We’ve shared a few behind the scenes posts about how we take on side gigs, like this one about how our lighting collection came together, and this one and this one about our experiences with writing a book. So we thought it would be interesting to share a side gig that didn’t work out, despite putting lots of behind-the-scenes hours into it. You know we like to share the good, the bad, and the ugly – so why hide something that ended up being a big ol’ bust when we can tell you guys about it?
Without naming names, a very nice company that makes wool/cotton rugs approached us and said “Let’s do a Young House Love rug collection!” It was right about the time that we had started working on our lighting collection, so it felt like a natural extension to that project. Part of the reason we jumped at the lighting opportunity was that Shades of Light shared our vision for affordability. They liked the idea of working with us to create lights that were priced at $99 and under, which made the process more challenging (some nice-but-too-expensive designs got canned along the way) but keeping to our budget-minded roots meant that the whole project felt right for us. We were essentially designing things that we, as a customer, would buy (and did buy!).
We were also excited by the prospect of getting to design some cool yet affordable rugs made from nice natural materials (like cotton and wool, which we prefer in our own home) and the rug company was on board with that vision too. So across many months of emails, calls, and even through shipping samples back and forth, we collaborated with their designers and manufacturers to turn ideas into renderings… and eventually into real rugs! Check out how little Clara was during that initial part of the sampling process. There’s a nice arm tatt going on here, too.
We were really excited about how they were coming together. After establishing initial patterns, most of our work was in tweaking the color schemes and adjusting the scale. And the manufacturer was doing a great job of turning them into high quality, flatweave cotton rugs that we’d love to have in our own home. But the one thing that we were having trouble seeing eye-to-eye on was the price.
You know we’re always looking for a deal (some may even call us cheap… okay, we call ourselves cheap) so finding a good score on a rug is in our blood. In fact, we realized during this process that we’re not sure we’ve ever paid full price for a rug. So as the pricing on our designs started to come back significantly higher than we expected, it was like a metaphorical record scratch. If I could beatbox I’d make the noise and put it right here in the post. Oh heck, let’s just give it the ol’ college try. Yeerrrrrreeeeech. How was that?
The point is, we just kept asking ourselves how we could possibly ask people to pay a price that we wouldn’t consider ourselves. So after a couple of stressful phone calls and restless nights, we and the company came to the agreement that it wasn’t a good fit. There wasn’t much wiggle room in the prices, without compromising quality (nothing either of us wanted to do), and we just felt that it would be disingenuous to put our names on something that was outside of our own price range.
The good news is that the company was still able to move forward with producing and selling the rugs for the price they wanted, so the designs weren’t wasted (although I’m not sure if they’ve hit market yet or not). And it wasn’t a waste for us either. We learned a lot from the design process and we came out the other end with a clearer sense of the most important things for us to iron out whenever we collaborate (namely, quality and price point) – things that we’ll know to pin down a lot earlier in the process next time.
I think one obvious thing we’ve learned from this blogging journey of ours is how hard you’re driven to work when you work for yourself (the amount of effort that you put in can directly correlate with how much money you make for groceries that month) but we’ve also had to learn not to ever let the prospect of money talk louder than our gut instincts. If it feels wrong, we just have to gracefully bow out – even if it means we put in months of work and won’t make a dime if we walk away. It sure is a better option than putting our names on something that just doesn’t seem to fit (and feeling like big ol’ rug phonies).
So that’s the story of one side gig that never saw the light of day. Have you guys ever worked on something for a while and then realized it just didn’t mesh up with your initial intention of the project? How did it all go down?
The funny part about talking about our Oprah-related experience during blogiversary week is that we talked about almost appearing on Oprah’s show during our very first blogiversary week (spoiler: we got bumped last minute by Ty Pennington and some twins in need of a makeover). So it seems, now five years later, that things have come full circle. Was that an O pun I just made? Yes. Yes it was.
First of all, the exciting news. For anyone who wasn’t able to watch or stream the short film when it aired on Sunday, the kind folks at OWN have generously provided a clip for us to share here. So here it goes.
The nice thing about working with Oprah’s team is they’re really good about encouraging you to pause and think more deeply about what a home really is and what it means to the people who live there. Even watching it back, and the way they edited a day’s worth of words and footage was thoughtful. It just really cuts to the meaning of home for us. And it was a reminder that as much as we can stress over how something looks and whether a project is turning out the way we want it to, those aren’t the things that make a house a home. They’re just a fun part of the journey if you can manage to sit back and enjoy the ride. Which is definitely what we strive to do everyday. We’re not trying to pretend that we’re philosophers, but Oprah’s editors sure can make you feel all warm and fuzzy.
But wait, the most insane “is this real life?!” moment was when Oprah herself said our names in the intro, which was just before the clip above kicked in. Correct pronunciation and everything. So you know we had to tape it off of our TV, right?
Then right after it aired on Sunday, she tweeted a quote from our segment. Not only did she say our names, but she listened to us talk. #brainexplosion
So how did this all come to be? Let’s rewind over ten months ago to last November when our book tour took us to Chicago, Oprah’s hometown. Through our publisher we learned that a producer at Harpo (Oprah’s production company) was hoping to chat with us while we were in town. Um, sure! Our trip there was quick, so the meeting was very casual – as in “meet us in the lobby of our hotel a couple of hours before we have a book signing” casual.
Heather, the producer that you’ll meet here in a minute, was amazingly nice and awesomely enthusiastic about finding some way to collaborate. And when she tossed out the idea of a 3-minute short film, we thought it would be fun.
Ok, and we lost our minds a little, as evidenced by this text-fest between Sherry and Roo.
The shoot day was back in May, so we were still living in our old house. And since no behind-the-scene post is complete without a “Look, John had to put on make-up!” shot, here it is.
The day was pretty easy as shoots go. We had built up a good friendship with Heather (whom you can see standing on the far left below) so it was nice to finally have her over, along with a really nice team of talented crew-members.
The hilarious happened-within-ten-minutes-of-the-crew-arriving-story is that Sherry threw out her back for the first time ever. She was doing some last minute cleaning in the living room while they were in the dining room setting up and she leaned over the sofa to put something away and said it felt like someone pulled a piece of her spine out like Jenga. She essentially fell on her face on the sofa, couldn’t move, struggled to roll over onto her back while praying that no one would see her floundering around on the sofa, and stood up very slowly. Then she slinked into the bathroom and called the doc, who recommended a high dose of tylenol and as much lying down as possible. Thankfully the pain-killers kicked in and she somehow made it through the day… but in person she was a lot stiffer than usual. Which explains why Sherry describes the walking scenes of us as “that time she waddled like a duck on national TV.”
One of our favorite parts of the day was just watching the crew work their magic. Here’s how they got some of those pretty shots of our (very missed) frame hallway.
Clara was at school or napping for most of the shoot, but she was there for our fun little family activity of baking cookies. I love this shot because it looks like Clara’s on the set of her own cooking show.
We also took a brief visit over to the new house with everyone (our inaugural shoot in this place!) so they could capture some footage about our “next chapter” (to steal some OWN’s lingo). None of this footage made it into the final clip, which is probably good because I think we were all like “So, um, this is our new house. Please don’t look too closely yet…”
We’re incredibly grateful to Heather and the whole Harpo crew for their excitement to work with us. We’ve always been big fans of Oprah, and now we have an even greater respect for all of the people and work that stand with her. Oh, and for the record, never during this process did we meet or speak to Ms. Winfrey (as we learned she’s called around the office). But maybe in another five blogiversaries that will have changed. You never know…