Thursday, March 26, 2015

 in the middle

First off, sorry I haven't posted in a few months. I am in the middle of something- actually I am in the middle of everything, and it is good. 

For those of you who have asked about the home reno we are doing, we are still in the middle of getting bids on various projects. Bids take longer than I thought. Spring is here though and we hope to get my house painted and fence fixed soon! Then I can focus more on the inside. I am "in the middle" of a million projects in my own home - that don't ever get done. I am the dingy that thought it would be fun 7 years ago to live in a 100 year old house, and it takes time to get things the way I want them {and budget and time constraints don't help}.

I am in the middle with my kids. I know that sounds weird. I will have them forever - but they are 10 and 12 and in less then 8 years they will be out of the house {or not :)}. It was something we considered when we refinanced this year. Camden will go to college in six years, ah! How could we be empty nesters that soon?! Day to day, juggling running a store- there are times I miss the simplicity when my kids were really little and home with me. My memory might be foggy but I think my house was much more organized and cute when I had only them to focus on. This last few years has thrown me a bit. I have learned a lot, a lot of lessons to share with my kids. I need to spend time in the middle with them. They are the most important thing to me right now.

I am also in the middle of my business. I have been doing it long enough to have a good idea of my brand, how to paint, buy, merchandise, and how to do the not so fun things like pay taxes. But I am still "in the middle" of figuring out how I even got here. I honestly think about that everyday. I have regrets, things I wish didn't happen or were different. Maybe different paths I took, or not. I don't know. I do know that I have always worked very hard. I don't take anything for granted. And being in the middle means I have figured out who I work well with. There is a calm and lightness about this MCC store. There is respect and inspiration happening within the walls of the store. To me that means so much, and I know for certain the the next half of my business will be run this way.

I am in the middle of my life. I still feel 20 but I am 39. I am still the same goofy person, I have built up some walls, I still take chances and let the walls down, I still handle things all wrong, I still cry, I still laugh, I still learn, and I still thrive.

Maybe being in the middle is were the good stuff happens. Maybe being in the middle is where we relax into ourselves. All I know is I am in it and I am finding myself. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

my house mondays
Ok I know it isn't Monday but I wanted to share something with you I am going to attempt to do in 2015. I want to do Monday blog posts on what I am doing in my own house. It will not only give me content to share with you but keep me motivated to keep up with house projects. I have been so focused on the store that I have let a ton of projects go around my own house and I need a shove to get them done.
We just closed on a home refinance this morning and I am SO excited to get some much needed work done on my 1910 Victorian Farmhouse.
{my house}
We have lived there for 7 years. We rented the first two, then purchased it 5 years ago. We initially only had enough money to redo the kitchen. We also purchased all new appliances for the house and carpeted the upstairs. The carpet was a big mistake. For the amount of money we spent on carpet, we could have done hardwoods. The carpet is now stained, torn up by my cat, and doing that ripple thing that is horrible. We are going to get hardwoods upstairs that match what was originally there and get area rugs to muffle the sound and soften the spaces. I can always replace the rugs if they start looking bad.
We are also going to paint the exterior. My two choices were all white or a deep charcoal with white trim. Saint vetoed the white so charcoal it will be.

{all pictures taken from my Pinterest page}
We also really need a new fence. It is going to fall down any day and we had it painted white but the guy walked off the job day three so it has been halfway done for what seems like forever. It drives me crazy! I paint furniture for a living but painting a fence does not sound like fun to me plus I do not have the time.
{photo taken from my Pinterest page}
The bathroom will also get some new paint and tile. I want to go back to what would have originally been there.

{Photos taken from my Pinterest page}
I also want to go room by room and swap out furniture. Sometimes my house gets the store rejects and sometimes it gets the really amazing pieces that I find and never bring to the store. I would love to only have amazing pieces.
My house needs a lot of work and I am SO excited to really bring it back to what it should be.
And I think I will share with you each project. Yay!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

fuse blown
Today we have very romantic lighting in the store because of a blown fuse that sparked and it scared the dickens out of me {yes I said dickens, my grandma Shaffer would be proud}.  What a weird morning! I got the kids off to school, loaded up the car with a dresser that I was bringing in. I got it here, my husband was here to watch the store for me so I could go pick up some furniture pieces I bought. As I turned on the lights, sparks flew! Thank goodness we were both standing right under it so I could run in back and switch it off, very scary. There are many times that I come in early, turn on lights then run out for coffee. I am so glad someone was looking out for this shop today and nothing bad happened. Anyway, the lamp light goes well with the holiday music and the rain outside my window.
It is kind of how my whole week has been going. I kind of blew a fuse of my own. I think the holidays might do that too. Everyone is so busy and we all get a bit frazzled now and then this time of year. I encountered some unkindness towards me this week and it really got me down. Does that happen to you? It kept sticking in my head and put a sadness in my heart. As I was laying next to my son one night trying to get him to fall asleep, I was playing on my phone to keep me from falling asleep and this popped up.
It is a quote I shared on my MCC Facebook in July and someone had just shared it, so it notified me.
It was the perfect timing for me to see it. Isn't that weird when that happens?
Anyway, I am hoping I have no more blown fuses this week! Especially tomorrow. All the shop painters will be here for a gift exchange and I miss them. It isn't often that we are all together and there is a sort of magic when we are all here together. Lots of laughter and lots of good energy. And you can't blow a fuse with laughter.
XOXO -Alison 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

year 4

Ok my friends, I am going to sort of wing this post. I don't really have an outline of what I want to talk about but I can share with you how much my year changed me and what I look forward to next year.
I am going into year 4 retail. Let me tell you that I think I know everything and nothing about retail by now.
If you would have told me last year at this time I would own my own store again, I would have thought you were crazy.
I started off on my own three years ago, then shared a store as a co-op space with other businesses and now back to my own store. While sharing a space I learned how to manage time, basic business day to day stuff, and handling customers. In retail you get all sorts. I have learned to have a thick skin and that it is ok to stand up for myself, how I run the store and not feel bad about it.
 I would say that having my own store is way-way different than sharing a space.
And different it a good way. I now able to bring in a ton of product lines. This store has 1000 times {well that might be an exaggeration} more home décor items than the old space. I have the freedom to merchandise the whole store, which I love even more than painting.
I think I learned to relax and go with the flow a bit. Things will always get done because I am a doer.
 But I don't have to get things done right this second.
I love surrounding myself with really successful and talented people. I think by doing so I only make myself a better painter. We can stretch and grow together. I love that.
Someone asked me yesterday how I got here and I told her. I paint almost everyday, buy almost everyday, say no almost everyday, say yes almost everyday,  plan almost every day, pray almost everyday, and dream almost everyday. I work really hard at it and I know my limitations.
I have a five year plan to own a second store called Modern Cottage Kids. I think I can do it.
I can't wait to write next years YEAR 5!  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

c o m m e r c i a l

My husband did a commercial for the store for me! Isn't that sweet! He is such a pro.
I wanted to link it to the blog for you!

I know my last post was about really what is the Modern Cottage Company.
Since I was going to post the commercial, I figured I would go a little more into detail about the store and how I got here.

I should first of say I never intended to have a store. I was a blogger and painter. People started to notice my work and I started to get custom requests. This really grew my business. I had cash from custom jobs that I put right into merchandise for my flea market type shows and I sold right out of my home studio. I would sell at the shows and buy even more merchandise to sell at home. Three years later it is pretty much still how I operate. I have very little debt in my business. In fact, the banker that is working with me on a new point of sale system for the store, was shocked when I told him how little debt I have in it. I make money I plug it right back into the store. And sometimes take some home. After all I work 60 hours a week I should get a little something. 

I am a bit of a firecracker. I work really hard and almost every day of the week.  And I have done so for four years.  I don't remember a week in the last four years that I haven't painted something or ten things.  But I love it.

I was offered a storefront several years ago for six months from a program SpaceWorks Tacoma.  I had applied over a year before that and I had forgotten about it. I was so surprised and I said YES! And then I spent two months finding and painting for this little storefront. I decided to call my first store The Modern Cottage Vintage Market and I had at least six others with me. After the six months were up, I was digging the retail thing and a few of us decided to open a cooperative store called Poppy and Company. Poppy for the happy colors of our furnishings and Company because it was a store with more than one business or brand running it. I always felt Poppy was the house that MCC lived in. After all, Poppy was a shell that the cooperative owners had their businesses. We kept our brands and finances each totally separate under this house. I kept building my business over the years. MCC was always mine.
That being said, I didn't really entertain the idea of owning a store called the Modern Cottage Company again. Until this particular storefront became available. And I just knew it was right for my family. Saint and my kids were the number one reason I decided to take the new store and run it all by myself. It was also the right time I think for me. I had a few years under my belt, a really great group of consigners that were with MCC at Poppy. I was still growing. It was time for me to do it on my own. I didn't realize it until I had my own store that it was a bit of a relief to concentrate totally on MCC instead of constantly promoting both Poppy and MCC at the same time. But if we are really looking at it in terms of a job- Poppy was a cooperative, a name on a storefront. No one actually owned it.  MCC was me. I named it, no one gave it to me, I built it, I didn't buy, I grew it, I didn't inherit it. And if I am being totally honest, I am really proud of myself and MCC. Anyway, I get the question a lot of what MCC is and what Poppy is so I figured I would answer it here!

This new store was a delightful surprise built on 4 years of hard work.  An even bigger surprise is how much I am enjoying this phase. As a merchandiser, designer and painter to have total control of a space is just a dream. And the team with me here feels a bit serendipitous as well. It's a happy crew in a happy store. I literally feel like I won the lottery. Even with an enormous amount of responsibility and pressure that I have with this store, it doesn't feel like work. 

So I am hoping this happy phase stays around for a while, I am really enjoying it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

w h a t   i s   t h e   m o d e r n    c o t t a g e ?

This is the question of the week here at MCC store. I don't normally get asked that question but it came up this week more times than I can count.
The Modern Cottage Company store is an antique painted and unpainted furniture store. I always want it to be that first. We also have new and vintage home décor and gift items for you home. I try not to make grand statements because life happens and opportunities come up, but for now you will not find paint here, jewelry or anything that doesn't reflect something beautiful for your home.
This is not my mission statement, is it what is is. It could change, I like a bit of fluidity with my business but for the most part the way I have run MCC has not changed in years.
The second question of the week that ties along with the first question is "Do you do all of this yourself?".  Obviously the answer to that is no. But I like to think of the store as an extension of my paint studio. I am first and foremost a furniture painter. I have been for 20 years and hope it is always a part of me. It feels like one of my children to me. The Modern Cottage Company is the name of the store and people know me as a painter so you better believe I have my own pieces in the store. Looking at it as an extension of my studio means I am almost always the one that runs the store. I want to be here. I built this company literally with a paint brush in my hand. I buy some products to fill the store but mostly the artists here create them or found them.
I am also a retail merchandiser and photo stylist. I might even enjoy that part more than painting. I love love love merchandising. I had a gentleman from a magazine come into the store this week and told me it was perfectly curated. I just about died when he said that. That is probably the biggest compliment I have ever had in the years I have been doing this.
The third question I get asked is  "If you paint furniture why are there different tags on pieces?". Simple answer. I did not paint or create that piece.  I fully believe in giving the artists here total credit for their work. If I was a consigner in a store I would want my tags on the piece. I approach this store as an artist myself. It does not hurt my business to have their tags on pieces. I am fully supportive of their brands and love sharing in the joy of them building their own brands. It takes nothing away from me. It actually motivates me to care about my work as much as they do. We have a small group here and it is built as much on admiration of each others work as trust.
The last question I get the most is "Where do you find your pieces?". I am not going to answer that one :) It is by far the hardest part of my job. The basic answer to that is I have been doing this a long enough time I have sources. I am picky with my pieces and sometimes I spend a lot of money on them. I like them to be from a certain era and be high quality pieces of furniture.
The Modern Cottage Company might an extension of mine and the other artists here studios but I want you to feel like you can come here to be inspired to create your own beautiful space. I can't tell you how many times a day I get someone that comes here to either show me a piece they worked on themselves but also to ask my advice because they are either about to start a project or got stuck in the middle of one. I love helping. I enjoy the family of customers we have here. Yesterday I had a day here when customer after customer was someone that I knew and built a trusting friendship with.
I left the store late last night with a full heart.
That is what the Modern Cottage Company is to me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

a little background on me and why I paint
I started painting, creating, crafting when I was a teenager. I was a teen 20 years ago- I have been doing this a bit. I wasn't always good at it but it was something I always loved to do. I still go to the same thrift store for treasures now that I went to as a teen.
My senior year of college I "lived out", meaning I was not living in the sorority anymore and officially in my own shared place.
I painted everything in that room blue and yellow. It was probably the last time I ever painted those colors together but I did. I painted everything down to the wall sconces. This was 1997, yes, I have been doing this a long time.
I still painted the few years after I graduated college. Little things here and there. It wasn't until I had my first home with my husband that I really got back to the hunt and paint.
I bought myself a jelly cupboard as a wedding present. I really wanted it so I called it a wedding present to myself. I still have it! It is in my son Cooper's room. It has been so many different colors over the last 13 years.
When I got pregnant with my daughter I decided to stay home from work to be with her. I loved the idea of staying home with her. I also loved the idea of having a cute home, but we had no money. This is when I really started thrifting and painting. And I started to get really good at it.
Fast forward another say...8-10 years? I was still thrifiting and painting. And I had another baby!  That baby was a boy.
All kinds of life circumstances lead me to start the Modern Cottage Company blog 4 years ago but looking back on it, it was for my kids.
This blog led me to opening a store and two and a half years later opening a store all on my own.
The store lets me be creative and help provide for my family, but mostly it works for my family.
Yesterday my husband told our nine year old son about his autism. Something we have know about for a long while now but not actually told him. It was a hard conversation and we were waiting for the right time. Everyone has told us we would know the time.

 So you see, I think I paint for him. It is also why my schedule is sometimes interrupted at the store.
I paint for you, me, my son, my family, for fun, for therapy, for beauty.
I am so glad that I have that outlet, so thankful.
I feel very lucky.