It’s been over 10 years since I started the blog, and documenting the growth and massive shifts we’ve gone through would be enough for a book (quite literally, and maybe will be). Many of you might have missed the announcement via my weekly Saturday newsletter (that I started and then stopped because properly putting my feelings into words was HARD) but here it is – We are permanently giving up the EHD office. At least this office. It was a no-brainer, a bitter-sweet no-brainer that requires a lot of back story information. So today we are going to revisit the last 10 years of the “EHD office spaces” and you’ll see where we landed the last two years and why I’m giving the brick and mortar up.
Right after Design Star Brian and I moved into this house that had a cute added sunroom that would be my WFH office. It was bright, had its own entrance, and was certainly enough space.
That’s when it was just Orlando and I. Then we brought on Bonnie (now the Director Of Brand Marketing at Zillow) and a couple of interns and freelancers for shoots (the very talented Tessa Neustadt and Monica Wang – how fun is that?). It didn’t cost anything as it was just part of our rent (I think the rent was crazy expensive, though, like $3000 for two bedrooms + this room). Soon Orlando moved on to do his own client work and blogging (have you seen his new show?) and Ginny came aboard (have you seen her new line with Lulu and Georgia? We just ordered this bed for one of our makeovers). We mostly just shopped in person and did on-site visits for the Fig House or our residential clients, so we didn’t really use the office so much on a day to day basis. Everyone was hired hourly and often worked from home, or we met up at coffee shops.
Then we had a baby named Charlie and we bought our first house, 7 years ago. GEEZ, I might actually cry because A.) It’s all going so fast, and B.) Life was so much simpler and easier then – guys this was basically PRE-Instagram, PRE-“influencer” stuff – how crazy is that? This home had a basement that we worked out of, but only for like 9 months. This is the ONLY picture I could find of it below – obviously NOT designed but I do appreciate the organized “paper towel” styling.
At this point my team consisted of Ginny, and then of course Brady came aboard when Charlie was 3 months old. Once it was the three of us, working out of my home started to feel weird for them (they never said anything) and us, even though we were so close and had so much fun together. We had to climb the stairs into my house to go to the bathroom and kitchen and with napping baby and me breastfeeding I think you could call it “unprofessional”. But we were also slowly renovating and decorating that house so we kinda needed to be there and shoot a lot. Before we moved we were able to shoot the space for Matchbook Magazine – remember that?
Oh geez. Nostalgia is a wildly powerful feeling, guys. This post was meant to be easy and it’s turning very emotional.
But shoots like that totally disrupted all the workflow and we realized we needed a space not in my house to work and shoot – somewhere with enough white wall space + good natural light. So over one weekend, I found this space in Eagle Rock, like 7 minutes from my house. It was $1200 a month (at first) and 1000 square feet, which was big enough for desks and a space to shoot. I still remember surprising Brady and Ginny with it, telling them I was taking them to coffee then walking them into the space – we were all giddy.
This started a new phase in the business – when we went from “blogging” to “content creation.” It was a shift that happened slowly, then all at once. With this studio, we were able to shoot sponsored posts (this was in the early years of partnerships) and we really transformed the space weekly. One side had desks on wheels, the other had shelving full of props that I hoarded for shoots (and life).
Yep, about 3-5 times a month we would transform a side of it into a shoot space for the blog.
We also shot so many original posts for fun editorial content like “1 Credenza 4 Ways” or “1 Dresser Styled 4 Different Ways” or “1 Bed 4 Ways” because we REALLY liked showing you how to style one thing four ways.
But as I was doing the math (which I rarely did) I realized that these shoots were costing about $2500 in time and material and we certainly weren’t making that much on them. So while we did still shoot here, it was always super messy and the shoots made working there really disruptive and chaotic. The wallpaper panels were taken down early on to shoot and never put back up so it went from totally designed, to super messy really fast.
At this point, I think I had 3 full-time salaried employees – Brady, Ginny and Sara, and a few hourly employees (Mel, Bowser, Erik, Jess, amongst others). We needed to have a real office with designated desks and less photoshoots. Around that time we got a big partnership with Wood Naturally which provided the perfect excuse (and resources) to invest in designing the office more for function (and client work) and less for photoshoots.
Oh man. I loved that space – it felt so pretty and pulled together. We had all our samples organized, and even had that copper ladder made for my favorite vintage fabrics.
It was a pretty great space. Then the back office opened up and we used it for storage (another $1100) and so we were able to keep this one more organized with more room for people. We fit here pretty nicely, so why the change?
Well, there are a few reasons I chose to move offices:
1. Location. My family had moved to Los Feliz and my commute now was 25 – 30 minutes. That commute along with having 2 young kids and breastfeeding felt like A LOT. The rest of my team lived even further away.
2. Privacy. I found myself not coming into the office because I didn’t have my own enclosed space to write and I would basically just talk about the Bachelor all day and distract everyone. So I thought that getting an office with my own room would help me come in more often.
3. We didn’t need a shoot space. At this point, we also made a shift in our content to shoot in real homes with unique architecture (not a blank sterile photo studio wall). We started moving all posts to be in locations either in my home, our team’s homes (hello MOTO), and friends and families homes.
4. We stopped doing client work so we didn’t need the extensive library of samples (we still have a ton, but they are in storage so that when we need them we can go get them).
So I started looking, and perhaps got a bit hasty and signed a new lease on our current space (the one we are giving up).
The new studio was smaller, had less storage, and was TWICE as expensive (I think $3400 + parking + storage unit). Seems like an odd business choice, right? Looking back, it probably was not the best financial move but these are lessons I get to learn along the way. I chose it because it was central (East Hollywood on Fountain by the big Scientology center), the building itself was SO PRETTY (restored by Manola Studio), I got a beautiful office to myself so my dreams of coming in every day and writing were about to come true (ha, more on that below), plus there were multiple restaurants nearby – something we lacked in Eagle Rock. There was a restaurant “about” to open right beneath us (5Leaves) that took over a year to open but the promise of happy hours with artisanal cocktails right below our office was a temptation I couldn’t pass up. Here she was when we first found it…
Look how pretty it is!
The inside was raw, more industrial than the outside, but still good elements.
Now that I’m looking at it it feels underwhelming compared to the light bright spaces before, but it was really pretty – brick, wood, and black steel windows. I also was in the “stay small, don’t grow” phase. I think we were at 5 employees and we fit nicely here. But very quickly, with the production of my second book, the Portland project, Mountain house, and a billion shoots, we shot up to at one point to 13 people between freelance and full-time. We were packed together with 2 people to a desk and it became clear that I had created (or accepted) too much work for us to “stay small” – a real gift of mine.
We had to rent a storage unit and everyone was working on top of each other to a point that I had to give up my office to Arlyn and Sara because we had run out of space in the main area (and I wasn’t coming in as much as I thought I would anyway – always out shooting). That’s right, I didn’t have an office in my office. HA. I realized we were too big for this space which prevented us from ever properly “designing” it. I think I knew for a while that it was not the right fit, but looking for a new bigger place was so daunting (and expensive). We’d likely have to go to the valley which would add a huge commute for everyone and selfishly I just didn’t want to add an hour of driving to my life. So we remained in this state of limbo for a while.
Then the team shrank and we had fewer full-time employees coming into the office. Why? I realized that the business could not support 13 employees (10 full-time on salary), so I had to make some tough decisions to A.) Layoff two people due to my idiotic over-hiring (I’ll forever be sorry to Chandler and Carolina), and then B.) Once we wrapped up the Portland project, mountain house, and book shoots we didn’t have enough full-time production work. So the production team, Velinda and Bowser, went freelance (read more about that here – and hire them!). So right before the pandemic, we were down to 7 full-time salaried employees which technically fit in this office space again.
Note: A few people have asked in the comments about Veronica, our second photographer and photo assistant. A few months ago, when production had slowed way down on our end, she decided she was ready to look for the next step in her photography career. She is quite possibly one of my favorite people in the world with so much kindness, talent, and hard work. She shot all of the fashion posts, helped me have fun when I was uncomfortable in front of a camera, and has a real eye. So if you need a fashion, product, or interior photographer I can personally highly recommend her (and we have some jobs booked with her this summer already, so act fast). Also fun fact, she is currently working a lot with Monica Wang (my former photo intern from 2013) who owns The Revery. I love a former EHD collab.
So why give up the office??? Well, turns out we simply didn’t need it. We continued to not have any photoshoots there – almost all on location, and we run a digital business that exists mostly online. Plus as our partnerships and ad revenue were hit by the pandemic so I had to make some financial cuts and I didn’t want any of them to be team members. Once I made the decision to give up the office, a huge weight was lifted. At the time almost everyone on my team was loving/thankful to be working from home (months later I think we all really miss having co-workers).
What now? Well, we don’t know. I think the future for everyone – world-wide – is uncertain, which does give us a latent collective anxiety, but also some new opportunities and even more shifts and pivots (the buzz words of 2020) that we are excited about. Speaking of which – we have a VERY EXCITING BUSINESS shift that we are announcing on Friday, one that I’ve wanted to explore for YEARS but it never felt like the right time. And now. It. Is. So stay tuned for that.
But for today we are just all working remotely, from our homes. Maybe we’ll end up doing one of those shared workspaces, rent out conference rooms, or even just meet every day for breakfast and lunch when we aren’t shooting (if we ever get back to having photoshoots).
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in things that you think you need as a small business, and some of them are so important to “grow.” But your needs change and it’s a good exercise to consistently analyze the business and really hone in on what you NEED versus what is cool to have, or worse – what you are used to having. Like a lot of things in our life, the Pandemic really shined a light on what is essential, and has helped me, at least, let go of a lot.
So stay tuned for what’s next – announced on Friday (barring any major life “shifts”). 2020 will be the year of focused change, clear intention, and focus on meaningful growth. Let’s hope it works. xx
P.S. Design of the Merrick Building by Manola Studio and if you are interested in the office space email [email protected] Also, we are selling all those dining tables (that we used as a desk) starting Friday for $200 each – all going towards our next feel good flash makeover.