May 27th, 2013


Posted by Cris

Hi folks, did you think I dropped off the earth?

I kind of did. Sorry.

I took a job. Full time. Corporate. It’s a hugely positive thing, but it’s not been shy of challenges. There, did you feel the curveball hit you?

While slugging through my taxes in mid-april – annoyed, irritated, determined to get through it with an intact marriage (it would be a shame to waste 13 years), I got a phone call from a friend. Friend says ‘hey, there’s a job opening at this company I work for, and you’d be perfect for it.’ I’m thinking, ‘yeah right – I haven’t had a JOB in ten years, I’m not employable anymore,’ But, I humor him and we talk for a bit – the job is as a Marketing Communications Manager, it sounds like a great position – but in my head I am thinking of all the plans I have laid for expanding CAI and of the two books I am working on and thinking “no.” I left it as, I would think about it, as I didn’t want to waste their time or mine on something, and would sleep on it.

From there I promptly walked out to the front porch and cried.

I have worked SO HARD at this business. I know running your own show is so romanticized, but the hours are INSANE, the demands are crazy, there are tons of judgement calls (should I charge this person for the excessive time they are wasting on phone calls when I don’t usually charge for them? How much should I reasonably mark this up so I make a profit but don’t overcharge the client?). Your business is your life – from sunrise to the moment before you go to sleep at night – and in my case, a lot of middle-of-the-night insomnia is turned into working hours too.

The buck stops with you, in good things and less than great. On top of all these stresses, you have no idea when the next check is coming in, or where the next job is coming from. Dave and I have worked very hard to mitigate that stress by being out of debt and having rental properties for side income, but running rentals is another stress, too.

I cried because I have come so far: so many great clients, and the StoneFort Inn and TerraMae being my little cherry on top. I have two books I am working dilligently on.  I have just added an amazing service which still keeps rewarding me and producing results.

How do I walk away from that?

If he hadn’t called me in the middle of taxes. If he hadn’t called when work was slow (I couldn’t advertise or network or anything while recovering from the concussion). I have been on my own for ten years. I’m terribly self-reliant. Why would I change? But with taxes looming and not a lot of money flowing in, I decided to send in my resume the next morning.

Not even 30 minutes later, I get a call from the Marketing Director. Whow. We had an informal phone interview right then (again, whow) and totally hit it off. She’s had her own business before also, and is hooked on coffee, and is so clearly brilliant and bubbly. That owned-her-own-business part was a huge relief to me. Massive. We set an in-person interview date for a few days up, and I start studying and really working hard on wrapping up client projects and watching my stress levels soar.

Interview went well. I thought – these things are so hard to tell, and I hadn’t had a job interview in ten years. I haven’t really worked much at marketing in the past few years – just a few side projects and constantly, endlessly, working on marketing myself. I’ve done a lot of research on social networking and social media, and I’ve always found marketing strategy to be really interesting study, so I didn’t let everything go while running CAI.

Anyway, apparently I passed. Another interview with the owner of the company was set up. My “professional” wardrobe is so small we’d already used up what I had, so mad-dash shopping trip was needed before this one. I had several questions now – dead serious ones. I had to know if I was going to fit in, I had to know more about the company beyond what is on the website, and know if I would want to throw my lot in with them.

OK so – clearly, I took the job. I’ve been at it a month now and am quite happy, now that the worst of the learning curve is over, I know everyone’s names and job description, and am settling into my role. My stress levels are dropping, and, oddly enough, I am sleeping better.

So what happens for CAI? Am I going to let it die?

The answer is no, not entirely. I’m turning it more into a consultant-based business rather than full-service, and am still working on my books. So I am not all gone by any means. Dave and I were already discussing blending our two businesses, and I think this is still a good way to go. He has such great talent in so many areas – I can continue to aid in decision making and planning and in coming up with ideas for his clients as well.

I’ll still be blogging too – just not as often.

And if you have read through all this, you deserve some sort of medal.



If you would like help designing a home you absolutely love, contact me for design services!


May 3rd, 2013

A Staged Delight

Posted by Cris

I don’t do home staging much – it’s probably about 1/10th of the services I offer, but when Realtor Jay Hudson game me a call and asked me to come look at this lovely little home, I knew I had the perfect pieces sitting in storage to make it sing.

Some homes, when completely empty, have layouts that make it hard for potential buyers to see where their furniture should go. It’s not easy to carry sizes of your pieces around mentally in your head, and when confronted with what seems like a long hallway and then this equally-odd empty room, it stumps potential buyers. I found I initially struggled to “see” furniture in the space, and I do this all the time!

So here is the before:


The mockup:


And the “after”:


The dining room already had some furniture pieces in it, so I just filled in the holes a bit:


dining beforeAnd dining room, after:


Another angle:


If you would like help getting your home ready to sell, contact me for staging services! Most homes are owner-occupied and need realistic expectations set for daily living while still looking appealing to the widest audience possible to help it sell. It generally consists of 1-2 hour walk-through of your home (depending on size), I take lots of photos to help me illustrate what I will explain in the multi-page in-depth report to get the house ready to sell. Typically the report is ready within 24-48 hours.

Thinking about moving to Ooltehwah TN? Like this house? Here is the listing!

April 16th, 2013

Dining Room Reveal

Posted by Cris

I finally finished dressing up my dining room! Of course I have tons of tweaks and changes I’d still like to make, but I feel like I can live with it now. While Dave was in Florida I painted the one wall an emerald green – by hand, with brush strokes. I knew that alone would make Dave FREAK. Then I handpainted a DeGournay inspired gold tree over that, with watered-down paint.


This is a very humble little house, all of 1100 square feet of shotgun shack simplicity. But it doesn’t have to look like a shotgun shack – it can be elevated a bit without going overboard. For the majority of the house, I went with Benjamin Moore’s OC-12 “Muslin” – it’s a very gentle off-white that blends easily with a variety of other colors and backgrounds. I swore years ago that I would never again have white walls… but now that I design in color so much for my clients, I find the absence is pleasant and uncomplicated to come home to.


I just adore the green-velvet framed sketch of a creek over the window. It came from a local antique-and-junk shop, and was love at first sight. Since there is a creek to one side of my house, it just fits. I feel home should be filled with your favorite things – living in a small house makes it really easy to let items you don’t adore so much go. Below is a lamp I found in an antique shop in Illinois. It has been with us for 11 years and been displayed prominently in almost every home. I finally bought it a nice, semi-expensive lampshade (retail at $95) and the glow is just fabulous. There is no comparison between a cheap shade and a good shade.


One last pic – with the chandelier I still need to bring down a bit…




If you would like help designing a home you absolutely love, contact me for design services!

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