Open Envelope Studio is 12!!
December 9, 2023 marks our 12th year in business. I want to break the rules a bit after I use this anniversary to thank everyone, in order to to self-reflect on my goals as a person and share that with y'all. Writing down goals is likely on my mind because I've been listening to business webinars and podcasts (in addition to My Brother, My Brother, and Me, which I highly recommend if you like laugh-snorting during a work day, or UFO Rabbit Hole, if you want to know a little of what Matt listens to).
I heard from these business-types that writing down your goals really does help keep you accountable and visualize success, as well as give you something to look back on the following year to see if you achieved them. If you're into ever-so-slightly witchy stuff like me, and one of your best friends is a celebrant and therapist (at Passageway Arts - check her out), you see the power in ritual, so hold, please, while I light a candle to set my intentions. Alright, here are my goals:
Write a book on landscape design/build. This is one of those big, scary goals that your heart of hearts wants to do but you're kind of afraid of saying it out loud. Matt and I contribute articles to Synkd magazine and use that as a way to give ourselves seasonal deadlines to a topic that we'd cover in the book, but condensed down to about 400 words. It's a great challenge, and I really like writing with Matt since we already design as a Venn Diagram. (That being said, our design team really does weave in a complete idea and we're tremendously appreciative of them as people as well as their contributions as a team.)
Start a maintenance leg of OES. This is the news I teased about on Instagram recently, and I'll have a proper blog post about it that's less informal and hopefully more informative. The long and short of it is that we learn so much about design when we go through the construction process, and we learn even more when we get a chance to follow-up with projects like we've been able to do by having projects on tours. I'd love to keep learning and getting better, and we've had some clients downright beg for us to do this, and we like them enough to figure out how to make it work.
Finish designing our home and get to construction. Unsurprisingly, it's a lot easier to design and manage a client's project but our own designs tend to keep morphing and are put on the back burner for other, more pressing things. But this one is a real need, and we're outgrowing our wee, little house. Also, we're trying to make room for Matt's mom to move in, and currently that would mean bunking with one of the kids, and we've maxed out everyone's tolerance on that. Click the slideshow above for some renderings of a slightly older rendition.
Face the scary things. This was an accidental accomplishment already this year. For some reason this was a Hell Year for us, and we had to juggle curveball after curveball with family, injuries, and emotional limits. In short, there were multiple difficult conversations that we'd been putting off, thinking we were helping or that we didn't need to solve right then... Now that the year is closing and I have such a sense of relief, I feel like a leaf unfurling to the sun instead of Pee Wee avoiding saving the snakes when the pet shop was on fire. I'd like to keep getting off my chest and off my desk in 2024.
Spend real, quality time with family. I got a chance to get some QT this afternoon when Eloise and I saw one of the final showings of the Eras Tour movie before Taylor Swift releases it for rental. We wanted to get the whole experience of singing out loud in the theater, which mostly meant me mumbling song names to her (because she frequently quizzes me and I'm terrible at remembering them), and Eloise singing entire verses and complicated bridges directly facing me–while I watched Taylor on the screen. It was the best afternoon ever. The video above is an impromptu dance party with both Eloise and Ansley to "Cruel Summer" from last year on Matt's birthday, and it really makes me happy.
Be unabashedly who we are. It's a pretty common for architects and landscape architects to have an unhealthy work/life balance, giving up the outside world in service to their job. That level of commitment is encouraged in school, and certainly is not specific to the architecture field, but we honestly find it unhealthy. What makes us better designers is being present, noticing what spaces are enjoyable and why, and trying to recreate those moments of magic for our clients. We want to really connect to each of our family members, our team, our crews, and to everyone who hires us on. One client so sweetly shared this at the end of a project:
Matt, I know you have had some tough moments this year. Just know that you guys are creating spaces that will be part of incredible memories in the future. They will be filled with laughter and joy, but also tears and pain. These places can heal us faster and get us to a place of gratitude and empathy. Knowing that your energy was part of this makes it even more valuable to us. Not sure how the name OES was created, but if we think of our yard as a closed envelope with unknown contents. You have truly opened it to show us what could be.
We're probably more open about being vulnerable, the power of therapy, raising feminists, being humored by doofy animals, and a sometimes-inappropriate sense of humor than a typical design firm. But I don't want to shy away from that because I like who we are. And I like giving space for others to be who they are, too–as long as it's done with kindness and compassion.
Maybe it's the heavy dose of Taylor Swift today; maybe it was re-reading our Houzz reviews just now that got me a little teary-eyed. Sometimes I have to be The Man and sometimes I get to nerd out on plants. This goal is to appreciate who we are and lean into it, because we've met some really rad clients over the years that seem to get us.
Thanks for reading a post that was probably more in line with the familiarity of how I used to write on my now-defunct personal blog because I've felt like I needed to put forward a professional front here. While that professionalism is really important and I take a lot of pride in it, I also wanted to share that we are humans. Humans who started this firm 12 years ago. And that's pretty great.