I can’t believe it, but it’s already been one year today since we launched Vignette.  Send your delicious, celebratory chocolate ganache cupcakes to our office’s mailing address.  Yes, we like sprinkles.  No, not too many.  No, I don’t care whether you use a cream cheese frosting or a buttercream frosting.  YES, other flavors besides chocolate will work too.  Do you always have this many questions?

Over my casual morning coffee yesterday (Rosarae is more of a green tea gal), she suggested a blog sharing the company’s first year of trials and tribulations with our vast readership.  After all, there are literally tens of you out there who are interested in the finer points of both our successes and our miscapades, so I thought I’d give it a go and wax poetic about what we’ve learned to date.  There are so many little things, like checking to make sure the spinach salad you just  engulfed has not taken up residence between your central incisors before you enter a client meeting.  I also recommend verifying that you have actually attached something before you send an email boasting the fantastic work that is showcased in the attachment. 

Other more notable insights include, but are not limited to, the following list:  

  • Being an interior designer and running an interior design business are two totally different animals.        

“What do you mean, projects aren’t just magically going to fall into our laps?  What IS this marketing thing that you speak of?!?”  We haven’t exactly mastered it, but at least we understand the beast that self-promotion is now.  I’ve made more cold calls than I’ll EVER be comfortable with, and I’m still not great at it.  I’m not hoping for “practice makes perfect.”  I’m shooting for “practice makes Emilie not want to throw up when she has to talk to a complete stranger on the telephone.”   

Oh, and that whole QuickBooks crap?  Yeah….we’re not exactly tight.  I’m really good at math and at learning software, but somehow all those crazy rules about where to put everything make my head spin.  Thank God Rosarae gets it, and she has become the resident bookkeeper.  We also have a great CPA, and I’m really glad that we took the sage advice to bring him on at the very beginning.  Thanks, Ted, for all your pep talks and helping us save our clams.  We shall repay you with a check for your latest invoice, and more importantly, by coming up with your business’s new slogan: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except Ted and taxes.”  Like it?  Good.  I’m putting it on coffee mugs.

  • Working in a space tighter than Kim Kardashian’s mini-dress is, well, work.

 Though I have about 100 tape measurers around and could tell you exactly, I’m going to guestimate and say that we operate out of about 400 square feet.  When working in such a condition, you soon discover that it has its pros and cons:

Pro: Without having to get up and go to the water cooler, we can easily discuss important topics such as the quantum physics that are involved both in Snookie’s “Bump It!” and in her push-up brae quantum physics that are involved both in Snookie’s “Bump It!” and in her push-up bra.

Con: We sit so close together that it is painfully obvious what the other one had for dinner the night before.

Pro: Office clean-up day only takes about an hour, tip to tail.

Con: The size of our office is insufficient to house an Oompa Loompa or any other diminutively sized laborer that we could force to clean it for us.

Pro: Moods can be contagious, and we get to riff off each other’s excitement.

Con: Moods can be contagious, and two cranky ladies does not a good day make.

Overall, I’d say we like working nose to nose.  When we are having busier weeks, the instantaneous communication is really helpful.  We’ve decided that when we move out one day, we have to have desks in close enough proximity that we can chat without having to get up.  It’s not lazy; it’s EFFICIENT.            

  • Firing an employee is painfully awkward.

We had to let Brewer go.  It was the toughest decision we were forced to make over the last 365, and it was heart-wrenching to look at his face when he was delivered the pink slip.  He and Coda were discussing their cost/benefit analysis of switching our website from HTML to a WordPress platform, and essentially, they agreed to disagree.  One chomped foot and two hours at the vet later, we thought it best if the boys didn’t work in the same department anymore.  Brewdog Von Bellicose still comes over for a freelance consultation every now and again, but our new employee Mr. Baby Gate earns his keep by enforcing the separation of church and state.          

  • We will, on occasion, work for flattery. 

We took on some pro-bono design for the Charlotte Rescue Mission and have fallen in love with the project.  Even more fun, though, is that it appears they have fallen in love with us.  “Ooooh, that space plan is fantastic, Emilie.  Rosarae, I cannot BELIEVE how talented you are.  How can we ever thank you enough, VIGNETTE INTERIOR DESIGN???”  Seriously, it’s shameless, non-stop adoration.  We’re not doing anything another legitimate design firm wouldn’t be able to do, but it’s kind of like we walk on water over there.  How much we are appreciated is mind-boggling and every second of it is setting an unrealistic standard to which we simply will not be able to hold future clients.  But we can dream, can’t we?          

  • Most people don’t sweat the small stuff.  And we’re the small stuff.

When you work for a big industry firm like Gensler or HBA, you get treated like a rock star.  Reps call you, email you, and stop by night and day to woo you with alluring offers of delicious food, tasty drinks, and even an occasional out-of-towner to a trade show.  It’s a pretty sweet deal.  Now, a ring of the doorbell is either a Jehovah’s Witness canvassing the area or it’s Ricky Good, NoDa’s recurring village idiot.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses I can handle, and though I am not interested in their flyers with circa 1978 graphics or joining their cause, thereby donning the requisite Naturalizer pumps and heavily pleated long skirts (they make me look puffy), at the very least they leave when told “no thanks,” and quite politely at that.  Ricky Good, on the other hand, has very little remorse over the fact that he is potentially disturbing some sensitive business dealings when he does the ding-dong-ditch at two in the afternoon.  The best part is that he has the word “GOOD” tattooed across his usually bare midriff.  The question of the day thus inevitably becomes: Do you think Ricky has a sense of irony?

So maybe we’re not getting called on thirty times a day anymore by people begging for a few minutes of our time.  And maybe we’re not working out of a glamorous high-rise in a trendy city center.  So what?  We’re happy.  Budgets are smaller, expense accounts are tighter, and projects are leaner, but we’re doing it.  We’re making it on our own, falling down and scraping our knees once in awhile, but then getting back up again.  Would we trade it for anything?  Not a chance.  After all, I’d probably have to give up the blog, and where would we be without each other, you and I?  We’re kind of becoming besties.  Want to go to the mall and buy a matching pair of airbrushed tees?