How to Pitch Your Home to a Design Website

Hado Photo

I get a lot of emails and questions from friends and strangers alike asking me the same question: “How do I get my apartment featured on XYZ website” (or more often, “How do I get my apartment featured on Houzz?”). I realized that I’ve never actually done a post addressing how I did this, so here goes!

Since graduating college, one of my goals was to have my home featured in an online publication such as The Everygirl, The Glitter Guide, and the like. I’ve been reading these sites for years and have always swooned over the home tours that they publish. Even long before I had a blog, I always found myself so inspired and intrigued by the real-life, relatable people profiled on these sites and really wanted to share my own space with their audiences. Then, when I did start my blog about a year and a half ago, I realized that being featured on a site would be a great way to continue to build blog traffic and attract a larger audience. I guess this is similar to how a fashion blogger would want to be featured in a style roundup–both to showcase their own personal style and to garner more exposure for their brand.

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Since I’m not any sort of photographer, I knew I would need to outsource the shoot and hire a professional to take quality photos. Back when I was living in Philly for grad school (and before I started my blog), I had emailed a few iPhone photos of my apartment to someone at a major lifestyle site that was accepting pitches. She soon responded and said that they would be willing to set up a shoot with a local photographer. I was thrilled, but unfortunately that never came to fruition because they didn’t have a freelancer in the Philly area (and now the site has changed how they do home tours, so I don’t think they’re accepting new submissions). I guess that’s step number one in scheduling a shoot with a publication–nothing is final until it’s final! Someone can love your space, but it can take awhile to set everything in motion and actually schedule a shoot.

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When I moved to DC in the summer of 2016 and subsequently started my blog, I was thrilled to decorate my new apartment and hopefully feature it online, be it on my blog or elsewhere (writing and blogging has always been my first love and I really just wanted to be able to share pictures with you all!). As always, moving and redecorating somewhere new is always a process, so it took me awhile to figure out how I wanted to arrange everything my new apartment. Once I felt like my space was more complete, I started looking around at area photographers with reasonable rates. I found Ryan, and we scheduled a shoot for early 2017. (It was funny, because I think I emailed him some preliminary photos right before Thanksgiving, and by the time the shoot took place in late January, so many areas looked completely different!). After getting the photos back later that week, I then pitched a feature to several of my favorite sites and sent them the Google Drive link to Ryan’s photos. Since I’ve worked in PR and magazines, writing a pitch wasn’t too difficult–if you haven’t written one before, just think of it as creating an “about me” blurb about your space. In my email to each of the editors, I gave a little bit of background about myself and then described my apartment and decorating style while also establishing a bit of an angle (which was that most of my stuff was thrifted/secondhand). I then pressed send, and to my surprise, I began to get responses a few weeks later (the first one came from The Everygirl while I was sitting on the beach prior to a friend’s wedding, and I was overjoyed!)!

I will say that while I’m glad that I hired Ryan to shoot my apartment not knowing what would happen (since, if anything, I wanted to have some high quality pictures for my blog), I was essentially providing these places with free photographic content, since I had paid for the shoot out of my own pocket. A few of my coworkers at the time asked if the sites were paying me to be featured, which didn’t even occur to me! But honestly the traffic that the features brought to my blog and Instagram was well worth it–I have gained several new readers, and more importantly, I’ve connected with a wonderful online design community! Just know that unless a place reaches out to you specifically and agrees to connect you with a photographer (like I do with the people we profile on Houzz), YOU are the one fronting the cost if you’re pitching pre-shot pictures.

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However, another great aspect about hiring a photographer on my own was that I own these photos and can use them however I’d like, even though they’ve now been published. When Apartment Therapy shot a longer feature in my apartment last June, they produced some amazing images, but I can’t really use them on my blog as I please due to the limitations of that contract (I’d even emailed the photographer and I asked if I could purchase any of the outtakes from that shoot that didn’t make it into the feature, but unfortunately that wasn’t allowed either). For Houzz, we also usually request that people embed the story images into their blog rather than just posting however they wish.

…speaking of Houzz! After I pitched my apartment to them, my now-editor asked if Ryan and I would be interested in working as a freelance team in the DC area. Of course I said yes, I’ve had a blast scouting out people to feature this way and have really enjoyed making design writing part of my “side hustle.” We started last May and I can’t believe we’ve been at this for almost a year now! We’ve been tasked with completing one shoot/feature a month, so it’s been a wonderful way to connect with fellow bloggers and creatives all year long.

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And now the most important part…having been on both sides of the submission process, I have a better sense of what places want to see when you’re pitching:

-If you’re pitching pre-shot photos, make sure they line up with the “aesthetic” of that specific publication. A lot of sites that are popular now seem to value crisp, almost over-exposed shots, so I specifically requested that Ryan edit mine in that manner, which I think helped a lot. Also, details are great, but readers want to get a sense of an apartment’s overall layout, too. The Everygirl even requested that I draw a diagram of my space (I was out of town for a wedding that weekend, so I had to run to the grocery store and buy a pen and notepad and draw it at the kitchen table at our Airbnb, whoops!). I think people love the Pinterest-friendly vignettes that we often see but genuinely want to know where different rooms are located, etc. A lot of times when I’m reading the comments on Apartment Therapy features I notice that this is something people want.

-Having a hook helps–maybe you’re a mom whose designed a really cool playroom for your kids or is able to maintain a stylish, kid-friendly home without sacrificing style. Maybe you’ve done an adventurous renovation or some neat furniture makeovers. But there’s no one perfect formula–and it often isn’t just one person making the decision whether or not to accept a pitch. However, if you don’t have a “hook” or feel like your home is too “normal” to pitch, you could be wrong! So many people feel like their home isn’t it definitely isn’t photo shoot ready when oftentimes that isn’t the case. It isn’t about having the best or the nicest stuff–by no means do you have to be a blogger or well-known or have $5,000 furniture to be selected! We’ve featured a lot of really cool DIYers on Houzz who have made their spaces look fabulous on a budget.

-Don’t forget about the little touches that take a shoot to the next level. Obviously we don’t all keep flowers in our bathrooms or keep sliced lemons on a cutting board in our kitchen all of the time (at least I don’t!), but little additions like these make a room more photo-ready. Just think of your upcoming shoot as an excuse to treat yourself to a few bouquets, a special bottle of soap, or a new candle…I know I do!

-Home shoots are tiring. For not even being in most of the pictures, I don’t know why I always feel so wiped out after these. But managing a shoot can be exhausting! By the end I’m always ready to eat all my props (I always put out fresh fruit or croissants for a “lived in” touch, haha) and take a nap for three hours. The photographer may want to do their own thing or they may want to chat with you the entire time, but either way, it helps if you pick someone you know well and feel comfortable with (this is obviously key when you’re inviting anyone to essentially sift through every room of your house!).

-Additionally, keep in mind that if your pitch is picked up, your home WILL be on the internet (and given the nature of the internet, people are *generally* nice but can be weird/creepy. I didn’t let the AT photographer take pictures looking out the windows in my old apartment because I lived alone in a small building and didn’t want people to know exactly where I was. I still won’t post pictures of the outside of my building just to be safe. While I’d say that 95 percent of the comments on my features were super nice (like, so nice…I was blown away), there are always people who misunderstand what you’re doing/make assumptions/are having a bad day/whatever. But that’s no different than regular blogging, I suppose…(or in interactions with people you know in real life, for that matter). The key is to either respond gracefully or just not respond at all!

If you have any other questions about the process, don’t hesitate to shoot me a note!

Happy photographing!

Photos by Hado Photo 

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Becoming More Sustainable

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Even though it’s the day after Earth Day, I figured a post on how to be a little more sustainable in your day to day life was still relevant! Don’t get me wrong, I’m nowhere near implementing a compost container on my kitchen counter a la my parents (every time I go home I’m always caught wondering whether the orange peels go in there or in the trash can!), but in thinking about my habits, I was realizing that I’m actually doing an ok job being environmentally friendly for the most part (although I don’t think I’ll be able to give up my beloved flavored k-cups). Here are two of my favorite ways to be a little kinder to the environment–no drastic life overhaul needed!

–Take public transportation, bike, or ride share (or walk! It’s the best.). I may spend way too much money and time on Uber Pool, but carpooling is obviously a much more envrionmentally-friendly solution than getting (or driving) your own car. I rarely ever take my own Uber unless I’m running super late or have to transport something big (#Craigslistproblems). A lot of my friends who don’t Uber Pool do it because they don’t like talking to other people in the car, but honestly neither do I…you can just put headphones in or be quiet, promise! I also LOVE the fact that UberPool can cost $2-$3 if you’re going somewhere super nearby (it’s perfect for the days I’m carrying a bunch of extra bags into the office, for example), so it really can be comparable to the bus or metro.

–Shop secondhand and sell/donate old items. Even if you’re turned off by thrift stores (but I promise they can be amazing!) eBay, Poshmark, Chairish, etc, are all great ways to score items for less AND save the planet at the same time. Whether you’re making a big purchase (sites like Chairish aren’t cheap!) or a small purchase, it’s worth poking around a few places to see what is being sold secondhand. You can often snag either like-new products or cool vintage items on these sites while also taking them off someone else’s hands. Such a win-win! And of course, you can also sell your own stuff on these sites rather than dumping it in the trash. If you really are pressed for time and need to get rid of something fast, even leaving something on the side of the road is a better option than dumping it in a trash can, especially if you’re in a big city. I’ve done this a couple of times with furniture in DC, and trust me, it gets snagged right away, whether or not it’s in perfect working condition. If you live in an area with less foot traffic and worried nobody will stop by, you can even post a “curb alert” on Craigslist, and it’s likely that someone will come and pick it up. The Salvation Army also does at-home pickups in DC, and you can schedule them a few days in advance, which is a huge time-saver if you know your items have more life left in them but don’t have a car or live far away from a donation spot.

Other things you can do? Recycle–it’s so easy! Carry reusable shopping bags + reuse the ones you do get at the store (I often save a few and use them to line and empty my bathroom trash can). Adopt or foster a pet. Order produce from a service like Hungry Harvest. Turn your lights off before you leave the house (still working on that one…I’m guilty of leaving a lamp on upstairs before I go out at night, otherwise I’d totally trip while walking back up!). Use old t-shirts as rags. Wash the plastic containers that your lunch meat or takeout food comes in and use them as Tupperware. Unplug things like your hairdryer during the day (but seriously do this…it’s a fire hazard!). Check out books from the library instead of ordering them online (another one I’m working on at the moment…). Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee mug.

…what else would you add? I’m seriously no pro, but thinking of these things made me realize that making small steps toward being more sustainable is entirely possible for all of us!

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FRIDAY FEELS, #20

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It’s been far too long since I’ve done one of these posts! I had a blast at the Bubbles and Bloggers happy hour at Tulips (you can’t beat $1 champagne specials), and I’m excited for a restful weekend with some fun plans on Saturday–a few of us design bloggers/fanatics are going to brunch at Steph’s and then taking advantage of Historic Garden Week in Old Town Alexandria. Otherwise, I’ll be busy packing for Savannah (more on that below), squeezing in a workout or two, and who knows what else!

As for the latest over here…

-I feel like such a nerd for saying this, but I’ve become a huge fan of my local library (my parents, who are both huge fans of the library for everything under the sun are probably kicking me because it’s taken me 26 years to realize how great it is). You would think that it takes forever to get off the waitlist for popular books within the DC library system, but I’ve managed to snag several great titles. Of course, there are a few cases where there are over 100 people in front of me on the hold list (like for Little Fires Everywhere), but I have plenty of books to sift through in the meantime. While I’ll still spend money on coffee table books and other keepsakes, I’m finding that the library is a much more practical option than even ordering $2 used books on Amazon. I can walk to the West End location from my office (it doesn’t hurt that it’s right next door to Bluestone Lane), so it’s super effortless to drop off and pick up books on my lunch break. I think I’ve kind of realized that while owning books is great, the time in which I move from one title to another isn’t usually instantaneous, so it’s worth waiting a couple of weeks for something to come in (for free) at the library than ordering it on Prime (or more frequently, through the used section on Amazon, as I mentioned above) and then not touching it for a couple of months anyway. Of course, I’m sure I’ll make exceptions every once in awhile, but for now, this is working well!

-Speaking of Bluestone Lane, I’m so glad I had the chance to duck out of the office for a late lunch the other day and meet up with Colby. We constantly message back and forth on Instagram about our similar design styles, and we also work within the same larger field, so it was so nice to finally chat IRL! We were talking about all the funny connections that Instagram can bring–it’s amazing how many cool, talented, and friendly people I’ve met this way! The fact that Colby is also a huge Craigslist/cane furniture fanatic means she’s a girl after my own heart!

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-I’m getting ready to head to Savannah with three of my close girlfriends from college next week, and I can’t wait (here’s to hoping we get some warm weather). We’ve already made reservations at a few restaurants (the Olde Pink House and The Ordinary Pub) and booked tickets for a ghost tour (can’t wait! I’ll admit that the fact that I love these is super inconsistent with my personality in so many ways, haha). A huge thanks to Shannon for the amazing recs (so jealous she lives there full-time, and it always helps to have a local’s perspective, especially when the local is a fellow blogger who knows all the cute, Instagrammable spots–I can’t wait to try Little Duck Diner while we’re there, too!). It will be nice to duck out of town for a bit and take my first real vacation since August, so I’m thankful I have the flexibility to do so next week.

-I was in NYC over the weekend (and talked everyone’s ear off about it on Instagram, whoops). I was up for a work trip but managed to see a good friend and swing by some of my favorite spots in between and after our events. I may have to do a longer post about this, but it’s definitely weird being back in the city without having my own place (living out of a hotel room in a city that you know well is WEIRD) and I miss all of the adventures my friends and I had in my early 20s, but at the same time, it’s fun to look back on those times and think about how much we’ve all grown since then. Does anyone else get super nostalgic thinking back to only three or four years ago?

Happy, happy Friday!

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Get the Look for Less: Bamboo Tables

I spotted these tables on Craigslist (where else) the other day and while I’m (likely) not going to snag them myself due to space (I’ve gotta stop somewhere…), I was thinking about what an easy DIY project they’d make!

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Ok, obviously they’re not in great condition…but look at that bamboo shape! These would be super easy to spray paint and bring to life with minimal effort. I personally would likely paint them white, but they’d also look amazing in a bright green or another fun, peppy color.

I was doing some Googling and realized that there are lookalike (ish) versions of these tables that sell for $$$ (if you ever want to find the real “value” of something you snag on Craigslist, just go to Chairish and your mind will be blown, haha). I mean, look how similar the below tables are to these, and yet they retail for over $700.

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No, the ones on Craigslist don’t have the cool fretwork or the lower tray, but I’m sure they’d look just as cute with a new coat.

Would you take on this project or leave it for someone else? There are some times when I feel totally motivated to take on a DIY, but other times I’d rather just wait around for the completed product (although these would be so, so simple to refurbish!).

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How to Make a Regular Day Less Blah

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I’m writing this after feeling a little behind with blogging and a little blah overall–settling back into reality after a weekend away in a great city will do that to you! But I’m constantly reminded that there are tons of ways to switch up your daily routine and wanted to share a few of my favorites:

-Try something that’s been on your local “must do/see” list instead of pushing it off for another day. Take advantage of the manicure deal at the place next door to your apartment building. Visit that food truck that always smells amazing and just place an order already. I know I always tell myself, “I’ll try the iced coffee at such and such place when it’s finally warm out,” and then I don’t end up doing it when the time actually comes. Same thing about the nail place across the street–do you ever feel too busy to do the things that are right in front of you? I want to make more of an effort to really get to know my surroundings the way I did in New York–being back in the city this past weekend and thinking things like “this is where so and so and I would meet up for lunch every week” or “this is where I’d sneak out and get frozen yogurt at 3 pm in the summer” made me nostalgic for having more of a little routine.

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-Do a weekend activity on a weeknight. Obviously things like going to Target or having dinner at a fun restaurant are fairly common weekend activities, but whenever I do something like this on a weeknight, I feel like I’m totally unplugging from my normal routine (not to mention, stores/restaurants are way less crowded on random Tuesday nights than they are on Saturdays!). Midweek retail/restaurant therapy is the best way to break up a hectic schedule and veering from your normal post-work gym or happy hour routine will leave you feeling refreshed.

-Combine “work” and “play.” The other day, I really wanted to get a workout in but also was starving when I came home from work and knew I needed to eat right away or else I’d last about five minutes in the gym. Does this happen to anyone else? I hate when it does! I decided that I’d eat dinner and then take a 45 minute walk around the neighborhood. And it was amazing. I listened to Grace‘s podcast while walking my loop, scoped out some colorful houses, and even stopped for a small thing of froyo (which probably negated most of the workout, but still).

-Picture your day through someone else’s eyes. When I’ve visited friends in their cities, I’ve loved imagining what my life would be like if I lived there, too. Adapt the same mindset but pretend you’re a stranger in your current neighborhood. You’d be surprised at what’s right in front of you that you never take advantage of or what you’re taking for granted that’s actually a huge perk (hello, everything in NYC!).

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What’s on my April Mood Board

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I love when other bloggers share their “mood boards” for the month/season. It’s so inspiring to see what other people are loving (I really enjoy following my fave bloggers on Pinterest for that reason) and thought I would take a hand at my own roundup. Here’s what I’m loving lately (aka pretty much the latest pins on my Pinterest page):

-Fun barware for at home happy hours (image

-Neutral decor with a pop of pink (image

-Open windows, fresh air, and lots of books (image

-A refreshing iced lavender chai latte (image)  

-A bit of boho (image

-Products that work in multiple ways around the house, like this shelf (image

…but all of the fun products aside, I’m really excited for relaxing on (and entertaining/reading/eating/sipping wine on) our roof deck. We’ve basically only lived in our apartment in cold weather months (we moved in this past October, and this spring has been pretty chilly so far), so I’m really excited to make the most of our outdoor space. The roof deck is accessible from the second floor, right outside my room, and we’re the only unit in our building that has access (if you live in DC, you know what a big perk this is!). I was actually reading and eating dinner (and drinking wine) out there last Wednesday evening when it was super nice out, and it was so peaceful getting some fresh air and unwinding from the work week before heading to NYC. I can’t wait to take advantage of this for a few more weeks before the weather becomes extremely humid…there’s nothing like a DC summer!

What are you loving and looking forward to this spring?

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Travel Update/Must Have Accessories

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For the first time in forever, I have a ton of travel on the horizon! I get so excited every time I think about each of these trips, as they’re all meaningful in one way or another–yes, even the work-related ones (I didn’t travel at all in previous jobs, so this is exciting for me!). I also have never been someone who’s traveled to a ton of new places; rather, I’ve traveled a lot but to the same few destinations–mainly Florida, Minnesota, and Arizona, where I have/had relatives living–so I’m excited to cross off two new states (Georgia and Michigan) in the coming weeks/months!

Here’s what my travel itinerary looks like at the moment (my guess is Florida will be added to the list, and hopefully Minnesota as well):

NYC for a work trip Thursday-Saturday of this week

Savannah, GA, for a girls trip at the end of April

Waterville, ME, for my college reunion in early June

NYC for a work trip in mid-June

Pinehurst, NC, for my good childhood friend’s wedding at the end of June

Ann Arbor, MI, for a work conference in July

Cape Cod, MA, for another girls trip, likely in August

Woohoo! I’m so excited to have so many little getaways on the horizon, especially because I haven’t yet taken a vacation day since starting my new job in December!

On that note…

Does anyone else feel extra inspired when it comes to picking out travel outfits? I’m not one of those people who gets super jazzed about my everyday outfits, but packing is a different story. I feel like vacations are the best time to bust out a fun new bag or try a new look (partly because you’re more likely to take pictures, let’s be real!).

I’m so excited to bring my new Clare V bag to Savannah. Her pieces are definitely on the pricier side, but they’re great because while they’re totally “it” bags at the moment, they definitely have more of a timeless vibe (I don’t think woven totes will ever really go out of style!).

I also browsed the internet and found some great options that are more affordable and would be super fun for summer travel. How perfect is this little bag from Amazon, of all places?!

Last but not least, I’ve heard a lot of chatter about the famous “Away” luggage brand. I’m not too particular about my luggage and have a suitcase that I got a few years ago before taking a trip to Europe that isn’t anything super sleek or stylish but works just fine. However, several of my friends are at the point where they’re looking to upgrade their suitcases, and Away has been at the top of everyone’s list (I’m bummed they’re no longer doing a collab with Gray Malin!). One thing I learned (while reading a thread in Grace’s Facebook group–a must join!) is that some airlines are particular about the charging component in the bags. Good to know in case you’re in the market for one!

What are your travel must haves or splurges? And if you have any fun trips coming up, I’d love to hear!

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Open House Inspiration

Does anyone else enjoy scouring real estate listings in their city? I love seeing what’s on the market in DC, although I didn’t think I’d find so much design inspiration in the process!

I’ll preface this post with a funny backstory…basically, I could’ve been a real estate agent in another life (or maybe I will be down the road, who knows!). Growing up, my dad and I went to open houses in our area almost every weekend. We both loved looking at what was out there–we’d find tons of listings and walk around various homes (sometimes just for fun, and sometimes to look at actual possibilities). We did end up moving houses when I was a sophomore in high school, but that hasn’t stopped us from still taking peeks at places in our current neighborhood when I’m home. We’d also do various drives throughout potential/dream neighborhoods. These would usually be over the summer, and we’d scope out tons of beautiful homes. It’s definitely sounds like a strange hobby as I describe it now, but we were (and still are) infatuated with real estate!

Anyway, fast forward about 15 years from when this obsession began…the other day, I was browsing Zillow and found the CUTEST apartment that I just had to share as design inspo (ok, mostly because of the pink SMEG fridge. But also, EXPOSED brick, which everyone knows by now is my weakness).

I mean…how perfect is this setup?

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Pinterest perfect rustic shelves and a pink fridge.

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The living room is nice and spacious and looks like it gets a lot of light, which is important.

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Wouldn’t this be the cutest bachelorette pad?

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Gorgeous built ins…

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I also love the bedroom. I’d change several things about it, but it has good bones, so to speak.

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I mean, wouldn’t you move in here? Also, should I make these posts a thing?!

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Patagonia for Less

I was reading Mackenzie’s blog post the other day about how she has scored RL sweaters in kids sizes for a much lower price, and I was inspired to do some searching of my own. In the past, I’ve bought NorthFace/Patagonia pieces in kids sizes and it’s worked out just fine! Since I’m on the taller side (I’m 5’7″) I do have to be careful about arm length (my friends who are 5 feet tall and really little have many more options–kids Burberry, Barbour, and the like all fit on them!). I’ve found that fleeces generally are ok; I just probably would steer clear of more fitted pieces.

It turns out that Patagonia is currently having a great sale on tons of kids items! I picked up this girls XL sweater for only $39 plus shipping and can’t wait to wear it this spring (is anyone else ready to put away the heavy layers for good at this point?!). I love the blue and have another better sweater in gray that’s held up wonderfully over the years (I’ve had it since I studied abroad in 2012!).

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Here are some of my other favorite sale picks from the Web Specials section (just hurry, as quantities are limited!):

Girls snap-T:

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Boys snap-T:

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Girls lightweight jacket:

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Old vs. New

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I posted on my Insta stories the other day about Target’s new Opalhouse line which launches this weekend and is full of amazing pieces (think cane, faux bamboo, and more, all at great prices). But it had me wondering…when it comes to furniture and accessories, do you like “old” or “new” better?

I personally like a mix of both, but I think overall, I’m going to have to go with old. This is definitely a preference that I’ve developed with age as I’ve started to see the value and charm in certain vintage pieces (plus, furniture was just made so much better in the past than it is now!). While I like the Target line and the looks that the brand is trying to recreate, I think I’d rather do a bit of digging and find a more one-of-a-kind piece that has a story. I’m not a huge fan of rooms that can easily be recreated with the click of a few buttons online, as I think they often are lacking in personality and just look too curated as opposed to collected. (That said, I’m eager to check out the collection in stores–I think with Target in particular, it can really help to see their pieces in person as opposed to just online).

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As for new-to-me “old” furniture, I recently lucked out on Craigslist and scored a gorgeous midcentury modern dresser for a very cheap price. In the market for something similar? I love Heather’s post on how she found the vintage furniture in her apartment. Etsy, Craigslist, and flea markets are certainly the way to go!

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer vintage, brand new, or brand new items that look vintage (i.e.: West Elm midcentury pieces and the like)? I’d love to hear!

Photos by Heather Bien

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