If you love vintage things and going to the flea market, you are not alone. Michael, our newest team member is OBSESSED with them. In fact, for years I would run into him at the Rose Bowl, he would stop me and we’d chat all things blog and flea. He has also been showing up at all things EHD for nearly a decade like volunteering at the rummage sale and helping at the shelter holiday decorating event. Naturally, after all those run-ins we became friendly. Every now and again he would tip me off on some new social media app that came out. He was always so supportive and made me feel like someone was actually reading and learning from this blog. Cut to last year when we were desperate for help in all things communication and he texted me saying, ‘how about me?’ Not only did he have a ton of experience (13 years in digital marketing alone, which is basically since the beginning of the internet) but he’s read the blog every single morning for eight years. So as Brian put it after our 2-hour interview, “Woah, that guy is uniquely qualified to work for the blog”. If you think I just hired a yes man, it’s actually often the opposite. He reminds me why people read and have read this blog for years and even shuts down ideas that he thinks are just not what you (the readers) want. He quickly dubbed himself our “Fan Ambassador,” (I like ‘Reader ambassador’ more) telling us what he thinks you want, need, and most importantly how things will be interpreted, or misinterpreted, etc. He’s already campaigned for things like the return of Craigslists finds, DIY projects and more thrift store excursions which I’m so happy we are doing because frankly, it’s all I want to be doing. We’ll get into that in a separate post but boy is it fun to have a one-person-focus-group actually on staff – and I LOVE hearing about what surprises him most being on the inside after watching from the outside for years (hot tip: we make it look really easy). If you want him to write about it, leave it in the comments (maybe we’ll do it on stories?). But for now, it’s time to let Michael take it away. P.S. You should know that Michael is literally the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever met, so if you think his excitement is faux, we promise it’s not. Head to insta stories to meet him in person:) Take it away, Michael.
Hi readers! First off—and I’m not joking—this is an ACTUAL BUCKET LIST dream of mine coming true. As Emily mentioned, I’ve read this blog every day for eight years and I couldn’t help but wonder/have daydreams of channeling my inner Carrie Bradshaw and writing something for this blog…and now HERE I AM?! Over a year ago, I cooked up the idea (long before I ever worked here) to pen a story about “Everything I Know About Design, I Learned From This Blog.” That’s what I get to write about today in my EHD debut…dreams happen, people. And I bet a lot of you have learned tips, too, that I’m hoping you’ll share in the comments once you hear my seven that I’ve applied to my house over the years. (Sidenote: is it me or do we look like Amish siblings in that photo?) 🙂
Also, I think this is the point where I should mention that showing you all my house is slightly terrifying. How does Emily do this every day? Imagine having thousands and thousands of people peaking in your windows and seeing how you live?! Oh dear, I had never thought of it that way until RIGHT NOW. Don’t get me wrong, the day we styled and shot my living room for this post was one of the best days EVER but now that we are publishing it for you all…I really, really hope you like it as much as I do.
I used to be a picker (as a hobby) so my house is filled with all affordable and thrifty pieces that I’ve found at flea markets, thrift stores and online treasure hunting. I’m proud of my resourcefulness in finding interesting pieces that mean something to me and make me happy and gives any room some soul. Which leads me to my first lesson…
Lesson #1: Flea markets are your new best friend. Hang out with them all the time.
Going to the flea market is an adventure. It’s also how I’ve been able to curate cool furniture, unique doo-dads and original art in a really affordable way. This handsome fella above the fireplace is one of my absolute favorite things in my whole house and I think I only paid around $60 for it. It’s signed and dated 1916 and I was told he was a famous matador in Spain. Half the fun of vintage art is thinking about the provenance (I had to Google how to spell that)…where did this painting come from, who owned it, who was the subject and what kind of life did they have?! I want to be friends with this matador and ask him if I can borrow his hat. The paint is chipping off his face and it makes me love the painting even more.
And since I’ve been to A LOT of flea markets, here are some “insider” tips for you: Have patience; you won’t find everything right away but just keep trying and be the one to get there early, you’ll get first pick at the good stuff. And for those of you without a flea market near you, hit up garage sales, thrift stores, estate sales, your grandma’s basement, eBay or Etsy…it’s all a fun treasure hunt. I got the vintage leather ottoman you’ll see a few photos down on eBay for around $80. (I have a habit of wanting to share with everyone how cheap everything I get at the flea market is. I wear my frugalness like a badge of honor). Another one of my all-time favorite finds came from eBay. It’s this English bulldog painting from Great Britain dated back to the 1800s. I mean, how RICH were you in the 1800s to be able to afford a portrait of your dog?! Where did that dog live? Was it a castle, a manor, did they get to sleep inside? What was their name? Buttercup, Mr. Pickles, Dame Judi Dench? I genuinely love it so much. It’s also very fitting because as you can see, life imitates art…I have my own little English bulldog…Dottie.
Lesson #2: Collections aren’t just “clutter.”
I’ve studied Emily’s shelves over the years and she often has little collections (remember the birdcage ladders?). I don’t even know why or how but when you pull a grouping of something together, it all of a sudden looks like a cool, purposeful collection. I have a grouping of long old photos hung and framed on my wall (one is of a circus from the 1930s), a collection of National Geographics from the 1920s. I even have a collection of vintage wooden toy airplane propellers. Why do I need them? I don’t…but they are interesting to me because my dad was a pilot in the military for 25 years, so I think I subconsciously have a lot of nods to him. I think the key is to have a collection of things that are a bit unusual and random. I’m not saying to collect little spoons, although those are fine, but a collection of something unique…yardsticks, croquet balls, globes, antique hotel bells (yes, over the years, I’ve collected them all).
Lesson #3: If at first you don’t succeed, just keep trying and styling.
I think a lot of people, myself included, get intimidated by design because of the fear of “doing something wrong.” But here’s the thing…it’s YOUR house, so you can do no wrong. I witnessed it when she helped me style the house. We just kept styling, playing around, moving furniture, adding more books, taking away books. Then would stare and stare at it. You’ll know when you have it to a place you like. And then a time will come when you won’t like it again and you’ll want to change it. That’s okay! Things are allowed to shift and evolve. I’m going to let you all in on a secret…knowing Emily was coming over to my house to shoot was SO EXCITING but don’t think I wasn’t up until after midnight styling my shelves over and over to get them just right for her. And get this…the amazing thing is when she got there…we KEPT styling the room even more because, simply put, it’s fun. It’s one of our company mottos…Style. Play. Every Day. (and also, styling to camera is a totally different skill I didn’t even know was a thing until that day).
A good tip…having cute pillows and a good throw, in my humble opinion, can “save the styling day” and is the easiest and cheapest way to change up a room. I change these out a few times a year and it gives me my “design fix.” And this doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy all new things. Source from your own home….bring out pillows, throws and other decor from bedrooms and do a switcheroo. You’d be surprised how much “fresher” everything will feel without having to spend a penny.
Lesson #4: A coffee table doesn’t have to be boring.
Emily had this coffee table at her previous house that I was gagging over (do you remember it?). I mean…that table gave me palpitations I loved it so much. But I couldn’t find it anywhere. And when I finally found out it was from Anthropologie, it wasn’t being sold anymore. But I didn’t give up. I kept hunting and hunting and found this similar one on Chairish. I love it so much and think it gives off a good vibe in the living room. So don’t panic, take your time, but find a coffee table that makes you happy. It isn’t the sexiest piece of furniture to shop for but the right coffee table is something that can really make a room soar.
Lesson #5: Weird is good…in small doses.
Having a few unique or even wacky things is how you can make a place feel interesting and personal. It is also what separates you from looking like a showroom and makes for great conversation pieces at your next game night. It’s what I think so many of us love about Emily’s work. There’s often a surprisingly weird and unexpected element to it that makes it human. You can see on my shelves that I have an old beat up leather rhino and a strange cast iron monkey that is both a doorstop and a bank (hard to pick out here, but it’s next to the stack of books on the left). I mean, what the heck did someone need a door stop and bank in one for? Not sure but I like it on a shelf. And none of my friends have one, so I feel special.
Lesson #6: If you are gonna splurge, why not do it on a beautiful chair that you’ve wanted forever.
This vintage safari chair is functional AND looks like art! After eight years of daily blog reading, it’s clear to me that Emily has some amazing chairs. The Windsor from Round Top, the Cherner chair, the Paul McCobb. So go find a chair that makes your heart swell, you deserve it. Just keep hunting on Craigslist, you’ll find something special if you keep looking and go get it first before anyone else can! This one is a little beat up, but I’m okay with that, it gives it character and charm. The chair doesn’t have any screws…it’s all dowels and weight suspension. It’s a little scary to sit in but it works, plus I love to look at it. It looks sculptural and makes me feel way cooler than I actually am. So maybe I’m being that one friend (we all have one) but I’m telling you, go splurge…you deserve it. Buy that cool chair!! You won’t regret it.
Lesson #7: Live in your place a little before making any rash decisions.
If you’re anything like me, when I first move into a place, I want to go 120 miles an hour and just get the whole placed finished all at once. Decorate every room, hang every picture. Ironically, I either do that or I do absolutely nothing for two years. But here’s the thing Emily taught me: sometimes you have to live in a space for a while to figure out how you are going to actually…live in the space. Seems obvious but for me it wasn’t. This wallpaper was in the kitchen nook when I moved in and I definitely considered removing it because I didn’t think it was “my style.” But then I was like…sure, it’s out of my comfort zone but it’s pretty and very different than what I normally do, so I think I’ll keep it. I’m so glad I lived with it for a while before ripping that down with my bare hands like I almost did. It really does make that room feel more charming.
Okay, that’s it. Thanks to all of you who made it to the end of this. (Hi Mom!) This has genuinely been so fun sharing my lessons with you. I’d love to hear what YOU’VE learned from reading Emily’s blog over the years. There have been so many amazing tips and tricks…share them with all of us below and let’s discuss them together.
***photography by Sara Tramp