Boxwood Avenue

9 Investments I made in 2017 that Helped my Blog Grow

livingChloe | Boxwood Ave.2 Comments

I thought I wrote a post like this last year, but it turns out, it was two years ago that I last shared the best investments I made in my blog and business. I know many of you are not bloggers, but those of you that are may find this post helpful. I am a firm believer that we are all in this together, and I hope that you might learn a thing or two from my journey, and that I might learn a thing or two from yours.

Ironstone Collection in beautiful French Cabinet

9 INVESTMENTS I MADE IN 2017 THAT HELPED MY BLOG GROW


All of Brene Brown's Books 

2017 was a year of growth not only for my business, but also for my faith and spirit. I spent countless hours listening to books on tape as I drove back and forth to Reno and Sonoma. I will forever be a fan of Brene Brown, and although her books aren't focused on business, I believe that a healthier you will result in a healthier work life. If I only had $50 to invest in myself or my business this year, it'd be in Brene Brown's books - audio preferably (The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and The Power of Vulnerability are my favorites). I also loved Oprah's new book The Wisdom of Sundays. On deck? The Untethered Soul

A Full Frame Camera 

Many people inquire as to what camera I use. I use a Nikon D750. I can't remember if I got it this year, or last year, but it has definitely changed the way I approach photography. I started off with a crop frame camera, which was a great teacher to me. As I learned more and more about photography, I realized that to really improve, I would need a full frame camera. You might be wondering what the difference is? 

A crop frame camera, or a crop sensor, captures a cropped image (meaning, only part of the image). While a full frame camera captures the entire image. Since the sensor is the most expensive part of a camera, full frame cameras are more expensive; however, they are worth the additional investment. A full frame camera will capture the entire image you see - giving you maximum area whereas a crop frame camera cannot capture the full image because the sensor is smaller. 

For reference: a 35 mm lens on a cropped frame camera will capture about the same area as a 50 mm lens will on a full frame camera. 

A Better Tri-Pod 

While attending The Academy in France, I learned just how important a really good tripod is for capturing beautiful imagery. If you are a blog or business that primarily centers around interiors, food, or still life, a quality tripod will serve you well. The difference between photos taken with a tripod and without a tripod is astonishing.

without tripod (left), with tripod (right) - notice how crisp and clear the right photo is? 

 

Photography Accessories: Light Boxes, Reflector, Tri-Pod

I mentioned this in my 2015 post, but I thought it was worth saying again. I love my light boxes, light reflectors, and wireless shutter release to help assist me when photographing interiors and still life. Although I will say that I am much less reliant on my light boxes now that I am comfortable with my tripod. I find that slowing down my shutter speed while using a tripod produces better photos than a faster shutter speed with faux light. 

Attending a Conference or Workshop 

I loved my time in France with Heather Bullard, and I always love my time in Sonoma at Oh So Inspired. I don't think a conference makes or breaks your year, and honestly, it's not the learning that I find so valuable, it's the networking. I loved connecting with others that are interested in similar things that I am interested in. Search for conferences in your area or start attending a Tuesdays Together in your community! 

Hiring Help 

This year I was fortunate enough to find someone amazing to help assist me with everything behind the scenes. From photographing, bookkeeping, prepping...she does it all. It is not easy to find someone that you can trust, or that has the right aesthetic for your business. However, if you are able to find someone that fits into your little corner of the world, they are worth their weight in gold. Even though it is an expense to have help, think of all of the additional things you can accomplish. For example, Lori helps me create affiliate round up posts which generally generate income. So even though I am paying her to help me, the work she is doing has a direct return. 

JAXXY 

I have paid for JAXXY for two years now, and I have become very reliant on it when generating blog posts with specific keywords. I am not sure if I have made money back from the expense, but it has definitely helped me improve upon SEO on my site. It is so simple for me to check keywords with Jaxxy, and it is so simple to understand. Perhaps there's a cheaper or better option out there, but for the ease of use, I happily pay for the service each year.  Here is a good video showing how to use Jaxxy if you are interested. 

Squarespace Commerce 

If you have a commerce SS website, I recommend upgrading to the commerce plan on Squarespace. I like this feature because it allows for you to contact many abandoned checkout customers to recover sales. I recovered more than enough sales with this feature to cover the cost of the plan, and then some. I also enjoy the additional analytics it offers! 

Professional Email Template & Convertkit 

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to gather a really wonderful group of subscribers. However it wasn't until this year that I decided to start contacting them. I had read time and time again about how important email subscribers are, so I kept a file of them, but I hadn't ever been diligent about sending out emails. I haven't had a return on this investment yet - but I made the jump from MailChimp to Convertkit, and asked Magnolia House Creative to design a beautiful email template for me (which far exceeded my expectations!). I am ready to tackle this goal in 2018 as I move more towards commerce. Convert kit is about the same cost as MailChimp but focuses more on segmenting subscribers so that you know exactly who your all-star customers or readers are. 

I hope that some of these ideas might help you grow your blog and business this year! I would love to know some of your favorite apps or websites that you rely on to keep you organized and productive during the work day. Staying productive and free of distraction is my biggest weakness, I need all the tips


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Laundry Room Renovation | Week One

interiorsChloe | Boxwood Ave.2 Comments

I enjoyed sharing the process of our dining room during the One Room Challenge this fall so much that I thought I'd share a similar series as we renovate our laundry room. It's always fun to see a space from start to finish, and I love being able to share my ideas with you! 

We didn't have plans to remodel our laundry room, but my friends at The Home Depot approached me about working together on a "clean sweep" campaign for spring. How could I say no? 

So here we go...less than 30 days to remodel a laundry room. I was lucky to find an awesome contractor available to help us from demo to finish. We also have a really great tile guy who will be helping us with the backsplash and flooring. 

Our home was built in the 60s and when we moved in, it hadn't been touched. The linoleum, pink bathrooms, and wood paneling was all original. While some love mid-century modern, I do not. Over the past year, we have remodeled our kitchen, dining room, entryway, and guest bathroom. It's nice to have those big projects wrapped up so that I can focus on smaller projects entirely. 

I have worked with Home Depot quite a bit in the past, and I really love any opportunity I get to partner with them. They always allow creative freedom which is really nice because I know I won't have to compromise my designs. So needless to say, I'm very excited about this project...

 

farmhouse laundry room DEsign plan


Farmhouse Laundry Room Design Plan from boxwoodavenue.com
 

So let me tell you about our laundry room... 

It is really, quite large. It has a beautiful window that looks out over the apple trees. It has loads of storage and cabinets, and even has a "drip dry closet". I have always envisioned a door where the window is because it leads right out to the apple trees. I spend so much time outside under the trees, and out with the goats, that a door here makes much more sense than a window. 

I also knew I wanted to remove the drip dry closet, while it's definitely unique, it's similar to the indoor BBQ...not functional any longer. Aside from those two structural elements, the rest of this room will all be cosmetic updates: adding crown molding, new flooring, base boards, cabinets, countertops, and backsplash. 

Once the room is finished, I hope to have an area where I can not only do the laundry, but also wash fruits and veggies from the garden as well as prep flowers. 

Home Depot has so kindly provided me with cabinets, countertops, Kohler products (sinkfaucet), hardware, a washer and dryer, and a new vacuum. I am feeling incredibly grateful. Our current washer and dryer is hanging on by a thread. The washing machine sounds like a rocket ship, whenever someone comes over while it is running they ask, "What in the world is that noise?"

The lid is also broken - even after replacing it, it does not stay open, so I prop it up each time I do the wash, plus the lid-lock latch completely broke off, so we have to jam a little piece of plastic in each load to trick the washer into thinking the lid is locked. Even with all of that said, I am very grateful to have a laundry room, and a washer and dryer at all, but I am so excited to have a brand new washing machine that works! 


before photos


While designing this space, I wanted to push myself a little bit out of my normal "white" comfort zone. Rather than selecting white shaker cabinets, I chose a beautiful gray, and to keep the cool tones present throughout the room, I'll be using aged nickel hardware and black and white accents. 

I visited the Home Depot the last time I went to Reno to select a countertop. I had heard all about Quartz countertops, but I have yet to use them in our home. After doing a little bit of research, it seems that Silestone Quartz is a designer favorite. I have selected the Statuario color because it is a nice bright white color with minimal veins - I wanted to keep the color as light as possible since we will be installing in black slate tile

Speaking of, it was a tough decision as to what I should install for flooring. I like a nice bright space, but the classic style of slate really sucked me in. I think it will tie the white counters and gray cabinets together really well. Once I decided on slate, I then couldn't decide if I should opt for herringbone flooring or a more traditional stacked pattern. Ultimately, I chose the traditional route. While I love herringbone, it didn't feel right for this room which I want to look very minimal and clean. 

It seems that I have something against upper cabinets because once again, I have decided to skip them. The laundry room is 130 SF, so we will have sufficient storage without the upper cabinets. However, I wanted to keep the room interesting, so we will be installing vertical paneling on the walls as well as a counter to ceiling backsplash on the main wall. To say I am excited about the backsplash is an understatement. I splurged on Clé tile, and I cannot wait to have those little terra-cotta beauties in my hands! I selected the color "rice paper" because I loved the gray and green undertones (I did not care for the subtle pinks of their "weathered white").

Finally the light fixtures...I learned my lesson during the one room challenge to check, double check, and then triple check the sizing. Photos online can be deceiving! I am so glad I did because the lighting I initially wanted would have been much too large for the wall. We spent a good hour mulling over placement and style, and in the end I selected these classic farmhouse style sconces from RH to be placed above an open shelf on the main wall. 

That sums it up for week one...we have finished demo, and now our contractor is wrapping up plumbing and electrical! Next week we will begin to put it all together, and we are hoping to have everything wrapped up by the first week of February. I hope you enjoy following along as this room comes to life. Thanks so much for taking the time to visit me today, I hope you have a wonderful weekend! 


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