Welcome to episode 207 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Melissa Coleman about designing your perfect workspace.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Tim Schmoyer about creating, delivering, and capturing value on YouTube. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Consciously Uncoupling and Crafting the Ideal Workspace
You may recall that Melissa Coleman from the food blog, The Faux Martha, was on the podcast just back in December talking about her Year of the Pivot.
Today, she’s here to continue the conversation and talk about the project she has been working on recently: designing the new Pinch of Yum offices.
If you don’t have a dedicated office to work from, you’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make intentional decisions to refine and optimize your workspace.
Melissa is here to talk through her process for designing a space, as well as the tips that you can and apply to your own workspace.
In this episode, Melissa shares:
- How she’s pivoting her time
- Why it’s important to put some thought your workspace
- How she builds routines to deal with daily chaos
- Why you should start with the function of your space
- Why mood boards are helpful
- What parameters help you do
- The indicators that your space might be sub-optimal
- Tips for refining your design
Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes, Google Play Music, or Spotify:
- 181: The Year of the Pivot with Melissa Coleman
- Melissa on Instagram
- The Faux Martha
- Get in touch with The Faux Martha team about their design work
- The Minimalist Kitchen
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].
Thanks to our Reviewer of the Week, [email protected]! If you’d like to be featured, leave a review for us on iTunes and include your name and blog name in the review.
We’d like to thank our sponsors, WP Tasty! Check out wptasty.com to learn more about their handcrafted WordPress plugins specifically made for food bloggers.
If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.
Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode I chat about a new series on the Food Blogger Pro blog, and then Bjork interviews Melissa Coleman from The Faux Martha about designing the perfect workspace.
Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, hey, hey, lovely listener. You are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. We hope you’re having an incredible day. This episode of the podcast is sponsored by none other than WP Tasty, our sister site for plugins for food bloggers. WP tasty sells three different plugins. Tasty Recipes, which is a recipe plugin, Tasty Pins, which is a Pinterest optimization plugin, and then Tasty Links which is an auto-linking plugin. They are all built and designed to make your blogging life easier and optimized. If you’d like to learn more you can head on over to wptasty.com. For today’s little nugget of advice, we like to call it the tasty tip around here, I’m excited to announce the start of our newest series on the Food Blogger Pro blog. Our membership site migration from ExpressionEngine to WordPress.
Alexa Peduzzi: As you’re probably aware, we recently migrated Food Blogger Pro from a CMS called ExpressionEngine over to WordPress. It was a multi-month process, and we learned a lot about how to methodically move through a big project. From discovery to development to QA, to launching, we’re covering it all in this series. We’ll talk about the plugins we’re using, the information we needed to move forward, the problems we face, and the decisions that were crucial to our success. We publish the intro post for this series this week, and in it, we talk about the why behind our migration, as well as a high level overview of how we approach the migration. You can check it out at foodbloggerpro.com/intro.
Alexa Peduzzi: Now the episode. You may recall that Melissa Coleman from the food blog, The Faux Martha was actually on the podcast, just back in December, actually talking about her year of the pivot. Today she’s here to continue the conversation and talk about the project she’s been working on recently, designing the new Pinch of Yum offices. If you don’t have a dedicated office to work from, you’re not alone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make intentional decisions to refine and optimize your workspace. In this episode, Melissa talks through her process for designing a space as well as the tips that you can apply to your own workspace. It’s a really interesting different kind of episode, and I think you’re really going to love it. Without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.
Bjork Ostrom: Melissa, welcome back to the podcast.
Melissa Coleman: Thank you for having me back. This is really big, to be back-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. In the same year too. It’s not like there was this huge gap in between.
Melissa Coleman: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: We thought it would be good to spin up another podcast because we are in the middle of a really big transition, and you are helping us with that. As people who listen to the podcast know, I have recorded the podcast in all sorts of places recently, in my car, at a park, at home, here in this little makeshift office we have. It’s because we currently don’t have a space right now. We don’t have an office, but we are working with you to help design and polish off our office space. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today.
Bjork Ostrom: Before we do that, I wanted to do a little call back to the first episode that we did. It was the year the pivot, and I would really encourage people to go back and listen to that. You talked about how transitional and how impactful 2018 was as you viewed your site and what you do. As you’ve gotten into 2019, you’ve kind of rebranded this year as well, or branded this year. It’s not rebranded. But, you’ve come up with a little catchphrase. I remember we were talking about, I don’t remember what you called it or the general idea behind it, but can you talk a little bit about how you’ve viewed 2019, and kind of some of the thoughts that you have around the transitions in your business?
Melissa Coleman: Yeah. Yeah. Last year, 2018 I called it the year of the pivot, and I realize now in… Are we in 2019, we’re in 2019-
Bjork Ostrom: 2019.
Melissa Coleman: Oh my gosh. Halfway through. Somebody asked me the other day, what will I be doing in 2024? I was like, “Gosh, I don’t know if I’ll still be alive.” That’s so far away-
Bjork Ostrom: I hope that I will be alive. I’m going to start with that. If I am, I have no idea what I’ll be doing.
Melissa Coleman: Yes, exactly. Likewise, I have no idea what I’ll be doing, but, last year I called it the year of the pivot. What I’ve kind of done is, I realized that this year is actually my year of the pivot. Last year was figuring out if I would actually be staying or not, in the blogging world, as I was traditionally blogging. That answer was yes, after a year of soul searching and bringing someone else on to the team, because I’m one human with the creative brain who doesn’t handle a lot of business, logistical, everyday information well. Now there’s a right side, that’s me, and then a left side, that’s Kimberly. That’s been a really good fit, and once we’ve had those two brains, it’s kind of enabled me to figure out more of what’s going on, of what the problem actually is, which is why I’m calling this year still, in some ways, not really publicly, but I guess now I am, this still feels like the year of the pivot.
Melissa Coleman: I have decided to stay, but I’m not staying in the same way that I stayed before. That still wasn’t healthy. Even choosing to stay and getting back into those old rhythms, they still weren’t good or healthy. Now I’m in the process of pivoting or shifting, and I’m moving more towards design and figuring out how to keep the blog because it’s so valuable for me as a creator to create and write, but also for other people it’s that human real honest connection. I’m trying to preserve and maintain that. In doing that, I am actually trying to create a different revenue stream besides the sponsorship model, which is what’s probably been, I would say, 90%… I’m not a numbers person, but 90% of my revenue has been from sponsorship.
Melissa Coleman: I would like to change that and move kind of back into design. I was a graphic designer by day. That’s how I made money for a lot of years. I jumped into blogging full time and made money from sponsorships and those relationships. There’s a lot of really good ones, and then there’s a lot of really hard sponsorship relationships that are kind of taking ownership over some of my blog. I want to get that back, and I think, I’m not very sure of much in life, but I think that this is a good healthy transaction of services and money and the ability to share this content that’s valuable to people and also extremely valuable to me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. It almost feels like, in a sense, 2018 was pivoting some of the ways you view things. There’s obviously some ground level changes that happened, but it was almost like sorting through stuff in your head, and it seems like in 2019 some of that is manifesting in literal shifts in terms of how the business is operating and what it is that you’re doing. What’s exciting about that is thinking creatively, you are a creative person. Thinking creatively about a situation and saying, “What is it that I don’t like about this?”
Bjork Ostrom: It sounds like one of the things that you didn’t like about sponsored content, which was the main revenue mechanism for your blog before. One of the things that you didn’t like was this idea of somebody else kind of siphoning off part of who you were and owning that, at least for a period of time. Saying, “Okay, I don’t like this. What can I do to shift and change into something that feels like it aligns a little bit more?” That for you was something that you’re really good at, which is interior design, and pivoting into that space and saying, “Okay, I’m going to use the blog,” and I think this is a really incredible thing that people don’t often think about.
Bjork Ostrom: Using the blog essentially as a platform for me to write about this, to speak about this, to document this, in a sense uncoupling that from needing all of that to be you, which is also kind of nice. Now you can document the remodel process that we’re going through with a Pinch of Yum offices, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit. Uncoupling that from you and saying, “Okay, I’m going to evolve this a little bit and use the blog, not as a way to do sponsored content or add income, but I’m going to use it as a way for me to showcase this thing that I’m really excited about, and this new area where I’m going to work with people in a different type of business, which is more tactile, relational.” Working with somebody to design a space, which we’re going to be talking about today. But, do you feel like that kind of, at a high level, accurately describes the transition? Were there any gaps in that analysis?
Melissa Coleman: Yeah, that’s a really good analysis. It’s kind of like Gwyneth and Chris Martin conscious uncoupling. Consciously uncoupling from something, but it’s not all going away. There will be a preservation of some of that relationship, that blogging relationship. That was so valuable, and then moving more towards something that’s really healthy for me as a human and as a business owner…
Bjork Ostrom: Yup. That’s great. It’s one of the things that I… If everything disappeared for us today, the first thing that I would do is… If I wanted to be building a business or be an entrepreneur, the first thing that I would do is create something online where I’m publishing and have a small audience, and then have some type of service attached to that. I think for me it would be maybe something related to online marketing, that’s a place that I love and I’m interested in. Also love working with, there’s companies that advise and love working in that capacity to help other people along the way with that.
Bjork Ostrom: I think point of saying that is, for people that are listening, if you’re interested in being an entrepreneur, if you’re interested in building your own thing, it’s using… The only way to do that isn’t to build a site and to monetize that with ads and sponsored content, and the shift that you’re making Melissa is a great example of another way that you can take things online, whether that be an Instagram account, a website, and compliment that in another area. In this case it’s working with individuals or companies to help them design spaces, which you’re doing for Pinch of Yum, and we’re so excited about that because as I described…
Bjork Ostrom: Right now if you were to see the office, it as… Apple crate with my laptop sitting on another stand, and it is this monstrosity of cords going everywhere. It’s just totally makeshift. We’ve been living without a space for so long. We’re finally getting to this point where we’re close to having a space that we’re going to move into, and you’re helping us to really craft that space. People can follow along with that online, on your Instagram account. Is that right? Can you… Quick little, in the middle of the podcast, plug, because people that listen to this in real time, will be able to see it. How can people follow along with that?
Melissa Coleman: Yes. It’s on Instagram, it’s in the highlights for stories. I’m just plugging them all into there, which is so cool to see the progression because whenever you see the final products, you’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s how it was always supposed to look.” But when you get to see the progress and go backwards, it’s mind-blowing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, for sure. If people want to follow along with that, they can check that out on Instagram, at The Faux Martha, and we’ll link to that in the show notes as well. But let’s talk about space, because space as creators is such an important thing to make sure that we do well.To make sure that we’re intentional in crafting the space where we spend the majority of our time creating. For some people they might spend time in the kitchen doing recipes, things like that. But for a lot of us we’re sitting at a computer, we’re thinking, we’re typing, maybe we are brainstorming, and we have a little board.
Bjork Ostrom: But, my guess is that there is a lot of opportunity for us to create a space that allows us to do work even better. There’s untapped potential in the spaces that we have. Before we get into talking about specifically how we can do that, can you talk at a high level about why space is important? Why is it important that we take time to, not just do work, but take some days, take a week out of your year, to work on the space where you will work? Why is that important for us to consider as creators?
Melissa Coleman: Yeah. As a reader, as a writer, I often hear, you probably often hear, that words matter. Words matter, words matter, words matter. I feel the exact same way about space. Space matters. It matters, it matters, it matters. Our physical space matters. Our mental space matters. The space on our walls, the space on our calendar. I love, I could probably do… I would talk way too long about the idea of space. I love considering the idea of space at my desk and then mentally. There is no bounds to what space is, and then how much impact it has on our day to day tasks. For example. How are you feeling? You’re sitting at this makeshift desk.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Melissa Coleman: How productive are you? How does work feel sitting there?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. It’s standing, I’m not even sitting. That’s how bad it is. It’s actually probably good that I’m standing. I think it feels, and I was telling Lindsay this and this maybe applies to this situation. I’m actually thinking, I’m going to describe what’s on the desk right now so people can visualize. It’s like a vintage woody type desk. Woody meaning literally it is just wood. There is a Dan Gladden autographed baseball card in the corner, which I just bought from this kid that’s in the building here doing an autograph sale. There’s an empty wrapper of a bacon egg and cheese sandwich that I had, a cup of coke, there’s a bunch of chords, there’s a empty soda stream that’s in the corner, then there’s my computer, and all that junk, and the monitor that I’m not using, and a succulent, believe it or not.
Bjork Ostrom: I was telling this to Lindsay the other day about the construction that’s happening here, but I said, “I feel like that my mind parallels the space.” I think, if I were to take an hour and organize the space… That’s naturally where I go. When I was a part of the… In college I won the clean room award. It was a bunch of these guys and as there was this… it was just super-trashed out rooms with mice around, and I would vacuum every week. My natural bend is not towards chaotic space, but I feel like, because of the number of things we’ve been juggling lately it’s been so chaotic. I think that that reflects my mind or, and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this, my mind is reflected in the space. I think it’s maybe a little bit of both.
Melissa Coleman: Absolutely.
Bjork Ostrom: The chaos of the space makes me feel like things are chaotic, but I also feel like, in a time that is more chaotic, I don’t dedicate the time that I need to create the space that feels like the best fit for me. I don’t know if that answers your question, but that is kind of a quick snapshot. In a sentence I would say what it is, it’s like the disorganization, the fact that these things are so unorganized makes me also then feel unorganized, which doesn’t feel good.
Melissa Coleman: Yup. Yup. They feed off of one another, and they’re cyclical. Oftentimes if you are looking for an answer, if you’re feeling chaotic or if you’re feeling sad or stressed or depressed or whatever it is that you can’t quite pinpoint, just look around your physical space, wherever you are at that moment, and identify the emotions with the space because they are feeding off of one another and contributing an influencing. It’s like, when you think about spaces positively, that’s easier for us to do.
Melissa Coleman: We go to a restaurant over and over again because we have a really good experience, not only with the food but with the space. It’s a beautiful atmosphere. Ambiance is a common word that we use, and we go back to get that experience, and a huge part of that experience is the space. That’s a happy experience. But, all around us, usually in our everyday spaces, in the spaces that we cook our meals, that we do our work, they are naturally chaotic because we’re moving pretty fast. That has influence on us. We continue to make them more chaotic, and then we feel chaotic and stressed.
Bjork Ostrom: How do you… Let’s start with that as a consideration. Before we get into crafting a space, kind of more high level. Just at a low level, how do you build in rhythms and routines in your life that allow you to deal with the daily chaos, kind of the micro chaos that exists? Should you address that before you address, kind of, the holistic look, feel, ambience of a place?
Melissa Coleman: Absolutely. I like to start with function first whenever I’m looking at a space, and usually if there’s piles around me, which if I’m being honest there are piles around me right now. I don’t like or enjoy piles around me, but usually if there’s piles around me, it means that all of these things, they don’t have a home. My space isn’t functioning like it should. Part of a space is that it needs to have some storage, you need to be able to retrieve something easily. There’s a lot of just basic things that we would need a space to perform for us. If they’re not, then it doesn’t matter how beautiful you make it look. The space isn’t going to function, and it’s still going to make you mad. At least that’s my response in a space that doesn’t work. It makes me mad. I think that’s why I’m a designer, because as a designer I can fix that response. It’s a very common response because my spaces are often chaotic.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s one of the things that was like, “Oh. Duh,” and yet we didn’t do it, when we are working with you. One of the things we did… The space that we have, it’s maybe, I don’t know how big it is, 1200 square feet or something like that. 1500 square feet. I’m just guessing. Terrible at remembering those kind of things. But it has one, two, three, four, five rooms and then kind of a general area. One of the things that we did when we were working with you walking through it is, in each space you stopped and said, “Okay, what are you going to use this for?” It was like, “Oh, that’s…” It sounds so obvious, but it’s really helpful to sit back and say, “Okay, so we’re going to be doing podcasts in here, we’re going to be doing courses. We might meet in here maybe, and we have this list.
Bjork Ostrom: What I realized is, “Oh, there’s actually multiple different uses for a single space.” Another example is Lindsay’s office. It’s like, okay, it’s going to be her desk, but it’s also going to be storage for props and things like that. That changes what will happen for the function of that room.
Melissa Coleman: Absolutely-
Bjork Ostrom: If somebody is taking a step back, and they’re saying, “I want to be intentional about crafting a great space.” Would that be what you recommend they start with? Start with defining what it actually is that you’re going to do there.
Melissa Coleman: Exactly. Just write out each of the rooms. It’s a simple task of list making, which is so simple when you go to do it, but it’s actually kind of hard to get to that task. Write out each space. Write each function in the space, and then take it a step further. The functions are easy. It’s like, “I’m going to work in this room and I’m also probably going to meet with someone.” But the harder part is, what are the philosophical spaces? What else will you be doing? Do you want to think in this room? Do you want to relax in this room? Do you want to be inspired by this room? When you can begin to think there, in that space, and identify those, then you can.. The function of the space will begin to inform the form.
Melissa Coleman: In design we talk about form and function all the time, and you can’t really have one without the other. When we think about design, we think about form. The color on the wall, the furniture. But design, as a designer, we think about both of those things form and function. When you start with the function, and you can identify those, then it’s going to inform the form. You’re not really starting from a blank canvas. You’re starting with a whole lot of quality information and then you’re designing beautiful solutions for each of those things. Either problem areas or spaces that you need to work in. You can design around a function, and that makes something really beautiful, user friendly, and it doesn’t make you mad when you work.
Melissa Coleman: Having to solve everyday problems when you can work, you can solve your work problems. Everything else that you know is going to happen every day in the flow of the day is handled so that you can handle your work.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I would assume that a lot of people start with form where they say, “Hey, what is the color of the walls, and what type of carpet do I want?”
Melissa Coleman: Pinterest.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. For sure, and “Ooh, this looks good and this feels good,” but instead you’re saying… Okay. We can talk about this, let’s say in the context of an office, knowing that this applies across the board. It could be interior design, it could be homes, it could be a bathroom, it could be a kitchen, but we’ll say office.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re starting with that and defining it and saying, okay, for me, I know that in the office I want to have an area where it’d be really easy to do analog type work. Maybe it’s brainstorming, writing on a whiteboard, something like that. We have that as a function. I know that it’s also really important for me to have multiple monitors like… I do a lot of work where I would have something off to the side, I’m using that as a reference. That’s a function of how we’re building this space. Maybe I want it to be easy for somebody to come in and sit down. Okay, well that means there’s probably going to need to be at least two chairs.
Bjork Ostrom: You start to fill it in with the function, and then what you’re saying is from there, then you can start to backfill, or fill out, the picture as it relates to the form. But how do you do that? For me, I feel like I get the idea of writing stuff down and saying, “Okay, these five things are important pieces of the puzzle for me.” I feel like what I would do is I would just then go to Pinterest and be like, “Oh, cool chair,” then like, “Oh, cool desk,” but not really have a cohesive theme. If we’re trying to craft a space that is going to be… We’ll talk about in the context of office and work because this podcast bends towards people who are interested in creating quality work, and so the space is important for that. We’re thinking about that. We know we need to do with it, but then how do we fill out the picture of what that actually looks like from a form perspective?
Melissa Coleman: You’re leading right into where I was headed. You’ve got your function list, and then I go super old school. Right in front of me right now I have all the drawings. I have a floor plan, just a basic floor plan that you could… I’m drawing it on a computer, you could just draw it out on just a plain old sheet of paper. Then when I’m doing, I’ve got this function list and then I’m now talking with you. I’m standing in your office, you’re telling me these things. I have a space for you to think. Not on the computer, just a space for you to kind of think out loud and capture it through writing. I know that you want a traditional working space, but you have two computers. That tells me, “Okay, he’s going to need a really long desk to perform this task.”
Melissa Coleman: Then number two, he wants a meeting area, and then… You don’t know this, but what also came out in our meeting with Lindsay is a reading area. A space for you to do a different kind of thinking. That tells me that, “Oh, I’m going to give him a library. I’m going to give him a chair. I’m going to give him… I’m going to create a reading nook, a place that feels really good to read.” When you create those spaces then they will come, or then you will use those spaces. Not necessarily the other way around.
Melissa Coleman: I’ve got this floor plan in front of me. It’s a really basic floor plan. I have a pencil, I’ve drawn in a long desk, I have a little circle area and I’ve written, “Thinking space,” because I know I need to solve that. I don’t really know what I’m going to do there yet, but I know it’s a thinking space. It’s a space for you to stand. I want you away from your desk so that you’re not staring at a screen because it’s really hard to do both. Then on the other side of the room, I have a chair. It’s a cozy chair, you can’t see that. I’ve got a little side table that can also work as a desk. It can kind of swing over you so that you could type there if you wanted to, you could write there and then behind you will be a big bookshelf. All of that-
Bjork Ostrom: This sounds awesome. This sounds like my ideal office.
Melissa Coleman: Lindsay was a part of that meeting, and she was very good at taking this idea of philosophical spaces, filling them in with how you might navigate this space, and then, we’re just slowly building on this. I think that’s the beauty of design, and that’s what I also have to remind myself of. These are just building blocks. We’re starting really, really small. We’re not jumping to the final product. We’re going to get there, but we have to take all the little steps to get there. Right now I still am working on this. I have this floor plan with pencil drawings of rectangles and circles and squares, and then from here I know what I need in this room. I’m then going to go look and start to categorize this information I have into a visual system. How are we going to visually communicate these means that each of these…
Bjork Ostrom: Can you give example of what that means? When you say visually communicate, is that colors, is that like, “This is a theme that’s kind of postmodern or…” What does that look like?
Melissa Coleman: Yeah. This is the part… When you think, “I’m hiring a designer.” This is what you think of. I will. As you know, in our process, it’s taken us a really long time to get there, but now I’ll start to assemble some mood boards. I’m going to give you guys three different mood boards. I kind of know, now that we’re this far in the project, I know a lot about you guys. I know what you like, I know what you gravitate towards. I’m going to give you three different options, all centered around things that I know you like three different visual aesthetics. We’re going to do a modern Minnesota, or maybe a modern Scandinavian, Scandinavia. That’s when I’m going to start giving each of these identities a name. Then, once you pick one of the three identities, we begin to know how to make decisions. We can finish out this room based on this visual identity.
Bjork Ostrom: Because there’s parameters around what would… We know that we wouldn’t include red because we have these colors and general themes. It’s like, to include a red tile floor, it’s like, “Oh, that doesn’t really fit in to this theme.” It could, in a certain theme, but it’s not in this one that we picked out.
Melissa Coleman: Yeah, that’s a really good point too because what this process is, it’s a process that we’re going through. It’s helping us build parameters. We’re not building parameters from the outset. We’re building them as we go, and it helps you make decisions. Parameters always, I think of them as these… parameters and rules as these guidelines. I use it when I’m doing my kitchen. I have a class called The Minimalist Kitchen and a book called The Minimalist Kitchen. I’m performing all these same tasks about giving myself parameters.
Melissa Coleman: What those parameters show me is that I can still like that red tile. It doesn’t make that red tile bad. I just can’t put it in this space in order for it to be cohesive, and then I can go do another project. But it begins to… There’s lots of different options and decisions that you have to make in this process. We’re building parameters to help ourselves make good decisions.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the questions that I have, and I’m guessing some people that are listening would… this would be eye opening for them to step back and think about this. How do you know if the space that you are currently working in is sub-optimal? Are there indicators that, maybe you’re even unconscious to, that exist that allow you to start to see, “Oh, actually I’m underperforming,” whatever performing means. In the context of work, it would mean, effectively and efficiently working in the allotted amount of time you have. In the kitchen it might mean that you’re not feeling like you’re having to spin around 100 times in order to get stuff that you need.
Bjork Ostrom: How do you become aware of the space when so often our continued exposure to the same thing over time dulls the response that we have to it? You can start to not notice a box that you haven’t unpacked for three years because it’s always been there. Whereas if you were to move in to the exact same space in a week, but it was new, you’d see it. How do you start to recognize that in order to then start improving it?
Melissa Coleman: This is such a good question and it’s the same process I take people through when I’m doing the Minimalist Kitchen course. It’s the same process I take people through when I’m designing. It’s continuous. I do the same thing every time. But it’s a very simple task. It’s where we started in the room. We started with the function, we started by making a list, and I would tell someone, if they’re trying to figure out what exactly is going on, how they’re spending their time during their day, what their problem areas are. I would say, “Make a list.”
Melissa Coleman: In the workspace I would tell people to document how they’re spending each hour. Maybe you don’t have to track your time with work, but for the purpose of figuring out this problem, I would say, track your time and write down how long are you spending searching for a file? What are some other problem areas? How long are you spending cleaning your office at the end of the week? Just the simple act of taking notes. It’s kind of like hiring a consultant, because the notes don’t lie. You can look at the list and say, “Oh my gosh, that’s what’s going on,” but it’s really hard for us to perceive that with our eyes, without writing it down and having a physical list.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. There was something that, kind of a version of that, there’s this book called Designing Your Life, I think is what it’s called, or something like that. I think it’s by two Stanford professors, but they recommend doing essentially like a time log of your entire day and going through it. What they have you do is a little empty to full gas meter and saying, “Hey, where does this land in terms of filling you up versus going towards empty?”
Bjork Ostrom: But, for me, going through that process was really helpful to see, “Oh, there’s a lot of stuff that I do that I’m not even aware of that I’m doing.” I mean, obviously I know I’m doing it, but it becomes so routine that you don’t even notice it. I would guess there are similar things that exist using the office example. Every time that I sit down, I’m having to rearrange my desk in order to get my laptop there because there’s stuff like… It’s probably not a good thing. Let’s make a note of that. Essentially, you’re doing a little bit of an inventory on how you are behaving as it relates to that space. Is that right?
Melissa Coleman: Exactly. An inventory, or you could call it an audit, which both are kind of happening. You can perform those tasks… You can take notes first and then begin to audit what’s going on, how you’re feeling, what makes you mad. We see when we’re looking at a website, good design is efficient design. The next click is below your fingertips, that’s good user interface. Those same ideas apply to our physical life. Are there inefficiencies? What are those inefficiencies? Those are the things that are keeping you from, either doing the things you actually want to do, or your work.
Melissa Coleman: When I design, I typically lean towards minimalism or simplicity because I often find, in my own life, the problem of too much. Too much creates inefficiencies, which is what my desk looks like right now, the tiny mountains that are being born on my desk. There’s things that I haven’t attended to. The interesting thing is, because I have piles, if I’m paying attention to who I am, I know that I’m probably not going to attend to these things. They’re like little to-do list piles. I’m not going to attend to them. If I haven’t already, I’m not going to.
Melissa Coleman: I try to pay attention to my habits, which is hard to do, and recognize, as much as I want to do this, I’m probably not. I need to handle this right now, get it off my desk, say “No, I can’t do this thing that I said I was going to do,” or whatever the case may be. Then, I know this is a common problem for me. This is going to keep happening. I need to develop a system or design a solution to keep this from happening, so that you don’t have to continue to revisit this thing.
Bjork Ostrom: You gave some examples. Essentially, what you’re doing is you’re using, the net audit of how you’re using that space. In our case, we were talking about, you sit down in the place that you’re doing work, you’re auditing how you’re using that place and the things that stand out as problem areas or inefficiencies. Things that aren’t optimized or whatever you’d want to call it. From that then you are recognizing it and then building a longterm solution to fix it. Do you have an example in your life of a way that that’s happened and the benefit that then comes from doing that?
Melissa Coleman: Yeah, I don’t want to move into the kitchen, but the kitchen is probably the easiest place for me-
Bjork Ostrom: For sure-
Melissa Coleman: … to talk about that-
Bjork Ostrom: It’s also the office for a lot of people that listen to this podcast. It’s where they are doing work and creating, and so, I think, let’s go there. We are opening the door of the office, we’re stepping out, and we have entered into the kitchen.
Melissa Coleman: We’re in the kitchen. Five years ago, maybe six years ago now, my kitchen was kind of a mess, but it was okay because I didn’t have my daughter yet. I could cook all day. Nothing had to be efficient, and then when I had my daughter, I looked at the pantry and things were spilling out. Things that I needed for the meal they weren’t in there. I had to dig to find things in my drawer, and sometimes I might even get stabbed. That’s an inefficiency. That’s a pain point in the process.
Bjork Ostrom: Literal pain point when you’re getting stabbed-
Melissa Coleman: Literal. Yeah, exactly-
Bjork Ostrom: … trying to find something.
Melissa Coleman: Just like user interface, when you continue to have poor experiences, that gives you a feedback to quit doing that experience. That-
Bjork Ostrom: What do you mean by that?
Melissa Coleman: I was having a bunch of poor experiences in my kitchen. It was inefficient. I couldn’t find what I needed. I couldn’t produce dinner. I couldn’t produce it without losing my mind. It was poor experience, after poor experience, after poor experience. I got to the point where I said, “I think I’m done cooking in the kitchen.” Then I also said this because, I can’t be too dramatic, “I’m either going to figure out this space, I’m going to fix it, or I’m quitting the kitchen altogether.” Because it was that frustrating for me. I know I don’t need to live my life in a constant state of frustration. How can I solve that? I am a problem solver.
Melissa Coleman: I solve that problem through pairing down my kitchen. I had way too many things. I was only grabbing the same couple of things in that drawer I was getting stabbed in, and everything else was just taking up space. I took inventory, I looked this space, and then from that list, the list doesn’t lie, I was able to see what I needed and what I always used, and then get rid of the rest. From that list too, I was able to see, “Oh, I actually use a spatula every single day. I only run my dishwasher once a week. I need a couple spatulas. I’m going to treat my spatula like I treat an undershirt. I’m to get five of the exact same spatula. I don’t want to make a decision when I’m picking up that spatula. I just want to pick up the spatula.”
Melissa Coleman: I was breaking down all those pain points, which they were a lot of them. I think I’ve just mentioned like three or four right there. One thing that’s important to mention, that you’re hearing me as I talk, but I’m not saying this is, when I’m looking at a problem, like the drawer that is too full, I’m thinking about it in an ecosystem. That drawer exists in the kitchen with a bunch of other things, with three other people using that same kitchen. Those are, right? They’re three variables off the bat that exist within my ecosystem. Another one is how often I run the dishwasher.
Melissa Coleman: We have to begin to think about what looks like a simple problem in the complexity of the ecosystem, and then solve those problems within the complexity of the ecosystem. A simple way of saying all of this is, the problem is usually too much. How do you solve too much? You pair down. However, if I just say that, then you’re not getting the nuances of that spatula that I talked about.
Bjork Ostrom: Got it. The problem for… Let’s use another example and see if we can work through that. The-
Melissa Coleman: This is my favorite game by the way.
Bjork Ostrom: It is? Okay. Do you have a good problem that we could start with that we could work against, or do you want me to propose one?
Melissa Coleman: Yeah, I have plenty for the kitchen. The chips always go stale. You got a open bag of chips.
Bjork Ostrom: Then how do you work through that? What does that look like?
Melissa Coleman: Okay, let’s take, there’s one open bag of chips. There’s probably four open bag of chips, because how do you decide which chip you’re going to buy at the store? You get a couple of your favorites. Then I like one chip, my husband likes another chip, so we’ve got multiple bags of chips opened at once. We’re all eating from different bags. They’re stale the next time we go to use them. When I look at that, I looked at, we’ve both, Kevin and I. Kevin’s my husband. Kevin and I both like pita chips. Let’s pick one brand of pita chips that we really, really love. When we go to the store, we’re going to just buy that one chip. When I’m standing in the aisle, I’m actually standing in the aisle less. I’ve made the decision on behalf of us, my family, ahead of time, that I’m going to go pick up that chip. I’m not making a decision in the aisle, which was a pain point for me.
Melissa Coleman: I’m buying that chip, and then when I bring it home, I have actually a permanent container. I’ve said, I’ve made the decision on behalf of myself in advance that I’m going to always buy this chip, so I have a container for this chip. I put this chip into the container when I get home, I put on the airtight seal, and everybody can enjoy the chips for weeks at a time. They’re not going to go stale. I’ve just solved three different problems that I was having on an everyday basis.
Bjork Ostrom: What does that concept look like as we try and craft a workspace that is the ideal workspace? We could apply this, specifically to Pinch of Yum and what we’re working through, or it could be a version of somebody who has a place at home. How do you minimize the decisions that are involved in the day to day things that you’re doing as it relates to this space where you’re working? Is there a way that you can structure things? Is there a way that you can lay out things so you’re not having to, for instance, go into the other room to get a scissors? I don’t know what it would be, but do you have any insights as to what that will look like as we start to design the space for the Pinch of Yum studio, and considerations that we would make in how we will use that mindset and kind of framework for decision making as it relates to that space?
Melissa Coleman: Yes. A couple of things. Number one, when you haven’t already lived or worked in a space, it’s really hard to understand how you’re going to navigate and use this space.
Bjork Ostrom: Oh, interesting. Yeah-
Melissa Coleman: Which is what you guys are in the middle of. You’re going to take… This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to take our best stab, our best effort at guessing what your habits are going to be, and then we’re going to design and build around that. Now, maybe a year from now we say, “Oh my gosh, we use this space differently,” and it’s a moveable space, it’s not a permanent space like the kitchen. Then we can kind of change some things around, which in a meeting the other day, Lindsay was probably like, “Oh my gosh, this girl is a one trick pony.” I was like, “Let’s put it on wheels. Let’s put it out wheels. Let’s put it on wheels.” It’s annoying to say, but the beauty of that is it makes spaces transitional. When you haven’t lived in a space, worked in the space, you don’t exactly know how you’re going to use it. You can just expect that this space isn’t going to look like it does when we finish in a couple of weeks.
Bjork Ostrom: It reminds me of a story, and I don’t know where this was or even if it’s true. It’s one of those stories. But it was people who were designing a college campus, and when they finished, they didn’t put any sidewalks in. They just waited for three months and they saw where the ground was worn from people walking, and then they put the sidewalks over those spaces as opposed to guessing where people are going to be and then realizing, “Oh, everybody just cuts across the yard here,” and then there’ll be this dead patch of grass. They waited for that to happen and built around it. For those that already have a space, they have those grooves built in. Do you reset that in order to see how you truly use the space?
Melissa Coleman: Yes. Depending on your budget. If you’re already living in a space, when I say what’s working for you, when I asked the question about function, you guys were guessing the function, and with someone else… Let’s say you guys had already worked in this office space for five years, and it was five years of frustration. When I asked you about the function, you’d be able to just spout off a list of all the things that aren’t working. We would go off of that list and depending on budget, we would design, I like to say design, creative solutions around these problems.
Melissa Coleman: The beauty of design is that I get to solve a problem, and I get to do it beautifully. It’s like eye candy, but what in actuality it’s doing, if you strip away the candy, it’s solving a problem. That’s how I think about every single thing I’m doing. What problem can I be solving? Because I want you guys… I want this space to work so well. A professor in design school said, “Design it so well that they never consider the designer.” When you’re in this space, I want it to be so fluid that you’re just able to work, you’re not having to do all these other things that are slowing you down.
Melissa Coleman: When you start hitting the problem areas, you’re going to start thinking about me. You’re going to think that Melissa didn’t hit this area, she didn’t hit this area. This is a low point. But if it works really well, it’s going to work so well you’re not going to think about me. It’s just going to work like it always should. That’s the point-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s very similar to the role of a audio technician where, you go to a concert and you’re… You never think of the audio person until there’s this nasty feedback and you’re like, “Oh,” and you look behind you, and you’re like, “What are they doing?” Which is a very humble role to take because you are only noticed when it doesn’t go well.
Melissa Coleman: When there’s a problem, yeah?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, but that also makes a lot of sense. That’s one of the things that we so appreciate about working with you is that we know that that’s the intent of what you’re trying to do. It’s not like this thing where you’re like, “Hey, I’m going to make this huge statement by doing something super over-the-top.” It’s more of, “I’m going to do everything I can to create a beautiful workable space that you are excited about.” That’s so awesome, and we feel so lucky to be working with you on the… We suddenly figured out what we’re going to call it, office, studio. We still have to figure out what the actual name of it will be. But the place that we will work, we are excited to be working with you on that space in designing that.
Bjork Ostrom: We’re coming to the end of the interview, but a couple things that I want to do. Any final thoughts? First, any final thoughts for people that are considering how to create that space that is the ultimate space for them? We talked about kind of the office, we talked about the kitchen. It could be any of those spaces but, any advice for people who want to kind of start that journey in reevaluating what it is in terms of how that is structured, and what their space is like? Any advice to people that are looking to kick that off?
Melissa Coleman: Yeah, I’ll give you a piece of advice for form, and a piece of advice for function. Let’s start with function, which is my favorite place to live in. As you’re organizing your stuff, you have a lot of stuff. How do you begin to organize it? I like to think about spaces as nearby spaces and then far away spaces. Nearby spaces are any spaces that are near you that you would want to put any objects that you’re using every day in these nearby spaces. You need enough nearby spaces for your stuff.
Melissa Coleman: It’s a parameter. Let’s say you have too much stuff. Do you need to add more nearby spaces or do you need to get rid of some of your stuff? that will help you kind of solve that problem, and then all the things that you would use, maybe monthly, or not as often, those can go into the faraway spaces. As I’m designing a room, I have both of those two storage spaces nearby and far away, and then that helps me categorize my objects. Which ones do they belong in? What do I need to keep? What can I get rid of?
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great.
Melissa Coleman: That’s function, and then form. Form is the pretty stuff. Form is dynamic. It can be hard. You can do whatever you want. I’ll give you a couple of tips, especially if you’re not a designer, and that would be to limit yourself. Limit your color palette, limit the textures you use, and repeat those things over and over again. Repetition is a design, philosophy. What’s the word I’m looking for? It’s a common practice in design. When I’m designing a home, I’m going to repeat the same handful of elements all throughout the house to make it cohesive. When you’re starting out, use a couple elements and repeat them.
Melissa Coleman: Also, think about scale. This is what’s going to make or break a room, when you can understand scale. When you think about a space on a wall that has a really tiny frame that looks like a mistake, it’s going to look like a mistake, and everybody’s going to notice it. Understand the size of the wall in context with everything else that’s in there and replace that frame. Sometimes we make mistakes. No, not sometimes. All the time. We make mistakes in design. It’s hard to understand scale. Whether you’re working on a computer program like SketchUp or CAD, that’s to scale, you still make mistakes. Know that designers make mistakes and change the size of that object. You want big things and small things, and the small things help draw attention to the big things.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. You had mentioned this idea of people who aren’t interior designers. I would consider myself one of those people, which is why it’s been so great to work with you along this process. But you had also mentioned that this is something that you’re starting to do for The Faux Martha. It’s a new area that you’re growing into, and we’re honored to be first, or one of the first, people that you’re working with, groups that you’re working with, clients, whatever you’d want to call it. But you are slowly starting to build that list out.
Bjork Ostrom: You had talked about this before the podcast, but you are somebody who is conservative in how you grow. It’s not like you’re looking to scale and bring on tens or hundreds of people right away. But there is a select group of people that you’re going to consider working with as you start to expand this out. If there are people that are listening to this and they think, “Gosh, I would love to have your help and insight in designing a space,” knowing that it’s something that you’re starting to do. Can you talk a little bit about what that looks like? Maybe who those people are that should reach out to you? What a good fit would be for that, and then also how to connect with you if they want to reach out.
Melissa Coleman: Yes. Let’s talk about scale really fast. I am trying to grow this business on successes rather than a bunch of failures, and that’s why I’m pursuing this new endeavor slowly so that I can do it methodically and thought-through and make good decisions and build on those successes. Part of having a successful project or relationship is knowing if we’re a good fit. I will help guide that process, and you will be more thankful for that too, especially if I tell you, “No, we’re not a great fit.” Because as a designer, I have a perspective that I’m going to bring to a room. You might want my perspective or you might not, so I’ll help guide that process. But you can reach out to us at [email protected], F-A-U-X, martha.com and Kimberly is on the other side of that email and she is taking project inquiries, and then we will slowly begin to work on those projects.
Melissa Coleman: I am really excited. I love working on your space, the studio space, but my sweet spot, I think, I’m not… As I said at the beginning about podcasting not sure about much in life, life is dynamic. But my sweet spot is the everyday, the ordinary spaces, which I guess is an office space too. But the home, I love thinking about the home, and how it influences who you are as a person, who you are as a family, how many things are working against you that are keeping you from either being a better person or having better relationships, or pursuing the things you actually want to do in your home, rather than this long task list.
Melissa Coleman: I think I want to stay in the home. That’s where I’m headed right now, doing interior design in home spaces. We will talk about all the things we talked about today on this podcast. Design for me is a relationship if it’s going to be really good design. Whoever I work with, I’m going to know you, I’m going to understand what your habits are, what you want your habits to be, and then we’re going to design around those things.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. That is great. Just to repeat that, if people are interested, the kind of initial filters would be a preference leaning towards home. It would be somebody who wants somebody to come alongside them, help make some of these important decisions. Would you say it would be anybody? Could it be a digital relationship or would you say locally, twin cities?
Melissa Coleman: Right now I’m looking for local to twin cities. I want to see your face, and I want you to see mine, and I want to have that personal relationship.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. If there’s anybody listening that you check those boxes, I would really encourage you to reach out to Melissa, and if not, you can follow along with the progress for Pinch of Yum and what we’re doing. Pinch of Yum, it’s Food Blogger Pro. It’s kind of the catchall for all of those. We are going to be posting updates along the way and especially you, on your Instagram account, are going to be posting updates kind of as they come in in real time. We’ll link to that in the show notes, but Melissa, thanks so much for coming on the podcast again, giving a little bit of an update of what’s happening behind the scenes, and also sharing some insights with people on how they can create that perfect space.
Melissa Coleman: Thank you for having me, and thank you for having me to design your space. Spaces are so incredibly intimate. You spend a lot of time here, and it’s a really huge honor for me to be able to create this place for you guys, where you make and do stuff.
Bjork Ostrom: Thank you. Yeah, appreciate that. I’m going to throw out this trash on my desk, and file away this autographed Dan Gladden card now. Thanks for coming on the podcast, Melissa.
Melissa Coleman: Thanks for having me, Bjork.
Alexa Peduzzi: That is that. Thank you so much for tuning into the Food Blogger Pro podcast this week. But before we wrap up, it’s time for our review of the week. [email protected] the review says, “While I’m not yet a member of the Food Blogger Pro community, I’m waiting for the next enrollment period. I am still able to learn a ton from this podcast. Tons of great info and a well-researched podcast on the business of blogging. Thanks for sharing such great free content tips and tricks of the trade.”
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