End of the Year & End of an Era at HGTV.com

Long before blogging, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest took over the Internet as a source for home enthusiasts to share "How To" home improvement projects, makeover photos, and decorating tips, there was a TV network who reached out to its community for engagement with a website called Rate My Space. Some may laugh at RMS, some took it as a competitive platform, some used it for inspiration, and some used it for help with their own design dilemmas. You could say HGTV pioneered the interior design and decorating social sharing we know today, from interior photography to vignette + tablescape styling to writing those How To posts we read on blogs, plus online magazines. And as of today, December 31, 2014 - the site Rate My Space will no longer exist - which is hard to believe it would cease to exist when it started back in 2007. 

 NYE Tablescape shared & featured at HGTV and on my blog - read here.

I can still remember seeing the commercial on TV (I think during Design Star or Devine Design with Candice Olsen) asking people to "Share their photos" and thinking - Hey - I could do that - I can share what I've done here (which was, at the time, our townhouse we bought in October 2006 in  Florida). The first share was an epic fail - filled with so much criticism, I deleted the photo. The photo was of our bedroom, and I hadn't yet decided whether to lean wall art on the night stands or hang above. Afterwards, I decided to go with above arrangement, retake the photos, and repost the room, which this time was a hit - no mean comments (yes, negative commenting was rooted back in '07!). 

 From RMS photo share to
 The show aired 2008-2009-2010-2011 on HGTV.

From that point on, I had begun my own personal online sharing -- and -- engaging with other people who were posting and leaving comments. That was back in 2007, and I continued sharing up until 2013 (wow!! SIX years of photo sharing). Within those six years, I became friends with many of the people who were commenting - some are still friends today, from sending Christmas cards (Linda), to our Facebook connections (Patrick), and even meeting in real life Rate My Space commenters and contributors such as the Visual Vamp, Valorie in Miami and Janelle in Phoenix. Ironically, Janelle and I decided to meet for lunch back in 2012 (after we had connected on Facebook). I had a rough time getting settled in Phoenix, but meeting Janelle for lunch those three years was probably one of the highlights! We even drank our first Mint Julep together at lunch during the Kentucky Derby weekend this past Spring - and I bring this up because it all goes back to having formed the connections back on Rate My Space.

Our second Thanksgiving in our FL townhome - 2007

Sharing on Rate My Space helped me develop my ever changing seasonal style - but one thing didn't change: keeping my concept of repurposing, and using what you already have in new ways, with refreshed colors - even if shifting from room to room - to restyle, refresh, renew a home's space - without breaking the bank. The photo sharing, along with detailed room descriptions evolved into blogging - which Valorie had already tapped into, and who was a huge encouragement to me when I first started blogging back in late 2009. The two key points I learned from her were. 1. It will take a while to find your voice, but 2. Don't stop blogging.

Fast forward to today, and thanks to sites like Houzz and Pinterest, interior decor photo sharing has exploded on the Internet, and has changed not only magazine publications, but also site designs them-self - which is why I'm sure HGTV let go of some of their start-up photo sharing platforms.

Thankfully though, many of the photos and posts I had shared as NYCLQ on Rate My Space were featured in many of the HGTV specialty posts - although I don't think the RMS show or podcast (one of the first video bloggers aka vloggers, Angelo Surmelis) is available.  I have a link list (in my features tab above) but some of the most viewer favorites were the first bedroom I posted called Sweet Retreat, the yellow black and white living room called "Cash Cab" (I still get people complimenting me on that - Thank you!!), my Thanksgiving tablescape in brown & white, "JOY" mirror project from a Christmas Bedroom, New Years Eve tablescape called "No Reservations Required" and a few others...


The Internet has evolved, especially the way we get inspiration for interior design, holiday decorating and entertaining. And so to have the style and decor tastes of homeowners, dorm dwellers and even renters! I feel blessed and I'm grateful to have been a part of this design industry game changer - because not only did photo sharing on RMS grow, so too did the diy industry and building an online presence. Yes - there are still plenty of home improvement projects that should be left in the hands of a professional - even licensed professional, but there is a certain pride in ownership when one can share what and how they made an improvement or turned a house into a home, over time, on their own.

Although the first RMS posts I shared have already being deleted from the site in the past two years, some of the newer ones had remained...

So thank you HGTV! Thank you for having the foresight to see so far into the future and pioneer the online diy decor social experience - and also for having us create one of the first online "User Profile", where I so proudly came up with my NYCLQ user name, and I had my license plate personalized with it too! lol But mostly thank you for giving creative minds a place to mix and mingle, without worrying about watermarks and branding and making a photo pinworthy as we need to be today.

Thank you to the staff contributors who shared my content such as Kayla Kitts and Camille Smith, and thank you to those who commented, saved, or shared one of my posts! Thank you for the opportunity to have had the chance to inspire you to make your home your haven - and all with a little shift and shopping thrift! A special thank you also for having had the opportunity to meet so many good people (you know who you are!!)

While this may not be an end of the year recap of 2014, it is still a time of reflection (we all started somewhere!) and a time to show gratitude. My personal Rewind 2014 will be coming up next - In the meantime, head over to HGTV and check out their new site design at HGTV.com
 Good-bye Rate My Space - and thanks for keeping it real!

Thanks for stopping by!
Have a Happy and Safe New Years Eve!

Cross-Country Relocation Recap - Settling In & Sneak Peeks

It's been a grueling and hectic past few weeks - but we finally moved out of Arizona and back east! This time, we're living in a house we bought North Carolina! Being built in 2006, it's not an historic house, but it still needs a few tweaks and updates, we're planning to do over time. Since we moved in just before Thanksgiving (literally - just a few days before!!) the main objective has been to just get the place cleaned, get the common areas painted, and get somewhat organized, to still be able to enjoy a little bit of the Christmas holiday season...

 Harmon House Christmas 2014

To say it's been grueling or exhausting these past few weeks is really an understatement - just before we found out we were going to move, I had just given the AZ house a Fall cleaning and closet purge (in September) ... which did help somewhat when it came time to organize, pack and move in October. Although my husband's company had professional packers come pack up the house (in 2-3 days), I still spent some time grouping like things together, so it would make unpacking a little easier - well easier in theory. 

The unpacking process though happened on the SAME DAY the truck arrived and was unloaded. I do NOT recommend this be the process for anyone moving across the country. All of the time and effort that went into getting and keeping the home items organized, got shot to  hell within the last two hours - even though I had asked the movers to stop - they kept right on unpacking. And because of this, not only did things have to be moved 2-3 times, but some items were even thrown away (for example the lids to porcelain Chinoiserie jars) and one packed cabinet (coffee mugs) ended up in about five different places between the kitchen and the living room. I was upstairs unpacking wardrobe boxes into the closet, and after a long day, walked into this...

 I put on my "It's gotta get cleaned up NOW" - hat day after movers left.

Be that as it may, I forged on. Thankfully, the relocation specialist assigned to our move apologized for the chaos and did send another two unpackers two days later (which is how the relocation to Arizona was done and what I had asked the mover to stop and do). This was a huge help because I had time to put away and organize the chaos of what did get unpacked. We were somewhat more pulled together to be able to enjoy our first meal in our new home, which was actually for Thanksgiving...

This Thanksgiving included HUGE leaves for our table for two, I gathered from our backyard!

Although we didn't cook a turkey this year (no time to since Jeff had to work on Thanksgiving Eve) we did manage to make a few of our traditional sides and I baked a pumpkin pie. Even though I didn't have time to bake Jeff some chocolate chip cookies, our new neighbor, Linda, welcomed us to the neighborhood with a plateful she just baked. (They were still warm!!) And so much to be grateful for - especially for this year with our relocation...

 Moving truck loaded and leaving Arizona - Thursday November 13...

 Snapshot while in flight - Leaving AZ for the East Coast! November 15!

 Landed in Charlotte, NC - Saturday November 15 - Flew out up to Greensboro...

 Closed on Harmon House - Monday November 17!

 Fall Driving - North Carolina - November 19...

 Moving truck Arrival: Saturday November 22!

Before the moving truck arrived on Saturday November 22, Jeff was able to get the door locks changed, I painted trim and doors (loving the black doors!) and this time, we hired a local painter to paint out the rooms and walls of most common areas (vs. Jeff & I painting everything before the movers arrived to our AZ rental home). Hiring the painters was a HUGE help and definitely a worth while investment I highly recommend to help lift some stress off you during a cross country relocation. 

 Picking paints for Harmon House (on closing day!) - So much easier to select when swatches painted around the house, to see color changes in the light. Painting happened from November 18-21 - stopped for weekend move in - and picked back up Dec. 1-3.

I'll share moving details, paint colors, local painters info, packing tips, and additional pictures in an upcoming post. Right now I really just wanted to touch base with Focal Point Styling blog readers because I know - it's been quite a while since I've posted (sorry!!).


Next year (2015) we're planning on a bathroom renovation, switching out lighting fixtures, and continue painting other rooms - including setting up guest rooms (the list of guests is growing now that we're back east!!), exterior painting (shutters and trim), a little more gardening than I've done in the past 3 years (can. not. wait for Spring!!), setting up our home office, and even creating a mancave for Jeff! Right now - I'm just UBER thrilled and grateful to be back HOME on the east coast!!

 Had so much fun picking out a fresh tree this year! We haven't had a real tree since 2005! Finally got our tree, Friday night, December 5!

In the midst of the move, doing a few home repairs, and getting settled, I did do a "little" simple holiday decorating, shopped for a few new pieces for our home (online here in NC and at HomeGoods in AZ before moving!), attended a local holiday party (at Madcap Cottage - High Point!) I was invited to (thanks to friends & connections on Facebook), enjoyed a great Italian meal at a local restaurant (Giada's Trattoria), explored a historic home - decorated in Victorian period style during a candlelight tour - and even check out a few area thrift stores and consignment shops -- again, photos to be shared in upcoming blog posts (but have been sharing via Facebook and G+!!) , so please stayed tuned -- and a HUGE THANK YOU for sticking around!!  I'll also be posting my 2014 Rewind before the end of the year (lol - in the upcoming week!)

I'm very much looking forward to learning my new area (may even be planning a thrift road trip!), collaborating with local shops, and also getting to attend east-coast market events, such as the Design Bloggers Conference coming up in Atlanta in February and Spring High Point Market coming up this April! You can read more, from an interview I was honored to have with the gents over at Madcap Cottage... (read post at: Always in Fashion)

 Met long time Facebook friend Cathy Smith during the Holiday Bazaar at Madcap Cottage in High Point - Sunday, December 7!

Jeff and I touring the historic Korner's House for a candlelight Christmas tour, Saturday, December 13!

Thank you Focal Point Styling blog readers!
(especially Betty, Gail, Scribbs, Linda, Janelle, mom and many others!!)

Time to get baking some Christmas cookies now!!
Warmest Wishes to you and your family for a wonderful holiday season, Merry Christmas  and a Happy NEW Year!

Thanks for stopping by to read my Cross-Country Relocation Recap - Settling In & Sneak Peeks!


Well - We did it. After our house hunting trip out to North Carolina last week, we not only found a place, but we put in an offer on a house this week, counter offers went back and forth, and today, we settled! Hearing this sounds easier said than it actually was. The actual house hunt took probably 5  days, not including the online house hunting I did prior to the actual searching within the locations. We left Phoenix on October 7 at 5am PST and by 3pm EST, (after car rental, hotel check in + settle in and eat lunch) we were off driving to some of the locations from my notebook (some of which I was also pinning here). Doing this drive-by process helped us to rule out homes and areas prior to setting up a meeting with the local Realtor (Lindsay Brandon from Tate).

 Our new home - Harmon House!

 View down the street of Harmon House.

The next day, Jeff had to attend a District meeting all day, so I headed out on my own, searching the listings I pulled together. I first drove to the north area of High Point, and when in Rome - I also took a drive to the High Point Market area. I can't attend this fall (which kicks off this weekend!) but i will most definitely be attending for Spring 2015 (Can. Not. Wait!) From downtown High Point I drove north to an area called Kernersville - which Jeff and I had visited a few addresses the day before and were ruling out. The addresses I was heading towards were further west, putting us closer to Jeff's store location in Winston Salem. On my way there, I saw some of the headquarters for furniture corporations, and the most recent headquarter addition to High Point: Heritage Home Group (recognized the building from photos I had seen online). After touring yet another neighborhood and ruling it too out, I received a call from our assigned Realtor, Lindsay. We arranged to meet at a house I was hooked on, located in Jamestown.

House we toured in Winston Salem I found online before heading to NC.

House for rent - but was off market already.
 Original last house Jeff found online, around the corner from the one we bought.

After touring the interior with Lindsay, and discussing some of the "must haves" on our wish list, Lindsay went back to her office to pull together a list of houses for us - and I headed back to Greensboro to pick up Jeff after his meeting. Jeff and I got a quick bite to eat and continued our own house hunting journey, but this time driving around the Winston Salem area. When we arrived back at the hotel, we looked over the list Lindsay sent us, and I replied with our likes - plus I sent her a list of addresses (for Winston Salem). The next two days, well into the after-sundown evenings (and even rain!), we spent touring homes, giving compliments, but also really discussing furniture layouts, storage situations and what something would cost to bring it up to what we were wanting. By the time Saturday came, and no luck in our hunt, I was not only discouraged, but my nerves got the best of me and I was getting sick to my stomach.

I repacked to head out of Greensboro airport to Charlotte, to make my way back to Phoenix solo, and Jeff was staying behind a few days to get settled in his new office and store. He dropped me off at the airport, I got checked in, got through security, and even made my way onto the plane, only to hear the pilot say we couldn't take off because of storms happening in the Charlotte area. I'm already a nervous flyer, so I contacted Jeff to let him know we were grounded for at least an hour and a half, and I asked him to contact the airline to just change my flight to Sunday (felt safer doing this). By the time we de-boarded back at the terminal, Jeff had gotten me a new flight out for Sunday, and I just needed to get my checked luggage off the plane. He came to pick me up, and we took a drive to another house Jeff happened to find online - and he drove by the area on his way into his office.

The location was great - It's Kernersville, but newer development and close to grocery stores, Lowes, gas stations and the main highway (the 40) to go west for Jeff (to get to Winston Salem) and for me to grab to head east (to work in Greensboro or High Point).  We called the listing agent to ask about the house, and she asked if we'd like to tour it, so we said yes - disclosing that we are working with another Realtor. Although the layout of this house was nearly perfect, plus it had a few perks (4 flat screens and updated lighting throughout), we really didn't like the upward slop of the driveway (too slippery for icy winters!), plus the outdoor living space needed to be invested in along with preferred floor coverings, so we said thank you and we'll keep in mind.  Driving the area, we saw an almost identical home design (just around the corner) which we looked up online when we got back to the hotel.

I was flying out uber-early Sunday (7am), but Jeff set an appointment again with Lindsay to go tour this last house, later Sunday afternoon. By the time I arrived back in Phoenix and got settled in at home, Jeff had seen the house - taking additional photos PLUS 3 video tours for me to see. Its layout was better suited for us (driveway had minor slope - down to a flat driveway, entering the 2 car garage under the house, with adjacent house bib - all needed for car washing!) plus it had one consistent floor covering downstairs (wood laminate) and taller kitchen cabs (42") for storage.

Jeff flew back to Phoenix the next evening - the following day, after a long discussion and reviewing the photos, comparing it to our current layout + what we had in Florida - we came to an agreement and said "this is the one!" Jeff contacted Lindsay to put in our offer, she drew up the papers, we did a docu-sign and off the offer went. A day later they counter offered, we discussed and countered, they did too and we finally came to an agreement this afternoon and now the home purchase docs are signed - the process of relocating back east continues!

Also happening today was the auto transporter coming to pick up Jeff's truck to ship to North Carolina plus the moving company came to inventory & survey this house, it's contents, and layout - because since we currently have a third floor, it will take extra manpower to move this beast! My vehicle stays here as transportation, until loading day, and we'll have it picked up at the hotel we leave from. It takes at least a week to transport the vehicle across the country, so Jeff is here for a few more days, and we'll begin tearing down, patching and tough-up painting here before he heads back out to NC - which by then his truck will arrive.

Hard to believe but it's happening - three years in the waiting - And we should be shipped and ready to move in plus close mid to late November. Truly a Thanksgiving blessing this year for sure!!! I'm so excited, I want to go chop down my own live Christmas tree when we get there!! (Just kidding - but I am THAT excited!!) And online connections and friends have been just as excited for us when we shared the good news - so many THANK YOUs to Facebook and to North Carolinian's for making us feel so welcome! Good ole Southern Hospitality!

I'll share tips I've learned for house hunting + planning + packing in an upcoming post. Moving can be very overwhelming, especially moving across the country at holiday time. Each move we've done has been a learning experience over time -- and I think having experience planning and moving entire departments (especially during construction) has helped strengthen the move thought process.

House transaction now done via DocuSign.
Yes - You still print & read contract, but now sign online!

We're SUPER excited to become homeowners once again - Like Zillow says, "You're not just looking for a house - You're looking for a place for your life to HAPPEN!" And this couldn't be more true. I felt like my life had gotten put on hold when we moved out to Arizona. Yes, I learned new things, attended a few market events and we traveled to some places we might not have if we hadn't moved here - and for that I am grateful. But in terms of working, I think there will be more opportunities for me to get back to work living in North Carolina, utilizing my talent to help the furniture industry and  their showrooms grow, than there was for me living here in AZ - and Jeff too is going to have more opportunities to grow with the company since he is now in a "walk-thru" store (high corporate visitations) + its the District store and one of largest in his new District. I think Sephora too will enjoy her new views out the windows, and seeing GREEN (and snow too!!) again! And family is already lining up to come visit!!

Considering I was to fly into Miami today to visit my mom & friends, this was a pretty remarkable turn of events that I am grateful for!!

Thanks for stopping by - and stay tuned for the adventures of moving back east!


Yay! When My husband called me last week to tell me the news, the first words he said were "Start Packing!" Just around this time last year (in November), a carrot was dangled in front of the hubs of getting a possible relocation for us back east, at the time, to Pineville, near Charlotte, North Carolina. Needless to say, I went overboard with delight, sharing the "possible move" on Facebook - sharing the house hunting plus saving pinned homes to a board on Pinterest... However, it wasn't our time and the relocation fell thru. Flash forward six months later, and it happened again, the possibility of Jeff getting us relocated, but this time not only back east, but to Florida (to the Gulf Coast - Ft. Myers area) -- However this time, learning from the last experience, I didn't say anything publicly, I just mentioned it to a few people -- and that too fell thru. But now, another 6 months afterwards and it must be our time because Jeff got rewarded with a larger store and we're being relocated back east - This time to Winston-Salem, North Carolina!

Sweet Sephora has no idea what she's in for again... This part of the move breaks my heart - Breaking Sephora's comfortable routine, but I'm sure she too will be thrilled when she see's her new surrounding - aka GRASS!!! :)

 In the meantime, she's been lounging on the new wool throw I had picked up for Fall at HomeGoods - which I'm sure will come in handy on the upcoming Winter evenings in North Carolina!

We're thrilled beyond belief to be heading back east - and so too are our moms, family, and friends, who even though they are spread out along the east coast (from upstate NY to South Florida!), we'll still all be so much closer for shorter travel trips. Not to mention, all the events that happen back east from Brummfield Flea Market to NY Fashion Week, to High Point (yay! FINALLY I will make it to HPMKT in the Spring!) and even the Design Bloggers Conference have been held in Atlanta (which is now just a short drive away plus Jeff's mom lives nearby).

Goodbye scorching hot summers, bacteria filled dust-storms and seeing brown at every glance - Hello change of seasons, crisp mountain air, American historical architecture and... THE BEACH - which now will be just 3-4 hours away vs the 6 hour schlep we were doing once a year driving through the desert to get to the California coast.

Drinking more coffee these past few days - and I'm sure plenty more to come!

Jeff shared the news when he was told on October 1, and since then, I've been searching real-estate sites, to find us a 'new place to dwell'. Over the weekend, I shared my findings with Jeff (pinned to a secret board) and together we voted yes-no on the homes to house hunt. Sunday, I printed condensed versions of each of the homes we're interested in - a diversified mix of styles from old and new, with both options to see: to buy or possibly rent (since we will be so new to the area.

I categorized all the homes I printed into a binder, divided with tabs by area, listing the MLS rooms, square footage and price at the tops of the pages. This should help not only us, searching on our own, but if we do connect with a local Realtor, we can show them our specifics since we're short on time. When we relocated in November 2011, we had more than 30 days to move - this time we have only 30 days to move -- across the country -- and just before holiday... which is quite alright. I can't think of a better Christmas gift or blessing to be thankful for on Thanksgiving than having the opportunity to move back east.

The highlighted dates are for my already booked & planned trip back to Miami (next Friday!!) to see my mom and friends - can't wait for that trip either!!

Thank you God for answering our prayers. And thank you too Focal point readers, because I know I haven't been quite "myself" since we moved to Arizona, and trust me, it wasn't from a lack of trying. I think we made the best of our situation, from Jeff getting into golf (although that lead to him injuring his back and having spinal surgery just this past August) to this "City Girl" embracing the more relaxed rustic styling, without getting into the Tuscan trap, I could take. 

It. Is. Time. For. A. (cool) Change.

 One of the last sunsets I've seen here in AZ, looking out from the loft space upstairs (third floor).

And so it has been already - Thank you Lord!! 
I hope October is good for you too as well!

Thanks for stopping by - and please stay tuned for upcoming relocation updates... plus a few last shares of the transformations made on this, our  Arizona rental home...


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