Maybe it’s because warm weather is right around the corner (we can feel it coming!) but, we’re getting our head into the spring-cleaning game. And, we might have to hand it Joy Cho of design and lifestyle site Oh Joy! for the motivation.
The design star recently revamped Clorox disinfecting wipes, you know the kind you keep handy at your desk or pull out from underneath the sink for kitchen messes, and gave them a stylish makeover. We landed at Cho’s studio for the launch event — which was every bit as bright and striking as you’d imagine — for a morning of floral arranging, brunch, and well, cleaning (or at least thinking about cleaning). We sat down with Cho to get the scoop on everything from her new home she's building from the ground-up to what she currently loves about the ever-changing social-media landscape.
You were one of the pioneers of design blogging. Now that the landscape has shifted so much, what excites you about social media and blogging right now?
"So, I started in 2005 which was the early days. Starting a blog in that time was a little known thing. I really had no idea what I was doing — and anyone who started during that time probably can say the same thing. I really winged it. But, as social media evolved and new platforms came up I really was open and tried everything to see what stuck. A lot of times people tend to be like, ‘oh that’s just one more thing to manage’ but you don’t know what could be the next thing. So, being flexible and ebbing and flowing with tech and social has been a huge thing for me. Also, I get it, sometimes with certain platforms you get so used to it and you’re like, ‘this is really working!’ but, then something like an algorithm changes it and we all feel it. I feel what everyone is feeling when those things happen and in some ways it’s challenging but I always try to use it as opportunity to keep trying new things and not feel like I have to fit into a certain formula. Creatively, it’s a really great way to challenge yourself. And, it keeps you wondering what the next thing is going to be. Obviously, we don’t know that answer yet but it's important to not have all your eggs in one basket."
As I mentioned above, you started out as one of the first design bloggers and really have expanded and scaled into a full-fledged lifestyle brand — with amazing collaborations just like this one. What strategies did you implement to really expand and grow in the way that you have?
"I started as a designer, so that was my job before I started the business. So, the design part of it always came easy and that was first and foremost. I think that did help in the sense when I started doing design and collaborations I was actually designing them. Now I have a team to help me but it in beginning it was all me. My company is completely self-funded — I do not have investors. Since our growth hasn’t been at the pace of a start-up that has a bunch of funding it can seem a little slower. I didn’t hire my first full-time employee until my eighth year and now we’re almost 14 years in. It made sense and I did it as it made sense, and I could afford to hire people. And basically as I could get someone to one area of the work that I was doing and be able to let that person run with it. There was a time where I designed every single product here, and now I have a designer who helps with that. There was a time when I made every single craft project and styled it and photographed it. Now I have people who are experts in those areas doing those things under my creative direction. And, so I think it’s really about going with your gut and letting things grow naturally and organically. Deciding where you want to go, where you want to take your company. Asking if you can do it by yourself or do you need help?"
Switching gears a little bit —you are in the midst of building a home from the ground-up. What has that been like and what have been some things you’ve gleaned from it?
“Oh my gosh! Number one thing is that building a house is REALLY hard. I don’t think that anyone would second guess that but we did it because just like everybody, you get to a certain stage in your life and you’re like ‘it’s probably time to buy a house’ or you’re expecting and your space isn’t big enough or whatever it is. But, I also live in Los Angeles and it’s crazy expensive and we were constantly getting outbid with people who had all cash offers. How can I ever compete with that?"
"So, we had a couple friends who were architects and recently built their own house and they were like 'build a house, it’s half the price.' And, we were like 'okay, whatever.' But, when we looked into it we were actually like, oh yeah, it is more affordable to build than to buy. You just need patience and time. But, if you can do it, you will get exactly what you want. So, we somehow were crazy enough to build it. My husband found the land through Google maps, because we were having a really hard time finding land in Los Angeles. Fast forward to today, we started construction at the end of 2017 and we’re set to be done in the fall of this year.
The process is so exciting when you see it — when you see something that is dirt and then you see walls. Right now, I’m picking finishes and we’re starting to design the interiors — that part is so exciting. But, of course, the stressful part is the unexpected costs and change in budget and something not going right and having to fix it. Things that happen you couldn’t predict. But, at the end of the day I know the exciting thing is that we’ve built this home from scratch for my family for my kids to grow up in. For them, to get to go through this process, is pretty cool. We try to bring them when we can — and now that the framing is up they can really see it."
Were there any non-negotiables you had for the space? For examples, things you really wanted to have within the home because you had the luxury of building from the ground up?
"Honestly, one of my main things was to have a a flat yard for the kids. In Los Angeles, it can be hard to find one with a flat yard. You’ll find houses and then you have to go down one or two stories and have a tiny little yard — it’s weird because it’s built on a hill. Our house is built into a hill, but the way that it’s designed is so that there is a flat yard. That was really important to me. Therefore, our house isn’t huge by any means, because we are allowing for some of that space for the yard — for the kids to play. It sounds so simple but here it’s not as common. So, we really built the house around this indoor-outdoor flow!"