Questions from readers about my dream blog, getting spotted, and Offbeat Home

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What blog does the world most need, that does not already exist? -Tamara

I want a blog that's all about social psychology, but written in the light tone of Sociological Images. Kinda like Dan Ariely‘s blog, but about more than just decision-making. Like The Situationalist, but a bit more accessible.

Alternately, I'd like a blog about the PR machinations behind celebrity gossip. I'm beyond bored with the gossip blogs (I used to work in the gossip blog industry back in 2005 and YAWN GAWD BORING PINK IS THE NEW PEREZ ECHO CHAMBER) but I'm fascinated by the ways publicists pull strings to get their clients coverage.

I'd like to think I would recognize you if I saw you out and about in your natural habitat…do you like when OBB readers come up to you & say hi? Or does it get annoying and intrusive? -Sara

I love it when readers say hi, although perhaps the best way to answer this question is to share a recent email exchange with a reader:

So, this one is for Ariel. I totally think I saw you the other day and was too dumbstruck to say anything. I felt like I had a little celebrity sighting and then I realized that you ARE just a normal human being, who has normal outings with your cute dog and baby.

So in the style of the good ol' Seattle Stranger:
You: sitting on the grass in the out of the ordinary spring Seattle sunshine, in front of Group Health's Cap Hill Hospital campus. Sweet little one in your lap and wee little dog by your side.

Me: the unassuming young bride to be heading out of her physical therapy appointment, who swung by you at first while taking in the warm sun and then stopped to “find her keys in her purse” to assess whether she was crazy or it might actually be you…then realized she might be creeping you out by standing a little “too long” while deciding whether to say something.
-Maureen

Maureen — HA! That was totally me and Tavi and Sassafras. You should have said hi! You are right that I am indeed just a normal human being, one who lives around the corner and takes advantage of Group Health's grass on sunny days. And one who loves meeting readers.

In terms of weirdness, you saying hi woulda been nothing compared to the reader who introduced herself at Olympus Spa, and then saw me walking around naked between the soaking pools. (If you've never been to Olympus, everyone is naked there.) It was a little awkward, but whatever: I'm just a naked normal human being! 🙂

xo,
Ariel

What can you tell us about your plans for Offbeat Home? What will be it's main function and what will make it offbeat?

Andreas, Tavi, and me outside one of the many dwellings at my mom's house. Photo by Jenny Jimenez
Ah, Offbeat Home. The third and final jewel in the Offbeat Empire crown. I am so SO excited about Offbeat Home, but I did make the decision last month to hold off on launching it until next year. I hit a wall in terms of my plans for Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Mama and realized I was stretching myself too thin … and so Offbeat Home needs to wait for a bit.

As for what my plans are, first it might be helpful to understand my background with housing. I grew up in a small log cabin my parents built, and then, when I was 14 and the 800 square foot home started feeling too tight for the three of us, I moved into a school bus parked in the dirt driveway.

After high school graduation, I moved 13 times in 15 years, renting in Seattle, San Francisco, Olympia, and Los Angeles, and spending time in student housing in Boston and New York. After a brief experiment owning a house in Seattle's burbs (hated it!), I now share a 1 bedroom in-city condo with my husband and our son.

The small space works for us in part because when we need to get out in nature, we catch a ferry to visit my mom, who's turned the forested property where I grew up into a commune where people live in yurts, sheds, and a weird structure called Gypsy Camp that combines my old bus, a shed, and a trailer.

When I think of Offbeat Home, I'm inspired by all the different kinds of living spaces I've experienced:

  • Funky, hand-crafted spaces
  • Truly alternative shelters like buses, yurts, sheds
  • Rentals and dorms, that with just a few key tweaks, managed to feel like home
  • Small urban spaces

I want to celebrate things like:

  • People making temporary spaces that feel like home, whether it's a soulless 1980s Los Angeles rental apartment with vertical blinds or a Columbia University dorm room.
  • Making the most of the space you've got (like turning a walk-in closet into a nursery!)
  • Getting a new feel for your home without buying more shit (I'm thinking here of decorators like SpaceTransform who specialize not in helping you buy furniture, but in rearranging what you've already got.)
  • Getting truly freaky with your decor (like this lady!)

Offbeat Home would NOT be about:

  • Ogling expensive furniture (I don't need a couch that costs more than my car!)
  • Propagating the American dream of home ownership (it takes way more creativity to work with a rental!). UPDATED TO ADD: Home ownership certainly would not be excluded from the blog — I'm just sayin' that the site wouldn't be all “You don't count if you don't own.”

I'm beyond excited about Offbeat Home because, as several readers pointed out, unlike Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Mama, Offbeat Home is both un-gendered AND non-relationship-based. That second one is a kicker: on a certain level the Offbeat Empire is all about women in relationships with others, whether it be a partner or their families. Offbeat Home is just about YOU and YOUR SPACE. Not other people … although I do envision a category dedicated to Offbeat Entertaining, full of fabulous dinner parties and brunch potlucks and girls nights in.

GAH! Maybe my answer to the first question should have just been “Offbeat Home.” Cuz I'm so excited. But I must think of my sanity and not overextend myself. 2011, please come soon.

Comments on Questions from readers about my dream blog, getting spotted, and Offbeat Home

  1. “Propagating the American dream of home ownership (it takes way more creativity to work with a rental!)” <— YAY! My husband and I don't own a home because we have no idea where our life is going to lead us in the next five years? 2 kids and a white picket fence? Possibly. Apartment in Egypt? Equally possible. Staying right where we are? Another possibility lol! Owning a home would be silly in our situation, yet I am often made to feel that choosing to rent is somehow "Bad" or "wrong". Plus, there isn't much out there on how to decorate a rental in a fun way, especially if you CAN'T paint.

    • We are the SAME way! Everyone keeps telling us since we have a baby it means we should buy a house, and a) we couldn’t even if we wanted to, but B) (and more importantly) we DON’T WANT TO RIGHT NOW. Renting is fun.

      Aaaand…you can always paint, even if you technically can’t. Or, at least, we always do. 🙂

      • We’re moving into a large apartment at the end of the month… its across the hall from where we live now and I’m super excited!!! We’re going to paint! We figure we will be living there until we get house in ten or so years xD Plus, all you really have to do is paint it white again once you move out.

  2. I am also super-excited about Offbeat Home! All the plans sound really amazing. (You should totally google “Rhode Island Apartment in the Mall”. Because it was amazing.)

    Also, even though Peter and I live outside of Boston, I am a religious reader of the Stranger. I know, it’s weird.

  3. I’m glad you’re waiting for next year to launch OBH. I mean, I’m really jazzed for it, so soon would be lovely for me, but… yes… I was worried about your sanity.

    And I’m totally aware that might just be me projecting. But still. Glad.

    It’s going to be amazing though, clearly. And thank god. I mean, I love me some home sites but 1) We rent, and don’t have plans to buy any time soon… which makes 90% of the content less helpful, and 2) I think re-thinking what a home *can* be is helpful in shaping what your home *should* be, for its occupants. But that’s just my hippy kid roots talking. I’ve seen SO many happy homes made of burlap and plywood… and the summers I spent on the road with my car and my tent? Those summers I felt home all the time.

  4. I’m glad to hear that Offbeat Home will include dorm rooms 🙂 I’ll be moving into one of those in August, so I could use some advice on making the best out of that space! (why can’t we paint dorm walls?! grrr.)

    • I knew a girl in college (an RA, even!) who painted her dorm room each year and just painted it white again at the end of the year. Never got caught.

    • Idea: attach fabric to walls as wallpaper with liquid starch! My mom did this when I was little (spelling out my name) and it stuck for years but then peeled off easy-peasy with no wall damage. Only prob could be RAs considering it a fire hazard.

  5. I am so excited I might pee myself!!! BTW love the pic of the three of you at your moms. My fiance and I plan to stay in our tiny apartment for awhile and our dream is to eventual own a tiny tumbleweed home. I love small spaces.

  6. I, for one, am very excited about the prospect of Offbeat Home. I hope that I can add a lot to an already awesome idea!

    PS – I love the dorm room and yurt/bus/cabin living situation focus… but I have to say as a HOPEFULLY potential future homeowner, I’d like to see a good bit included for us folks!

    • “I’d like to see a good bit included for us folks!”

      I agree with this small wish, but I like the spirit that everything won’t be geared toward those who can knock out a wall if they’re dunzo with their current interior.
      As a new and entirely overwhelmed and under-budgeted homeowner with very wacky goals, though, I’d love so much to see how other people are making it happen.

    • Oh, to be clear: Offbeat Home certainly wouldn’t EXCLUDE houses and home ownership. It just would make a point to focus on other, less traditional living situations.

  7. omzg!!!!! so excited!!!!!!!! haha I’ve been stalking OBB for like a year and a half and Offbeat Mama since it launched, just because I LOVE LOVE LOVE offbeat people (I too am a sociology dork) but I always sort felt like sort of a creep since I’m 18 and will be a college freshman in the fall. But this is perfect!!!! yay offbeat!

    • That’s so awesome! I’m 18 too, and I’m glad I am not the only one stalking the Offbeat blogs! So excited for the dorm room stuff!

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