Cuz Yea, I'm An Entrepreneur Now

This summer, a young woman by the name of Mia Sakai reached out to me about starting a company designed to "deconstruct the mystery of building a business from the ground up, one story at a time", POLYNATE. She wanted to interview me, could she stop by some time? Having benefitted myself from kind strangers responding to my 'cold' emails, I was more than happy to oblige, though I have to confess there was a part of me that thought:

"Wait, me? Don't you want business owners? Oh. Right. That IS me now."

And so, on a day so hot and bright her iPad suffered a heat malfunction while recording, we sat down and talked business.

You can read the interview in its entirety here. She asked me really thoughtful and practical questions, and it turns out I had an awful lot to say about how I got here. (Said everyone about themselves ever, I know, haha!)

And while it was kinda surreal to be interviewed as a business owner for the first time, it was even MORE surreal to see my answers all laid out on her beautiful website.

And I honestly got a little dizzy when I realized this was not just a pretty graphic of hotel-esque images but rather, an actual timeline of my LIFE leading up to opening:

I often describe my year at NU Hotel during which I was a Front Desk Agent/ bar tender/ bell hop/ anything-they-effing-needed as a "montage"-- the working-my-way-up montage that I unfortunately had to live in real time with no peppy movie soundtrack at near minimum wage. But here it was! The actual montage! All finally behind me.

Yea, it's still weird. I mean, we've only been open a few days shy of three months. And we haven't even lived up here for a whole year yet. I still say things like, "We just opened". But now comes the rest of it. The running of the business not just planning for it, the continued growth. The numbers that aren't just projections but actual data from actual occupancy reports and such. The payroll taxes and re-ordering of bulk soap, the catching up on laundry, the changing menus and decisions about what types of advertising are working.

I'm happy to report I FUCKING LOVE IT.

Yes, I get tired sometimes. (Did I mention my Friday shift is fifteen hours long?) And yes, I get annoyed and overwhelmed sometimes. (No I'm sorry, I'm not gonna tell the Internet about those guests right now, haha!) But this, all of this, is what I've been working for. And it's making people happy. So happy! And that just makes me want to cry it makes me so fucking happy.

On the tough days I wonder if this is really enough to give the world. A little hotel in the middle of nowhere? But on the good days I know that this is about memory making, about giving a whole slew of people the respite and inspiration they need to go off and be better people. And that's more than enough to keep me going.

 

I Love Lamp: Hallway

Our upstairs hallway is getting a bit of love. Here's what it looked like Tuesday afternoon before I decided I absolutely needed to fix it that very instant.

Which I totally did in just one day!

Or not.

I know I keep posting "Before" photos and no "After" ones, but that's because we're kinda "Somewhere In Between" on just about every house project at the moment. Which by the way is driving us a little NUTS. I nearly screamed into a pillow Tuesday afternoon when I was trying to open the bathroom window so I wouldn't die from wallpaper remover and paint fumes and for life of me could not do it because it had been painted shut from the outside.

I called my mom and felt better, then Steven used his super strength and opened it for me. Aka, support systems are very much necessary when renovating an old house.

It's so tempting to just want to be DONE with all the work. But what is "done" anyway?

Ok fine, fine, I'll take "very nearly finished", how's that??

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

 

Minimum Wage For Artists?

Hyperallergic just ran this fascinating interview with the folks of W.A.G.E, aka "Working Artists for the Greater Economy".

The heart of the idea is to stop the race to the bottom when nonprofits pay artists by basing compensation on the company's overall annual expenses. (As well as the race to the top interestingly enough..)

As someone who has participated in art shows for "exposure" and done excruciatingly low pay design work for nonprofits before, this seems like an amazing idea because at the very least it's a place to start.

A lot of time these companies are good at valuing other services-- accounting, legal, even catering-- but anything remotely "artsy" becomes a too nebulous for them. "What is art worth?" they start asking, when really they should be asking, "What is this person's time and the function of what they will produce for us worth?"

It reminds me of all the important issues Robert Levine brings up in his amazing book Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, And How the Culture Business Can Fight Back.

Check out the full interview here.

I Love Lamp: Saddle Up

When we moved up here 10 months ago, I made a list of things I wanted to fix in the house within the first year. And I wrote it down because it's really, REALLY easy to just get used to things. "We'll fix that soon" becomes "we've been living with that for five years" very easily for even the most design obsessive folks. One of the things on the list was the doorway between the kitchen and the living room.

Back in February we painted the kitchen, made small bar, and hung our barn door to create a separation. But we called it a day before finishing the saddle and frame. Mostly because we weren't quite sure what to do.

But after 10 months of taking an awkwardly large step over this gaping hole, it was TIME.

The old beam is kinda cool, but the bulbous insulation and inevitable dust bunny collections were not. And while the stratigraphy of the frame fascinates every contractor/carpenter who comes through, we were pretty sick of looking at it.

So what to do?

The previous owners left a big stack a cedar barn siding which we've turned into everything from the Inn's bar to the tables to my desk. Not to mention a TV stand, a nightstand, a day bed.... haha! So naturally, we decided that cedar would do just fine as a frame and saddle.

Steven measured, cut the pieces, and drilled some guide holes for our screws so as to not split the wood.

And no, it's not exactly traditional to use screws for this kind of thing, but we've got a rustic enough look going on and down the line we might want to remove the wood and use it elsewhere when we do a deeper kitchen renovation.

We started with the top part of the frame.

Moved to the side pieces, several of which we had to notch to fit the irregular shapes going on.

And then fitted the saddle, which involved some "poor man's planing" as Steven called it. Yes, that's his Swiss Army knife.

He added supports since we didn't want the saddle to bend when you stepped on it. They look like they were installed by a 3 year old with a hammer but the erratic placement is actually quite precise to fit the uneven surface.

And voila!

Steven also decided to add a small bit of trim to the part in the kitchen where the wall otherwise very unevenly meets the frame to finish it off.

Tada!

I love it, love it, love it. Though it's really kind of bizarre how luxurious having a continuous floor feels. Naturally we keep stepping over it as if the saddle still isn't there. I'm sure we'll happily get used to it soon!

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

I Love Lamp: Steven's Office (Before)

As the exterior of the house is being painted (photos coming soon!), I've been a busy bee (between check-ins and bar tending and laundry and and and...!) brightening things up inside the house. I started with Steven's studio because he got jealous of mine after I'd gotten jealous of the hotel rooms. As you can see, while his room was spacious and full of windows, it was dark and often felt cluttered despite lots of tidying and reorganizing:

It certainly didn't help that his mountain view became a dumpster view for the past three and half months. And while we never took that shot from the inside, you can see here what it looked like from the outside. His windows are the bottom four:

Not pretty.

I painted his built in shelves a blue-ish grey back in January, which helped a bit:

Oh man was THAT a labor of love. So much taping! And awkward climbing and bending! It actually made painting the rest of the room seem quite simple by comparison which for whatever insane reason I decided to undertake the Monday of Labor Day after all of our long weekend guests checked out. Because, you know, that wasn't a busy weekend or anything like that...?!

All the while Steven made some more cedar contraptions which I'm looking forward to showing off next week in my "after" post!

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

So How's It Been?

We've been open over a month now (woohoo!), so the number one question I've been getting lately from friends and family is: "So, how's it been?"

"Great! Everything I'd hoped it would be and more! Tiring! Satisfying! A little nutty! Fun!"

Then most folks rephrase the question or follow with, "No, but really-- how's it been?" and I have to reiterate that really and truly I meant what I said. Often I have to soothe people by listing specific things I like about it all so far like:

"We've met so many cool people! Everyone's been so supportive! Nearly every weekend is full through October! We got our first repeat guests! No one's trashed a room yet! It's so exciting to finally be doing this thing I've spent the past two-plus years working towards!"

"Yeah, but [insert that person's specific worry here]?"

It's quite sweet actually. Because what I'm hearing when people ask me these questions is that they want me to be happy and they want me to succeed. They want me to mean what I've told them and I do. It has been all those things so far, and sometimes I feel so damn pleased that I catch myself wondering, "Is there something that I'm missing? Something else I should be worrying about?"

Sure there is. There's all kinds of tedious bureaucratic stuff that goes along with opening a business that we're still slogging through, but it doesn't keep me up at night the same way any more for two main reasons:

1. We're open! I've got much more immediate and satisfying things to worry about like who's checking in this afternoon, who's celebrating an anniversary this Friday and needs champagne, how to publicize that party we're having next weekend, when the wine and whiskey is being delivered...

2. I "sleep the sleep of the entrepreneur" as my friend Stephanie who co-owns Community Bookstore says. Aka, I basically black out the moment I put my head on the pillow. Poof! There goes all the worry-time.

And now I should take a moment to thank everyone who's come up to visit, who has sent friends our way, who has called and written to ask, "So how's it been?" because actually you are all a huuuuge part of why what on paper should be the craziest 6 weeks of Steven's and my lives has been so damn fun. So thank you! And come back soon, keep sending friends and family and cool co-workers, because this place is a living thing and thrives when its filled with happy heartbeats.

See you soon!

 

I Love Lamp: Home Office Re-Do

After three weeks of we-just-opened madness I finally had a moment to sneak back into my home office and assess the damage I had inflicted during the chaos of launching. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't pretty:

I mean yeah-- that's a rusty pipe sitting on my desk. Shit had gotten a little CRAZY.

On a certain level I think I was letting the room go to hell because I knew it needed a big reorganizing anyway. And in an effort live a somewhat balanced life, I was also doing my damndest to not let the business physically spill over everywhere in the house. So anything hotel-related that wound up in say, the living room, I started chucking into my office. Like literally throwing then shutting the door.

When we moved in, my home office was the first room I painted. It used to be a dark green which emphasized the low ceiling and made me feel claustrophobic.

When I was done it felt brighter and like it belonged to me so even though it was a bit sparse, I was mostly pleased.

Then I got jealous of the hotel rooms.

And by that I mean, I really wanted one of the beautiful cedar tables that Steven made for our Deluxe Kitchenette rooms for myself.

So he made me one! Which I then carelessly covered in crap as mentioned before. Shame on me.

Til this week that is, when on my very first official day off (hooray for hiring an Assistant Inn Keeper!) I did one of my favorite frivolous things in the world: organized stuff and rearranged furniture. Or as Steven calls it: playing dollhouse with the real house. Ta dah!

I'm in love! I finally like my home office as much as I like the hotel rooms and bar. And I think it was designing those other spaces that helped me solidify what I wanted out of this space: clean lines, good functionality, wild flowers on wild flowers, light.

I hung the NY Times article that Spruceton Inn was featured in behind me. (My parents had it framed and sent to me, how sweet is that??) It serves as a reminder that this whole thing went from being some hairbrained idea of mine to a reality that was covered in the likes of my favorite newspaper before we even opened. It makes me want to keep aiming higher!

I've also got my some of favorite books near at hand--

And an array of useless and useful things that crack me up like a toast rack full of stamps, a swan full of duplicate hotel keys, and a jar full of sentimental objects like my Moroccan host mom's couscous recipe and part of the cork from champagne we popped on opening day.

I'm so pleased, it makes me want to rearrange the rest of the house! Maybe on my next day off...

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

 

I Love Lamp: Aelfie

Ever heard of the Brooklyn based textile company Aelfie? No? Well I've just done you a big favor. Or your wallet a disservice, depending how you look at it. She sells both vintage and original pieces. Here are a few of her vintage rugs:

And some of her original ones:

I'll take one of each please!

And if you don't much value your own productivity, go ahead and check out her Tumblr of what inspires her.

Ugh, that bathroom! Never before have I needed so many clashing tiles in my life all at once so badly! Also, I remember that skateboard show at the Brooklyn Museum. It was a Mounir Fatmi installation about the clashing of cultures and globalization. Super simple, super cool. Man, thinking about that almost makes me miss NYC...

(What is I Love LampThis is I Love Lamp.)

Yeah, It's A Little Surreal

To be open that is. We've waited soooooo long for this! My first thought in the morning is still, "Ugh, I wonder if we'll hear about the permit today". And then I remember, "That's right we got it! We're open! AND THERE ARE STRANGERS SLEEPING JUST A FEW HUNDRED FEET FROM US." Yea, of course I was anticipating that last part, but it still kind of make me giggle.

Anyway! I want to say a huuuuuuuuuuuge thank you everyone who came out our Opening Weekend. You were all tons of fun and I want you all back ASAP!

A big thank you to my dear friends Lexie and Ryan who win the award of "First Paying Overnight Guests"! Lexie and I have know each other since kindergarten so it was definitely a sweet moment to share with her.

And an enormous thank you to my parents! They'd been planning on coming up for a visit those days anyway and when they were on their way, I got the call with the final ok to open. So it was wonderfully serendipitous to have them here for Opening Weekend!

(Dad always winds up being the photographer and therefore not photographed!)

Because they are the best parents in the world they arrived and went to straight to work. I'm not even kidding. They were literally cleaning toilets right up until we popped the bottle of champagne.

So thank you everyone who's been dropping in, having a drink or a popsicle, booking rooms. It's so fantastic that it's finally HAPPENING!