My top-ten memories from my 4+ years working for Pam at Retro Renovation

phone2I still remember the first phone call I had with Pam like it was yesterday. Back in 2012, Pam had discovered my personal blog — Retro Ranch Revamp — and she liked what she saw. She was looking to add a new flavor to Retro Renovation and thought my particular skill set was just what she needed.

She called me so we could discuss the ins and outs of working together. I was so nervous/excited/shaky/happy that I could barely keep my cool, but Pam was easy to talk to and I could tell we clicked right away. By the end of May 2012, I was still working full time at my graphic design job and now part time for Pam. I continued with both jobs for several more months, but by August, I was starting to feel burned out from my 60+ hour weeks, so I let Pam know that something had to give. Pam didn’t hesitate for very long before she called and offered me a full time job at Retro Renovation, starting September 1st, 2012. Thus began four wonderful years of fun.

As I approach the four-year mark of working full time for Pam at Retro Renovation, this wacky, wonderful, wild ride that I’ve been on as Pam’s sidekick in all things retro is coming to an end. There have been many ups and only a few downs — hey, Pam says it herself: She’s crazy in a good way — and I can honestly say that working for Pam at Retro Renovation has been the most fun, challenging, creative and best job I’ve ever had. Over the last four years, Pam has pushed me to learn new skills so I could help her accomplish things I never dreamed were possible. She’s mentored me and taught me so much about blogging, journalism, marketing, public speaking, business and life. I am forever grateful to her for all the knowledge and wisdom she’s imparted on me. Over the last four years, we’ve only seen each other in person three times, but we’ve had countless phone calls, video chats, emails and texts — and have become not only close coworkers, but wonderful friends.

Now, as I am about to begin the new, very important job of becoming a mother to my soon-to-arrive baby girl, I wanted to take a look back at my top ten favorite moments at Retro Renovation over the last four years. These are in no particular order as they are all equally wonderful memories in my eyes. (Speaking of eyes, I’m sobbing over here — pregnancy hormones!)

1. My kitchen refresh — the project that started it all

midcentury kitchenThe very first project of mine that appeared on Retro Renovation was my $771 kitchen remodel. Technically, I was still a reader at this point, but it is the project that made Pam take note of my DIY and blogging skills and thus began the countdown until my wild ride at Retro Renovation would begin.

2. The Fudgetastrophy

retro kitchenOne of my first — and funniest — challenges after starting to work for Pam full time was to make Mamie Eisenhower’s Million Dollar Fudge recipe. I’m a proud DIYer and my cooking skills are pretty great, but baking has yielded mixed results for me over the years — especially when it is a finicky candy on the line. So when my huge amount of fudge didn’t quite turn out the way it should have, I was worried Pam would be upset. Nope, she was thrilled: It would be even more fun to write about a fudge-tastrophy! And hey, the fudge still tasted good!

3. Pam’s visit to Milwaukee

picasion.com_992f7a61ae6aa609a8bda21c95c3c00dThe first time I met Pam in person was when she made the trip out to Milwaukee and stayed at my house for the week. We had lots of fun visiting my favorite area antique mall, Antiques on Second (now Antiques on Pierce), stopped by the local Tiki bar — Foundation — for some fruity, rum-filled drinks (to prep for our upcoming trip to The Hukilau) and spent a lot of time eating delicious food and working on new ideas and projects for the blog.

4. Making a whole suburb of midcentury putz houses

The house that started it all

Just before the holidays during my first year at Retro Renovation, I proposed a fun idea to Pam: Why don’t I make some miniature midcentury style Putz houses that we can feature on the blog? Pam was all for it, so I began the task of creating the first three designs. Little did I know, that the mini retro house craze would continue at a rate of three per year for the next three years — ending up with 12 designs in all. Making these house patterns can be challenging and time consuming — I’m lookin’ at you breeze block wall — but it was also so much fun. I’ve also especially enjoyed all of the positive feedback from readers who have used the patterns or made models of their own midcentury homes and shared them with me. Keep up the good work all!

5. Going Retro Krafty Krazy!

retro christmasWhen Pam gets on the Retro Krafty Krazy train, she often generates more ideas that she has time to craft herself. That’s where I step in and create such masterpieces as the 5-minute shiny brite ornament tree, the retro modern holiday yule log, the tiki wall art using upcycled cabinet hardware, midcentury inspired planter stand, and of course loads of ornament wreaths among other things. Many of these crafty projects were shown in video format, which also allowed me to build my skill set and simultaneously inject a little of my goofy personality into the crafting session.

6. Sharing my retro pink bathroom process

bathroom remodelPlanning for and building my retro pink bathroom was one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever taken on in my life, mentally, physically and emotionally — though that may change once the baby arrives! During the 6 months between demo and being completely done, I had so much fun sharing my progress with everyone on the blog and getting encouragement and praise from everyone really helped me find the inner strength to get the job done.

7. Attending the 2014 Hukilau with Pam

tiki festival hukilauBeing part of Pam’s presentation at the 2014 Hukilau was one of those things I never imagined would be part of my job description here at Retro Renovation — but it was so amazing! Pam and I met all sorts of fantastic people, learned even more about Tiki culture, had some fun in the sun and a whole lotta fruity rum drinks. It was a magical few days! I was majorly boo to the hooing this year when Pam asked me if I wanted to go and I had to decline due to being pregnant. However, if in a few years Pam wanted to do a reunion trip for a future Hukilau, you know I’d be there!

8. Building, furnishing and decorating the 1955 Betsy McCall DIY Dollhouse

midcentury dollhouse

My whole life I’ve been obsessed with miniatures — especially miniature houses. So when Pam found a NOS pattern for the 1955 Betsy McCall DIY Dollhouse on Etsy and asked me if I would be willing to build it, I was immediately super excited. The project was not an easy or quick one, but it sure was loads of fun. I also recall having a few phone calls with Pam where neither one of us could believe that she was paying me to build and furnish a dollhouse. One call in particular had us erupting in laughter. It went something like this:

Pam: “How’s the dollhouse coming today?”

Kate: “Good! I’m making lots of progress!”

Pam: “What are you working on in particular?”

Kate: “I just made a tiny roll of toilet paper that really spins on the toilet paper holder, can you believe you are paying me to do that?”

Pam: “Hahahahahahahahahaha…..”

Kate: “Hahahahahahahhah……”

The laughter continued for at least 5 minutes without pause. Did I mention this is the best job I’ve ever had?

9. Bringing the dollhouse to life with Mini Kate

min dollhouseYou would think that after Pam paid me to build and decorate a dollhouse, she’d be over it. But no, she also paid me to play with the dollhouse — again, best. job. ever. Enter Mini Kate, Mini Jim and Little Leo and their wild antics, which were so much fun to dream up and create. If you thought I was laughing about making a mini roll of toilet paper, you should have seen me when I was working on these stories. Whether it was decorating for the holidays, inside or out, getting Retro Kitschmas Krafty Krazy, or simply hanging a shelf, these little residents of the 1955 Betsy McCall Dollhouse provided me yet another outlet for creativity and humor.

10. Working with Pam and Wilsonart to create the Retro Renovation Boomerang Laminate collection and launching it at KBIS 2016 in Las Vegas

retro dressesShhh…Don’t tell Pam, but I was five weeks pregnant when I flew out to Las Vegas for KBIS 2016. Somehow, despite feeling very tired and a bit queasy, I was able to hide this fact from Pam until months later. Tip: Just blame your fatigue and lack of interest in drinks on the early wake up times, travel anxiety and jet lag. But all that aside, I loved the whole experience of working with Wilsonart alongside Pam to get our Retro Renovation Boomerang Laminate collection out into the world. Plus, I met loads of nice people at KBIS, saw a bunch of cool home products and got to hang out with Pam in person for the third time since she hired me. When we weren’t promoting our laminate collection or walking around the show, we spent a good deal of time enjoying our hotel’s many restaurants and chatting for hours about everything from work to our philosophy on life. It was a fantastic trip!

While I am very sad that my time at Retro Renovation has come to an end, I know that Pam and I will keep in touch — she’s already asked if she can hire me after things settle down a bit to help her out here and there with a few things for the blog — and of course I’ll keep tabs on the Retrosphere via Retro Renovation when I’m in between diaper changes and feedings. So now I’d like to extend my mega thanks to Pam for taking the chance and hiring me to take this wacky, wild and wonderful ride with her for the last four years and also to all the readers who have been so welcoming to me and so enthusiastic about the projects I’ve taken on and the stories I’ve written. I’ll miss the daily interactions with this community of likeminded folks, but I also look forward to my new adventure: being a full time Mom to baby girl.

xoxoxo Kate

P.S. Pam adds: And don’t miss Kate’s decorating story for the blog: A retro-modern pink flamingo nursery for her soon-to-arrive bundle of joy.

  1. Lori Duckworth says:

    I’m currently making the mint green house with the red door of the little retro putz houses–so much fun!

  2. Nikki says:

    Hi Kate! As a fairly new visitor to the site I gotta tell ya- I may not have known you for long, but I absolutely adore you. Your spirit, your voice and your beyond brilliant creativity come bursting off my computer screen in a really tangible way- like I’m sitting with a good friend instead of reading something in (self-imposed) isolation. I’m going to miss all the incorporations of Leo into project photos as well!

    Congratulations to you and your husband on your impending adorable munchkin! You are going to have the best time being a mom because it requires daily creative solutions (which you were clearly born to materialize). My son is just getting to the age where crafts are more independent ventures and it’s fantastic. You’re going to eat up every moment crafting, crying, and laughing with your little miss!

    All the best,

  3. Kathy says:

    I enjoyed your decorating boards as well, and tours of you home. Each room is so well thought out and the color is dreamy.

    I am happy for you both. Although my son just started college, i remember those early days of infancy, just looking at the light fall on his face as he slept, the most beautiful thing I ever saw. Such an adventure into the unknown, more than I even realized at the time. Please post baby pics once in awhile–she’ll be on stylish little lady!

  4. JaniceW says:

    All the best to you and your expanding family, Kate. And thank you so much for your email help as I was planning my pink bathroom (which is being built right now and will be grey, not pink…long story.)

    Hope to see you again around here!

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