Get the Look: Aspen Inspiration

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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.

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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
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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!

 

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blanc’s big break + next level challenges ahead

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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

Expectant

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Expectant, adj. –  having or showing an excited feeling that something is about to happen, especially something pleasant and interesting.

What do I expect out of life? A career. A family. A passion to strive for… Sure, those are the basics, but when it comes down to it, what do I really expect in life? Now that’s a loaded question. It’s one that I’ve thought more and more about over recent triumphs and criticisms in my career as a blogger.

Expectant. This is the name that the talented abstract artist, Maria Kamara, chose after painting a sun-filled array of yellows and golds for little old me. Flattered and thankful only begin to describe the feeling I had as I unpacked the canvas Maria sent to me with a note:

“…I was inspired by the energy, optimism and confidence found in your writing and blog. The painting reflects these traits with its bright yellows and flowing composition. Obviously these traits are in you, and I hope you continue to nurture them… The name “Expectant” anticipates all the good and positivity that will come from your efforts…”  – Maria

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In early January, Maria sent me an email that stemmed from a New Years resolution of hers to connect with other bloggers and professionals in the industry. With a heart of gold and a spirit that roams the entire sky, Maria Kamara had no idea what she was getting herself into when she offered to paint for me. We both had no idea how inspired we would leave each other.

I had the privilege of Skyping with Maria a few weeks ago. Besides comparing the warm Charleston winter to her frigid, snow-filled Michigan temperatures, Maria and I chatted about art, experiences, and the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

The self-taught artist started her career in a different platform: music. For years, Maria sang professionally while maintaining interest in fine art, fashion, and design. “I’ve always loved to draw and sculpt. I loved fashion and interiors too but my profession at the time was very focused. Other “arts” weren’t necessarily encouraged.” It wasn’t until she was pregnant with her first child that she began painting.

“I was truly painting in earnest,” she told me. Fourteen years later, she decided to start selling her art.

Why abstract?

“I’ve always appreciated abstract art. Even when I was in school for music, I would sneak next door to admire the fine artists’ work.” When Maria first started painting again, she started with still life drawings and then eventually evolved to an abstract artist. “I’m comfortable with the grays in life. It doesn’t have to be black or white for me.” I asked her the naive art’s question: how do you know when an abstract piece is done? She responds to me saying “You don’t, but I’m okay with that. I’m okay with something that may not be a finished thought or a finished piece.”


“I’m comfortable with the grays in life. It doesn’t have to be black or white for me.


 I love hearing what inspires artists. What artists are in your home? Do you have an favorite painter?

“I love collecting vintage unknown art (the mystery of it all again!). In my own home, I have one of my photographer friend’s work as well as many vintage pieces.” She goes on to tell me about her family and how they inspire her work, as well has two of her favorite artist: Marie Cassette and Alma Woodsy Thomas.

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Why “Expectant”?

The entire time I spoke to Maria, there was something so inspirational about her. This woman has been through it all… school, an international singing career, motherhood, and now artist. She tells me about some of her ups and downs and what she’s learned along the way.

“When I look back at my 24-year-old self, I would tell myself not accept fear in my life. It only serves to diminish us or make us feel less than others. Comparison and fear will take away any creative freedom you have if you let it. There’s enough room for all of us!”

She tells me a story about a rough critic she once received that lead her to paint overtop of a thought-out piece of hers. The next day, someone wanted to buy the original work that was now nonexistent. “Be care who you listen to,” she tells me.  “You have to know when to take criticism and when to know in your heart what is right for you [or your painting]…”

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Our two-hour discussion was more than just fulfilling. I left… expectant. Recently I have received some slack for a post of mine by an artist I admire. Though hurtful and discouraging, I have to remember to be expectant: to know that I’m blogging for a reason and that reason is to expand my own creative palette, as well as others’. It’s not to make money or make a career out of it, but rather to show the good in being a young 20-something and how to elevate yourself to be the best young professional/friend/chef/artist (you get the picture)  that you can be.

 

Maria’s work is currently featured in Gallery 602 in Holland, Michigan. You can also find her work online at www.MariaKamara.com or at her Etsy shoppe. Some of my favorite pieces of her’s are below: