Friday, April 29, 2016

One Room Challenge: We may live in a fixer-upper, but we are NOT Chip and Joanna



Bubbles, celebratory sips, and spa-like surroundings are far from my reality at the Week 4 mark of the Calling it Home “One Room Challenge. True, my 3rd floor master bath design plan does not even include a soaking tub this glorious (that will be in the renovation of our current 2nd floor bath someday) and even if it did, my enjoyment of the space would not resemble the type of pampering that is pictured above, although one can dream, right?

The illustration featured in the photo is the front of a small metal container that I used to store bath items, like loofahs and such, back when my husband and I built a new bath in our last home (we moved to our current fixer-upper in 2003). Back then it was SO much easier to accomplish our projects!


Remembering our master bath project from around 1996

We built a brand new full size bath (with a large soaking tub) after completely raising the roof of our New England Cape-style home, along with building two brand new bedrooms on either side. We did all of this while I was pregnant with our first (who is graduating high school this year). And there was no Pinterest or Houzz to help out either. HGTV was barely a network and there were not a lot of programs to follow (plus no DVR!) All we had were shelter magazines to go by or design/build books for research (remember those?) If we were looking for a new trend or idea, we had to wait a month for a new magazine to come out. Can you imagine?

Granted my husband is a contractor, and his friends are contractors. They all worked together to get our remodel done, and they had the real experience and knowledge to do so. And truth be told we had a lot more energy back then. And perhaps a bit more motivation? But even so ... how does so much time go by for us today, with all that we know between the two of us, yet with so little at-home progress to show?


A local Habitat for Humanity build that my husband
John and I participated in together back in 2012 –
he helped out with power tools, my job was marketing.

Well for starters, I do not like to do the physical work. I have met lots of women who enjoy tiling or building walls or getting drills or wet-saws as gifts. I totally admire and respect them, but unfortunately I am not one of them. I barely enjoy painting anymore (hence my unfinished home office). I am more of an idea person. But since my husband is a builder, we cannot hire another builder, just like I would never hire someone to do what I can do. Currently he is too busy to finish my project. So our master bath sits unfinished.


Sink, faucet and glass counter top installed by my husband – on time –
for the Old York Annual Decorator Show House, summer 2013


My husband has helped me out with many of my time sensitive design projects over the years. And when it comes down to it, he always delivers. But what started out as a time-to-get-this-done-for-us type of project – that seemed quite possible four weeks ago – is now looking to be not very probable with current obligations. Of course I am super disappointed, but really, it is just a bathroom. Finishing renovations is not an emergency situation. I have lived this long without it, what is another month or so? I will have to just shift design gears.



My still challenging One Room Challenge, fall 2015


Fortunately, I did have a back up plan from the beginning. My home office that I did not complete for the fall One Room Challenge will just have to move up on my priority list. My only concern is that last weekend while clearing branches and brush in our rustic backyard to make room for a new garden, I got a touch of poison something, so I am not feeling 100%. I suppose I can still do some shopping and styling, but there is still some heavy lifting and clearing of clutter – and painting – to accomplish, which really does not appeal to me feeling the way I do. But I will move forward, gingerly, but towards my goal of sharing some type of after photos for all of you ORC visitors! Please come back next week to see how it goes.

Now if only I could enlist some help ...


A photo op with Kevin O’Connor from This Old House

Check out the progress shared by the ORC sponsored bloggers here and the many guest participants here. More ORC design trends reported by House Beautiful here. 





Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Perks of Being a Brand Ambassador



Do you currently represent any brands or are you looking to establish a relationship with one? As a blogger, there are now lots of opportunities to partner with big brands who totally get how influential social sharing has become. For years bloggers would make product recommendations to their audiences just because they wanted others to know how much they loved a particular item, whether it was clothing, interior decor, beauty products, etc. Nowadays, brands realize the value of connecting with both bloggers and social media savvy individuals who have significant reach. Just by sharing their user experience, their organic influence can quickly generate genuine interest and increased sales for a product or business.

Since last July I have been partnering with Rodan + Fields, a brand available via e-commerce only that has recently been named the #1 selling premium anti-aging skincare brand in the US. Why did I choose to represent this brand? You know how sometimes you hear about an opportunity and you get goosebumps because you know it’s going to be something big? Well that’s what happened to me when I was approached by a friend who represents Rodan + Fields last summer. She came to me because she knew that my blogging background and work experience as a social media marketer would make me a perfect fit to share this premium product with an audience that values only the best. I tried the products, I loved them, and I knew I wanted to share them with others. 

Rodan + Fields was actually just featured on FORBES this week as “one of the most well respected skincare companies in the world.” You can read the full article here.







Watch this video for an overview of
these award-winning products



After watching my business with Rodan + Fields grow each and every month as a result of happy customers who are loving the products and their improved complexions, I am so glad I said yes when this opportunity presented itself to me! I have also started to train others who expressed interest in being a part of this highly respected company that knows how to support and reward the people who share the benefits of its products. I am equally excited to watch their businesses grow and their lives change as a result!




Jen Drolette, pictured above with her new pearl white Lexus,
just enjoyed a free trip to Napa Valley courtesy of R+F




Above is a photo of the team leader, Jen Drolette, that I met when I first was introduced to R+F. One year ago this week she had 13 people on her direct team. Today that number is well over 200 and she has just earned her signature pearl white Lexus from the two doctors who decided that Rodan + Fields didn’t belong on the shelves of department stores, but in the hands of Independent Consultants who could share the product benefits via word of mouth referrals using the wide reach of social networking sites to do so. How amazing is it to earn such a reward in under two years of working just part-time sharing products that she loves with others? I can tell you honestly that Jen truly didn’t even see this happening for herself, but the product results, the amazing before + afters, are what keeps customers coming back for more. Jen also has some pretty incredible power partners on her team. Many of whom have been able to make some pretty amazing changes in their lives now that their income from representing this brand is beginning to surpass the money they had been earning at their professional careers. Along with achieving this type of individual success, made possible by being a part of an amazingly supportive team, here are just some of the perks that Rodan + Fields offers to those who represent their brand as an Independent Consultant.




Who exactly is behind the incredible success of the Rodan + Fields brand? Just two of the top entrepreneurs on FORBES list of Top 50 “Successful, Self-Made Women in the US!” Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields are the Stanford-trained dermatologists who brought Proactiv to market, and they invite you to discover the difference great skincare – along with a forward thinking business model – can make in your life and the lives of others.



Now that my business with Rodan + Fields is starting to take off, I am looking for some social media savvy partners to join me on this indescribably rewarding journey of self growth on the road to financial freedom. Are you looking for something new to add to your mix of income producing efforts? I would love to talk with you if your answer is yes! Email me at yblacker@verizon.net to set up a time to chat! And if for now you are simply curious why everyone is falling in love with Rodan + Fields skincare, below are some of my top product recommendations (along with one from supermodel Veronica Webb who also chose to represent Rodan + Fields). Order before the end of April and you will receive special savings and a free gift just for giving R+F a try. You will be so glad you did!







Here are some of my favorite R+F products ...





Multi-Function Eye Cream with Eye Cloths

One of the most popular combinations in the Rodan + Fields arsenal of age-defying products is the Redefine Multi-Function Eye Cream paired with Redefine Eye Cloths. These two together pack a powerful anti-aging punch right where most of us notice the signs of aging first. Our customers love the Eye Cream so much that it has been known to sell out (can you say stock up??) One jar of the Eye Cream lasts about 4 months and the benefits are noticeable right away. The Eye Cloths are great for quickly removing light make-up while depositing hard working peptides to combat fine lines, wrinkles, and under eye puffiness. A win-win combo for sure!







This “pot of gold” as it is called, works wonders on exfoliating the skin by removing dead skin cells and improving cell turnover, skin tone and texture. Gentle enough for the face, it can also be used to smooth away rough spots on elbows, the backs of arms, and to get your feet sandal ready. One full size jar could last from the beginning of spring through the very end summer. Apply the Daily Body Moisturizer after use and you will love your super smooth results!


Mineral Peptides Powder with Retractable Brush


The only “make-up” item in our collection, is Mineral Peptides Powder (SPF 20) with Retractable Brush. This powder works great as an alternative to heavy foundation and is perfect for the upcoming summer months to add a layer of SPF to your daily skincare routine while reducing shine and evening out skin tone. Most of our customers ditch their foundation completely and switch to this product exclusively after R+F has worked its wonders on their skin. Just another reason why we love Rodan + Fields!





Night Renewing Serum + Lip Renewing Serum


A time-released Retinol formula in a single use capsule that visibly improves skin texture and firmness.

A peptide and antioxidant-rich capsule that helps lips retain natural moisturizing factors, smooths lip texture and reduces the appearance of lip wrinkles.






A Fashion Worthy Favorite

Our Essentials Foaming Sunless Tan will give you a sun-kissed glow regardless of the season. It retails for $24+ tax or just $21+ tax as a Preferred Customer.





Take my Solution Tool quiz to decide
which daily regimen is best for you.






New Customer Special!

Place your first Rodan + Fields order of $80 or more with me from now through the end of April and you will receive your choice of one of the following:

Essentials Body Sunscreen with SPF 30 (this sunscreen smells AMAZING and not like sunscreen at all!), Essentials Foaming Sunless Tan (for a sun-kissed glow without the exposure), or Essentials Daily Body Moisturizer (a rich moisturizer with a light scent that works for both women and men – one of my favorites!) Retail price for these products is $24 each.

Plus get FREE Preferred Customer status (a one-time enrollment fee of $19.95 to qualify for FREE shipping and 10% off the retail price for your first and future orders).

Just let me know which product you would like to receive for free and it will be sent to you after placing your order, along with reimbursement for the $19.95 PC enrollment fee. Email your selection and mailing address to yblacker@verizon.net.



Want to be a brand ambassador for R+F?


And for those of you who are curious about the perks of representing this amazing brand yourself, please reach out to me for more details. I would love to be able to share this opportunity with some social media rockstars who enjoy recommending truly great products – that deliver real results – that their devoted followers will love!




Note: Income results will vary.







Friday, April 22, 2016

One Room Challenge: Master Bath Details

This Robern Medicine Cabinet with pencil edge and white interior
will be recessed in the wall above our Duravit Darling Vanity


When planning a new bath, there are a LOT of details that have to be taken into consideration before the walls go up. After the rough-ins for all of the plumbing have been determined with a licensed plumber based on the specifications of the selected fixtures, the electrical is probably the most critical step in designing an efficient bathroom. Creating a lighting plan that includes switch and outlet placement is essential.

Think about how you plan to use the space. How many lights will each area require? Do you want the lights to go on automatically when you enter, then turn off after exiting? What are your electrical requirements? Will there be multiple users who will each need an outlet at the same time? How about a USB charger? Does your medicine cabinet require wiring for lights or electrical? Where do you want the fan switch to go? Is there a towel warmer that will need wiring? How about inside the shower? Will there be steam functions, media options, or special lighting to plan for? Gathering all of this information before your electrician begins the install will make for a much smoother construction phase and your end result will look intentionally designed.

Currently we are in the electrical phase of our master bath build out. I was really hoping to have plastered walls to present by this date – which is halfway through the 6 week challenge – but living with a busy contractor often means that my projects at home get delayed while my husband takes care of his paying customers. Sigh. I am still optimistic, however, that progress will be made soon, so for now I will just share some of the accessory choices that are on our install list. 




Outlets and switches will be from the Adorne Collection by LeGrand. We used these in our first floor powder room (picture below) and we really love their clean design and functionality.









The shower will have a hand-held shower sprayer from Grohe. Hand-held showers are a must in my opinion. Along with being able to direct the spray of water at various heights and pressures, they are also especially useful when it comes to rinsing the shower walls down when cleaning. And while the shower bar technically is not a grab bar, it can provide an extra bit of stability if needed. As you can see from this picture, there are many bits and pieces needed when it comes to ordering plumbing fixtures. Working with an experienced bath designer or through a showroom is the best way to make sure you have all the moving parts needed for your project. 

Two towel bars will be installed. An 18 inch polished chrome bar from the Ginger Kubic collection will be to the the left of the vanity and the 24 inch version will be on the wall outside of the shower. A matching toilet tissue holder from the collection will also be installed.


And since this bath will not have a linen closet, we will instead utilize a wall mounted hotel-style towel shelf above the toilet area. I chose to go with just a single shelf in order to keep this area looking neat and tidy. 

I can’t promise where we will be next week with our One Room Challenge progress, but I can promise to share more of what I have learned about bath design over the years. My husband and I have a new bath remodel project for a client that we hopefully will be starting soon. But I really, really hope that my bath gets done first!!! 


See how everyone else is doing with their ORC spaces by checking out these posts:





Are you participating in this challenge or following along?
I would love to hear your thoughts!




Thursday, April 14, 2016

One Room Challenge: A Modern Master Bath


ABOVE: our design plans for the new master bath

BELOW: visual reference of the master suite area:
bedroom carpet / stained oak floor in the hallway



I am SO excited to be sharing my design plans for our new and very modern master bath! With this being the second week of the One Room Challenge, set forth by Linda of the blog Calling it Home, I am feeling pretty good about where we are at this time around.

As I mentioned in my last post, we actually have all of the fixtures ready to be installed. This is very important when it comes to planning the install of a new bath project on a relatively short time line. Some plumbing fixtures can take months to receive after ordering them. This is what happened with my vanity which was a custom order of an import item. But fortunately, I ordered the entire room full of fixtures YEARS ago. Yup, they have been sitting in our house just waiting to be installed into a bathroom that was not built yet. I bought them when I worked full time for a bath showroom (yes, I saved some $$$!) after budgeting for them for some time.

After receiving them all, we were still in the planning stages of our new master bath. And then life just took us in some other directions for awhile (I mentioned we have four kids?)

I am a very patient person, but I admit it was wearing on me that we hadn’t gotten around to finishing what we started, even if we had accomplished other renovation related goals in the interim. Being ready to move forward at this point is a true blessing and I am super grateful that we can do so!

So the question is, are my selections from years ago still on trend for today?

As the marketing director for the showroom at the time, I was well versed in the latest trends in bath design from around the globe. We often advertised styles that were outside of the mainly traditional New England comfort zone.

With all the beautiful lifestyle shots of clean, sleek baths that came across my desk, I quickly fell in love with fixtures that had a minimalist look influenced by modern design. In a suburban farmhouse like ours, these streamlined pieces will provide a fresh look that I anticipate will age gracefully. And for a third floor private bath, we really can depart from what one might expect to see from the more public spaces in our home. Our recent first floor powder room is traditional in many ways, but there is definitely a touch of modern to keep it interesting. Guess that’s just how we roll around here! 

Below is what you will see installed in our house by the end of the One Room Challenge ...





Duravit Darling wall mount vanity with 3 hole tap ceramic sink top


Hansgrohe Metris S wide spread lavatory faucet in chrome





Norwell Sobe wall sconces in chrome with frosted glass





Toto Carlyle II high efficiency toilet





Grohe Tempesta Cosmopolitan chrome shower head





Jerusalem Heights Chevron Thassos + Crema Marfil tile



The newest addition to our design plan has been the tile selections. Years ago we never made an actual decision on what to install. Last week I went to a local tile resource known for their great prices. I easily found what I was looking for there, including this gorgeous chevron pattern that will be installed in our shower area. Next week I will share more about these selections, along with some bathroom accessories that will be included in the space. And hopefully I will be showing you the newly plastered walls!

In the meantime, be sure to follow the other One Room Challenge guest participants here and the 20 featured participants here. And how nice is it that House Beautiful is also part of the fun? Check in with them here.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

The One Room Challenge Take 2!



Once again it’s time for the “One Room Challenge sponsored by Linda at Calling it Home! This fall, I linked up to this online design challenge and attempted to clear the clutter that had been accumulating in my home office over about 5 years of my stay-at-home to full-time employment back to work-for-myself transition period. I got about 50% done going through all the boxes, files, creative bits and pieces. Going through years worth of paperwork and saved items is NOT a fun process. And even if the expected result is a feeling of joy once the unneeded objects are removed, it really does take a continuous and conscious effort to get to the finish line (and is there ever really an end to daily clutter?) I admitted that I did not complete my self assigned project on my final ORC blog post, and promised to continue the story. So for this fresh start spring challenge, I will be picking up where I left off in my home office and just to keep it real will also be starting a BRAND NEW design-build project ... our 3rd floor master bath!








We actually started the renovation of our 3rd floor attic back in 2009 (seriously, where does the time go???) We managed to completely finish the relocation of our master bedroom from the second floor to the third (we decided to give up our original room to our growing boys) by building a brand new space where there was once just an uninsulated storage area without even a real set of stairs for access. We left room to the left of our bedroom for a master bath as well as a walk-in closet. See where that black stack pole is above? That is where the master bath is going. Below is a picture of how the framed space looks today. As you can see, there is a lot of work to do! The plumbing is roughed in already thanks to my darling husband and we actually have ALL the fixtures needed for the room ready to be installed. I will tell you more about what I selected and how I got them in my next post ...

I am so excited to share the progress of this project and of course am looking forward to the day when I no longer have to share a bathroom with ALL the guys!







Friday, March 25, 2016

Glamorous Event Graphics: Glitterati

Glitterati at Gaslight in Lynnfield
photo credit: Glitterati


One of my favorite design clients lately is actually a boutique dress shop located on Boston’s North Shore. Glitterati Prom + Pageant Superstore is New Englands largest prom dress superstore. They have over 13,000 dresses in stock with new styles coming in all the time! Walk into this Danvers shop and you may be a bit overwhelmed with all of the sparkly and beautiful gowns to choose from, but rest assured that the team at Glitterati is going to help you (or your daughter, or friend) find the ONE. They are all super knowledgeable when it comes to finding and choosing the perfect dress for a prom, pageant or special occasion. They even go so far as registering each dress so that two girls do not show up wearing the same style to the same event (this happened to me once, but it was three of us!!!) For the past several months I have been working with Glitterati on store signage and other visual communications. This is a very BUSY boutique, and their goal is always to make the shopping experience as smooth as possible for their on-a-mission customers, while creating brand awareness both in-store and via social media. Follow them on facebook and Instagram and you will see what’s new at Glitterati.




Earlier this month, the Glitterati girls had two separate events to attend themselves. One was the DECA Conference in Boston, and the second was a Beauty Brunch at Gaslight at Market Street in Lynnfield featuring E! News anchor Maria Menounos who was promoting her new cookbook “The EveryGirl’s Guide to Cooking.” Below are some of the event marketing materials that I designed for Glitterati to display at both shows. And if you watch the video above, you will see some of my work displayed as the interview backdrop : )






Travel ready folding table-top display
featuring Jovani Prom 2016 





Takeaway postcard featuring
JVN by Jovani Prom 2016





“Follow Us branded social media signs
with hashtags in cool acrylic frames






#GlitteratiStyle thin pink bracelets
are dished out at the candy buffet
photo credit: Dirty Water Media





Travel size pop up step and repeat banner
with Glitterati logo and website info creates an
instant backdrop for social media photos
photo credit: Glitterati





New England Patriots Cheerleaders
modeling Glitterati gowns at Gaslight
photo credit: Dirty Water Media



If you were heading to #Prom2016, what would YOU choose to wear??? Check out the current styles online via the Glitterati website or visit the store to see all the gorgeousness in real life.   


Glitterati Prom + Pageant Superstore
30 Maple Street / Danvers MA