Retro Renovation turns 3

pam's 1963 kitchen in old house interiors magazineToday is the 3rd anniversary of RetroRenovation.com. To mark the date, I thought I’d tell the story of exactly how the blog got started.

The why and wherefore of the blog, you may have heard already. I am a decorating obsessed woman. My first married house was a 1912 colonial revival in Michigan. My husband and I did some cosmetic renovations to it… and in the process, I learned about the wisdom of historic preservation and renovating a home in synch with its original design aesthetic. But, we had to move, and ended up my present house, a 1951 “coolonial” colonial-ranch. The house desperately needed bathroom and kitchen renovations — the rooms were literally falling apart. But when I went to try to “renovate it in synch with its original design aesthetic”, I had a gawdawful time finding the resources to do so. This was around early 2003. I wanted 50s style tiles and sinks and faucets and such — but they were really really hard to find.

Fortunately (I think) I am a reporter at heart, darn stubborn about finding answers once I go looking. So along with the help of my husband, I tracked down everything I needed… including a ginormous set of vintage Geneva steel kitchen cabinets, original finish, to install in my kitchen. It was this hunt for the cabinets — which took me FIVE years, I am not kidding — that got me really sucked into the whole retro design world vortex. As I watched for cabinets on ebay (this was really even before craigslist took off super bigtime) I also started seeing old kitchen cabinet catalogs and the like — and started buying them. I studied them hard to soak up all the details of vintage kitchen design so that when I finally found mine, I would be ready.

When I finally finished the projects, I thought it would be a shame just to let all that good info go to waste. In addition, I am a corporate communications professional by trade… and this wacky new communication medium called a “blog” was really taking off. So kind of as a gift, but also as an experiment in a career adjacency, I started my first blog. Yes – there was a blog before RetroRenovation.com. My first blog was 50sstyle.blogspot.com. My first post was in Jan. 2006 — so in that sense, my blogging career is really nearly 5 years old.

The original blog was kind of “cheep and easy.” blogspot.com is the google platform. You can literally get one of these up in 10 minutes or less. I didn’t blog daily. I kind of dabbled. And I didn’t have much traffic at all.

Okay. Now the story of the catalytic moment. Around August 2007, a crew from Old House Interiors magazine came to take photos of my kitchen for a story. I had pitched the story to a local writer I knew of, who wrote articles for OHI. They bit right away. This story was a real turning point for the blog, but not for reasons you might immediately guess. The photographer was a very talented guy named Kit Latham. He was quite the perfectionist and was inspired by my kitchen, so he spent like 8 hours at my house making pictures of it. We talked a lot all day. And it was during our jabbering that I mentioned my blog, 50sstyle.blogspot.com, and of course, how interested I was in the whole period and what I had learned about it yadda yadda yadda. Kit, as it turns out, is also quite the web wizard. He also knew a lot about WordPress, the open source blogging platform, which also was new-ish. He listened with great interest to me and all my enthusiasm and knowledge, and told me that in fact, I had all the elements for a great and successful blog. However, he suggested that I move my entire blog off of blogspot and onto WordPress for a variety of SEO and other technical reasons, and that also, I get a real blog name with a dot-com in it.

I didn’t immediately jump at the idea. I didn’t know how much time and money I wanted to invest in the experiment. Because, yes, the move meant that “cheap and easy” days would be over — there are many more complexities to moving to a dot-com environment and a WordPress installation compared to playing on blogspot.

Ultimately, though, I decided to make the move and give a bona fide blog a try. I did some research and noodled it, and decided on a new blog name: RetroRenovation.com. I chose the name because it literally means that instead of “up”-dating your house with latest, greatest, trendiest feature, you instead “back”-date it to look like it might have looked in the past. It’s a term that I had seen used once maybe twice in an article, but it had by no means entered the wider design lexicon. (I tend to think – because of the influence of my blog – that it now definitely has.) Once I had the name and had set up my first server account, we were ready to roll. So, on Oct. 26, 2007, we moved my blogspot material over to WordPress and the new url. At that time, I also decided to advance the experiment by blogging daily, rather than sporadically. I was kind of interested in seeing if I could turn people into addicts. Has it worked?

You can the Old House Interiors story that “started it all” here.

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