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 — 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! πŸ™‚


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.

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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. πŸ™‚

      • 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 πŸ™‚ 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!

  8. Psst. I’ve been looking for the button to submit questions and comments and I’m failing hard. Where do we go to send our reader mail?

    • Look for the contact tab in the about section linked at the top of every page! Alternately, I call for questions on Facebook and Twitter sometimes, too. πŸ™‚

  9. Please, please, please (and please) don’t neglect the “traditional homeowner.” Maybe those who have bought a home need a little guidance living offbeat since the rest of the world likes to shoe you into the white picket fence model? (Oh, you bought a house? So when will you be having kids? You have soooo much SPACE now…Time to quit your job and fill all that space with babies!)
    My fiance and I just bought a house and it has been a struggle to define “our home” and our needs versus the traditional home owner philosphy/psychosis. I would appreciate house and home owner stuff on offbeat home, especially since the other offbeat sites have been so helpful and inspiring. πŸ™‚
    Sorry if I’m reiterating upon a subject that you’ve already answered…

    • I guess in my effort to emphasize that Offbeat Home wouldn’t just be about traditional homeownership, remodeling, etc, I inadvertently gave the impression it would never address these issues at all, ever. Traditional home owners certainly won’t be neglected, any more than white dress-wearing brides are neglected on OBB.

  10. This sounds amazing! I can’t wait.

    I’ve always relied on my poster collection to make random rented spaces feel like home, wherever I am I put my posters up and suddenly it feels familiar and like home, but I would love to hear other people’s ideas.

    This has also rekindled my dream of one day finding somewhere like the amazing converted Spanish farm house I lived in on Tenerife while working with the Atlantic Whale Foundation. It was an amazing jumble of rooms, roof top patios and ourdoor spaces with plants and murals everywhere. Would love to find something like that again.

  11. OMFG this is the first I heard of OffBeat Home. I think a little bit of wee came out…I’m sooooooooo excited, it sounds awesome!

  12. Also I’ve just recommended your mom’s commune to my parents for a trip. She might never get rid of my mum, but they’d probably get along. πŸ˜€

  13. YAY!!! About housing – I really really really want a house, or even a hut or yurt, but that won’t happen for a few years. We just moved from a major midwest college town where apartment living is completely normal and acceptable, to a Boston suburb where our apartment complex is the only one for many miles…and we get “looks” from the locals about it (hey, better to live in an apartment than get trapped in a mortgage and wind up underwater or unable to sell when we want to, like many of the “lookers” have!). I never really thought about the social implications of your housing situation before that, mainly because growing up I lived in a house, which was the norm in that town, then in college and after I lived in an apartment, which was the norm there. Now I suddenly find myself outside of the norm, judged as low-class, even though I don’t understand how 1300/month for a 1-bedroom can possibly count as low-class, and I eagerly await Ariel’s acute observations and discussions on offbeat living!

  14. Okay, you have me so super excited that I could just “SQEEEEEE” all around my office right now! I know I need to be supportive, say “yes, you have a lot on your plate with OBB and OBM, so I can indeed wait a year for OBH”, but the little child in me is screaming “I WANT IT NOW!!!!” I shall subdue this spoiled brat within with a trip over to OBT when I’m done here, but in the meantime, she has one more fit to throw…”I want an Offbeat Bride MAGAZINE!!!” Please oh PLEAZZEEEE consider a magazine! I would love nothing more then to go to my local bookstore, without a laptop, and still get my Offbeat fix….*sigh* Such a beautiful dream! πŸ˜€

    • As far as Offbeat Bride: The Magazine goes, thanks for the sweet vote of confidence … but I don’t see it ever happening. My career actually first started with writing and then editing an independent magazine back in the ’90s, and lemme tell you: PUBLISHING MAGAZINES IS REALLY FUCKING HARD. Seriously. So hard.

      Printing, distribution, ad sales, subscriber services … it’s a huuuuuuuuge pain in the ass. The joy of is that I can skip all those things (and all those costs) and focus on what I like doing most: WRITING. Plus, why mess with paper and mailing and killing trees and a big ol’ delay (most mag articles are written 4-6 months before you read them)? With I have an idea, write it up, and publish it in 10 minutes. No need to pay a printer, distributor, etc, etc, etc, etc.

      I know it’s not quite as hold-it-in-your-hands tangible as a magazine, but is probably as close as I’ll ever get. πŸ™‚ I mean, I’d never say never … but …

  15. I was seriously just thinking to myself, “I wish there was an offbeat home to check out during my lunch break.” I can’t wait!

  16. Yay. For all of it.

    I’m utterly fascinated by sociology and anthropology so a blog like that I could actually read would be awesome. (I want my blogs to be readable and not in academicese which I have to read for research.)

    Offbeat Home sounds great! I look forward to it. I have always been bad about making my space feel like home aside from adding my cat and myself and now my FH. But we have ideas. Mural ideas. πŸ˜€

  17. Ariel, you and I have such strange overlaps…the first name, the growing up on an island (Whidbey, for me, where there was much hippieage and friends who lived in school buses and yurts — and still do), the fascination with social psychology (near the top of my list of preferred professions other than the one I’m in, journalism), and last and probably least, Olympus Spa, where I’m taking my mom and mother-in-law-to-be in two weeks (the week before my wedding).
    But I’m not a stalker, just glad you’re out there in the world πŸ˜€

  18. Ha! That’s me. I didn’t expect to actually end up on the blog with my hilarious moment of awestruck shyness. =) Next time I will say hi-thanks Ariel I love your blog and your attitude about most things in life. I’m totally right in the middle of “uuhooh muhy gosh wedding soon” mode (just over two weeks baby!) and I cruised to OBB for a moment of vegging out reality check about what’s important-and then happened upon me-haha. and…so doing some more vegging and relaxing Sat at said Olympus spa-yum love it!

  19. I can contribute to Offbeat Home! I am already playing with a blog about our natural building adventures, busting out of the mortgage myth, and more ( I highly recommend Little House on a Small Planet (book) for anyone interested in this topic! I think it is so important for people to think more about their home and its impact on their emotional well-being (too many people get trapped into bad jobs because of rent or mortgage, people live in uninspiring toxic boxes, etc.). How and where we make our homes is key to so many hard issues such as poverty, depression, crime, lonliness, environmental destruction and more. I am so excited because I know the creative and intellectual hub of the Offbeat Home will help so many people!

  20. SO excited to help out with the Offbeat Home endeavor in the future, and stoked that everyone else is so happy about it! Yay for Ariel, and the trifecta of Offbeatness!

  21. Offbeat home sounds cool and I wish it existed when I lived in the dorm! I still rent though so it will still be cool.

    In the future I’ll probably be sharing a house with some other girls on a horse farm and continue living on horse farms. So, yay offbeat because I think it will be a long time before I will be allowed to do anything permanent to my living space.

  22. This is a small website thing that’s been bugging me for a bit, but I didn’t want to post it as a comment on someone’s wedding/vendor post. Sorry for tossing it in here.

    After the redesign, the website no longer caches/remembers the scroll position. When I hit the back button, I get jumped back to the top of the page. It’s not a huge biggie, but a little annoying when I’m reading through several posts at once. If someone visited and wished to go back through the archive, I could see it being a turnoff.

    I’m browsing with firefox 3.6.3, and adblock is my only plugin. This site and offbeat mama are the only websites that I’ve had such an issue (and I visit quite a few…hello, internet addiction) . It occur after clicking any link (not just those with hashes in the url). Maybe something to ask your site designer about when setting up offbeat home.

    Again, it’s a trifling thing–just a tiny annoyance on an otherwise wonderful site. Just thought I’d let you know! πŸ™‚

    • As a firefox user myself, if I’m understanding your bug report correctly, I am keenly PAINFULLY aware of this issue. And, if you can believe it, it’s a firefox bug! Agonizing. I’m hoping it gets addressed in the next release. Fingers crossed!

  23. I’m SO excited for Offbeat Home! That being said, will there be room for people like me who like affordable antiques (thank you 1930s colonial revival!) and wish they were farmers living in the country? I hope so…

  24. STOKE!!!! As our family is currently living in our family compound (as we call it, try 4 generations in 4 dwellings on one property) in southern California I am all about Offbeat Homes.. Thanks for all the blogs supporting the phases of my life!

  25. i cannot wait for offbeat homes! then i can show you pics of my fabulous bathroom floor. it is totally decoupaged by me and looks really cool!

  26. Ahhh I am sooo excited about this. I am just crazy about insane colour combos but because we live in a rented flat (or apartment as most of you would probably say! hehe)and are not allowed to paint ANYTHING *sadface* I have really had to use a limited budget and my own bright colourful artwork to make it look homey…team that with cushions and sleepy cats and its definatly cosy! πŸ™‚

  27. So… is there some way we can know when offbeathome is ready to go? Or pre-subscribe to the RSS or some similar nerdy business? πŸ™‚

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