That Time I Offered to Fly to LA to Hold Emily Henderson's Baby

 

HAPPY FALL, ya’ll, we have some exciting news to share with you today. We’re relaunching the blog!! It’s been a while since we connected on this platform and we have plenty to share. We felt it only appropriate to start things off with a reintroduction.

HELLO!! I’m Michelle Gage and I am about to humiliate myself on the internet.

Where do I begin? I guess I should start off my saying that I have been a die-hard Emily Henderson fan since her early days on HGTV. She’s frankly been a design icon for me and I’m utterly obsessed with everything creates.

Let’s go back to 2014, when I was working for Anthropologie’s Home Office here in Philadelphia. I was on the buying team; one of my main objectives was to scout and develop amazing home goods. I welcomed that opportunity and fancied myself as a person like Emily would want to meet. As most 24 year olds do, I thought too highly of myself.

Spring was approaching and my (then) boyfriend and myself had made plans to fly to LA to visit with some of our very best friends from our college days. I made a long list of all the design-related shops and showrooms I wanted to visit while there (House of Honey, Nicky Kehoe, etc). The Rose Bowl, of course, made the list - and you know who frequents The Rose Bowl? My girl Emily Henderson.

I somehow got the idea in my head that Emily and I were destined to meet - or rather that she would have any interest whatsoever in meeting me. Call it insane courage (or blind optimism), but I drafted an email to Emily with a detailed plan on how we should connect during my stay in LA. I suggested that - if she had plans to shop The Rose Bowl - we should do so together, alluding to the fact that I am in fact a skilled junk collector and lugger of said collected junk. I spent many nights editing my very frank email and attached some of the most horrific interior design work known to man.

Alex and I had just purchased our first home - money was tight- and the house looked like a cross between your grandmother’s fake antiques and the “crap you buy from Goodwill and promise yourself you will fix up but never do.” Back to the email itself - I believe I even offered to hold her newborn child so that she could have some focused shopping. In my mind, this was an offer she just couldn’t turn down - though I’m not sure what new mother could comfortably shop for vintage treasures while a stranger creepily holds her child on the sidelines.

  24 year old me, to add further design embarrassment fuel to the fire…

24 year old me, to add further design embarrassment fuel to the fire…

Fast forward to a few days before the market, when I did actually get a reply from dear Emily. No, the reply didn’t have a restraining order attached to it, rather a promise. She said that if she wound up attending the market, we could meet. I almost choked on my overpriced LA street taco. I’d take a meeting, I thought.

(Very) long story short, we didn’t meet then in LA. We didn’t shop the flea market arm in arm and trot away with tales of how we became such fast friends. We did, however, meet a few years later at an event in New York (she was just as lovely as I had imagined) and I did go on to compile a few round ups for her blog. You may recall such notable contributions as this one about sofas, this one about wallpaper and (some of the best work I’ve ever produced) this one about toilets.

I’m taking this one as a lesson in perseverance and a reminder that you cannot be afraid to fail. Do I cringe when I think about my slightly stalkerish attempts to get the attention of my idol? Absolutely! Given the chance to go back in time, would I do it again? Absolutely! As I start my 29th year and march onto my 30th, I can only look back and smile at the 24 year old eager interior designer that I was then - full of excitement and completely unaware of the struggles to come.

Call it blind determination or naivety, but we all have to start somewhere. You don’t know what you don’t know - and in life and with work, you have to treat these experiences as the cost of tuition. You learn as you go, even if you have to pay for it with embarrassment along the way.

Well, folks, that’s all for the cringe-worthy blogpost. Be sure to return here on Mondays and Wednesdays, where we will be sharing about all things interior design!!

 

It's Time To Talk About The New House

 
Michelle Gage // It's Time To Talk About The New House
Michelle Gage // It's Time To Talk About The New House
Michelle Gage // It's Time To Talk About The New House
Michelle Gage // It's Time To Talk About The New House
Michelle Gage // It's Time To Talk About The New House

I've been putting off writing this post for a while now. Not because I was dreading it, because I have so much to say and barely know where to begin.

In November, we sold our first house (of 3.5 years) and moved into our forever home. We spent the entire time renovating it, room by room. We started by painting the entire place ourselves then moved onto meatier projects, like renovating our kitchen. We truly enjoyed the process of fixing up our first place, but honestly came to the end of the project. We fixed up everything we possibly could, while not pricing ourselves out of the neighborhood we were in. The changes we made were worth it for us to enjoy while we were still living there, but also made for a sound investment when it came time to sell.

Our hunt for our second house started last spring. We weren't looking to move, rather for a place to fix up and flip. This would mean that we'd have two mortgages until the second property sold. We found a gorgeous (but poorly cared for) 4,500 square foot Victorian that was beaming with potential. As we started crunching our numbers, we realized that we were about two years away from being able to take on a second property of this size. We quickly came to the conclusion that, if we did this NOW, we'd need to live in flip and not just have it as a side project. We decided, however, that if we were to move, we were never going to move again. So, our focus shifted. We were still itching to take on another project; we just needed to find one we'd want to live in forever. For many reasons (bad schools, small yard, expensive sewer issues, etc.), The Victorian wasn't it.

I'll skip passed the part where we saw a bunch of beautiful houses that didn't work out for one reason or another - and tell you that we found the one we bought while searching on Zillow late one night. Alex was actually out of town for work and I sent him a link, claiming that I found our forever home. It checked ALL of the boxes - and was under our budget. Considering that our wish list was insanely long (and somewhat unreasonable), we knew this gem was rare. We scheduled a date to see it with our realtor on the following morning and put in an offer right away. With a bit of back and fourth, the home became ours within a few days. As luck would have it, our home sold on the same day - actually, within the same hour. It was really hard to say goodbye to our first place, but we were overflowing with excitement for this next step. 

I'll be sharing more on the project specifics as we get into the nitty gritty. I have every single space designed (in my head) and I'm eager to get those thoughts into posts. At this point, our projects haven't been the most interesting to document. We got a new roof. We converted our heat from oil to natural gas. We've started by crossing off the "needs" items from our list, before diving into the fun projects we just want to tackle. Alex has made plenty of progress on the master bedroom, which I've shown lots on Instagram. Once the renovations are completed in there, he will move onto refinishing the floors. Then, we will bring painters in to paint and wallpaper (lots, duh) the entire place. Our old home, which was 2000 square feet, was a much more manageable amount of wall space for us to cover ourselves. Our new home is 3500 square feet, so we're calling in the troops!

I'm SO SO excited to document more of this space. Stay tuned to follow along as we rip out walls and pull down ceilings! 

 

Looking Back at 2017

 
Michelle Gage // Looking Back at 2017
Michelle Gage // Looking Back at 2017
Michelle Gage // Looking Back at 2017
Michelle Gage // Looking Back at 2017
Michelle Gage // Looking Back at 2017
Michelle Gage // Looking Back at 2017
Michelle Gage // Looking Back at 2017

Happy New Year!

This year has been one wild ride, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I have learned so much in 2017, it's hard to say what lessons have been the most valuable. Professionally, I've grown leaps and bounds. I feel so blessed to have wonderful clients, who trust me to come into their lives and totally transform their homes. While there are hard days, this is truly a dream job - something I've chased after since I was seven years old. 

We have been lucky enough to travel to Paris, adopt a second pup and move into our forever home. In Paris, we shopped the flea market (!!!). Our second little nugget is just so in love with our first one; it's so heartwarming to witness. She has changed our lives for the better. In the summer, we started looking for our next fixer upper. Luckily, we found our dream home and moved in November. We'll be busy fixing it up for the next two years or so, which I plan to document here and on Instagram.

In early December, I returned back to a favorite project of mine to style and shoot the space. This client (we'll call her Lola), was amazing to work with. Lola was completely trusting of the process and wanted to see her empty shell totally transformed. Wish granted! To see more shots from Lola's space, click here.

 

How I Approach Interior Design

 
Michelle Gage // How I Approach Interior Design
Michelle Gage // How I Approach Interior Design
Michelle Gage // How I Approach Interior Design
Michelle Gage // How I Approach Interior Design

As a child, I was a HUGE Lisa Frank fan. I was a proud member of her club and received monthly mail packs of her colorful stationary and stickers. Her bold, bright and quirky style was right up my six-year-old alley. 

While my tastes have taken a turn for the better, I am still a fan of all things wild and whimsical. There are really no rules when it comes to interior design. Sure, there are some standards that I like to stick to - but when it comes to decor, I always say to DREAM BIG!

I always strive to have the homes I design reflect the people who live there. I guide the design process, but I am all about discovering the client's personal style. At the end of the day, you should come home to a space that looks like you and your family. 

That being said, there are certain elements that I favor. I totally dig a bold wallpaper. I love a good velvet sofa and always try to include vintage elements into the space. I love color and prefer to see more loud tones than neutral ones. 

A space should be a healthy mix of high and low furnishings. Introducing pieces of all price points is an efficient way to flex your budget - no matter what the size! Perhaps we invest a portion of your furniture fund into a dream sofa that is going to last you fifteen years. Then, maybe we skimp on the rug and find a $300 option that we know won't last more than three years. 

If you are in the camp of "buying the right thing once" - I hear you! Maybe you're wondering why we would spend so little on a cheapie rug and then replace it a few years down the line. Hear me out. If you have young kids or pets, no rug is going to hold up too long. Sure, some pricier options may stand the test of time - but if they are bound to get soiled, do you really want them in your house long term?

Accents, like your rugs, are a great place to save a little cash. Decorative textiles tend to be a little bit trendier than furniture styles. You can switch out your rug (pillows, bedding, etc.) when something that you like a little bit more comes your way. You won't feel guilty about this update when the original didn't cost you an arm and a leg.

Back to the vintage thing - I'm all about it - it's in my blood! When the room allows for it, I like to include at least one vintage item into a space. This item can be something that is a star in the space (like a blue vintage sofa) or something that takes on a supporting role (like a bar cart or end table). It takes a little longer to hunt down these vintage treasures, but it is so worth it. Antiques add character to even the most standard spaces. Another area where I like to layer vintage in is through decor. You can always toss in some worn hardback books, capped by brass bookends. 

While I try to attract clients that agree with my design philosophies, it doesn't always work out that way. It is a bit more natural for me to work with homeowners that align with my aesthetic. However, I enjoy the challenge that comes with working outside of my comfort zone. I work with and welcome all design styles. Again, at the end of the day, I want the space you reflect YOU and I want you to love coming home.

 

Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself

 
Michelle Gage // Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself

I would be remiss if I didn't start this post off by pointing out the mean mugging that my dog is doing in this photo. I swear, Naleigh is the sweetest dog in the whole wide world (I say objectively of course), but I will never miss an opportunity to make fun of my dog. Okay, moving on.

It's time we get friendly. Who am I? What do I do? How did I get here?

Well, I'm glad you asked! My name is Michelle. However you happened upon my site, you most certainly know by now that I am an interior designer. I favor the bold and colorful things in life and have decorated my house to reflect that. I believe that your home should reflect who you are. Guests should walk into your space and exclaim that it is just "so you" that they could BURST! 

I have always been fascinated by how others live - what items are special to them, how they organize their day. As a child, I was far too interested in what my friends kept on their bookshelves and in their dresser drawers. I refused to play until everything was in its proper place. I even went as far as to clean their rooms for them - my favorite part being the inevitable junk drawer deep dive. While it won me favor with their moms, it irked my friends to no end. I never played with Barbies, as I would spend far too much time setting up their dream homes. 

I deeply believe that your hobbies (or in my case, preferred chores) can inform your career path. While I originally thought my path was to be a professional organizer, my mind was quickly settled when I discovered that interior design was an actual career. I remember watching HGTV as a wee one and gawking that adults got to do the exact things I enjoyed - and be on TV for it! 

When it came time to write my college essay and apply to schools, my choice was clear. I enclosed a passionate personal statement (yes, about Barbies) and sent off my only application to Virginia Tech - the university with the number one architecture and design program in the country. Luckily, I was accepted a few months later. There, I met that hunk (and now husband) you’re eyeing in this photo, Alex.

To say I learned a lot at Virginia Tech is an understatement. One valuable thing that I did learned early on is that I had absolutely no interest in commercial design, which was my program's focus. I planned to focus strictly on creating beautiful residential spaces - you know, for people like Barbie, Kelly and Skipper! 

With that thought in mind, I persistently applied for positions at Anthropologie's Home Office in Philadelphia. I wound up securing a wonderful role in merchandising and gained a great sense of how home goods are designed and manufactured. While there, I had some wonderful mentors who helped to sharpen my aesthetic. I was introduced to talented artists from all around the world. I initially thought that Anthropologie would be with me until retirement. However, after three years, I realized it was time to move on. Ultimately, I chose to leave the brand in hopes of building my own. I always had a desire to work for myself, I just never thought the opportunity would present itself so soon. 

Now, I am working with residential design clients and creating spaces that are a true reflection of themselves. In addition to doing design, I also write about design. I provide editorial contributions to Apartment Therapy and Domino (a childhood favorite). When not designing, you can find me at a local flea market or estate sale. Those vintage goodies often make their way into my Chairish shop.

As an extension of my interior design services, I want to highlight some of the happenings that go on behind the scenes here. There are so many steps that take a project from its "before" stage and into its "after” stage and I want to share those with YOU!

So what can you expect to read about here - besides my entire life's story? On this blog, I will be revealing some of my favorite design sources and highlighting emerging trends in the market. I will share "how to" tips and easy DIY projects. I will also give you sneak peeks into the design process. I'll share concept boards, floor plans and budget breakdowns. You'll be seeing what's presented to clients. This blog will be a space to have the design journey documented. 

If you made it to the end of this novel, you probably need a little break from me rambling on about myself. So, I will leave you with this – how this post got its namesake.