This August The Beat That My Heart Skipped celebrates ten years of blogging and being one of the first design blogs in the UK! If you want to do the maths then I started the blog the month after my 24th birthday… I thought this might be a good time to reflect on the last decade – how attitudes to blogging have changed, my very first post and the future… Expect lots of low resolution imagery from the past that will hurt your eyes. Are you sitting comfortably?
The Design Industry 10 Years Ago…
London 2007. I was just beginning my career in the the interiors industry and the landscape was very different to how it is now. I was lucky enough to take a year out during my degree (editorial and advertising photography) to assist at the celebrated magazines I admired – The World of Interiors (warm, traditional and a little eccentric just as you’d imagine) then Elle Decoration (where I made some of my best friends) and eventually Living Etc (lovely people) for a short stint.
The industry was small and after I graduated I returned to freelancing across many of the magazines and their departments. Jobs were quite physical – assisting on photoshoots and walking the streets of London visiting props houses and interiors shops – taking pictures of items for projects for the stylists I was assisting. Desk-work involved looking through magazines, look-books and emailing PR’s for imagery and press releases for features.
There were a lot more personal interactions – long meetings (not just a quick coffee) at fancy venues with PR companies, resplendent award ceremonies where the cream of the design industry would attend and rock-star worthy design week parties which my tribe of industry pals and I would block out the entire month for partying on the town. This is all sort of coming back around in the name of creating ‘social media buzzes’ – but back then we were totally in the moment. It was a golden era in publishing and some of the best times I have had in my career.
Why I started a Blog
1. I used to spend a lot of time looking at American design blogs – a decade ago the US was so far ahead of the game when it came to digital content. My go-to blogs were Design Sponge (who I have now had the honour of working for) Poppytalk and Oh Joy. There were a couple of other UK design blogs who I can count on three fingers but are no longer running. I wanted to read a UK focused design blog myself – so i saw a niche and thought I would write it myself.
2. My boyfriend (now husband) was a web-developer – we talked a lot about the future of online content and how people will consume news in the future – it was all so far fetched and I never imagined any of it would come to fruition.
3. Simply because I wanted a way to archive and share the design and experiences I came into contact with every day. There was no Instagram or Twitter (then just a year old) to send inspiration off into the world. I guess I have always been a sharer.
My First Post
Looking back into my archives (which I have made visible on my sidebar for the purpose of this post) is like digging out badly lit and ill-styled photographs from teenage parties with your mates. However those moments are real, they make you feel something and are oddly refreshing.
You can see what the first incarnation of The Beat That My Heart Skipped looked like over here on the WordPress hosted site and above – all the archives are still there for me to reminisce over. The theme is completely black and minimal and I had also poached my banner image from a look-book I had found online one day. I’m sure I credited the photographer in one of my posts but nowadays this type of un-originality is seriously bad form.
My first post written on August 13th 2007 was not even to do with interiors but about illustration which was a huge passion of mine in my university days. It was about a New York based illustrator – quite famous on the Indie band poster scene – one paragraph and a picture – seemed enough. My second post was an image and a credit. ‘WTF’ is all I can say.
I went on to write about jewellery and ceramics, whimsical photography and fine art. I snapped some pictures of a new (now very famous) stationery store I fell in love with on a trip to New York and showed an early interest in succulents. These posts were interspersed with images of my life, home and simple pleasures. The first image in this group has got to be an early example of “Instagram Husbands” ! At this stage there was absolutely no agenda to the kind of content I wrote. You can even see some of the ‘Blogs I Read’ on the sidebar – most now out of date…
My grammar and spelling was slipshod but I feel like this ‘first draft’ of my blog was my raw and true self – a stream of consciousness and un-styled imagery which had something poetic about its simplistic nature. The 2017 version of The Beat That My Heart Skipped is a more polished version of these values – as am I.
What Did I Hope To Get out of the Platform?
In September 2009 I re-designed the blog and moved to a hosted site (I had another re-design in 2014 and then one final one in 2015 which is the one you are viewing now). Alongside my freelance work I ran the blog as a separate business – with a strict editorial calendar and contributors (writers skilled in respective subjects food, travel and books – who wanted an outlet to try their hand at blogging). I’m smug to say that one of my contributors who had a column ‘Louise’s Kitchen’ now has her own beautiful Food blog Buttercup Days and is an Editor at Simple Things Magazine.
I began to publish five articles a day and my traffic began to exceed my expectations. I got emails like the one from a reader in San Francisco who said they would print off my week’s features and sit and read them with a coffee on the weekend. Had to be the best compliment ever.
Back to the question ‘what did I hope to gain?’ I hoped to make blogging my full-time career like my peers in the US had… but two things got in the way.
In 2009 the UK still wasn’t ready to accept blogging or digital content as a serious medium – PR’s were reluctant to collaborate as many of their clients still saw print as the holy grail and they didn’t yet understand the power of the internet or ‘influencers’ – even if I did have the numbers.
The second sticking point was – that I got offered a great job as the Interiors Editor of new design trends platform Stylus – from WGSN founder Marc Worth. I travelled the world visiting furniture fairs and far flung destinations in search of design inspiration. I commissioned and published hundreds of features on new designers, new products and trends. So the blog took a backseat for a while but wasn’t forgotten – the longest I didn’t publish anything was a month.
I left Stylus after three years to freelance and threw myself back into my beloved blog. It was 2013 and sponsored content and collaboration opportunities began flooding my inbox… I say this not to blow my own trumpet, but to highlight the changing attitudes towards online media.
Why do the extra work? What’s the point?
Many of my friends and fellow journalists couldn’t understand why I did this – why work on the blog on my evenings and weekends, why do the extra work and why take it so seriously?
Over time my goals for the blog have changed – I no longer strive for it to be my full time job but I enjoy the world it has opened up to me that keep my career varied and make it challenging. The Beat That My Heart Skipped is an extension of myself, it has given me so many opportunities I wouldn’t have had without it – not all of them providing financial gain but sometimes personal which is just as important.
That great job I was offered at Stylus was because someone forwarded my blog to the person who went on to hire me. I was contacted by my design mecca Design Sponge for one of their signature ‘Sneak Peeks ‘ because they saw my home on the blog – and I’ve been offered opportunities to screen-test for Interiors shows after people saw this gorgeous film I worked on for House of Fraser a few years ago – not to mention the most recent film for Made.com. I also launched a dream business – Napeansea last year that was given a platform to grow because of my blog and my ‘brand’ – our first collection was launched at a Pop Up at West Elm.
The blog is a portfolio in a sense – I have an existing one but hardly ever send it out. Now-days a link to my blog is one of the first things I will send a prospective client – if i am pitching for an interior decorating project, or trying to set up a coveted meeting with a brand I’m hoping to write for – this is my calling card. This is me – get to know my voice, see my years of hard work and see how I have grown.
What’s The Future of Blogging?
For me The Beat That My Heart Skipped has always evolved with the trends – there have been times I have tailored my writing to how people consume content – at one time shorter and faster news features – then my titles became more SEO friendly then slightly more snappy (dare I say borderline click-baity) ’10 Beautiful Basics We Need in Our Life’.
Now I think longer, thoughtful original content is the way forward. I love Instagram – it’s the most inspiring and digestible form of ‘content’ for me when life is hectic but more and more I find myself clicking through the blog links in the profile of the people that interest me and delve further into their thoughts rather than continue image scrolling. Although in my opinion the digital noise is greater than ever (as in the best) people will always want to take a moment, put their feet up and listen to genuine voices with a story to tell.
Author: Rohini Wahi
Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.
She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org