Reach Your Goals & Realize Your Full Potential

On attending MogulX NYC 2019.

First of, what is Mogul? It’s a tech platform and mobile app that provides tools to individuals & organizations to achieve optimal productivity, learning & growth. You can google/wikipedia your heart out. I’ve known about the tools since 2014 but I always brushed it off as another female-centric, maybe too-rah-rah-feministic-millenial-app. I’ll be honest with you, I spent a decade in web and digital and I judge a brand by its website and it’s UX respectively. I originally felt lost on Mogul’s site (and still do), but hear me out: I’m starting with the negative to hook you in for the positive ;) — they successfully planted a curiosity seed and kept tabs over the years. Last year the marketing for their conference (and yes, the badass event website) had me at first scroll. Life happened and wasn’t able to attend, but pinned a ‘must go’ for 2019. And I went, and it exceeded all my expectations (and pre-judgements).

What I originally missed about Mogul and the founder’s brilliance was that the platform dot-connects women with jobs, events, content, conversations obviously personalized to your jam. From there you see content pouring in from other sources as well as the community contributing giving off this amazing networking and empowerment vibe. It’s hard to do this at that scale in person and on social media, so the platform solves a problem and serves and audience. Bravo. Now, the conference:

Exactly 1 month ago, I happily used their Via discount code to shuffle myself to a totally Queens hipster building to experience what they described as:

Mogul X is an innovative conference made up of transformative classrooms, immersive experiences, and networking opportunities — all of which dive into the key aspects of a Mogul’s life including Failures, Work, Relationships, Health & Wellness, Travel, Finance, and Entrepreneurship. Each class is taught by the best of the best: world-class CEO’s, top executives, celebrities, and professors — taking their lifetime of learnings and expertise and turning it into actionable lessons for you.


I can’t remember the last time I read, re-read, re-read and re-read a schedule as many times as I did that day. Every session sounded amazing and competing with another topic wanted to go to!


On top of that, you could book free 1:1 sessions with financial advisors, nutritionists, career coaches — you name it! Check out the Counselors list here if you fancy.

In short you learned, gained mentorship, were kept fed and hydrated (all the free things), you could look for a job (talent acquisition groups from IBM, Prologis, CBS and NYU Stern were there) or purely network your heart out. It didn’t feel forced (you could skip talking to humans if you wanted and just take in intel/inspiration), sponsors were not advertising aggressively and above all — NO KEYNOTE AND NO CLOSING CEREMONY. This is why this conference stuck with me. I didn’t need the founders to go up on stage, share their story, read off a long list of ‘thank yous and hi5s’ or wrap the day for me. Tiffany Pham was hanging out signing books and blending in with the rest of us. It was a conference for the attendees and the attendees toned the energy up or down as they pleased. I stayed ALL day. Yes, I’m an adult and have other things to do on a Saturday (and was catching a brilliant cold), but I felt so comfortable, welcomed, taken care of and gained SO much insight by being there. No, I didn’t get paid to write this and yes, I brought all my favorite women-friends to this event. And no, we didn’t take a selfie together to prove anything. We talked, chilled, talked some more and compared notes. We were texting our notes to each other while in other sessions to share the knowledge. So nerdy, I know — but when was the last time you engaged in a conference like this?

K, I’ll shush and share my fav takeaways now —

Finance: How to Invest your Money by Fradel Barber, CEO, World Financial Group. Learn how to make your money grow & work for you from experts in their field.
• Doing nothing with your money is a no-no
• Diversify your investments
• Dollar cost average: Part of your income could go into investments regularly vs once a year for example
• Purchase investments at different prices; consider a monthly investment, it offers a better average per market
• She mentioned 7702s, which I didn’t understand fully (even after some research), so I’ll ask my CPA and follow up here

Relationships: Negotiating Your Salary by Faye Penn, Executive Director, women.nyc. During this workshop, we learned how to define our worth, do the research and negotiate our next pay rise like a boss. You can also sign up for further workshops at https://salary.aauw.org/.
• Create a narrative around your own brand story when ready to thinking about salary bumps:
+ What are you proud of?
+What accomplishments and achievements are you most proud of?
+ What have you learned? What skills did you use?
+ Talk about your career like a story of growth

Relationships: Networking Your Way to the Top by Karleen Roy, Founder, The Vanity Group. From a caterpillar to a butterfly. Learn how to create opportunities and lasting relationships by expanding your network.
• Wow wow wow, one of the best storytellers of the day. 
• Hustled in Career A while pursuing Career B; leveraged skills and resilience from CareerA to get her to shine in Career B. Now she’s designed her dream job and is amazing at it.
• Highlights of grit, resilience and adaptability
• Grab a snack, coffee/tea and indulge in her story: https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominiquefluker/2018/04/19/karleen-roy/#7d577452638b

Hustle: Working Smarter by Deb Bubb, Chief Leadership, Learning & Inclusion Officer, IBM. Learn how to make the most of your time and ramp up your productivity through these tips from our expert.
• Think about yourself, your time, your value across these 4Ps:
+ Purpose
+ Potential
+ Prioritization (fav line here: make a post-it note for your desk and add “What is my unique value?” and look at it everything you are asked to help/take on something, so that you can build your prioritization muscle for what you take on vs what you want to take and deliver value on)
+ Proactive resilience
• “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do”
• Design outcome-driven tasks for yourself

Finance: Mapping it Out: Creating Savings & Budgets by Kara Stevens, Founder of Frugal Feminista, Life Coach and Author. Treat yo’self! (in moderation). Learn about steps you can take to increase your savings in order to build your financial future.
• Best takeaway from this amazing human — pick the savings plan that works best for you
+ Plan A:
– Needs: 50% of your income
– Wants: 30% of your income
– Savings: 20% of your income
+ Plan B:
– Needs: 70% of your income
– Long term goals: 15% of your income
– Fun: 15 % of your income (cash only)

That’s all folks. Thanks for reading. Recap Video here: https://youtu.be/UCwqL-9j-kY

Stay tuned for my next post recapping the New York Leadership Summit I attended the week after MogulX.

Get your time back.

Time management not as a process of planning but owning your own time.

Time has fascinated me ever since I was a kid. I remember going through a phase where I was challenging my family as to why we have given into a Roman emperor defining the seven-day week. Why seven days? Why X hours at school vs play/do anything time? (If you want to take a minute to nerd out on history of time and calendars and then come back, please do so here.) I’m not maniacal about time however. Perhaps it’s because I’m an only child, perhaps because I grew up in a place where I was outside of the house playing until sundown, perhaps because I didn’t grow up with a digital phone in my pocket. Who knows, but I sure do respect my time and the time of others now.

My relationship with time

I was a Project Manager for many years and I’m still a PM at heart. Planning for others came naturally to me; planning for myself not so much (haha). I’ve always loved this contrast; it’s as if I am rebel and procrastinator with my own personal time because I spend so much energy during the day on planning for others. It doesn’t make sense, it makes me giggle, I accept it.

After two burn-out phases over my career, I took a hard look at how I was handling my own time. This didn’t happen overnight but over time I would take steps back and ask myself more questions, talk with my teammates, assess and take a minute before reacting to action. I’m convinced this was the only reason I transitioned to being a freelancer for a long time as well. Absolute control over your time. Pure magic.

Fast forward, I work for an employer now. The focus of my work is on how successful the outcome is, if it is innovative, if it matters, if I’m building trust and responsibility with my teams and clients so that — I’m doing the right work and doing the work right.

With that said, I have rules and pet peeves around time management. The rules are social contracts I communicate with my teams and the pet peeves are more about changing mindset and helping change bad habits to allow the future of the workforce to adjust to a less rigid way of working:

  • I have a separate phone and laptop for work
  • I don’t look at work things after 7pm*
  • I don’t work on weekends*
  • If you plop a calendar invite on my calendar when I don’t appear to be available, I send a kind note explaining and propose a new time if needed
  • If you plop a calendar invite on my calendar with no meeting objective or agenda (and no note sent separately), I kindly ask for those things so I’m aware of my role, expectations, if I need to prep etc.
  • Sending me an invite for a meeting 10mins before the actual time without knowing if I’m around. Well, that’s just silly 😛
  • I don’t need to respond to emails and Slack immediately. Your response turn-around time is yours to own.

*Unless it’s been pre-agreed to

Shifting gears

I’d like to balance my time for thinking and doing tasks but to also empower my teammates to do the same / help change the culture on ways of working. I’d love to hear from you to (comment-away!) 😀

The last 1.5 yrs I had Do-Not-Distrurb blocks on my calendar 3 out of 5 working days to separate thinking vs doing tasks. In the mornings I would work through my to-do list so I could start and end the day with a good sense of how to plan the rest of the week, to reduce any work stress and not allow work to come home. For a hot minute I even tried something super minimalistic — scrapping long to-dos and just writing 3–5 things on a post-it on my desk I could set out to do, onthat particular day. Sometimes I’d hit only 1, sometimes 3. This worked well. Trello, Pomodoro techniques, you name it, tried them all but at the end of the day you have to create something custom, just for you. Everyone’s day, work, life and time zone parameters different.

This time around, trying something similar but pairing it with other daily habits (when do I wake up, shower, eat, how long I commute for, if I exercise in the AM or PM etc.). This is the new experiment starting middle of July:

Screenshot of my work calendar. Blocks of blocked time but also of available time but labeled as a visual cue for me to stay on top of my goals.

Commute, prep and travel blocks are time for me to organize/wrap the day. Consider this time a mix of inbox and list scans, quick hits on small wins and admin tasks, pings back on either Slack. I definitely do use this time sometimes for thinking or doing tasks (depending on the form of my commute). Think time is supposed to be the block of time dedicated to the most important tasks needed and which need my brain and energy. I see this as a game of tetris — the request comes it or you have the action to do or schedule something, all it takes is to slot it in the time of day based on the task.

Obviously, I’m a morning person (indulge in chronotypes here if you fancy). Research (well, and Tim Ferriss) says regardless of your sleep duration, load up on protein in the morning (at least 30g), get out in the sunlight to jumpstart your circadian clock and work out later actually. Before lunch is ideal apparently, but who has time for that? I do all this in the AM and I do see the boost of energy at high until lunch time. Then you’ve lost me. Given this, I’m going to aim for getting through the most important tasks before lunch, take lo-fi meetings after lunch and use the morning and afternoon decompress time to bookend my goals and actions for the day. I plan to work out before dinner in this experiment and see how that goes.

Visualize your week. Getting the to-dos out of your head, on paper, visible to you is proven to help you relax about the weight of to-dos.

Mixing in the digital view with a physical one and I add the big highlights or goals for the week on a Poppin weekly notepad at my home-office.

What do you do?


“Time is the big, precious, unrenewable resource” — Brené Brown

The Margaretville Cabin Renovation

The Margaretville Cabin Renovation

The research and journey of real estate 101 in upstate NYC


Finding the ‘one’ (be-still my beating heart), the dream cabin in the woods.

Tune into the demolition phase.


And now, we’ll dive into the room-by-room renovation stories for those nerds that want the detail, tips, tricks and learnings!

The Margaretville cabin renovation: the living room.


Stay tuned for more!

Renewing my vows with IBM.

The continuation to the journey of getting unstuck, rediscovering purpose and building my very own authentic definition of success.

If you read my latest post on “The journey to finding purpose”, this is a continuation to that post. If you haven’t, pop over there to get the scoop.

In short: I explained how I had been feeling stuck for about 6 years, dug into the detail of the turning point that helped me get unstuck and how I planned to take action. In only 5mos after this get-unstuck-journey I met my goal to switch gears in my career and find more meaningful work — work tied to my purpose.


I’m here to catch you up on the actions taken and the incredible transition I’ve been through. I worked through all the actions I took and held myself responsible for all of them. I’ll fast forward to the good news (cause why wait?): I had set out to get a job in Talent/Learning/HR/mainly focus on people and growth strategies by March 2019. Guess what happened on March 1, 2019? I started a new role (custom-designed with my epically talented new boss) in the Leadership, Learning & Inclusion group at IBM.

I now joke that I essentially created a vision board during my time with Your Project X but as silly as it may sound, I did do exactly that. Just with a few more uncomfortable layers: de-constructing and re-constructing my view of myself, my past and my future.

Let me rewind a bit.

This past summer I almost left IBM. Yep, I was about to go back to freelancing (I left my LLC for a Corporation). What’s better than working for yourself, right? Well I’ll tell you what: the people I met at IBM. This post is by no means endorsed by IBM — I really mean it. Every time a friend, a coworker, a mentor would ask “Why have you not left yet if you want to leave so bad?”, I would always answer “The people here”, and then I would pause and hear how silly that sounded. But was it? Who cares where you work—from crunching numbers at an office, to a pet hospital, to an ice cream parlour, to gazillion digital agencies in NYC, it’s always been about the people, not the work, nor the company. My dear mentor helped me reframe my perception of the problem in front of me.

“With your experience, you can go to any competitor tomorrow and shake things up. Google, Facebook, Amazon, you name it. But you will face the same mundane daily grind, similar conflicts, issues and challenges. It won’t be any different. If ‘the people’ is what’s important to you here, try to find something that will make you happy doing here first and if not, then leave. But at least give it a try.”

And just like that I took off on a 4 month sprint of coffee dates and lunches. I listened for smart strategies, intent for change and good leader qualities. I did not know not much about HR and the worlds of Talent, Learning and Development. It was intimidating to say the least. Folks went to school for completely different things than I did to enter these fields but slowly but surely I came to realize how my background and perspective would offer support or at least complement each other. I did my homework, compared my notes and zeroed in on the group that aligned the most with my values. Most importantly it’s the group that touches humans in terms of offering growth paths for their own development. They also happen to be wicked smart bunch of inspiring leaders to be beside and follow.

Fast forward to today.
3.5 mos into a new role, in a new industry! Intense, fun, uncomfortable, stressful, passionate, brain-numbing, optimistic, positive and growing every day — I’m happy. Stay tuned as I plan to write more. Until then, below is follow up detail from the original post in case you care to indulge.

Oh, and today is IBM’s birthday. Here’s to another 108yrs. However, I plan to shake things up in way less time than that 😉


TL;DR

Actions Promised to Be Taken (Back in November 2018) & Updates

  • Take action on a product/business idea within 30 days: FAIL
    Out of Your Project X, I had a product idea I was suppose to push into MVP mode. It was to be called CoachSpace; a hybrid of coaching, therapy and peer-mentoring models. It’s the Noom of this space. In inspiration of Noom’s clear and catchy: CoachSpace helps you build healthier habits to get in shape — no dieting needed. I got distracted (will explain below) and didn’t move along on CoachSpace. If it sounds enticing to you, give me nudge. (Sidenote: I just so happened to try Noom right after Your Project X and it’s hands-down such a different approach to nutrition education. Happy to answer any questions from my trial phase)
  • Conduct more research and interview Coaches to learn more about the practice and certifications: SUCCESS
    I took a few lay-of-the-land calls with coaches to find the right education/certification program that suit me. I spoke with 7 coaches and even made a new friend out of one of them! I’ll be honest: the education and training options are overwhelming. You need to dive in and practice first. I read John Whitmore’s 101 book Coaching for Performance in parallel to taking IBM’s in-house Coaching Development course, Blue Core Coaching. Just completed both this past month and will continue to coach my 3 IBM clients and take things from there!
  • Put my learnings from my experience with TalkSpace to use anytime needed: SUCCESS.
    The toolkit I acquired allows me to dip into balance, focus, intent, goals, self-care and to be more aware of things around me.
  • Put my learnings from Headspace to use on the daily: SEMI-SUCCESS
    I learned how hard and how important it is to take breaks in your day to slow down, to relax, and sometimes to challenge your mode of thinking. I definitely did not use Headspace as much as I wanted to, but have been more aware of the resilience needed to relive work and life stressors.
  • Get a job in Talent Development: MEGA SUCCESS ← READ THAT AGAIN.
    My actions were:
    taking intros, calls and meetings with various folks that work in or have retired from HR to get more perspective in a rather new industry for me. BOOM: DONE.
  • Learn from my time with BestSelf Co journal and visualize my entire day to avoid letting work or my inboxes dictated the planning of my day: SUCCESS
    I do these things ever since:
    1. I use a the Mac Reminders Lists to organize my ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ tasks by This Week and Next Week view (I do this for my personal life too)
    2. I use a notebook to capture key notes from every conversation and meeting (I will use digital notes too).
    3. I express gratitude and drop moments of mindfulness in team Slack channels.
    4. I clean up my calendar and inbox every eve between 4–6pm. I sleep better and don’t swim in my inboxes anymore!

The journey to finding purpose

On being stuck, getting unstuck and understanding that purpose is ever-evolving.

This is my story on finding purpose: I realized that what I have been doing for ‘work’ the last decade, simply isn’t want I want to do when I grow up anymore.

Someone once told me “if you can remember what it was like as a kid to grow out of a size of pants or shoes, that’s what’s happening right now — you are growing out of a chapter and ready to enter a new one”. Sounded cheesy when I first heard it, but it makes so much sense now.

I’m breaking up the story in 3 phases:

Phase 1) Why
Phase 2) Turning point of how this went into action
Phase 3) Learnings and process ( → Clarity/breakthrough, Direction, Actions)

Why

While one work-experience has lead me to the next-best one, over the last few years I’ve felt a sense of being ‘stuck’. Ideas came and went. I tested some of them, and others never made it out into the world. Friends vetted and approved them; I just stalled and procrastinated. I thought the solution to this stuckness was to get a new day-job. I hit the refresh button on my resume, pitch and goals and off I went to interview. As I went through informational conversations and interviews with companies I was inspired to work at, I was convincing myself that I was on the right path in terms of the type of companies and roles I was after. Through this process, I captured mixed signals: how i was presented on paper did indeed reflect my experience and skills but it did not reflect what I’m actually excited about in life and the change or impact I care to make. This was a deer-in-headlights realization, so I decided to pause on the job hunt and take a good look at myself.

Turning point

The following week I had a set of memorable conversations with two mentees of mine. These conversations stood out to me because both of them expressed gratitude for our relationship thus far and especially for me helping them through a phase of transition with their careers. The same week I had a lunch with a colleague I admire to ask for advice on my thinking about my next move. She asked me about passion and purpose. I stumbled. I didn’t have honest answers, but I suppose they were honest enough where I opened up and shared a bit more about what I think I do best and what I can offer outside of the context of my job. All my side-hustles either at work or outside have been about bringing communities together, building frameworks and systems to guide folks and lift blockers. Our lunch ended with a recommendation to meet with someone in leadership development at my current company. I munched on all this end-of-week and shared it with my therapist (I used TalkSpace for 6mos and I highly recommend the service). She had been amazing with guiding me and offering tools during this me-trying-to-get-unstuck phase but if it wasn’t for her calling out something specific about the two mentee conversations I had earlier that week, I would have walked right past it! — coaching came natural to me. That’s when I looked back at the conversations and realized I wasn’t mentoring, I was coaching. 99% of my coffee dates or friend-breakfasts over the years have actually and always been about career transitions; either big changes or micro changes. I have been so invested in this topic without realizing it and now I find myself in the same career-transition space!

From here I took some meetings with coaches to listen to their stories on how they got into it; either doing it for a living, or out of joy. One thing lead to another, from chats, to books, to videos, to referrals — and I landed on Project X’s Purpose Accelerator. I would sign up for 1 month to work on my very own personal and professional journey to finding my purpose. Sure, this may sound self-helpy and cheesy but the website copy was very clear to me: I would be offered the tools needed to propel myself forward and would follow the program with a group of strangers that would also become my accountability group, aka what I needed: a kick in the butt. This program was designed with so much detail, passion and care, I cannot recommend it enough. Some are shy or even partially ashamed for joining such programs, and I can respect that. I loved hearing why the founders came to designing the programming and resonated with the value it has been providing many cohorts before mine. These type of programs need to be integrated in schools and companies — period.

With my Purpose Entrepreneurship Accelerator crew, being vulnerable and about to hit the streets to interact with strangers — yikes!

Learnings and process

So many people are searching for purpose and it is so important to learn you are not alone on this journey. Purpose does not have a one-time definition, it’s ever evolving. You reach the best version of yourself when what you are doing (for work or in life) is aligned with your purpose. Don’t know what it is? Hey, I didn’t either but I was ready to find out. I was ready to be asked the hard questions, I was ready to step outside of my comfort zone to find out. I have been living this one-track life post school and felt that I had lost my focus. This program helped me look into my strengths and fears, to help me transition from a thinker to a doer. I was doer at work, but a thinker outside of work. Work defined my doing, not my true passions. Project X made me commit to continuous, small experiments. Nothing I was unfamiliar with; I was literally taking years of agile methodologies and design thinking and performing them on myself vs a client. What was different with this program was the power of accountability. I designed, acted, learned, rebuilt, and acted again while having built a system of support that pushed me to see these steps through, week by week, until I got completely comfortable putting imperfect ideas out into the world; and develop techniques to change my career in a more meaningful way.

Clarity/breakthrough

That one month I was dedicated, focused and had intent like I’ve never had before for my personal and professional growth. It was combination of Project X + TalkSpace + Headspace + the BestSelf.co Journal (reminder: I’ve been a PM for years so this rigorous and detail-oriented combo was my jam; it may not work for you). All my spare thinking time went to reflection and actions on repeat (it was a lot, no kidding, but it was worth it). Here is a snapshot of various exercises I went through to give you an idea of the journey to building your very own authentic definition of your own success:

• Identify your heroes and the values of your heroes
• What brings you joy?
• What situations do you find yourself “in flow”?
Calling cards (Richard Leider)
• Build your own power mantra
• Death meditation, self-obituary activities
• Future-life meditation
• Dealing with your career and life baggage
• Gratitude and happiness activities
• Dates with yourself without a destination in mind, sans phone/tech
• Reflective best-self exercise *this one was brilliant* (have others call out skills and passions you may have buried or ignored)

Some can work on all this solo, buy reading books, retreats, journaling but something about doing this with a group of complete strangers was my trigger to react and get unstuck. If I had one main takeaway from this is that a vision of the future accomplished is what allows us to commit to relentless experimentation (Jeff Hittner I think you actually said this). I had never ever done this in my life, never thought to nor was I ever provoked to — vision is key.

Direction

I’m shifting from ‘solutioning problems for people’ to focus ‘on people development’. It will be two-fold: talent/skills development and coaching. I will apply this direction where I currently work (because if there is one thing my company cares about, it is indeed about the people and their growth) as well as work on external education and practice on the side.

Actions

  • Out of Project X, I have a product idea I’m working on (and a great community of mentors to leverage going forward). My action is to share with you where it’s at 3 months from now.
  • On Coaching, I’m taking a few lay-of-the-land calls with coaches to find the right education/certification program that suits me. My action here is looking at at career transition and life-coaching education options. I will also be looking to put my fluent Greek to use by offering bilingual coaching. (Recommendations welcome!)
  • Out of TalkSpace, I have a superb toolkit to use to balance focus, intent, goals, self-care and to be more aware of things around me. I did so much introspection with this service, and my action is to open up my toolkit as needed.
  • Out of Headspace, I learned how hard and how important it is to take breaks in your day to slow down, to relax, and sometimes to challenge your mode of thinking. My action is to use Headspace daily.
  • On Talent Development, my actions are: taking intros, calls and meetings with various folks that work in or have retired from HR to get more perspective in a rather new industry for me.
  • Out of the BestSelf Co journal, my action is to visualize my entire day and not let work or my inboxes dictated the planning of my day. The journal is designed as such where it sprinkles goals, lessons, wins, areas for improvement and gratitude as to make it a ‘natural’ way for you to think about your day. My action is to use this daily for 3mos (but to also not beat myself up if I skip a day or two ;)).

Thanks for reading. I believe sharing stories is important — it creates space to talk with others going through similar journeys.

If you have questions, want to chat on any of the above or want discount codes to any of the services above, reach out!

The Margaretville cabin renovation: the living room.

The core of the cabin. Where you and guests get cozy and kick back.

Chapter 6 — The living room.
(If this is your first time here, go back and start the journey at Chapter 1)

Let me catch you up with a sequence of before to afters —

I’m sure this image is burned in your brain by now. Various type of wood paneling, flannel, bears, oh my.

*Poof* all gone. Clean slate!

As the panelling came down, we realized there was this extension of wall creating a hallway between the bathroom and the guest bedroom. We didn’t have to think about this one much. We blasted it.

Et voila!

TRANSFORMATION IN PROGRESS.

Down with the old, up with the new: insulation, sheetrock and new windows in place.

Let there be light.

Before/After #1

Before/After #2

Electrical work and lighting design & positioning.

We replaced the breaker box and let our contract lead with where to position power outlets according to code requirements. There is an outlet every 6 feet in every direction. We originally were going to run two outlets for TVs (living room and upstairs) but we only got one set up in the end.

We have baseboards running in symmetry in the space. See this nifty guide Phil whipped up to summarize the electrical design specs (the dotted blue highlight notes the living room area):


Wood-burning stove positioning and code shenanigans.

You don’t mess around here. Between your county and manufacturer requirements, all detail matters. You want the setup to avoid being near combustibles and there are multiple ways to go about this depending on your design preferences and the space you have to work with. For example, we didn’t need a heat-shield on the wall behind the stove because we placed the stove far away/enough so that it wasn’t a risk but we did ensure to have a large surface are of tile or stone for the hearth (floor area beneath and around the stove to avoid combustion with wooden flooring nearby). Iterations of nifty guides; left to right:


Tiling around the wood-burning stove.

You saw that super simple and easy-to-setup tile in the guide above? Well, we didn’t go with that because we didn’t find tile we liked in that shape. So of course I fell in love with a complicated M.C. Escher-like design and our tile-guy hates me for life for it. But, our tile guy is amazing at his craft and I’m told he was super proud to lay out this complicated hearth (Our contractor however was blunt with me and said I couldn’t have picked a more complicated design — but you know what? I’m only gonna pick tile for my dreamy wood-burning stove once, and this stuff is permanent so let the art director come through please :D). We went with SomerTile 8.75×8.75-inch Concrete Cubic Big Ben Porcelain in white with light grey grout:


A couple of key learnings, tips and notes to leave here from this chapter:

  1. The devil is in the detail: Don’t giggle at our sketches, we made loads of them. Over about a month, we worked out specs, layouts and designs. I recall us going up to check on progress and our tile master had set up a mock layout of the design of the tiles to be triple sure we’d get it right. Photoshop, sketches, photos, anything helps be 100% sure you are on the same page.
  2. Mark things: When it comes to a new breaker box and new positioning of outlets, make sure you understand height, placement preferences vs code requirements and test out everything. Then label your breaker box with detail that will make sense to you or anyone visiting for a repair.
  3. If I had to do something different in this phase — it would be dedicating a space at the house where we put up all these guides for both us, team and contractor to reference. How we kept track of estimates vs tasks via email, calls and texts still blows my mind!

Thanks for tuning in!


Wood-burning stoves:
Old: All Nighter Stove Works(Big Moe model) ← This beast can heat from 10,000 to 75,000 BTUs, it can burn 14–30hrs, it can heat up to 3,000 sq. ft. and weighs 510 lbs. A well known and respected Connecticut-based-manufacturer.
New: Osburn Soho Wood Stove (OB01520 model)

Tile for the hearth around stove:
We went with SomerTile 8.75×8.75-inch Concrete Cubic Big Ben Porcelain in white with light grey grout.

Sneak peek into the full cabin reno: https://www.instagram.com/margaretvillecabin/

The Margaretville cabin demolition.

Designing and building it from the ground up, to call it our own.

Chapter 5 — The interior.

Let me give you a visual refresher: this was a hunters lodge with a lot of do-it-yourself (DIY) thumbprints and lots of wooden panelling. Let me guide you in a static 360° — picture yourself entering the cabin and starting from left, scanning the space, from left to right:

Welcome. You are in the dining area looking at the kitchen.

(If you are new here, go to the first chapter of this story!)

Scanning upwards and to the right, you will notice the ‘cathedral ceiling’ design of the space leading you to the master bedroom upstairs and the loft. Also, meet the old not-up-to-code staircase.

Scanning over to the right, you see the full length of the loft and this unfinished ceiling business.

Scanning back to the main floor you can see the living area and an entrance towards the bathroom and second bedroom.

Welcome to the party room. By party, I mean the different types and colors of wood that have joined us on this tour.

The previous owners had the place for 7 years and it looks like they worked on the place in phases. Don’t ask me what strategy they had in mind because we couldn’t figure it out ourselves. We knew it was all coming down; demo at first sight.

I’ll be focusing in this main area for this post; we’ll dig into each of the rooms in separate posts to follow. I know, the suspense is killing you but hang tight!

Now *blink*. Open your eyes and you will see that potential we saw behind the funky lodge interior design:

A blank canvas. A wide open space. And hey! that’s Alex, our lovely realtor who joined on closing day!

Take it all in. Yep, even that HOLE in the ceiling. Also: squint and you will see a ‘shadow’ of an old staircase!

DEMO-DAY! (well, it took a few weekends but it was SO much fun!)

One-by-one each beautiful old panel someone had once put up, came on down.

We were going for the bright light look vs the old-school-dark-and-cozy cabin look. It’s getting there!

The first layer of demo was done by us but the next was done by a team of 6 to blaze through the process faster. We timed it so that the demo of the guts of the walls would happen at the same time as when the new windows would be delivered so that the windows could be framed and the place could be sealed in between demo sessions.

Down to the guts! Also, that chandelier stayed there the entire time of the demo. It was charming.

We also said buh-bye to this 40+ yr old stove (we were convinced it had remained from the original owner from 1970).

This is the kitchen. (Separate post coming for this section of the renovation!)

View of dining area from the top, at the loft.

A couple of key learnings, tips and notes to leave here from this chapter:

  1. Demolition attire: Wear gloves, clothes and glasses to protect you. Besides nails and other gross things, you have no idea what creatures may pop out or other toxic residue you may find during the process.
  2. Staying overnight in a gutted house: Just don’t do it. We were too excited about seeing progress so we went for it. We slept on an air-mattress in the middle of the rubble, in sleeping bags — also: with no working toilet — and loved and hated every minute of it. I tried to avoid the thoughts of bugs falling on my face during the night by snuggling up in the sleeping bag and hoping our dog would protect us from any gross critter that may appear (haha, right, have you seen Rufus?).
  3. Timing and communications with contractor and supplier teams: was everything in this phase. We had some hiccups along the way but we learned and tweaked as needed; everything fell into place! (Example/fun memory: we were told one weekend that a toilet had been installed for us to use, but in reality, no toilet was to be found 😂).
  4. Emergency supplies and first aid kit: Have them handy, for you and your crew during this phase; in the house and in the car. Also treat your crew to a nice lunch or surprise them with snacks (or good ol’ cold Budweiser too)

Thanks for tuning in! (Catch the next chapter here!)


Sneak peek into the full cabin reno: https://www.instagram.com/margaretvillecabin/