapidly renewable materials like bamboo or cork (instead of, say, mahogany, which doesn't grow back as quickly).

Part of this trend includes using "reclaimed" materials, such as wood from a salvage yard or an old building, which can then be incorporated into new furniture or accessories. "A lot of designers are making new furniture out of reclaimed wood to give their work a rustic charm," Betz said.

Cork flooring

Reclaimed Wood Headboard

Personalized Design

Instead of picking an item out of a catalog or buying factory made matching furniture set, more and more homeowners are selecting items that match their own unique personal tastes, Betz said.

"I think clients and homeowners are leaning toward wanting to express themselves and are less about what's hot right now or what's in the catalog," she said. "It's more, 'I like this unique piece' or 'I want to hang my own artwork' versus what's in stores."

That can take many different forms, from hand-painting a dresser or vase (a new coat of paint could revive an old piece of furniture) to making throw pillows out of fabric scraps.

Not everyone is going D.I.Y. though. Those less inclined to be crafty are simply purchasing handmade items that appeal to them on websites such as Etsy. It's more about finding a look that reflects your own individual tastes rather than being able to to make your own pottery. "It's about looking for that one of a kind thing piece," Betz said.

Painted Furniture

E-design

The continued growth of the Internet has expanded the reach of many designers, according to Betz, as they are now able to offer their services to clients that traditionally might not have been able to afford them felt that design services were available to them.

Using videoconferencing tools such as Skype, interior designers can provide concepts, plans and ideas to help homeowners get started on a project that they can then create on their own time and within their own budget. Because there's no travel involved and the designer isn't taking on the whole project, the cost for their services is much lower.

"It's making design more affordable and accessible," she said.

Sketch from E-Design Plan

Open Kitchens

Along with stainless steel appliances, open-area kitchens continue to be a trend, Betz said. More and more people are opening up their kitchens to the other areas of their house so they can visit and talk with their guests while cooking.

Open Kitchen

Gray is the New Beige

Beige was the big neutral color for a long time, but gray is starting to push it aside, particularly when it's paired with rich colors such as mustard, golden yellow, violet or turquoise. The idea is to use colors that pop out and provide a striking contrast when paired with gray.

Gray Color

New Seating Styles

Puffy, overstuffed, bulky chairs are out. In their place, Betz said, are lower and more streamlined or tailored seats. "It's more casual and comfortable clean lined and sophisticated," she said. (I'm sure I mentioned the casual and comfortable sentiment at some point, but it does not have a direct correlation to the seating style)

Streamlined Seating Styles

Wallpaper is Back

Decades of bad patterns have scared many homeowners away from it, but a wave of bold patterns and textures are pushing wallpaper back to the forefront. "It's taken awhile to convince clients, but definitely higher-end houses and designers are using wallpaper," Betz said.

Modern Graphic Wallpaper

Well, there you have it!

And, if you were inspired to update the design of your home utilizing some of the current design ideas and trends described in the article, feel free to contact us! Also, the article only included a handful of the design trends I discussed, so maybe I'll post about some others in the coming weeks.

Images from here and here.

Etsy Anyone?

We've been working on another side of StudioVB for a little while.. and that side is our Etsy shop! Maybe you've seen some of our recent posts on our Facebook page! We come across so many neat vintage home decor finds along our travels (while we are hunting for items for our design projects) that we began to snatch up any little thing we liked, thought was really cool, or couldn't leave behind.. even if we didn't have a home or a client for it just yet. So, after collecting quite a bit of these items, we decided that someone ought to have them, so we set up our Etsy shop to offer our designer selected vintage goods for the home.

If you don't know about Etsy.. shame on you!

Etsy Logo You really have to check it out. It's a online marketplace to buy and sell all things handmade and vintage (and also craft supplies). You can find so many unique items on Etsy and it's so simple to buy. I have been a buyer on Etsy for many years now, purchasing everything from wedding party gifts to unique home decor items to handmade accessories for myself! It can be addicting, so be careful! =)

I mean, take this for example, the image below is a snapshot of items for autumn/fall found on the Etsy Treasury (which is a member-curated shopping gallery). See all the amazing items you can find with just one search. Imagine the possibilities! Hehe.

Treasury List

Speaking of the Etsy Treasury, it's just one of the many cool features of Etsy! Etsy really is a community of creative people and it is yet another place to express your creativity, share ideas with others and get really amazing inspiration, not too mention make a living doing what you love!

Anyway, we have now made the transition from just an Etsy buyer to an Etsy seller as well. Here's a quick glimpse of our new online shop front, as of today.

Screen shot of our Etsy Shop.

We opened our StudioVB Etsy Shop just a few short weeks ago, with only a few small items. Since Etsy has been a side project that we tackle in the evening hours, it has been sort of a slow start (cataloging, photographing, uploading, listing, etc.) But, with only a few items listed on our shop, we had two sales in the first week, and another sale in the second week. Yay! So, we are excited about this new side of our design studio, and are encouraged to get more of our items listed! So, go ahead and visit our shop today, but check back often as more items will be added daily!

Shown below are our sold items. Woohoo!

Our sold items!

Oh and you'll notice our Etsy shop banner shown below states "Vintage and Handmade Items for the Home". Well, I thought I should clarify. For the time being, all the items listed on our shop are vintage finds; however, we will in the near future begin to add some handmade items as well.

Our Etsy shop banner.

Along our design journey, we also come across many items that have potential but just need a little "tweaking", a little love or a little creativity and can be turned into something new and unique. These items (along with some custom artwork or crafted items) will make up the handmade portion of our Etsy shop. We'll use our creativity (and our hands, of course) to create unique items from found objects, fabrics, materials and even everyday art or craft supplies. But, I am guessing those items will get listed in what I am calling phase 2 of the Etsy shop launch. Until then, we will continue to post the vintage items that are stacking up!

Items like this featured item from our shop.

Our Etsy featured item.

Well, friends, let this be our first official introduction to our StudioVB Etsy Shop! Come check us out.

Simple Serenity

As of a couple weeks ago, we've added a new project to our portfolio. So, take that as an excuse to go check out our portfolio if you haven't, or haven't lately! The new project is titled Simple Serenity and is a master bedroom in a city house here in midtown Harrisburg. This property was vacant and on the market for sale. And, as you know, vacant homes are not easily sold, since the potential of the spaces is difficult for buyers to visualize. So, that's where we came in. We took on this home staging project to give the potential buyers a great idea of how this home can look furnished and simply styled.

Since this home is here in the city, we focused on a urban sophisticated design concept, with a subtle color palette of grey and beige against the strong contrast of light walls and dark furnishings. Then, we added a few metallic accents mixed with natural accessories to give the space some drama but with a comfortable feeling of nature.

Here are a few photos from the portfolio - just to give you a snippet!

Overall shot of the space.

Dresser shown in a niche.

Accessories on the dresser.

Shot of the headboard and bedding.

Detail shot of the mirror.

And since you might be wondering.. This home SOLD just a little over a month after being staged. What a true testament to the effectiveness of home staging. I am always happy to help homeowners get their properties sold fast and for the highest price. So, if your planning to put your home on the market, give us a call first!

Brochures, Pamphlets?

Brochure is kinda an ugly word! If you know me at all, you probably know that words (and names) are a big thing for me. Some are nice, pretty words, while others are, well, not so much. Some sound good rolling off the tongue and look nice when written, and some even taste good (if you can understand that), but then there are others that are really quite ugly. These words don't sound good, don't look good, and don't taste good and, therefore, make it really hard to say. Therefore, I try to find alternatives. Of course, this is all subjective, and most people have no problems with words! Unfortunately I 'suffer' from this problem, hehe! The funny part is that apparently it's contagious, because Logan has only developed this in the past few years - oops! Anyway, to me, brochure is one of those words. So, in thinking of an alternative word to use, I came up with pamphlet - which I can only say is a smidge better. It still has its issues, with the somewhat awkward spelling and the short cut pronunciation in speaking (ie. pan-flet), ugggh! So, I'm looking for an even better word. Anyone have suggestions?

Well, I admit I'm a bit quirky, but nonetheless, I'm only talking about these words because we've got good news! StudioVB has designed and printed new brochures, pamphlets, or whatever you want to call them, for our home staging services! It's spring time and it's that time of year when lots of people put their homes on the market, and lots more go house hunting. So, we are reaching out to realtors and homeowners both to offer our services. If you, or anyone you know, is thinking of putting their home on the market, call us first!

Anyway, thought we'd share a few pics of the new tri-fold informational advertisement (aka brochure).

Close-up of front of brochure

The front side of the brochure - unfolded.

Front of brochure

Inside back of the brochure.

View of the benefits of home staging

Imgae of me folding the brochures by hand

The final product.

Refreshing the Blog

We've been blogging for just a few months now, and we are enjoying getting into the swing of this new aspect of our business (and our lives, really). We, like a lot of things in life, are learning what works for us as we go along.. in this case, along our journey through the blogoshere! So, with only a few months under our belt, we saw a way to refresh and make our blog better, so we are already making just a few simple changes. I'll tell you what they are in just a sec, but if you've been reading you may have already noticed! Originally, the idea for our blog was to give StudioVB (our design business) a new means to connect with our clients (both current and future), to offer design ideas and advice to them and anyone who might stumble onto our blog, to simply offer a glimpse into our creative business - you know, to show more clearly and more genuinely who we are and what we do - and, of course, hopefully inspire our readers in some small way!

But, as I knew I would, I sorta fell in love with blogging. To me, this blog can be more than what it began as. Even though I am still finding the balance between work, play and blogging (since blogging is sort of a crossover, hehe), I am inspired to not only use blogging as I described above, but also to use it as a creative release as well - a place to share anything and everything (now, if only I had time). I know lots of people have personal blogs, but that's not really what we're going for here. However, as I look back over our posts, I was finding that a pretty good number of my posts were crossover topics as well.. but, I guess that's the way it goes when you live, work and play by doing what you love - it all blends! And, I feel blessed that I can say that.

So anyway, with the help of our web developer (my big brother), under the direction of our web designer (haha, that's me.. I like to think I can do it all), we made a few updates to fit the direction where the blog was headed! I know I told you I'd tell you what they are, but this could be fun - can you guess? what's changed? what's new?

Comment and tell us what you see that's new!

To Stage or Not to Stage?

Thinking back (over some of these past few posts) on our house hunting journey, I am recalling some of the really horrible houses we viewed during our hunt. I should clarify, they weren’t horrible homes; they were just poorly shown. No prospective buyer would have made an offer on them simply because of how the homes presented. This fact inspired me to write a post on one of the many aspects of interior design - home staging. Home staging, for anyone who might be unfamiliar with the term, is the art of preparing, designing and staging a home for sale to show the home in its best light and to appeal to the widest range of potential buyers. This is done quite simply in just a few key steps and has been proven to sell the home faster and for more money! It’s a win-win situation for everyone. So, why wouldn’t you do it? It’s a mystery to me why there are still lots of home sellers that don’t get this simple concept.

Check out a couple before and after shots to see for yourself. Which photo attracts you more?

Before and after shots of a home office that has been staged.

Before and after shots of a bedroom that has been staged.

Before and after shots of a laundry room that has been staged.

Before and after shots of a dining room that have been staged.

But, I’ll give these home sellers the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s not because they don’t get the concept or see the value in it, but maybe that they are just unaware. So, I decided to post a quick list of the major benefits of home staging, and maybe if you are lucky we’ll even give some tips for the do-it-yourselfers in an upcoming post.

But I must say, while I totally appreciate D-I-Y techniques, you really can’t beat the services and expertise of a trained professional home stager that can help you through the process during what is often a very busy and stressful time. That’s where I come in! So, if you are looking to sell your home in the near future definitely contact us here at StudioVB.

But, in the meantime, here is just a taste of some inspiring benefits of home staging.

Faster Sale – Home staging has been proven to reduce the time a home stays on the market – averaging 1 month or less, as compared to un-staged homes at 161 days on the market, ouch!

Higher Sales Price - Staged homes sell for an average of 7% more money than un-staged homes, which means an extra $14,000 on the purchase price of a $200,000 home. That’s worth it, if you ask me, and a great return for a fraction of staging costs!

Wide Range of Buyers – A home stager will help you eliminate the potential of turning away certain buyers based specific tastes, lifestyle preferences, etc. Resulting in a home that appeals to a wide range of buyers.

Visualized Potential – 10% of buyers cannot visualize the potential of a home. A staged home will show the potential and without this, the potential of the home is only left to a buyer’s imagination, which is often very limited. Plus, showing the home to its fullest potential also makes for beautiful listing photographs attracting interested buyers right from the start!

Objective Perspective – As the homeowner, it’s hard to step back and look at your home objectively. A home stager is trained to do just that and provide you with insight into the point of view of the buyer.

So, even with just those benefits, you can see why it’s a must-do when planning to sell your home!