That’s my ‘let’s have a chat’ pose. SO MANY EXCITING THINGS are happening that I want to tell you about. 1. We are moving studios (sale next Saturday) 2. I have stopped (temporarily) taking on private design clients, therefore, 3. Ginny and Mel are leaving EHD. 4. The Flea is (possibly temporarily) shut down, 5. We bought a fixer upper 6. I invested (kinda) in a high-end flip in Portland, 7. I’m hiring both here and Portland and 8. I’m pregnant …… WITH HAPPINESS. A big belly full of relief and excitement with no baby inside of me. I just really liked having the power of all your emotions for a second and wanted to be able to feel your collective gasp. It’s a lot. But it’s all good….
So many questions, so much to tell you.
It’s hard not to lead with the most gasp-worthy of those announcements – the fact that after 4 1/2 years Ginny will not longer be here everyday by my side. I mean, we did The Fig House together, which feels like decades ago. We went to South by Southwest and worked with Snoop Dogg!! Ginny, remember how we had to temporarily call him Snoop Lion and then his PR people were like, er, never mind, please go back to ‘Snoop Dogg.’
When we first worked together I was working out of my house (three houses ago), then we worked out of my basement just the two of us. She’s seen me through two pregnancies (where I’m grumpy but productive) and two births (where I’m happy but cry a lot). She’s the only one that knew me pre-children which gives everybody else proof that former Emily was cool (although I got pregnant days after I met her). My kids know her! Brian loves her! We have done so many projects that we are both proud of, and a lot that were totally weird.
Ginny came from corporate retail design with SKILLZ but hadn’t done many residential projects and I think that ‘styling’ wasn’t something she thought she would end up doing so much of. Her attention to detail and understanding of overall art direction, flow, function and cohesion were invaluable. Meanwhile as you know I have zero computer design skills and I like to run-and-gun it. So together it was honestly really great. I think she thought I was NUTS at first, and I know that over the course of 4 years of course I drove her nuts at times, but it was a really amazing creative partnership and friendship. It’s 5am and I’m crying…. but happy tears!!
So why is she leaving? Well. Two years ago when I was pregnant with Birdie I made a big list of what only I can do and what I can delegate out. Under me was writing the blog, partnerships and media (where my face/body is needed) and mom. Nobody else can actually dress up as me and attend a media event in New York or do a Target commercial. And nobody else can mother my children. But Ginny could take over the client work, under my art direction and supervision. I kept thinking Nate does it. He has 15 people in Chicago doing client work while he’s doing his TV show. I could do that too!
I would usually go to the first meeting and then she would present the design plan to me and we’d tweak before presenting to the client. Depending on the client I would be there for the install and the shoot, but there were a couple that I never even met – which they were fine with because they hired us when I had just had Elliot and were warned, but it always bothered me. I was just too busy and client work is so time consuming and full of too many decisions every day. I was constantly turning down new client work, I wasn’t available to meet as often with the clients we did have and then (and worst of all) I would often come in at the end and change things that I didn’t like or question their decision – which is the worst thing you can do to creative people who are working their bums off for you. Honestly I loved 95% of everything they did so that only happened a couple times and maybe that’s normal but it still sucks. I felt a lot of guilt about all of those things. And guilt is my truly my #1 source of stress. Nothing stresses me out more than knowing that I’m disappointing people that I care about. I would often “joke” when I turned down clients saying ‘I don’t need one more person to disappoint’. Haha. just hilarious…
It always seems crazy to turn down work, right? But at a certain point you have to prioritize everything you do and cut out what just doesn’t make sense, even if you enjoy it in theory. I can’t do both design clients and the blog well. Design clients can last a year and a half and while most of them agree to be blogged about at the beginning it only ends up working out about 1/3rd of the time. Sometimes they run out of budget and are pretty satisfied with 80% of the room (but we aren’t so we don’t shoot), sometimes they move 1/2-way through the project and we don’t finish, sometimes they make enough choices that we don’t agree with that we choose not to spend the resources to shoot and show you, or sometimes while they have agreed to letting us put it on the blog in the beginning they seem reluctant to let us shoot and show you and we don’t force it. We had one major project, that took a year, a huge renovation of a celebrity in the hollywood hills and when we were 75% done she decided to rent out the house and didn’t want to furnish it, and we didn’t have time to shoot before that happened. Now, that is typical for most designers obviously, and most designers don’t need to document their projects for hundreds of thousands of people. In order for you to come here and us to grow as a blog, we need interesting, transparent process and reveals of design projects.
We can’t be totally transparent about client design process and costs and we certainly couldn’t do any ‘ask the audiences’ with them. To me the design clients were to support the blog (which I realize is opposite from every designer out there) so when I realized that this wasn’t really the case anymore, I knew things had to change. But I couldn’t lay off GINNY!! Besides we had so many houses that we have designed that were such amazing content.
Meanwhile with my house almost finished I realized that we needed content (the editorial calendar was looking EMPTY) and so I needed some projects that I could document completely. So we started looking for a fixer upper and found one (announcement next week, got the keys today!). How I’ve explained it to my friends and family is that pretend I’m a movie director that self-produced a film that was very successful (our last house). Once it’s out and done, what do you do? Write another movie and do it again. So this new house will be a totally different style than any I’ve done and you are going to have a huge role in it. Stay tuned, we are VERY excited.
Then my brother and sister in law bought a high end fixer in Portland and enlisted my help to overhaul it, make it STUNNING to sell (I would say flip it, but I don’t want to taint the project with that word … it’s going to be grand). It’s gutted now, waiting on permits but it’s also going to be a style I’ve never done before. GAH. I’m dripping with excitement right now. So much design work, and it’s all up to us. WAHOO!!
So knowing that I had those two big projects lined up, while in Portland, I made the final decision to stop taking on clients. I had the design work to support the blog, so it was time to close down shop. My plan was going to be to ask Ginny and Mel if they wanted to continue to help with these two projects, but the thing was that I wanted to design them so they were going to be my assistants and both of them are kinda above that at this point. Going from being a design director for two years then basically doing your boss’s bidding on her personal projects might have felt understandably unsatisfying.
The day I got back from Portland Ginny asked me to coffee and told me while fighting back tears that it was time for her to do her own work. She was so nervous and I was like ‘GAH!! IT’S PERFECT TIMING!! I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU AND YOU CAN HAVE OUR CLIENTS!! She agreed to stay on for a month or so to finish some jobs and then freelance after that on any loose ends. I honestly think we’ll be working together in some capacity (like Orlando!) for years, but technically she won’t be part of the EHD staff in a few weeks.
If any of you need a designer in LA and like what we’ve done here, HIRE Ginny MacDonald. I can’t recommend her enough. All our clients have loved her and so will you.
So what about Mel? Well, I told her about the two new projects and said I would love if she stayed on to assist but would understand if she wanted to do her own work, too (she only worked for me 4 days a week and has been doing her own client work). She was taking a second to think about it, but then the next day Homepolish offered her a bigger job and she was like, hey guess what??!!! The universe was telling us all that this was the right thing to do, and the timing couldn’t have been better. We were all actually giddy with excitement that week as we shopped for some jobs and talked about how they can potentially rent a desk at the new office, and that I’d feature their projects on the blog, etc. I think knowing that we were ending our working relationship in a way that was so healthy for all of us gave us all such a huge sense of relief. Everybody feels they are growing and moving in the direction they want to, and everyone is happy for each other. I can’t tell you the relief I felt, it was HUGE.
Speaking of Mel, she’s been with me for a year and a half and while she started as an assistant she has definitely made her way into higher rolls in projects and I’ve personally LOVED having her style, experience, knowledge and personality in the office. I like funny people, and that girl is funny. She helped me so much on my house despite her style being totally different than the style of this house. And when it came to all our custom furniture, she designed and managed them expertly. She is taking on clients with Homepolish and I know that you all freaked out about her house so those of you looking for that style, she is your girl. You’ll love her as much as our clients and we have.
Here’s the crew a few months ago when we were in Round Top. Mel is the tall blonde, Jess is in the plaid dress and Sara is in the brunette in the middle. I’m the blonde in the tiny skirt and spray tan, Brady is the strapping man and Ginny is on the far left.
So that’s the end of the design client era for a while. It’s all good news, but the REALLY good news is that we have a lot of projects that we are finishing that we’ll show you soon – clients that have loved being documented on the blog. The Griffith Park house is being shot in a couple weeks, the bathroom of the Silverlake Hills house is scheduled to shoot, Jaime Derringer’s family room is scheduled for reveal, The office and living room of this house is still in process, and the bedroom of this house is in process.
So what does this all mean for the blog? Brady, who has been the editorial director for the past year and a half (he’s been with me for 3 1/2!!!) is taking an even larger roll and helping to produce the makeovers. He wears so many hats because he is so talented in so many different ways, so we’ve taken some of his smaller hats and will give them away so he can wear two HUGE HATS as editorial director and producer. Sara has become our in-house photographer and Gif-maker (as well as graphic designer and general life-advisor) and the lovely Jess who has been with us for a year has taken over all market research, design boards for the blog, contributors and office management. They have all worked so well the last year together, while I’ve been a bit crazy trying to finish this house and I can’t thank them enough for their hard word.
But now we need another person – a junior designer who has graphic design and interior design program skills who is looking for experience. It’s a blog and design assistant position in Los Angeles.
I also need a part-time designer in Portland. A designer with rendering and photoshop experience that can be my eyes when I’m not up there, and can help photograph and manage the process. If you are interested or know someone who is please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll look at resumes Monday 8/8.
Next up – we are moving studios which means that this one is available (and awesome). It’s three separate buildings (we have two of them but the third is available). Our square footage is 1200 + 1000 in the back. I’m not sure what the other space is like nor what the total rent will be.
We are moving because we found one that is really pretty, closer for everyone (in East Hollywood) and it has a separate office for me – which I’m desperate to have. Having it be all open is great in theory but not everyone needs to hear every conversation and there is no place for us to take conference calls, etc. Plus I’ve found I need to focus and be by myself to write (DUH) and I’m too social and like to gab too much to try to do this in an open concept office.
We are having a STUDIO SALE next Saturday, 10-1pm in Eagle Rock on Colorado blvd. I’ll instagram the address the day before and the morning of. So stay tuned for that. It’s not a ton of furniture, but a lot of small stuff of pieces left over from shoots.
As for the Flea, we might have big flash sales once a year, but buying to sell wasn’t a business model that I liked because as any retailer will tell you, after all the overhead was accounted for we had to charge too much for these vintage pieces. Even I was like ‘WOAH, that’s WAY too expensive’. Plus managing the inventory, paying for the storage, having a dedicated person on it (Thank you Ariel!) just became too high maintenance. It was fun at first because we had sooooo much stuff leftover, but it stopped making sense. We are doing a collab with Chairish in the fall who has taken the inventory and most of the other awesome vintage stuff that we would sell. So the sale on Saturday is definitely good, but it’s not this crazy vintage bonanza or anything, but a lot of decent stuff or design materials.
It’s been such a great 3 years here but man am I ready for the move. It’s 10 minutes away from our house – I can bike! And it cuts many of my crew’s commute down by 20 minutes which makes me feel good 🙂
Adios office… (and yes those plaid tiles come up with concrete underneath).
Cheers to such an amazing crew. Ginny and Mel you will be missed (although they are around for 2 more weeks). And don’t worry, there is a very good chance that you’ll see their work documented here like Orlando does. We’ve created this little LA design family and while we may not work together, I hope we still hang out, collaborate and share sources. In my fantasy our space would be big enough for them, Orlando and Scott to rent a desk from me so we can just hang out all day every day!! Yes! If another space opens up in the building that is what we are going to do (Plus bring Brian’s company there, too).
We have so much content scheduled but it might be a bit rocky this week as we get our internet and server set up at the new space. Thanks again for all the support and of course just for coming as often as you do. I hesitated telling you all the details of why we are dropping client-work, but then I was like A. I tell you everything so why not this? B. Ginny and Mel would be absent from everything soon and I didn’t want any weird speculation or gossip. Our relationship means a lot to me and having that negativity out there would kill me. C. I want to help promote their new ventures and get the word out that they are for hire, and D. I think that talking openly about running a small creative business and the mistakes, pitfalls and changes we make while growing is valuable.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned recently is that just because you have “good opportunities” does not mean that you need to take them. I’m not talking creative risks, I’m talking ‘business’ opportunities. At a certain level it’s smart to hone in on what your passion and real strengths are and develop those. Trying new things is certainly important, but knowing when to shift and being flexible is even more.
Right now I have some pretty good “opportunities”. The opportunity to create the best design content for you, Target and my other partners. The opportunity to be a better leader for people that I care about and who care so hard about my company. And most importantly the “opportunity” to be a wife and mom to the most important people in the world.
Those are all pretty darn good opportunities, I’d say. 🙂