Canada, eh?

IMG_0720

IMG_0721

IMG_0718

IMG_0569

IMG_0761

IMG_0689
Panache Mobile Vineyard
Canada, oh Canada.

I must admit, when I got on the plane to Montreal, I was a bit fuzzy. I had just been working in Newport (Rhode Island) for a week, I had forgotten to brush up on my French, and I didn’t even remember what I packed in the 5 hours I had between plane rides.

Step 1 to a great vacation: relax, don’t overthink it.

Thanks to my rockstar of a mother, I had a preplanned daily itinerary. All I needed to know was what time to get up, and how not to piss off my brother and sister. Ah, a blissful vacay in the making.

With little time to research the woods to our North, I had no idea what to expect once I arrived in Montreal and Quebec City. I mean, it has to be modernized, right? There aren’t moose hanging around… right?! I was pretty naive and suddenly wishing I had done more research.

Step 2 to a great vacation: overthink it.

By this, I mean prepare just a tad. Once you’re there, soak it all in.

IMG_0697
The foot of Montmorecy Waterfall

6 Steps to ace your Canadian vacation:

  1. Learn the language. Nothing is more embarrassing than watching people watch you try to speak their language… it’s exhausting and your brother and sister will make fun of you.
  2. Eat poutine at every bar. French fries, gravy, and cheese curds – um, yes.
  3. Find your Toulouse. There is a museum in almost every city. Don’t overlook them on a rainy day. You may find one of your favorite artists!
  4. Eat the damn snails. Try it all – snails, beaver tails, maple syrup on a stick. It’s worth it.
  5. Chase the waterfalls and the vineyards. One of my favorite days was climbing the Montmorecy Waterfall followed by an afternoon lunch at Panache Mobile vineyard.
  6. Go local. Whether it’s an exclusive Canadian brew tour or shopping for fresh pasta and cheeses at the market, get the full experience by stepping out of the tourist traps.
  7. Don’t overlook the masterpieces. I am such a fan of architecture (…duh, look at my Instagram…). Always be sure to appreciate the old and the new.
  8. Remember why you’re there and enjoy time with your family. Laughing at the face swap filters counts, people!

IMG_0788

Our maple leaf excursion lasted a week. We started in Montreal with tours of the city’s finest churches and museums, sight seeing in the bohemian neighborhoods, followed by the most educational brew tour I’ve ever experienced. In the evenings, I curled up to lobsters, mussels, and poutine at each of Montreal’s scenic patio restaurants.

The train ride to Quebec City wasn’t average. Throughout the 3 hour ride I read my book, The Girls by Emma Cline (amazing by the way – book review coming soon!) almost exclusively. The first time I looked up from the novel, we were in the countryside. Next, we were at the foot of the mountain trailing a river to our left. The last time I looked up we had made it to the top of the mountain, showcasing the grandest view of the communities’ French cottages.

Once we arrived in Quebec City, I was smitten. It may have been the most charming little town I have ever seen (and I live in Charleston). The streets are rolling with history and even the oldest home is polished with pride for the city. Just over the bridge you’ll find the Il de Orleans, an island full of vineyards and fudge shops that smell so good, you have to buy something. Up the hill sits the historic Citadel and their Changing of the Guards ceremony. And down the river you’ll find a waterfall that is taller than Niagra Falls.

I couldn’t have pictured a more exciting and relaxing vacation with the family.

Salut! 

IMG_0647

IMG_0604

IMG_0555IMG_0656IMG_0562IMG_0570

IMG_0698

IMG_0731
The view from the Citadel during the Changing of the Guards ceremony
IMG_0554

IMG_0561

IMG_0683
The gang, pre Montmorecy hike
IMG_0733

Why Not Me: A Quarter Life Crisis Memo

IMG_8516.JPG

The quarter life crisis, oh how are we here already?! Too young to be taken too seriously in our careers, but too old to enjoy a dance club anymore. We are rich enough to try multiple restaurants at Charleston Restaurant Week, but poor enough to never have a fridge that is full. If you haven’t deleted your Facebook feed by now, it would be filled with engagement photos and people younger than you having their second child. If you’re still living in 2012, you may call these non-exciting events of life The Struggle and/or First World Problems.

Side note – My senior year of college, the little freshmen designers called themselves “The Struggle Club”. They even made it into the university paper in an article about their ever-so-hard times. Guys, we were you 4 years ago. It’s hard, we get it! How self loathing can you be? I hate the word struggle.

Let me be real for a second. Our generation does not know what struggle really means. Though being hung over like a sloth or running out of Oreos may seem like a life ending departure from Earth, it is not a struggle. That’s why your mom looks at you that way when you’re trying to gain pity. Struggle is feeding eight Italian children a nice dinner while you work the night shift (insert Grandma Catalano’s voice here).

My mom, on the other hand, always says I’m my own worst enemy. In the professional world, I have learned that I take things to heart too often. I let a rude email or an extra hour at the office drive me crazy until 9 pm when I go to bed because I no longer feel like existing – Oh yeah, 2012 kind of drama!

And then I met Mindy. If I have ever felt it was okay to binge on a Hulu series, it is for The Mindy Project, written and staring Mindy Kaling. Consequences include hysterically laughing out loud, constant comparisons to your current life situations, and a constant lingering feeling of wanting to be her.

The same girl crush, ROTFL-feeling came from Mindy’s book Why Not Me? From essay number one, How to Look Spectacular: A Scarlet’s Confessions to her final essay in the book, Why Not Me?, Mindy sarcastically reveals her triumphs and mishaps in life, along with the lessons learned along the way. I couldn’t help but relate.

Let’s start by dishing out the year.

The Struggle Bus & Triumph Trolley of Tarah’s 2015. Did I:
A. Take an amazing trip to Aspen, Colorado… and I don’t even like the mountains.
B. Party it up on Bourbon Street
C. Eat Cuban food and oogle at the Ocean Avenue architecture in Miami
D. Have my home featured on The Everygirl blog
E. Okay I’m just naming everything you see on Instagram already
F. Get audited because some idiot stole my identity during tax season
G. Started saying “help me, I’m poor” on a daily basis because another idiot hacked my bank account while in Aspen
H. Continue the idiocy because my bank refused to give me my $5,000 back (say no to BB&T!)
I. Go from Graphic Designer to Graphic Designer, Project Manager, Accountant, Office Manager, and Girl-Who-Charges-Too-Much all in one foul swoop
J. It’s obviously all of the above

If you picked J, welcome to my club!

If this year has taught me anything, it’s that some things are better late and than never and that life is too short to dwell. Mindy, and the recent events listed above, have taught me to put a little less pressure on myself. So, in honor of my girl Mindy and my personal sanity, I have started my new years resolutions list of how to avoid a quarter life crisis… and no, I’m not probably not going to be losing weight.

How to avoid your quarter life crisis: A New Years Resolution List

1. The Zen Mentality – Take a deep breath and relax. You’re only one person. Learn to let go whatever it is that is holding you up go. Or, if you’re like Mindy,  straight-up convince yourself and honor that commitment.

2. Stop taking out the good guys – Like most people that I know, we tend to take our frustration out on those we love the most. Mom and Clint, you are saints. Section 2B; Quit cursing. Seriously Tarah, frustration is no longer cool. 

3. Get out of your safe zone – Though I may not have the status to be BFF’s with Obama like Kaling, there should always be opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.

4. Quit your self loathing, especially the comparisons – Mindy’s self loathing is never about her weight or her torrential downpours with the opposite sex. She’s hella-confident but is able to laugh at herself too. It’s time more 20-somethings have that attitude.

5. Don’t take life too seriously – a guilty pleasure won’t kill you and neither will a bad week at work. There are some really great things in life, you just have to find them.

6. Start exercising again and feeling good about yourself, blah blah blah

 

When you get bit by a snake, you have to suck out all the poison, that’s what I had to do, suck all the poison out of my life.

Wait, nevermind, that’s a Mean Girls quote.

When life throws struggle your way, step up the the plate and rip one out of the park. You are in your mid-twenties now, after all. Step off the struggle bus and map out your own journey. 2016 is awaiting!


You can find Mindy Kaling’s book Why Not Me? for just $15 on Amazon.

A Miami Guide to Photo Styling

BLANC_MiamiBlanc_Miami

That’s it! I’m moving to Miami.

Okay, not really but it would be nice, wouldn’t it? Hot temps, killer cocktails, and art deco architecture that makes you stop in your gladiator sandals – what could be more tempting?

Over the past three months, I’ve been on a bit of a travel splurge. I managed to cover five cities in five weekends; eating up (literally and figuratively) every bite of culture possible. September took me to New Orleans, where the French-inspired artwork, jazz music and cajan tastes filled the streets. October started in Sea Island, Georgia and ended on what would become the unintentional Florida excursion: Miami one week, spontaneous Taylor Swift concert in Tampa the next, and two weeks after that, a trip to Orlando Disney’s Magic Kingdom for a work conference. Not bad, aye?

Not only did was the site seeing creatively inspiring, but it also brought me back to basics. Take South Beach Miami for instance. Yes, the streets may be filled with barefoot tourists and restaurant hostesses tempting you with BOGO margaritas, but the city has an added pop. It’s inspired by the art deco era of architecture and I just can’t get enough.

The art deco style is characterized by its bold geometric shapes and vibrant, high contrast colors. Though the style is often noted for it’s symmetry, it is also renowned for it’s intricate ornamentation. Now now, I won’t make you sit through another art history class (am I the only person in the world who got anything out of those?!), but I will give you the goods on how to take this deco-fab look with you.

Upon arriving home and making my travel photos frame-ready, I realized these art deco photographs highlighted each of the styling techniques I use daily. As we all know, it’s the smallest details that can elevate your social media pages the most. Let’s talk photo styling, shall we?

The off center photo on the left let's the fruit take the stage. The green apples are a perfect contrast against the pink of the fruit's skin.
The off-center photo on the left lets the fruit take the stage. The green apples are a perfect contrast against the pink of the fruit’s skin.

The Rule of Thirds. There is something beautiful about a perfectly centered shot; but there is something interesting about an off-center frame. Let the items in the back of the frame tell a story too. Try it at home: use the gridlines on your iPhone camera to map out your space.


 

BLANC_angles

Create Angles. The straight and narrow is an obvious choice. Adding a sharp angle to your photo makes for unexpected drama. Try it at home: perhaps that marble cheese board turns a sharp 45 degrees before snapping the holiday tabletop pic.


 

BLANC_Miami1

BLANC_Miami3
For added drama, take your negative space to the max by highlighting a single object in your shot. But don’t forget the rule of thirds!

Never Forget Negative Space. My coworker makes fun of me for this one (It needs more negative space, dang it!). I am a true believer that the items in your photo should be balanced by the same amount of negative space. My OCD can be at ease! Try it at home: start with a blank canvas an step back – literally. Your morning read and Christmas socks will shine a little brighter by using your cozy white comforter as negative space.


 

BLANC_SI
Taken in Sea Island, Georgia. I love the way the palms create an organic frame around this sanctuary. Natural details at their finest!

Add life. Avoid the art history still life paintings you studied by adding life to your photographs. Try it at home: live plants dangling from your styled #shelfie or even a hand reaching for popcorn on your Sunday vibes post will work.


 

BLANC_Miami2

Don’t forget the hidden detail. People appreciate the authenticity in your posts. Don’t skimp on making sure you capture ever detail. Try it at home: an ornate vintage tea cup can add instant style to a stale coffee table shot.


Lastly, the golden rule. Always, always photograph your subject in natural light. Yes, that even means your Christmas tree!

Share your shots with me on Instagram with #boldwithblanc. Happy styling! 

 

BLANC_Miami5

The Fake It ‘Til You Make It Theory

BLANC_Miami

In the eighth grade, my best friend Lindsay introduced me to a theory of hers: fake it ’til you make it. No, she wasn’t telling me to get catty with the popular crowd. She wasn’t telling me to cheat on tests or go to the tanning bed. She was teaching me to work hard and never let anyone or anything get me down. When the going gets tough, smack a smile on and keep pushing because, ultimately, you are worth more than the tough time you are going through.

A bit harder than it sounds, huh? When school work turns into work-work, friendships come and go so quickly, and high school flings turn into long distance challenges, this theory can sometimes be forgotten. Yet even after ten years, our juvenile hypothesis still exists. Today, I like to think of that 8th grade advice as my beginner’s course at Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS academy.

New York Time's Best Seller, #GIRLBOSS (photo sourced)
New York Time’s Best Seller, #GIRLBOSS (photo sourced)

You may have heard of Sophia Amoruso. She turned her hobby of selling vintage clothing into a 28-million dollar corporation called Nasty Gal – without borrowing a dime, I might add. She is also the author of the New York Times Bestseller, #GIRLBOSSSophia knows what’s up, and if you ask me, she is an avid user of the F.I.T.Y.M.I theory.

I read #GIRLBOSS about eight months ago. To this day, it has become some sort of ambition-bible to me. I have never been one to have a strict belief system. I don’t put all my eggs in one basket when it comes to luck, magic, or anything of the sorts. I guess I have found that there is too much uncertainty in life. Though, there is one thing I can count on 100% of the time and that is myself. No tricks in the book can work as well as me working my ass off to reach a goal. Period. And when times get rough with work or relationships, that’s when you roll with the punches and keep moving.

I think it has to be mentioned that since the day I was born, my mother has warned me of two (amongst many) tormenting habits of mine. One is the ever-classic “watch your tone, Tarah Kathryn” and the other being “You are your own worst enemy.” Whether it was a prom dress that I wasn’t 150% confident in, a senior thesis that I picked to pieces right before it was due, or the 10-billion mistakes I made when starting my first job, I have NEVER had a problem scrutinizing myself.  Honestly, I think it comes pretty natural to most of us.

Now, I like to think of myself as a little angel and devil; a cheerleader and rioter; a Jekyll and Hyde of sorts. Everyone get into a rut every now and then. It’s important to know how to motivate and have confidence in yourself because, trust me, sometimes it’s all that matters. It’s all about kicking ass but knowing when your plate is too full (sorry October blog posts!). Whenever I have a stressful week or a day that makes me feel numb inside and causes me to have to ice my eyeballs from computer-staring (yes, that happens. Sorry doc.), I turn to chapter six and let Sophia tell me why it’s so important to keep going and keep pushing.

“You get back what you put out, so you might as well think positively, focus on visualizing what you want instead of getting distracted by what you don’t want, and send the universe your good intentions so that it can send them right back.”

Without even knowing it, Sophia has read the F.I.T.Y.M.I handbook in more ways than one. In an early chapter, she talks about role models and the art of comparison. Though admiration can be good, there can also be a discouraging side to it – hello social media superstars!

“I don’t want you to look up, #GIRLBOSS, because all that looking up can keep you down. The energy you’ll spend focusing on someone else’s life is better spent working on your own. Just be your own idol.”

The dictionary defines the word “fake” as a thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham. The irony of the F.I.T.Y.M.I theory is that, in order to truly make it, you can never fake yourself. In order to make your way to the top, you have to stay true to your values. Listen to others but take everything with a grain of salt. The second you lose your sense of encouraging-self, your theory has failed.

Before ending her book, Sophia instructs everyone to bet on themselves. Her stance is clear and to the point, stating that if you are frustrated because you are not getting what you want, you need to stop for a second and ask yourself: Have I actually flat-out asked for it? We can’t expect the world to read our minds.

“Whenever I’m faced with improbably situations, I remind myself that if I really want something badly enough, I have it within myself to make it happen.”

#GIRLBOSSes across the country chimed in on Sophia’s badassness and gave their own “how-to” tips:

Alexi Wasser, creator of imboycrazy.com advises us to “figure out what you love doing and don’t suck at, then try to figure out how to make a living doing that!”

Christene Barberich, Editor in Chief of Refinery29 urges readers to “stop caring so much about what other people think. Find a way to hear what you want. I don’t know if there is any greater feeling than proving you are your own biggest advocate.”

This is starting to sound like a You-Go-Girl speech for the ages, I know, but consider the sources here. Each of these women #girlbosses, have started companies, elevated brands, and formed solid, respectable reputations. They know what their talking about because they faked it ’til they made it, letting nothing get in their way. Whether it’s your dream to start your own company or to be the best employee your boss has ever seen, their advice works for you.

“You’re challenge as a #GIRLBOSS is to dive headfirst into things without being too attached to the results. When your goal is to gain experience, perspective, and knowledge, failure is no longer a possibility.”

Now, I am not Sophia Amoruso. The accomplishments under my belt probably look like a crumb left on her kitchen counter, but I get her and I don’t take her advice lightly. I have spent the beginning of my fall on a workaholics binge – and I wish I was talking about the tv show. That being said, I made little time for myself and my relationships. I forgot that the one thing that makes me most happy is my creativity. I was in a creative funk. Welp, it’s time for the funk to end and for me to get back to the blogisphere with my second #nextlevelchallenge:

BLANC_Miami1

6 steps to get out of that creative funk:

  1. Know when your plate is too full and diet. Freelance design was taking over my me-time this summer. By cutting that out of my diet, I had time to write again.
  2. Rearrange your space. Move the furniture, change up your artwork, add a plant. Creating new scenes in your daily life can help you see things through a different light.
  3. Have a birthday. Okay, you can’t technically do this now if your birthday is in March but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate you. Order the champange with lunch and get the pricey shoes.
  4. Explore. Get out of your everyday landscape and go see things. This is where I feel most inspired. Shh, my 4-day excursion to Miami is coming to the blog next week!
  5. Call an oldie but a goodie. A bestie always knows the answer; even the ones we don’t want to tell ourselves. Catching up with someone you love can make all the difference.
  6. Read and write it out. This is the best advice I’ve ever been given. Write out your thoughts. And of course, read #GIRLBOSS. Obvs.

In the final words of Sophia, “bad bitches are taking over the world… We’ve arrived, and we’re killing it. There’s a chance for you, #GIRLBOSS. So take it.” … and fake it ’til you make it. 

xoxo

Meet Designer Ashley Rodriguez Reed

BLANC_ARR Wallpaper

BLANC_ARR

We see thousands of photos a day. Our Instagram feeds are filled with the perfectly polished coffee table and pumpkin spice lattes have made their cameo appearance in every fashion blogger’s ootd. We drool, we scroll, we repeat. It’s not often when we stop to notice something different.

In the overwhelmingly huge Javits Convention Center, I stopped.

This past spring, I flew to New York to get inspired by the National Stationary Show. The work of each vendor was exquisite. Though, after walking aisle by aisle, I began to notice a lot of similarities around me. I could easily spot the top five trends in the stationary biz.

Getting lost in the maze of the convention center, my senior designer and I found ourselves wandering into the SURTEX marketplace. Surtex is the global B2B marketplace for sourcing original art & design—where artists, art agents, licensing agencies and licensors connect with manufacturers and retailers to create the next best-selling products in every category imaginable.

The first booth I saw was Ashley’s. My senior designer and I both stopped – yes, physically stopped and looked (a rarity at these shows). Ashley Rodriguez Reed had something that the others didn’t. She had flare. Originality. Spunk. Complexity. Her work was captivating.

This summer, I got to know a bit more about Ashley and the inspiration behind her unique patterning. As an artist and designer, Ashley has set her goal on a surface pattern line full of textiles, wall paper, and more. As a teacher, she continues to inspire young artists and designers.

BLANC_ARR Art

Tell me about your brand. What do you stand for as an artist?

I started to develop my brand in 2015 when I committed to building a business around surface pattern design. My style is meant for people who love art, color, and fun! I make artwork that is inspired by many different things, but my artistic style of using layering and texture brings a unique element.


I want my artwork to bring joy, inspiration and a sense of play into people’s lives.


I couldn’t agree more! When did you know you wanted to pursue art as a career?

I knew very early on that I wanted to be an artist. In elementary school, art was my favorite subject. It was the only class I could easily focus on. In college, I thought I wanted to do fashion design, but that changed to fine art. I liked the freedom that a BFA would give me. I studied printmaking and textile design before going on to my MFA in Fiber and Material Studies. Now I am a designer, teacher and fine artist.

That sounds like quite the full schedule. What are your day-to-day activities like?

Right now everything has been all over the place due to my move to San Fransisco. When I get back into a routine, my day to day would be teaching art, drawing or painting at my home studio, continuing to build collections, and working on my overall brand. With my fine art practice, finding time to work on art projects varies. If I have a show, I might be in a larger studio space screen printing and building on the weekends. The past 3 years I was teaching undergraduates as an adjunct professor at Tyler School of Art. That was an amazing experience!

This year, I had worked toward SURTEX by building my brand. I’ve always found ways to piece things together and continue to balance work and art making. It can be nerve-racking at times to have a lot of unknowns but it’s also freeing.

How would you describe your style? What inspires you most?

My style is a mixture of geometric + bold meets texture + illustrative. I’ve always gravitated towards pattern, lots of color, and layering. Nature is my favorite place to look. There’s so much interesting beauty in nature. There’s also the relationship we have with nature from how we cultivate it, shape it, and sadly destroy it. I’m interested in cycles in nature, growth, and transformation.

I also love fashion. Fashion is interesting because it changes all the time and it’s a way to express ourselves. I love seeing people take creative risks and wearing bold prints with confidence!

I hear ya! With several creative outlets available at your finger tips, you have to have a favorite. Which medium keeps you loving what you do?

My favorite creative outlet is printing. I love screen-printing without a plan. For example, I might make a few screens and then overlap and layer different patterns and create different compositions from them. I also like to play with different materials and see what they can do. In graduate school, I found that cardboard was in an abundant supply. I decided to work with it and see how I can sculpt with it. It was a challenge but the more I made, the better I understood how to push the material. I like that kind of process.

BLANC_ARR

You have taken patterning to another level. What is it about patterns that you enjoy?

I’ve always enjoyed how patterns express so much. For example, if you see a certain type of pattern, you may be able to identify the culture and/or time it comes from. It is like another language that can tell us about a person, place, or thing.

Creating pattern is very stimulating. It is mesmerizing as well. Even though surface pattern is so prevalent, there is still a skill to designing a very interesting pattern. I like playing with structure and color. A good pattern has to be considerate of this.

I’m in love with your cod pattern (above pillows)! What made you decide to work animals into your new line?

Thank you! When I first started, I made patterns that were less illustrative, with only abstract shapes and designs. Then I realized how much I love and adore animals and illustration. About halfway through designing my collections, I really began to draw animals because they make me happy! I thought, why not start to draw them and see where it goes. A lot of pattern for children has animals but I wanted to make animal patterns that adults could enjoy just as kids do.

BLANC_ARR

What goals do you have for your artwork? How would you like it placed in the design world?

I would like to have a line of fabric that people can buy yardage from and make anything they want with it such as bags, pillows, or clothing. I see my work as many types of products and it would be amazing to see what other people do with them. I want the patterns to be used creatively by people who like to make, style, and design themselves.

What advice do you have for emerging artists?

Keep making no matter what! It’s hard to find time when we have other jobs and life obligations. Creating a space that you can work in is also helpful. If you don’t make a place or set aside time, it will slip away. Stay connected to other artists and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there’s something you want to know. It can be scary to put yourself out there but it’s the only way. Don’t be afraid of what other people say. I’ve had many moments where I’m thinking to myself, I must be crazy for making/drawing this. What am I doing? But then, I just keep going. You have to have faith that it will work out through the process if you stick with it.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I think I’ll still be living in the Bay Area and probably doing a combination of what I’m doing now. Teaching is a passion of mine and I want to continue to be an artist/designer and educator. In five years, I want to have seen my artwork licensed on a line of textiles and see how people have been inspired to use them. I would love to see my pattern on home interior textiles or wallpaper. I’m excited about where it will go! I’m looking forward to more collaborations with businesses, artists, and students!

The Quick 5!

A musician/band you never get sick of is: Pink Floyd

Your favorite outfit in your closet is a: jersey knit tank dress. So simple and easy!

Coffee or Smoothie? Coffee!

Beach bum or Mountain climber? Climb the mountain to get to a beach.

Role model: My mom


Find Ashley online:

http://www.ashleyrodriguezreed.com

@ashleyrodriguezreed

 

Get the Look: Aspen Inspiration

BLANC_Aspen1

BLANC_Aspen2

BLANC_Aspen3

When you’re a florist’s daughter, you spend lots of time “smelling the roses;” drifting off into a creative space making your own floral arrangements and crafting holiday cards. In my glamorous elementary years, I discovered I had a knack for art. PlayDough, paint by number, stained glass kits… these were in abundance. During my middle school years I took things more seriously (ha!), dabbling with terracotta, paint brushes, and the art of collage. I loved working on paper, but there was one subject matter I became most fond.

I loved to rearrange my room. I mean, LOVED. My  rectangular personal hang-out would have a new vibe at least once every other month. If I couldn’t rearrange my own room (because let’s face it, my mom got sick of me moving furniture), I’d go over to my friends’ houses and rearrange theirs. I even convinced my family friend’s parents to let me rearrange their basement… I was like, fourteen.

Needless to say, I get a little excited at the thought of new and innovative design. I’m a regular ol’ sponge, if you will; ready to soak up fresh takes and up and coming design aesthetics.

Not much has changed in the past decade. I still love bringing new items into my home (tour here), and though I may not completely remodel the carriage house, it’s always nice to add fresh touches. And don’t worry, the decor list for my first home is on-point! I gather inspiration from some of my favorite designers, as well as elements around me. Some of my most recent (drool-worthy) inspo came from a work trip I took to Aspen, Colorado.

BLANC_Aspen4

I have to say, I’m pretty lucky to get to travel with my career as a graphic designer. Not to mention, I’m traveling with some of my best friends. I can’t name too many people that get those perks. Though there are many cities on my wish-list to visit, but oddly enough, Aspen wasn’t one of them. Sure, mountains are cool and all but… they’re mountains.

Boy, was I wrong. (I mean, duh.)

Each and every corner was a bit more breathtaking than the next. Color was everywhere and the architecture was so diverse that I don’t even know how to categorize it in my brain. Look left for cottages and look right for modern basket-weave architecture (is that even a thing?! YES.).

I’d have to say that one of my favorite spots was Hotel Jerome. I was color-crushing every. single. room. The deep blues of the cafe complimented the cowhide floor panels in such a unique way. The Prospect Room was a lighting-guru’s dream with sconces that could blow you away. Not to mention the chocolate striped flooring, rope-filled wall panels, and moldings that even the big-wigs would drool over.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Jerome
Photo courtesy of Hotel Jerome
BLANC_Aspen6
Photo courtesy of Hotel Jerome
Photo courtesy of Hotel Jerome
Photo courtesy of Hotel Jerome

In the week upon my return, I was not only jet-lagged and tired as hell, but I was also craving more design; more adventure. On August 12th, the Charleston West Elm store held it’s grand opening, including private tours for tastemakers in the area. I saw so much of Aspen in West Elm’s latest collection. It was the chic and luxurious side of  masculine industrial design, not to mention the range of worldly decor elements.

A decade ago, I thought Hobby Lobby would be my signature style guide for everything chic in the world. Well, no offense to Hobby Lobby, but I’m happy I grew out of that bubble. Design inspiration can come from anywhere. This month it’s Aspen and next, who knows? All I can do is keep exploring… and rearranging, of course. To wrap up, I’m sharing my favorite Aspen-inspired affordables from the latest edition to King Street, West Elm.

Happy shopping, my friends!

 

blanc’s big break + next level challenges ahead

IMG_6194
This summer has been one for the books. Though I’m not sure which book… because honestly I don’t see a lot of people interested in reading it. Sure, the highs trump the lows, but sometimes it’s the lows that we remember most. Not always because they hard or hurtful, but because we learn something from them. The sum of this year’s summer is equivalent to x2 = y6 + zy7k ^ 42 

 

What does that even mean, you ask? In lamest terms, it was challenging. It seemed as if life threw me sour lemonade and expected me to work my ass off to make it back into a whole fruit.

 

Between the added leadership and responsibility that came with my powerhouse coworker leaving for her NYC dream job, my identity being stolen and my bank account being hacked two months later (literally, I have zero dollars to my name at the moment and the most generous coworkers who buy my lunch), and the type-A “Planner’s Curse” that includes the big-ol’ stress ball of forever looking into the future. Will my boyfriend get a job in xyz city? Would I go with him? Is my portfolio prepared for that? What if I can’t get a job? Do I want to stay in graphic design? (Am I really admitting this online?!?) Some things never change (see my very first blog post).

 

Hence, the blogging break. Am I grateful for these challenges? 150%. They have  influenced me to step it up a notch and explore where I want this life to take me. This summer and the people in it have inspired in more ways than one.

 

I’ve always been one to oogle over a strong female entrepreneur. Motivational talks, how-to guides, inspirational quotes – I eat that stuff up like it’s ice cream about to melt. There’s always been a part of me that gets those entrepreneurs. It feels as if I have all the tools to start my little fire, I’m just waiting for my spark to catch flame.

 

Over the past few months, I’ve gained three new big sisters in the professional world. Though I’m not sure they know I exist, nor that I stalk their accounts on the reg, but they have proven to be my some of my best advice givers. Has anyone ever told you something that stuck with you for longer than you expected? That’s it.

 

Let’s hear the list, shall we?

 

Mandy Rye, founder of the ever popular and always innovative Waiting on Martha blog. I met (yes, MET!) Mandy at The Southern C conference in Charleston, South Carolina. Her talk about social media was one of the biggest highlights of the weekend. My hands chicken-scratched notes as I tried to restrain my major girl-crush on the stellar Mandy.

 

Mandy’s Advice that stuck: Ask yourself before posting, does this reflect my brand? Never, ever publish a photo unless it’s in natural light. Quality is better than quantity.

 

Aliza Licht, DKNY’s famous PR girl and author of Leave York Mark. Aliza’s taught me to love Twitter again. She also taught me that it’s more important to be the listener. It’s the listener, not the loud mouth, that is the more intriguing.

 

Sophia Amoruso, founder of the fastest growing fashion brand, Nasty Gal and author of #GIRLBOSS. My current obsession and frankly, my motivational bible for the professional world. I’m reviewing #GIRLBOSS and why you just HAVE to read it later this month on Blanc. Stay tuned, my friends. Sophia’s advice that stuck: Work. For. It. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.

 

With a summer of new challenges behind me and a reel of professional advice spinning in my head, I finally started to feel like I could write again. I am inspired again. With this inspiration, I want to start a whole new version of blogging. Let’s get to the nitty gritty. Let’s get to what really helps us professional newcomers. Mandy, Aliza, and Sophia inspired, I’ve come up with a little something I like to call the #nextlevelchallenge.

 

Each month, I will present a 10 day challenge that will push you (and me!) to do and feel better. My first #nextlevelchallenge is 10-days of early rising. For some, this may mean nothing. For me, it will be a challenge worth taking. I have a bad habit of setting my alarm for 7, snoozing until 8, and getting into the office at 9:30 (oops).

 

In one Forbes study, specialists link rising early to optimism and satisfaction in your day. Early risers report using their morning quiet time for organization, goal-setting and planning out their days and weeks ahead. Early risers are also less likely to get easily stressed or depressed throughout their day. And let’s not forget the metabolism boost that comes with a morning run!

 

So here we go, my friends! I’m back at it. Ready to share all that I’ve been saving up this summer and ready for my first #nextlevelchallenge. Who’s with me?

 

Share your #nextlevelchallenge ups and downs with me on Twitter via @blancblog

Meet Alexandra Styles

la-isla-nena-michael-david-adams-03

la-isla-nena-michael-david-adams-18

I met Alexandra at St. Alban coffee shop on a sunny Wednesday morning. She walks in with a smile on (a usual look for her) and a boho, summer maxi-dress with the most delicate embroidered detailing. If you were meeting her for the first time, you would instantly feel welcome.

Alexandra Munzel, the creative behind Alexandra Styles, is a fashion stylist with an air of confidence. Her cool, calm, and collected personality draws you in as if she’s your hip older sister about to give you fashion advice. Her clientele (from Charleston to Dubai!) keeps her busy as she educates them on their own closets: what works for their specific body type and skin tone, which classic clothing elements to stick to, and what trends they can mix into their wardrobe. Her resume includes world traveling, styling celebrities for events like the Golden Globes, and building couture fashion brands from the ground up. Yet there is one thing about her that I like most: she is incredibly humble. Alexandra makes you feel instantly comfortable and has a “you-can-do-it” and “live-your-life” kind of mentality.

We order coffees and I splurge for The World’s Best banana bread. Right away we both get off on tangents about our goals and aspirations: then and now. I sit and listen to her stories and knowledge and think to myself how amazing her path has been and how my 24-year-old self still has so much ahead of me.

“Every path you take is a lesson,” she tells me.

Alexandra Portfolio
Alexandra Munzel, stylist behind Alexandra Styles

Tell me about the Alexandra Styles. Who are you as a company? What do you stand for?

“People often think my last name is “Styles,” which it’s not. I wanted to create a brand outside of my name because what I do is for other people, not for myself. When I created Alexandra Styles five years ago it was to help enable people to feel better about themselves through fashion. It was a merger of two entities I had a passion for… education and fashion.

I didn’t become a stylist because I had the financial means to do so. It’s actually quite the opposite. I didn’t grow up with money to spend on clothing and accessories. I had my first job when I was nine, delivering newspapers, and I’ve worked every year since. My father wanted me to learn the importance of making my own money and being able to manage it at a young age. So, I want people to know that it doesn’t require money to develop a sense of personal style; it takes a better understanding of one’s sense of self.  Then the  formula becomes simple: when we look good, we feel good.”


I want people to know that it doesn’t require money to develop a sense of personal style; it takes a better understanding of one’s sense of self.


 Describe your personal style. How does that play a role in your business?

“I try to practice what I preach and follow the rules that apply to my figure and coloring.  My personal style is rather eclectic but I always include a classic piece in my daily wardrobe. Trends come and go but the classics have major staying power in ones wardrobe. I tell my clients to spend their dollars on the pieces that will stay with them the longest. Not only will trends be out of style quickly, but not all trends work for all people.”

You have worn many hats over the years as a teacher, corporate PR manager, celebrity stylist, and boutique owner to say the least. How did those experience train you to start your own business? 

“I have had a lot of jobs in my life and I am often questioned why. For a long period of time, I just couldn’t settle into anything. It took me a while to relax, listen to my strengths, and trust myself. By the time I made the decision to start my own company, I was 35… hardly a young person anymore. However, I had enough experiences under my belt to make a very calculated decision. I’ll never forget – I was sitting at my dining room table, looking out the window, and it hit me.  I knew what I was going to do and it was going to start tomorrow. I’ve never looked back.”

We’re all dying to know… What was it like to style for A-list celebrities? How did that experience impact your styling perspective today?

“Every experience in one’s life has an impact on who we become. Working with A-list celebrities and stylists was wild, crazy, insane, stressful, and fun all at the same time. I quickly learned that there is a great irony which can exist within the fashion industry.  Fashion is beauty, art, composition, perfection and yet there is a very dark and ugly side to it. I told myself to always keep fashion fun and if at any time, I didn’t enjoy it, then I needed to walk away. “

Talk me through your design process. How have you mastered the art of styling?

“Whether I am styling one’s personal wardrobe or styling a shoot for a magazine, I always listen and pay attention to the subject matter. I try to get inside the person’s head and ask “what is their daily life like?” “what is this person’s needs?”. You need to know the functionality of the wardrobe.
Once I’m selecting clothing, I make a list of the client’s needs and really focus in on what I’m buying. There should never be a shock factor – it always has to make sense.”

What’s the next step for your brand?

“For better or for worse, my brain never stops. The only thing that inhibits me is time…there’s never enough of it.  Developments of a book and a TV show are on the top of the list but always with my goal in mind: I want to continue to help people feel better about themselves through fashion.”

What is your best networking strategy? 

Alexandra literally lol’s and humbly admits that she isn’t the best at networking. “My best strategy is being myself, always. If people like who you are, then great.  If they don’t like who you are, you just saved them, and yourself, a LOT of time.”

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your professional career?

“Give everyone a chance. It’s amazing the talents people have if they are put in the environment that lets those talents really shine. Always work hard and have good intentions. Listen twice as much as you speak.”

If you could give a piece of advice to young women in the professional world, what would it be?

“Live! Life is short. Take chances when you are young because you never get that time, innocence and ability to experiment back. Follow your passion and create something of your own. “

Just for Fun:

Quick! Dress me for an outdoor summer soiree. Ready, set, go:

“A neutral wedge shoe (beige or metallic) to elongate your legs and so you don’t sink into the grass. I’d go with a dress that flatters your figure and personality – either a bright color that complements your skin tone or a print that isn’t too large. Patterns and prints are important because they can either magnify or swallow a person depending on their figure.”

Name your go-to Charleston lunch spot. 
“A sandwich from Normandy Farms sitting on a park bench with a great friend.”
Describe your home’s style in 3 words. 
“Eclectic, classic, and colorful…sound like my wardrobe?”
Afternoon drink on the beach or cocktail on the rooftop? 
“A drink on the beach”
What’s your favorite place to travel?
“Any place that I’ve never been.”

Screenshot 2015-06-07 at 8.26.39 PM
 Don’t miss a style beat! Follow Alexandra on social media:

Blanc on The Everygirl’s Home Tour

Today is filled with excitement as I share something very dear to me – my home! I had the pleasure of hosting one of my favorite blogs,The Everygirl, and photographer Nancy Beale at my Charleston abode, where we talked about home decor, graphic design, and Blanc’s “ah-ha” moment.

See the entire feature on The Everygirl!