Pitching stories: When persistence pays off

Before COVID and having two kiddos, I taught a class at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond called “The Nuts & Bolts of Freelancing.” In the three-hour workshop writers learned how to launch a freelance career. And although I covered everything from refining story ideas to negotiating your pay, the main focus of the class was pitching stories.

As a freelancer, pitching stories to editors can be time consuming and emotionally draining, especially if you spend hours researching and writing the pitch only to hear crickets after sending it out. Writers don’t get paid for the time and energy they spend crafting story queries, so sometimes a pitch honestly can end up being a total waste of time. Have I been there? Plenty of times. “But what does a successful pitch look like?” you may wonder. “And how do I land it somewhere grand?” Gather round, friends. I shall tell you.

In the past 12 years I have freelanced in many capacities — freelancing on the side with full-time journalism and marketing jobs, freelancing part-time with a part-time marketing job, and then when I was 30 I moved to freelance writing full time. It wasn’t until I became self-employed that I realized the importance of writing great pitches, because well, my livelihood depended on it. In this time I have written a lot of pitches. A lot of them have been bad. Bad as in not getting a response from editors. And bad as in getting a response from editors where I face-palm and feel totally embarrassed. (I promise to write a post where I publish my most embarrassing pitches. It will be a roast!) It’s all those bad pitches — that big ol’ pile of rejects — that has helped me figure out how to write the good ones that get responses from editors and, in turn, assignments.

Writing for The New York Times has long been a dream of mine — specifically writing for the Travel section. The summer of my sophomore year at Boston University I read William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well,” and was especially inspired by the chapter on travel writing. It planted a seed. Was that seed going to sprout? At the time it seemed like a long shot. But 14 years later, it sure did.

In January 2020 I connected with the travel editors at The Times, and sent them five pitches. They responded saying they liked the following idea, which I tailored to their “5 places” column.

Two months after I sent this pitch, COVID took hold in the U.S., and life as we knew it dramatically changed. People stopped leaving their houses, and in turn, traveling for pleasure ceased. The Times stopped publishing a print Travel section and those editors shifted their attention to launching and managing the At Home section, a sort of pandemic survival guide for everyone hunkering down at home.

So, my story idea that got a positive response from editors now no longer mattered. My big break wasn’t going to happen after all. Did I give up? (Do you know me? I’m persistent.) Fast-forward to June 2021. I saw that The Times‘ Travel section was coming back and reached back out to editors. I emailed them reminding them that they liked my pitch and told them that my husband and I were going to be back in that neck of the woods very soon. Would they be interested in me writing the story? Well, they darn tootin’ were. Almost three months later, in September, they responded to my email, and assigned me the story.

I was 9 months pregnant and wrote the story based on my travels along the Blue Ridge Parkway from the past decade, specifically focusing on the trips my husband and I have taken during the fall. It was a quick turnaround and I was worried that my daughter was going to be born during the back-and-forth editing process. Thank goodness she wasn’t. The story was published in early October, a week before my daughter was born and in time for readers to feel inspired to plan an autumnal road trip. Read the story here.

My pitch was a winner for the following reasons:

  1. I knew the Travel section well, as I read it weekly for the past few years. Because of my familiarity with the section, I knew what kind of columns existed and stories ran. I could very easily tailor a pitch to this section of the paper.
  2. My idea was relevant. While COVID has disrupted travel, people are embracing road trips. This pitch was timely for the fall season and for how people travel safely during COVID times.
  3. I wrote the pitch like I’d write the story. I kept the tone conversational, but also informative.
  4. I followed up (freelancer rule #1). For this piece I followed up once in July 2020. And then crafted a new email with the same pitch in June 2021. I was persistent, but not bothersome.

There are other things that I think made this query successful, like using bullet points for brevity and easy reading, suggesting a run date, linking to attractions, etc. But most of all, it was my familiarity with the subject that landed the pitch. If you know what you’re talking about, you can write the story.

This was the last story I wrote before going on maternity leave; and while I’m planning on plugging back into work in February, I’m not quite sure what exactly my bread and butter will be. Will I keep doing what I’m doing? Will I take on something new? That’s the beauty of freelancing — the constant transformation. I love it. Not quite sure what’s in store, but I’m open to anything.

xo, marissa

5 Ways To Maintain Your Reputation As A Freelance Writer

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Last week I chatted with public relations pro Christina Dick about the wonderful world of freelance writing. Our convo was part of her new podcast “I’m not an expert, but …”, where she interviews all sorts of RVA folks about who they are and what they do. [Give the podcast a listen!] During our discussion we covered a lot of bases — topics like the gig economy, being a self-starter, and breaking into the industry.

One thing I briefly touched on during the interview was reputation. I’d like to take a few minutes here to delve further into reputation because it really is one of the most important parts of being a freelance writer. In all honesty, it can make or break you.

In my freelancing writing workshop I also discuss communication and etiquette, which I sometimes assume is common-sense stuff, but for newbies it might not be. Your reputation as a good, reliable writer rests on a few key things: being kind, turning in your piece on time, delivering on what you promised, responding in a timely fashion to edits, and being gracious during the editing process.


This principle is pretty easy, but you’d be surprised how many people fudge it up. If you don’t operate with The Golden Rule in mind (“Do unto others, as you’d want them to do unto you,” as my mommy used to say) then you aren’t going far in freelancing. Don’t be egotistical. Don’t be whiny. Don’t be rude. No one wants to work with a jerk, especially when there are a ton of other freelancers out there who happily will do the job with a smile on their face.


Growing up my mom made sure we were always 15 minutes early for every appointment. This drove me nuts as a kid. As an adult I’m now the uncool person who is the first to arrive at a party. But I’m so glad my mom taught me about punctuality, because people who are late have no respect for you or your time. Turning in your story late also shows editors that you are a bad communicator and aren’t organized.

Life happens though and sometimes we have to push back deadlines. When I was 24 and starting my freelance career I got deathly ill. I got bronchitis, which developed into pneumonia, which in turn led to me checking into the hospital with pleurisy. At the time I was supposed to turn in a big feature story to my editor over at Blue Ridge Outdoors, but my illness wiped me out for weeks. I was so scared that my editor wouldn’t understand. Guess what though? He did! — because he is a kind and understanding human and not a monster. Editors care about their writers! We all get sick. We all have emergencies. Just be sure to communicate what is happening to your editor and they’ll surely understand and adjust deadlines as needed. (If they don’t, then they probably are a monster.)


This seems pretty obvious, but as an editor I’ve had writers turn in stories that weren’t what they originally pitched. Say you pitch and are assigned a travel story about the thriving beer scene in Richmond, but then you start writing the story for the publication and you realize that Richmond’s beer scene actually is dying. Breweries are closing down and beer literally is drying up.

Well, then let your editor know and readjust the angle of your story. Don’t let it get to the point where you sit down to write the story and it no longer makes sense or you have to change the entire direction of your piece. This prevents you from metaphorically punching your editor in the face.

This also goes for word count. For print publications you need to stick to the assigned word count. I still struggle with this 10 years in and have been reprimanded by editors for it. If you are assigned 600 words, don’t turn in 750. Don’t turn in 500 words. Turn in 600 words. End of story.

Also, if you promised extra elements like side bars, infographics or photos, be sure to deliver on what you signed up for.


By timely, I mean according to your editor’s production schedule. It could be by the end of the week. It could be tomorrow morning. It could be by end of day. If you editor doesn’t give you a time frame, be sure to ask.

I once had an editor give me edits on a Friday evening and not tell me she needed them back early Monday morning when the story went to press. I didn’t get them back to her. Don’t put yourself in that position, friends.


This is a hard one. Writing is incredibly personal. After all, it is your voice and thoughts. So when someone edits you, it can be hard not to take it personally. Trust me, I know. Still to this day, a huge edit can sting. It deflates my ego. And it sometimes makes me question if I’m even good at what I do. OMG, AM I?

It may look like your story has been hacked to death, but don’t let all those red marks put you in an existential funk. Editing doesn’t exist to deflate you and make you feel like an idiot. It’s the opposite. It’s constructive criticism and is meant to help you grow and lift you up as a writer.

I once worked with a writer who responded to my edits with extreme passive aggression. During each editing process I felt like I was walking on eggshells because of the back-and-forth email commentary with said person. Finally we went our separate ways because the communication had an air of toxicity to it. Part of writing is editing. If it’s a tough pill for you to swallow, you gotta get over it.

Want to know more about freelance etiquette?  Check out this piece I wrote for MediaBistro where editors at top publications share qualities they look for in writers.


Back To Work

Hi All, I’m back! I took three months off for maternity leave, and I’m now plugging back into work. There are a few exciting developments — aside from the baby! — since my return.

1.) I’m back teaching freelance workshops at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Yay! My first class was yesterday and I have another coming up on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. I’ll also be teaching a workshop during the winter semester (date TBD). Sign up here.

2.) I’m Dwell’s new “Out There” columnist. I’ll be writing a story each week featuring cabins, trailers/campers, treehouses, houseboats, and all sorts of fun, nontraditional residences that get people out experiencing nature. The column kicks off in early September!

3.) I’m coming back to my copy editing gig at The Scout Guide. Each week I fact-check and proofread a batch of spreads for one of TSG’s 60+ publications.

4.) I’m diversifying work-wise too. I launched a little side hustle called Velkommen Vintage, where I sell stylish vintage furniture and decor via Instagram and Chairish. This is meant to be another fun avenue to bring in some dough, while I’m staying home taking care of Elin.

After I get settled and figure out how to balance my work life and mom life, I’ll be accepting more story assignments. Excited to see what new opportunities come my way!

xo, marissa

My 7 Favorite Scandinavian Home Brands

Source: Courtesy of Bjørn Wiinblad.

I’m a big fan on Scandinavian design. I love the sleek lines, simple beauty and functionality that is associated with decor from the Nordic region. If you’ve been over to our house or heard me talk about my heritage, you already know this.

I’m Scandinavian (a mix of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish), and have a concentration in Nordic Studies from University of Colorado at Boulder. That means I took classes where I studied everything from the social welfare system and conversational Swedish (Hejsan!) to Icelandic sagas and the Nordic sources J.R.R. Tolkien incorporated in his Lord of The Rings books.

While my knowledge of Scandinavia runs deep, so does my love for the region’s aesthetics. In college I wrote a term paper for my Nordic Societies class drawing comparisons between the visuals in the IKEA catalog and Carl Larsson’s paintings of the Swedish domestic life. The similarities were striking. (That reminds me, I need to dig up that paper!) It also was in that class that I fell in love with midcentury designers like Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner.

As Graham and I have established our home, I’ve managed to incorporate Scandinavian heirlooms that have been passed down from both of our families, along with larger pieces of contemporary furniture. With all the Nordic-inspired pieces that make up our home, I figured it was due time for a little blog post on some of my favorite home brands from the motherland.

Iris Hantverk

Located in Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s historic Old Town, this cute little shop sells beautiful home goods along with brushes that are handmade by visually impaired workers. While we were visiting for our honeymoon, I grabbed a few gorgeous knit hand towels to bring home for our house and as souvenirs for my mom and Nana. If you live here in Richmond, you can pick up some Iris Hantverk brushes at Accoutre in Scott’s Addition. irishantverk.se

Bjørn Wiinblad

I love everything about Bjørn Wiinblad’s designs. They are so whimsical and happy. You can find the Danish painter’s motifs on all sorts of homewares like ceramics, linens and seasonal decor. While shopping in Copenhagen and Oslo we saw a lot of his designs in home stores. I can’t find a brick-and-mortar here in the U.S., but Skandium and Connox both sell these pretty porcelain pieces via their web shops.  bjornwiinblad-denmark.com

Source: Courtesy of Muuto.


I’m a huge fan of Muuto’s sleek molded plywood and plastic seating. The Danish shop also has a beautiful line of light fixtures along with fun tchotchkes and textiles for the home. Here in the U.S., it looks like the best place to get your Muuto fix is via web shops like the Danish Design Store, Design Public and Lekker Homemuuto.com

Svensk Tenn

While meandering around Stockholm I discovered this amazing high-end design house. As a fan of fiber arts, I love Svensk Tenn’s textiles, particularly artist-designer Josef Frank’s whimsical patterned fabrics. If you’re looking for some of the company’s vintage wares, be sure to check out Charish’s inventorysvenskttenn.se

Source: Courtesy of Normann Copenhagen.

Normann Copenhagen

This Danish design company reminds me of a high-end IKEA with everything from furnishings to the functional items and final touches you would buy for your home. Although based in Copenhagen, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on some of the wares, via modern furniture stores here in the U.S. like Design Within Reach or popular e-tailers like the Danish Design Store that focus on contemporary Scandinavian housewares. normann-copenhagen.com

Royal Copenhagen

Royal Copenhagen was started in 1775 under Denmark’s Queen Juliane Marie as the country’s royal porcelain factory. The timeless ceramics are adorned with simple, classic blue floral motifs that can really translate to any table. For the holidays, I bought some lovely Royal Copenhagen taper candles via Hygge Life, a brick-and-mortar in the Vail, Colorado area. The shop also sells pillars too. One day I’ll have to splurge and buy some serving dishes and platters. royalcopenhagen.com

Source: Courtesy of Menu.


Based out of Copenhagen, this sophisticated design shop sells everything from gorgeous upholstered sofas down to highly functional housewares. Seriously, look at Menu’s Sweeper and Funnel. Is that not the smartest, coolest dust pan you’ve ever laid your eyes on?! With one sweep your mess is in the pan and funneled out the bottom into the trash. menu.as

Interior Icon: Dorothy Draper Past + Present

Image provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.

Dorothy Draper was a woman ahead of her time. In an era when it was unheard of for women to have a career, Draper was a pioneer, paving the way for the interior design profession when she launched her own firm in 1923. Draper started a revolution not just in the interior design world, but for women by transforming and empowering the domestic space.

Draper eschewed the Victorian era’s dismal colors, period room styles, and formalities, instead embracing bright colors, bold motifs, and exaggerated details — something that was unheard of at the time. In the early 1900s after Draper married, she redecorated her home and her high-society friends took note of her fabulous style, asking her to spruce up their abodes as well. Over time, Draper’s hobby turned into an iconic and recognizable style, along with one of the most beloved interior design companies in the world.

What is now known as Dorothy Draper & Company was avant-garde at the time. Draper coined the term “modern baroque,” adding her special touch of glamour to classical designs. She was a design maximalist, applying exaggerated motifs and zippy colors, overlapping busy prints, and combining colors and patterns that weren’t ever seen before. Large prints and thick stripes were applied liberally to walls, bedspreads, and upholstered furniture. Although it was outlandish, her designs were well-received. They lifted spirits and inspired. “Lovely, clear colors have a vital effect on our mental health,” Draper once said.  

Draper’s signature style is characterized by her use of cabbage rose chintz, white-and-black checkered floors, ornate white plasterwork, rococo scrollwork, and mirrors galore. Skillfully she mixed periods, such as Victorian with Baroque and Art Deco.  “If it looks right, it’s right,” she would say simply if a room looked aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

Image provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.

At The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, you can’t help but smile seeing the vibrant green palm tree leaf wallpaper paired with regal red carpeting, and Draper’s cheery oversized aqua, purple and green rhododendron chintz that is used extensively throughout. Draper redecorated the resort in the 1940s, breathing new life into the historic hotel, covering all aspects of the redesign down to the details of the menus and staff uniforms.

Her dramatic design became known as “the Draper touch,” and she was admired by suburban housewives across the country. Her “Ask Dorothy Draper” column ran in more than 70 newspapers during The Great Depression, and she would dole out decorative pearls of wisdom to those who wanted to adopt her style. At a time of poverty and sadness, Draper was telling women to infuse their homes with lively colors and happy motifs. 

In 1944, Draper’s first pattern for the fabric and wallcovering company F. Schumacher & Co. was released — “Manor Rose”, an oversized vibrant chintz motif that is still available for purchase today. Her fabrics were in such demand by homemakers that Schumacher sold more than a million yards of her famous cabbage rose chintz.

Draper’s spaces are not just memorable but transformative. Entrances announce “you have arrived”  with bold plasterwork, while bedrooms are dreamy with romantic flowers, and dining rooms sparkle with eye-catching fixtures.

Image provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.


Today Draper’s dramatic designs can be seen at properties such as the restaurant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (dubbed “The Dorotheum”), along with The Plaza Hotel and Carlyle Hotel in New York City. Dorothy Draper & Co. also is known for its interior design of castles and manors in Ireland, the Lithuanian Royal Palace, and the White House during the Carter administration. 

“Draper was to decorating what Chanel was to fashion,” Draper’s protégé and the company’s current president Carleton Varney said. “She brought color into a world which was sad and dreary. Today, everyone wants color around them again.” 

Varney, also known fondly as “Mr. Color,” joined the company in the 1960s, working alongside Draper, and purchased the company in 1964. He was then hired by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to be the curator of The Greenbrier when Justice purchased the resort in 2009 and saved it from bankruptcy.

Since heading up the company, Varney has expanded Dorothy Draper & Co. to include Carleton V Ltd. along with and Dorothy Draper Fabric and Wallcoverings. Varney’s design philosophy echoes Draper’s with the use of bright colors and forbidding all things dim and banal. Varney, along with his right-hand man, Brinsley Matthews, are carrying on the traditions that Draper started nearly 100 years ago. 

Image provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.

“We are as busy as ever, just as busy as Ms. Draper was in her day,” says Matthews, executive vice president and director of design and operations at Dorothy Draper & Co. “We still have all the components and ingredients, and still do original design and industrial design. And then there’s the fabrics and wallpapers. We are always creating new designs for lighting, fabric, and china.”

The design firm has decorated more than 300 hotels across the world, recently finishing Palm Beach’s Colony Hotel, The Grand Hotel’s new Coupla Suites, along with The Greenbrier’s new Wedding Salon.

“When we do hotels, we do the buttons on the uniforms and matchbooks and stationery,” says Matthews of the level of aesthetic attention paid to all aspects of their projects. “Our customers love attention to detail. Your biggest mistake is to underestimate someone. We all know details and appreciate details.”

Dorothy Draper & Co. also transforms the interior design for posh jets, the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship, railway cars — even hospitals and retirement homes.

Known for their deliberate use of unexpected color combinations, Dorothy Draper & Co. has established a paint line with Fine Paints of Europe with colors like the soft Hampton Meadow Lawn green and vibrant marigold Presidential Yellow.

And recently the company completed luxury homes in Palm Beach and New York. Previously, the privates residences they have decorated include the likes of Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, and golf pro Sam Sneed.

Image provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper & Company, Inc.


10 decorating pro-tips from Dorothy Draper & Co.’s Vice President and Director of Design Brinsley Matthews

1. Don’t forget the ceiling. According to Draper, there are five walls in a home, and the ceiling should not be neglected. Matthews advises painting ceilings in soft pastel colors.

2. Check your floors. Black-and-white patterned floors are a signature design element of Draper. She would use large-scale 22-inch square tiles to execute her checkerboard look.

3. Go bright or go home. “All our colors are fresh,” says Matthews. “Ms. Draper always used bright, clear colors.” Matthews recommends using colors that are reminiscent of springtime, when everything is alive and vibrant.

4. Just say “no” to beige. “Beige is the one color we don’t do. It isn’t an option,” says Matthews. “Ms. Draper used to say, ‘Show me nothing that looks like gravy.’” Beige can work as a minor secondary color, but Matthews warns against leaning on the color and applying it liberally. “It’s like quicksand. There’s no getting away from it then!” 

5. Add jewel-tone accents. While using vibrant colors generously, Matthews also advises on adding accents of saturated hues. “A burgundy or dark green or aubergine helps highlight fixtures or interesting art you have,” he says. 

6. Black is the new black. “Always add a touch of black to a room because it anchors the room,” says Matthews. Try a black coffee table or side table. And remember, all you need is a touch.

7. Scale is key. Matthews advices to keep scale in mind when decorating rooms. For instance, large rooms call for large prints. Common rooms at The Greenbrier and Grand Hotel are wallpapered in 15-inch and 20-inch stripes.

8. Define doorways. “Entrances to rooms are always lavish,” says Matthews of Draper’s doorways, which were embellished with lavish white plasterwork. “It creates a lovely announcement.” 

9. Create a focal point. It’s important to have large-scale focal point in a room, which can be a window, piece of art, sofa, or even a mirror. If using a mirror, Matthews says it must reflect something interesting.

10. Mix it up. Mixing and matching fabrics is one of Draper’s signature looks. Matthews recommending mixing several patterns, such as bold chintz, and then using a striped fabric or wallpaper as a common denominator. 


Further your interior design knowledge at the Dorothy Draper School of Decorating

For the Dorothy Draper fans who are interested in furthering their interior design education, the design firm has launched their own decorating school, where they generously dole out design tips.

The program is hosted at The Grand Hotel on the weekend of June 21 through 23, 2019 and through two design sessions hosted by Carlton Varney himself guests learn how to solve their home decorating dilemmas. While learning about Dorothy Draper’s style, participants also are educated on how to create beautiful, bold, and balanced spaces for their home. 

6 ‘Cool Mom’-Approved Nursery Trends

There’s a lot of unattractive nursery furniture and decor out there. At 29 weeks pregnant, let’s just say I’ve spent a good chunk of that time looking at baby gear, and I’ve seen a lot of banal stuff out there. It takes some digging (and avoiding big-box baby stores) to discover unique and whimsical items that will give your nursery a stylish, one-of-a-kind feel.

In my quest to create a nursery, I’ve taken it upon myself to find balance between cutesy baby stuff and adult-friendly decor. After much thought it occurred to me that I didn’t want to be sitting in a childish safari-themed room, and would much rather be spending my time (who am I joking … 24/7) in a room where I will be physically and emotionally comfortable. I know from mom friends how hard those first few months are on your body and mind, and I wanted to create a room that not only caters to all baby’s needs, but mine as well.

It’s important for me to create an environment that lifts my spirits and keeps me comfortable throughout the day while nursing and hanging with my girl. I know there are going to be really tough moments where I’ll be feeling anxious and frustrated, and being in a safe, comfortable space as a new mom is important. So, I’m in the process of creating a feminine room that is both child- and adult-friendly. It’s happy and whimsical — not overly girly and not too childish.

In my quest to find a mommy-baby balance in the nursery, I noticed some really cool decorative trends. Here are a few that I think are worth sharing.

  1. Llama Decor

Source: Anthropologie.

Llamas are the new unicorns, and thank god. You can’t toss a pacifier without hitting some unicorn-bedecked item in a kids’ store these days.

When quilt shopping for our little girl, I came across this kooky llama quilt (seen above, $98-$178) via Anthropologie. How fun! Anthro clearly is embracing this silly creature, as you’ll find llama decor throughout out their site — mobile ($56), pouf ($128), growth chart ($68), coin bank ($24), etc. Seriously, so much. If you troll their site, you’ll find llamas aplenty.

Etsy also has their share of llama items — llama crib sheet ($30), swaddle blanket ($37) and prints you can frame ($6).

2. Modern Cribs

Source: Pottery Barn Kids

Modern cribs with clean lines are all the rage. Pottery Barn Kids’ Modern Baby line includes beautiful cribs like the convertible Lolly crib (seen above, $399) by Babyletto, which I purchased for our nursery.  West Elm and Crate & Kids also carry some great contemporary styles by Babyletto, Stokke and DaVinci Baby.

If you are in the market for a bassinet, check out the SNOO Smart Sleeper ($1,295). We scored one on Black Friday when they were hugely discounted. The bassinets are supposed to be a total game changer with sleep training. And as someone who loves sleep, I’m willing to splurge here.

3. Handmade Mobiles

Source: Etsy.

While hunting for nursery decor, I came across so many precious handmade mobiles. This knit kitten mobile (seen above, $151) on Etsy caught my eye. I also love Serena & Lily’s felted elephants mobile ($148), along with this cloud and star mobile ($59) and minimal wood mobile ($39) on Etsy.

The Moms On Call Basic Baby Care book (which I highly recommend BTW) notes that babies learn by association, and therefore you shouldn’t hang mobiles over the crib. Babies need to associate the crib with sleep time, not playtime. So if you are going the mobile route, perhaps hang it over the changing table instead. It will make butt-wiping more enjoyable for all.

4. Boho Crib Skirts

Source: Serena & Lily.

Serena + Lily’s macrame crib skirt (seen above, $78) is so much fun! Can they please make this for grown-up beds?! Crate & Kids has a cool one decked out in navy pom-poms (on sale for $39.97 now!) and this linen skirt with fringe ($28) on Etsy would be fun for a more subdued natural-looking nursery. I’m a fan of Anthro’s dyed tassel skirt ($78), but I feel like you can create this look yourself for much cheaper.

Crib skirts obviously aren’t necessary (all you really need is a fitted crib sheet), but I think that if you find something special like the ones above, it’s totally worth gussying up baby’s bed.

5. House Beds

Source: Etsy.

I was pleasantly surprised to find such a large inventory of house beds on Etsy. I like this one (seen above, $245) for its sheer simplicity and affordability. (If you or your partner are handy, you can create one for a fraction of price though!) Resting on the ground, it’s toddler-friendly, so little ones can get in and out of bed easily.

Also, I’m a big fan of daybeds in the nursery. We got an IKEA daybed that pulls out into a queen for our baby’s room, so that my husband and I have a place to nap and relax while taking care of our girl.

6. Campy Themes

Source: Crate & Kids.

Crate & Kids has a bunch of cheeky themes that break the mold of traditional nurseries. For instance, this camper play tent (seen above, and now on sale for $169!) takes the whole forest theme to a new level. You can even complete your setup with a campfire and log set ($69), log seat ($59) and toy camping set ($59). How freakin’ adorable is that? I can’t even.

. . . 

T-minus 74 days until my due date, so I still have plenty of time to finish nesting and decorating the nursery. I’d love some decor tips and product recommendations! Thanks friends! xo, marissa

Surprising 2019 Design Predictions

Courtesy of Muuto.

January signals new beginnings, and in the design world that means publications are putting out trend forecasts that predict everything from colors to decor. For the past month my inbox has been inundated with lifestyle e-newsletters telling me what’s new and hot for 2019, so I figured I’d do a little roundup of trends that piqued my interest, both positively and negatively.

Read ahead, and if you are a design pro — or an admirer like me — I’d love to hear your thoughts on this year’s trends.


>> Washington Post <<

The Washington Post chatted with Houzz’s editor for this year’s design forecast. The website’s predictions are based off of activity on their site and tips from industry experts. Houzz’s list hits on some pretty obvious trends that currently are happening, like dynamic backsplashes, moody colors,  dining benches and free-standing tubs. I got excited when I saw  “tuxedo kitchens” on the list and then after reading further, realized that it’s just a fancy way of referring to kitchens with black cabinets and white decorative details. Hasn’t this been happening for a while? I think this look is more timeless than trendy. Hence referring to the style as a classic ensemble like the “tuxedo.”

I also was surprised to see “four-wall accent color” on the list. What could this possibly be, I pondered. “Instead of a bold-colored feature wall, homeowners are opting to paint all the walls,” writes the author of the story. I hate to break it to ya, Houzz, but painting all the walls in a room is not a trend. It’s a standard practice that’s been happening for eons.

>> Lonny <<

Lonny published a trend roundup based off of Pinterest’s top home trends report, which was an interesting angle to take on. After all, Pinterest gives you a good look at what all the lifestyle bloggers are interested in. The list includes bold wallpapers, cactus arrangements  and geometric paint — all decorative elements that make me think of a millennial lifestyle influencer’s Instagram feed. Things I found exciting were mustard yellow, natural swimming pools (my inner Floridian approves!) and textile art.

>> Domino <<

While Domino wrote a similar story to Lonny based off the same Pinterest report (can anyone say press release?), they also published a series of in-depth posts on specific trends for 2019. These include curvaceous coffee tables, plywood, European-inspired kitchens,  and a popular seat called the Jeanneret chair.

Ahead of the gang, Domino also published a story back in September on trends to watch for this year based off of attending big international design shows. Predictions include sustainability (dramatic eye-roll), high-end Scandinavian furnishings (think Muuto, not IKEA) and ’70s-inspired hues like orange and yellow.

>> Remodelista <<

Remodelista had the most thought-provoking roundup of trends for 2019, ranging from fringe-skirted lounge chairs to oversized pendant lamps. I appreciated how specific the editors were with decor. Some peculiar trends though made me take a double-take, namely handmade soap dishes and quirky rattan lamps. Say what?!

>> House Beautiful <<

House Beautiful broke down their design roundup by subject matter. Bathroom trends to watch for are concrete, unique mirrors and industrial-inspired hardware. In the kitchen, the forecast includes matte black (there’s that tuxedo kitchen again!), stonework and beadboard. And color-wise look out for muted pastels, terra cotta and mushroom (AKA gross beige — which is hard for me to believe).

. . .

I have some fun posts planned for the future. Since I’ve been busy nesting and preparing for the arrival of our baby, I think it would be fun to write a post about nursery decor trends. There’s some cool stuff out there!

I also have a post in the works against book styling. Quite a few people reacted via Facebook to my last blog post, specifically calling out how outrageous the backwards books trend is. I’m going to take all that energy and run with it, because you won’t believe the crazy ways in which people are styling their books.

I’d love to hear what you are interested in reading about! xo, marissa

What to expect from this blog in 2019


Hi Friends + Fam,

For years I wanted to launch a lifestyle blog. So in 2016 I purchased a URL, came up with a cute name (HappyHyggeHome), and then for the next two years I pondered branding, content, design, etc. After years of doing nothing, I finally realized I lacked the vision and confidence to get it off the ground. So, I deleted the URL and moved on.

But after saying goodbye to my nonexistant website, I still felt a longing to create a place online where I could jot down all the ideas that are confined to my head. The other evening when I was tossing and turning with my pregnancy insomnia and general discomfort, I experienced an inward eye moment. It occurred to me that 1.) I can write about whatever I want to without all the hoopla of fancy branding; 2.) I already have a blog (this one!) where my thoughts can live; and 3.) I can be my authentic self right here. What an amazing, freeing realization. I suddenly couldn’t sleep because I was excited!

So rather than creating a “branded” lifestyle site, what will I be doing with this here blog? The thoughts on this blog will be a reaction and counterpoint to millennial lifestyle websites that exist today, specifically in regard to home design and style, which is where my head and pen have been at for the past few years.

Recently I’ve noticed professional publications dumbing down their content for the 20- and 30-some audience. As a millienial who works in the realm of lifestyle publishing, I’m personally insulted by this. Current shelter publications assume its younger readers don’t know chevron from herringbone and modern from contemporary.  Ahem, we do. Those of us who are passionate and curious about design don’t want our content to be diluted. We don’t want blog posts and stories that read like “Lifestyle for Dummies.” We want the real deal: smart stories about inspired design.

I’ve also noticed that shelter publications catering to the millennial crowd aren’t cherry-picking spaces that are worthy of being showcased. Instead I find myself staring at homes that lack in taste and personality, and instead are carbon copies of the same tired, unoriginal trends that exist on every other blog.

With that said, here are a few thoughts on topics I’d like to address on the blog in the near future:

-stop trying to make fetch happen: 5 design trends that need to stop now
-the tao of books: stop styling them and just let them be
-an argument against IKEA hacks

I’m also giving myself room to write about whatever the heck I want to, beause this is my blog and I do what I want. So blog posts also may be about recipes, vacations, cats … who knows! Basically, you can expect to find any lifestyle topic that I already professionally write about (architecture + interiors, arts + culture, food + drink, travel, weddings, etc.) on the blog.

What do you think current lifestyle websites lack that you’d like to see here? Let me know. I’d love to hear.

Happy New Year! xo, marissa 

6 ways to market yourself as a freelance writer

It’s hard to find the time to market yourself when you’re busy writing. The more prolific and successful you are, the less time you have to update your website, push your stories out via social media, and network with colleagues at industry events. But, if you carve out a little time in your routine every day (30 minutes tops), your efforts will go a long way.

As a freelancer who is stuck working from home, here are a few things I’ve made a point to do over the years to help market myself:

1. Put your stories out there. Update your social media with your stories as they are published. With time management in mind, I say “as they are published” so that you don’t sit down one day at your computer and have 20 stories that need to be tweeted out. By constantly adding to all your channels (I’m talking all channels — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) you are increasing your clout and letting people know that you are creatively rich and busy doing your job.

2. School yourself. Over the years I have both attended and taught workshops. It’s good to attend writing classes to help fine-tune your writing, sharpen your editing skills, hear your words read aloud and open yourself up to criticism. If you have the knowledge and experience, teaching writing also is rewarding because mentoring and educating is important for the greater community.

3. Join committees and boards. Make connections with folks in the community by joining committees and boards. Here in Richmond, I’ve made all sorts of great contacts through serving on Faison Center’s junior board and The Visual Arts Center of Richmond’s Craft + Design Committee. The people you meet through other organizations will remember you when they need help with communications, or they might refer you to a friend in need.

4. Keep your portfolio up to date. Back in the day I used to update this WordPress site with every single story I wrote. What a waste of time! Last year a friend turned me on to Contently, an online portfolio that is extremely user-friendly. Just like Pinterest, you copy and paste a web link onto the site and it automatically generates a headline, dek and photo. Rather than wasting time creating a blog post about the stories I write, I now take five minutes each day to upload story links onto my portfolio.

5. Be the conversation. Post relevant content about your industry on LinkedIn. Tweet your reaction to a story on Twitter. Write posts relating to your field and expertise on your blog. As a writer you need to be an active participant in your field, so walk the walk and talk the talk.

6. Do a good job. You could have 10,000 Twitter followers and a killer online portfolio, but honestly, the best marketing is having a good reputation among your colleagues. Recently I’ve gotten some awesome new gigs because editors have passed along my contact to colleagues who were in need of writing and editing help. An editor saying “This writer does a good work” goes a long way. So do a good job. Be nice. And karma will bring you good fortune.

What are your marketing tips? Would love to hear them! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Best, Marissa

Female Freelancer: Writer Sarah Howlett gives the 411 on trade publications

As a remote writer, I connect with all sorts of talented freelancers through the interwebs. Recently Boulder, Colorado journalist Sarah Protzman Howlett and I found one another and connected over our mutual love of writing and Colorado. While Sarah does a variety of editorial work from writing to copy editing, I wanted to focus this week’s Q&A on one of her specialities — writing for trade publications. Trade publications are a different beast than consumer publications, so I figured this would be a nice opportunity for Sarah give us a little background on the trade pub world.

Publications you’ve worked with: WWD, Oprah, Prevention, 5280, 5280 Health, 5280 Home, Colorado Health & Wellness, and a slew of trade magazines you’ve never heard of.

1. Tell us about your journalism background. How did you get your start in the industry?

After I graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism, my first job was on the copy desk at The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Colorado. After 18 months, I took over for the arts and entertainment reporter, where I covered music and theater, and appeared on TV, radio, a web series, and wrote a column about being single in a small town.

After a few years, I got the New York City bug and, once there, caught a lucky break with an assistant job at a men’s fashion trade that folded in 2008. Unbeknownst to me, my boss was aware we were going under and had already put me up for a job on the copy desk at Women’s Wear Daily (WWD). It was an awfully sad time in journalism, seeing so many colleagues and friends laid off who, frankly, were a lot more talented than I. I worked at WWD until moving to Denver in 2010. 

2. How and when did you launch your freelance career?

I freelanced on the side when I lived in Manhattan, often covering home décor and Broadway theater for a free publication called New York Resident. (I think I answered a Craigslist ad to get that gig and was maybe able to pay my utilities with what I earned, but it was sorely needed extra cash!)

In 2010 my then-fiancé, now husband and I felt ready to move on from NYC and move to Denver, near my family. We wanted kids in a few years’ time, so I built up a roster of freelance clients with the idea that I’d be established after a year or so and work part-time once I was a mother. Our twins were born in 2013, and it has been a privilege to have the flexibility that comes with working for myself.

3. It sounds like a bulk of your work and income comes from trade publications. What are trade publications and how did you segue into that world?

It was a total accident. I wrote a piece for a trade magazine in the pool and spa industry to help out a friend who was on its staff at the time. When it ended up losing its associate editor some time later, they called me. I have had that job, working remote, since 2010 and they’ve been very good to me. 

4. What kind of subject matter do you write about for trade publications?

I often write trend reports (for instance, new technologies gym owners might consider to boost membership) or profiles on small-business owners. I love talking to anyone who is passionate about what they do; it gets me really interested right away, regardless of whether I’ve never heard of the thing they’re talking about until I started the story!

5. How is working with trade publications different from working with consumer publications?

Instead of, say, a magazine like Shape, which anyone interested in fitness would read, trades are speciality publications for those who make their living in the business of fitness. Where Shape writes about how to flatten your abs, a fitness trade publication might write a feature on the latest fitness equipment, and whether owners/operators who have upgraded have found it worth the investment.

6. Do you have to pitch trade publications the same way you’d pitch a consumer publication? 

No. Most trade editors assign to experienced writers who are capable of learning on their feet. They don’t expect most of their freelancers to have the highly specific knowledge about their given industries, so they’ll often help you with sources and industry terminology. I’ve certainly pitched to trades once I’m familiar with an industry’s trends and pressing issues. When I’m interested in writing for a new one, I send an email introducing myself. There are some great LOI (letter of introduction) templates on freelancer websites.

7. What kind of advice do you have for writers who want to work with trade publications? Where can they find trade publications to scope out their content?

Advice: Always focus on your hourly pay and not the per-word. Signing a contract for $2/word feels awesome, but when you’re eight months into reporting and on your sixth revision with your third editor, the hourly can end up pretty bad. (Don’t get me wrong: If you sell a pitch to a huge mag when you’re just starting out, definitely do it. A great clip is a great clip.)

Most trades I’ve written for pay anywhere from $.25 to $1/word, and I’m able to pull in about as much in 10 hours a week as I did as a full-time reporter right out of college. Trades’ lead times are much shorter and their staffs smaller, so there are fewer revisions, you get paid faster, and you can access sources easily because they’re eager to talk up the industry they love (or at least from which they earn a living). Googling “trade pubs for the ____ industry” will yield all the results you need. 

8. Other than trade publications, what other kind of writing and work do you do editorially?

I still copy edit a lot. So many newspapers have slashed their copy desks — and you can tell, believe me — but I have copy edited everything from museum newsletters to cookbooks. The skill is highly transferable from my newspaper days and still so valuable. There are innumerable highly intelligent people, experts in their field, who struggle mightily to write a clear, concise sentence that’s correctly punctuated.

9. How do you keep yourself abreast of trends in the ever-evolving media industry? 

I read a ton of news and probably too many think pieces about the industry. I don’t consider myself a blindly optimistic person, but I believe to my toes that collectively, we know we benefit from helpful, honest reporting, and that it’s not going anywhere.

10. What are some of your favorite tools as a journalist? 

I really like Grammar Girl for those obscure rules I can never seen to remember! And I will always love the AP Stylebook.

11. What kind of things do you do creatively to help yourself unwind?

I love to sew and refinish small pieces of furniture, and I’m constantly tweaking our home’s interior. 

Connect with Sarah through her website, Instagram and LinkedIn.