The Importance of Vibe: a Q&A with Where to Eat CLT

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The Importance of Vibe

A Q&A with Miranda Mounts from @wheretoeatcharlotte

A year ago, Miranda Mounts posted the first photo to her CLT foodie account @wheretoeatcharlotte. Now with more than 10,000 followers, Miranda specializes in finding the best spots locally to eat — places that provide diners with consistent food, experience — and vibe. With our newfound love of restaurant design launched with our Optimist Hall project, El Thrifty, we met Miranda at its opening. We also picked her brain on the best spots to check out this fall in the Queen City — the best food, patios, pup-friendly spots and most of all — the ones with the best design. 

Q: How did you get into the food scene?

A: “I went to North Carolina Wilmington to play volleyball and I graduated and started working inside sales for Inland Seafood. That’s when I started to develop my love for food. I would call up chefs in Myrtle Beach and Raleigh and ask them: “What seafood do you need for tomorrow?” I learned all about cuts of beef and fish.”

Q: How did your sales job impact your current foodie status?

A: “I am not just someone who likes to eat, but I really respect chefs and what they do. Walking in the back doors of restaurant as a 23 year old to talk to chefs was really intimidating.”

Q: What brought you to CLT?

A: “I moved to Charlotte late last September and since I was always guiding people where to go to eat in Wilmington, I started my Charlotte page Oct. 1 last year. I love photography, which I picked it up from my mom who is a photographer. I noticed the post with me in them were more engaging them the post of food, so I developed this brand.”

Q:  So why do you do what you do?

A: “Whenever I travel somewhere, I do hours of research on where to eat and I thought that if people could have one outlet in Charlotte that they really trust and know I am going to send them to the right spot — how much is that worth? It’s priceless.”

Q: What do you think of the CLT food scene?

A: “The Charlotte foodie scene is on the rise to becoming one of the best in the US — in my opinion. With the amount of young, energetic and HUNGRY people moving to Charlotte every day, the restaurants and chefs are going to be stepping up their game and getting more and more innovative.”

Q: What was your take on Optimist Hall’s El Thrifty?

A:El Thrifty is the definition of trendy. It’s a modern Mexican-inspired cantina where you can get handcrafted cocktails in a social environment plus my favorite part — GAMES! The vibe is extremely aesthetic every aspect is Instagram worthy!”

Q: How important do you think the design of a restaurant is?

A: “Honestly, for a restaurant to succeed and to get people to come back consistency is everything. That means that with so many people moving to Charlotte, restaurant owners really need to hone in on the vibe. The vibe is really important. Food is important but if you are not in an atmosphere that’s engaging you won’t come back. The energy makes a difference. At Barcelona, you go in an feel like you are in another city — and they remember my drink order form last time and remember that I love the croquettes, those things bring me back.”

Q: What restaurant would you say has the best design in CLT?

A:Barcelona Wine Bar! The vibe is my favorite vibe in Charlotte, I just love it! You feel like you are somewhere else, like you are in a big city. It’s the best spot to get drinks with girlfriends and is not only really aesthetic but has an old-world feel to it.  I’m obsessed with their Truffle Bikini! It is so simple and delicious. They make mini decadent grilled cheese cut into triangles like a bikini top and stuff them with Jamón Serrano, Mahon cheese and the perfect amount of truffle!”

Q: What’s your go-to fast food eatery in Charlotte with spot-on design?

A: “I consistently recommend YAFO Kitchen for fast casual Mediterranean.  I interviewed the chef recently and he told me the spices in their house-made spice blend come straight from Israel! My favorite item to order is the build-your-own grain bowl with hummus, cucumber tomato salad, beets, feta, purple cabbage slaw and topped with Shawarma Chicken!”

Q: What’s your best date-night suggestion?

A: “Date night must be spent at one of the signature Bruce Moffett Restaurants. Hands down, they’re some of the best restaurants the Queen City has to offer. Good Food on Montford is one of my favorites! Small plates for sharing, exceptional service and an intimate romantic vibe!”

Q: What’s the best good vibe, pup-friendly spot?

A:Flower Child! They are California based and know exactly what they are doing! Located in the heart of the city, they have an amazing patio — and it’s pup-friendly! I always order the strawberry fields salad, add salmon. But, their macaroni and cheese is ridiculous. Make sure to try it.”

Q: What’s your go-to for an extravagant design experience?

A: “I don’t think you can beat the vibe at La Belle Helene. It is an experience and I really enjoyed dining there. They just changed up their menu — putting out some fresh fall options! My go-to is their Hanger Steak and Frites.”

Q: Favorite sushi spot?

A:O-Ku Sushi is probably the best sushi in CLT. They have an option for the chef to create custom dishes for you that are not on the menu. For my birthday last weekend, they created this grilled Hamachi belly (yellowtail belly) topped with toasted pine nuts drizzled with daikon yuzu floating in a truffle ponzu sauce. It was insane. Nowhere else in Charlotte can compare to their seafood, it is top quality! And, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday’s and Wednesday’s, they serve half-priced sushi rolls!”

Q: What’s your favorite weekend patio design?

A:Kid Cashew is such a fun restaurant — that patio is a really great design! I love brunch there and they have $3 mimosas! The food is all simple and fresh. My go-to is their lamb burger! It’s one of my favorite burgers in Charlotte. I pick Kid Cashew for their freshness of food and price point — and, they welcome pups on their patio, too!”

Find out more on CLT’s food scene on Instagram at @wheretoeatcharlotte.

Basket Wall Tutorial

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Art is tricky — and basket walls are the perfect art option that makes a big, beautiful impact. They’ve become a House of Nomad (HON) go-to and are versatile whether you want a playful wall with pops of color (like this Lake Norman craft room designed by HON) — or a monochromatic collection, keeping the baskets to natural and black. The baskets not only layer the room in texture, but also bring in the story of where the baskets were sourced into your space.

Take our word for it: basket walls truly are not hard! But, there also is an art to the order of the steps. We’re giving you all our best advice here, step by step — timelapse included!

Step 1: Wall Shop

The number of baskets you need depends entirely on the size of your wall, so start by selecting the best wall you’ve got to hang baskets!

  • Tip: Places we love to do a basket wall include the living room, a large installation in a craft room, above a console in the entryway, above a piano — or a more sophisticated grouping in a dining room.

Step 2: Basket Shop

More often than not, art is purchased too small for a space — so keep that in mind as you tally up your basket list. Don’t skimp on the baskets!

  • Trick: When ordering baskets, stick with odd numbers. A nice grouping can start as small as 3 — for a mini-space. For an upcoming HON installation, we have as many as 27 ready to hang! Make sure your baskets are all different sizes, usually 1-2 large and 1 small, with a few in between sizes. It works to have a few the same size, but try to vary for the best look. Keep in mind, you don’t want baskets that compete.

  • Source: Search “tonga baskets” on Etsy or for “woven African baskets,” and note that the ones that are wrapped tend to hold up the best! We love to mix in a few simple, monochromatic ones and then add in a statement basket or two. The statement could be in the color, pattern — or size.

Also, be sure to check out African wall discs, which are stunning! But get ready, those can be pricey!

STEP 3: Tape it Up

On a roll of kraft paper, trace the largest part of the circle and cut out each shape. Using green tape, tape them on the wall.

  • Trick: Don’t be afraid to do this step, just get taping! We typically start with the larger baskets, then fill in with the smaller ones. Start with them pretty tight, like you are forming a cluster.

  • Common mistake: The most common mistake with basket walls is that the baskets are too far apart! They should be tight knit, which creates a custom art-installation feel. Our favorite way to fight this mistake is to provide some overlap.

  • Tip: Before you commit to your pattern always STEP BACK from the wall and look at it from when you walk into the space. Walk in and out of the space and look at it from different angles. 

Step 4: Basket Up the Wall

Take it from our install team: the simplest and most secure way to hang baskets is to use finishing nails and push them gently through the front of the basket.

  • Tip: Look at the weave of each basket and in between two of the weaves, find that space where you can slide the nail, so that it won’t be visible. Hold the basket over it's corresponding piece of paper, press/hammer in the nail — and gently pull the paper off once it’s hung.

Happy basketwall hanging! Cheers to layered, happier spaces!

Stay tuned for details from our BALI trip, where we died an went to basket HEAVEN and sourcing ALL the baskets for the Queen City. Follow along with our adventures on Instagram, and we’ll post details for studio parties and pop-up sales soon!

Before & After: Quail Hollow Kitchen

We’re here with a HON PROJECT REVEAL — a before/after of a Quail Hollow kitchen and dining area that we couldn’t be more thrilled with! Starting as a classic 1990s beige-on-beige space, Berk and Kell transformed it into a clean, airy and gorgeous room!

On first seeing this space, it was layered with dark elements — dark granite countertops, a tiered bar with painted cabinets, and a stone backsplash — all gave the space a dated feel. It was tan upon tan upon tan with beige cabinets and beige walls, and the charming client asked HON to help renovate and refresh the space. The main design challenge to tackle was the large, gaping hole between the tiered island and the adjacent living room — and it was Berk and Kell’s job to figure out how to utilize the space both practically and aesthetically.

With cohesian in mind, the duo designed a large, square island that removed the tiers and added space on all sides. This meant barstools could be tucked around the end as well as the sides of the island, making it a centerpoint for the busy lifestyle of the family of four. To bring a warm pop of color to the space, the duo painted the island Sherwin William’s Dark Knight. The dark granite was ripped out, replaced by quartz countertops for a bright and clean look.

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When creating the design plan for the dining space, Berk and Kell considered the client’s and their family. With two young boys and an open-door policy with a neighborhood of friends, HON chose a gray jute rug to bring warmth and definition to the dining area that was also easy to clean. The clients also went with a indestructible seating option for their dining area -- a bench that's inviting and can fit a crowd. To add some personality to the space, custom roman shades replaced plastic blinds in the dining area.

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The goal was to update the space with a fresh and light feel and HON achieved that through freshly painted cabinets (Sherwin William’s Snowbound) and giving the walls a timeless hue painted in a HON favorite -- Classic Gray by Benjamin Moore. This fresh paint meant goodbye to the two-toned desk area, bringing refreshing cohesion to this half of the room.

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Simply and clean subway tile replaced the ombre of brown stones, previously behind the sink and cabinets. Pops of brass were added in the hardware and cabinetry pulls. 

Walking into this sunny, light space is a breath of fresh air and we feel lighter everytime we get to spend some time here. Cheers to a project reveal that we are in love with — and here’s to hoping every space we design makes our clients feel right at home!!

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Hanging Chair Tutorial

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It’s no surprise that we are obsessed with hanging chairs! They add a relaxed, comfortable vibe to a space and tons of personality and we find our clients always jump for them, both for indoor or outdoor rooms!

The trick for these chairs is mounting them properly to the ceiling. After trial and error by our install guru, Jim Drake, we’ve created a tutorial for the proper steps to hang these chairs — and have them stay put in your ceiling! Happy mounting!

1. Source the Right Chair

It’s a tie for our favorite hanging chair between the Serena & Lily chair and Selamat’s version (pictured here!). While natural rattan is the color we’ve opted for in our designs, here’s a stunning black and white option we can’t wait to work into a space. And if your budget is in a pinch, this chair is a great option. (If hanging a chair is a little too much for you, go for this option for the same laid-back vibe without the mounting process!)

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2. Collect Your Hardware

There is a lot of variety with what hardware hanging chairs arrive with — some come mounted to a rope or with a kit, some don’t include any hardware at all.

  • A good place to start is this mounting kit. Whatever you do, purchase bolts/mounting materials rated for human weight and our suggestion is for 350-500 pounds, just to be safe.

  • Make sure you have a stud finder on hand.

  • You’ll need string/rope to measure chair height with (anything you have on hand will work!).

  • Once you know the length (see step 4 below), go grab heavy-duty rope and/or a chain needed for your space and chair.

3. Find a Stud

The number one most important thing is that you get the eyelet screw (included in the above kit) into a stud or a ceiling joist. Studs are usually spaced 24” apart or so, but find the exact location with your stud finder and mark it.

Warning: Some of the kits sold for ceiling mount say they can be secured to the drywall, but we don’t recommend going with that. You don’t want your chair to rip out of the ceiling with a glass of wine in hand!

This means that aesthetically, you might have to play around with the feel of the space within a foot or so. But let’s be honest, safety is paramount. Sometimes there is not anything for the eyelet screw to grab into right where you pictured the chair. But don’t skimp on this step — the chair has to be placed in a ceiling joist or stud.

Once marked, go ahead and drill your eyelet screw into the ceiling.

4. Measure the Height of your Chair Mount

To determine the proper length of chain or rope for mounting, try attaching a string or rope to the eyelet screw in the ceiling — or to the carabiner if you use the Amazon kit — and then to the chair. A trick is to put something under the chair to take off slack, so you can gauge how much length you are going to be using. An end table, nightstand or something similar is perfect for this step!

Trick of the trade: Most chairs come with rope standard for an eight foot ceiling, but keep in mind — ropes have give to them! A common mistake is hanging the chair too low. A misconception here is that you hang it at seat level. But if you do, it’s going to sink about four inches when you take a seat.

  • Measure where you think it should hang and subtract 3-4 inches from it. This should give you the perfect length. (Usually, this is about 25” inches above the ground.)

Once you figure out the correct length for the rope/chain, head to the local hardware store. They will cut chain down to the inch you need — and make sure it’s heavy weight bearing rope and/or chain.

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5. Mount Away!

Using your carefully marked ceiling placement and custom-cut chain, and extra carabiners in your kit — get mounting and happy swinging!

A special thanks to Jim, who passed along on these tips and hangs each and every hanging chair for our clients!

HON Celebrates Two Years!

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Celebrating TWO YEARS

What We Learned in Our First Two Years, Starting our own Business

Today HON marks TWO years of business and to celebrate, HON communications manager, Bethany Starin, sat down with Kell and Berk to reminisce a bit. The goal is to give followers and the community an inside scoop into the lessons we learned, the obstacles we overcame in these first months and the path to where we are now.

Q: How do you feel looking back over two years as HON?

Berk: “I still can’t believe it! I couldn’t be happier with the how the last two years have gone! From starting the company in my living room to growing a team, getting a studio, having our first pop-up and traveling for the company — it’s been a dream.”

Kell: “Honestly, we were really lucky! We knew it was going to go somewhere but we didn’t have any idea how quickly. Berk and I worked really hard for this and everything has brought us to this point. Two years ago I couldn’t have imagined all of this happening and now I cannot imagine my life without HON.”

Q: What have you accomplished in the last two years?

Berk: “Back to when we first started, we had all these ideas of things we wanted to do and said someday we are going to do this and someday we are going to have a studio and someday we are going to be published and travel and source — and have a team. All these things we set as goals to work towards and we can’t believe we were able to pull them off in our first year!”

Q: When did it all start?

Berk: “We met in August 2015 in Restoration Hardware where Kell was designing at the time — and instantly hit it off talking about South Africa. Kell and Brad had just gotten back and Diek and I were about to leave. Before we knew it, we had plans to go to Good Food on Montford and Brad and Diek had to drag us out of the restaurant — we could have talked for hours more.”

Kell: “We were practically neighbors at the time and we started talking about our dream to start a company where we could travel and be creative. We were getting excited, brainstorming about what company we could start. And all the sudden it was actually happening! The reality was we took matters into our own hands. We wanted to do what we loved and be passionate about what we are doing. So we started HON.”

Q: How long was it until the House of Nomad LLC was yours?

Kell: “Berk and I met and two months later we were starting our LLC!”

Berk: “It was endless hours of research for us both, creating a business plan, designing a logo and website and saying could this really work? Could we quit our jobs?”

Q: Was it a nerve wracking to make the jump?

Kell: “Yes. There nights where I was really nervous about taking the leap. I made sure I felt like it was really going to happen. For me I knew it was the right thing! At the end of the day, we both stuck to our gut and I’m so happy that we did.”

Berk: “Absolutely but with the support of our husbands, friends and family we felt like we could really pull this off. It basically took two of us working off a strong connection that showed that this is what we are meant to do somehow. It was really scary and we did a lot of calculated risk taking but in the end it was something we just really went with!”


Q: What was the startup cost?

Berk: “From a monetary perspective, it had a low start up cost. It’s $300 for an LLC! Later on, we launched the website and HON branding and that cost us about $1,000.”

Kell: “But from the personal side, it was really all about the sweat equity.”

Q: What were those first few months like?

Kell: “The reality is when you first start any business you are it all. We were the marketing team, design team, customer service team, install team, social media team -- for a full year and a half we wore all the hats. While it may not have been the best idea, it was the only option for us financially. And by the time we were hiring people we had learned from our mistakes to teach them.”

Q: What type of rhythm do your work days have?

Kell: “There is one word — urgency.” Kell laughs. 

Berk: “We truly love the hustle and get really energized by the design process. Kell and I are so similar that we are lock and step and run on all cylinders when we are together, working off each other’s energy.”

Q: What’s your relationship like?

Berk: “Sometimes best friends start a business and it doesnt work — but Kell and I became friends as we started the business and became best friends through that process, so somehow it just works! Our business coach had us a take personality tests and we tested identical in every aspect except one thing. The odds of that are one in a million!” Berk laughs.

Kell: “The friendship grew as the business grew. Our personalities are so similar. We spend all of all of our time together. We go to dinner on the weekends with our husbands and we still party together! We are friends and business owners.”

Q: What were some of your first risks after you launched HON?

Berk: “Things took off so quickly and so we started taking more risks. We signed the lease for this studio — and we bought tickets to Mexico — just several months we were hiring a team! We went to Mexico with a budget of a few hundred, just to see if sourcing works. We had a pop-up when we came back and instantly sold more than half of our sourced goods.”

Kell: “It was good to test the waters small — with lots of trial and error. One of our first trials was shipping back Thai fishing baskets and I will never forget this day. We showed up to the Thai post office with an actual refrigerator box full of baskets… lots of trial and error! After that, we felt like we could actually make this sourcing thing work and be another extention of HON. And we are headed to Bali and Morocco this summer!”

Q: What stand out as your main lessons from that first year?

Kell: “Mistakes are going to happen and they have to happen for us to grow -- but that was really hard. We would beat ourselves up and we would allow clients to set the rules because we did not have the processes in place.”

Berk: “A lot of it went back to establishing processes so we felt empowered and more confident. We were making it up as we went and a business has to evolve — but that was a bit painful at times. Once you put the stake in the ground and get your processes in place then you can treat it as a legit business.”

Kell: “There are so many learnings in that first year starting a business — even personal learnings that you find out about yourself that you didn’t even realize. For example, Berk and I had no idea how hard it is to build a team and to find the right people. We have been so lucky!”

Berk: “The first year is all about trial and error. We both had to get less hung up on things and let things go if it wasn’t working well. It is really not easy to say this isn’t working and we need to rework it from the beginning. Another personal learning is learning how to actually let go — especially when you are used to wearing all the hats. When you start a business it is really all encompassing but you have to learn how to turn it off.”

Q: What is the secret do your success?

Kell: “We are offering something different and we are finding that people are really drawn to an eclectic and global feel in their home that we feel really confident delivering. Berk and I work together on every project and we feel like that really sets us apart.”

Berk: “We are working really hard to make design approachable and to offer something very creative and unique to Charlotte are and beyond.”

Q: How does travel play into your business model?

Berk: “Travel is what really got our friendship going and bonded us in the first place! Now travel is part of our business model because we are incorporating our finds into our designs, we are selling them through local pop-ups, studio sales, our online shop and by appointment at our studio.”

Kell: “I think that’s one of the things that set us apart. It is definitely what makes us House of Nomad and the way we see the company growing is still applying that whole travel idea to whatever it is we are doing.”

Q: How do you keep your sanity day to day as entrepreneurs?
Kell:
“For me, it’s yoga and treating ourselves. We love to celebrate after a big install.”

Berk: “It’s really hard — haha — having those trips planned ahead of time! It’s like the monkey bar where we know we are reaching out for the next thing. And also, lots of wine!”

Kell: “We are both innately driven but having those trips booked pushes us harder because we know we know we won’t be able to source anything once we get there if we don’t have the budget. That’s a motivator.”

Q: What are your goals for the next two years?

Berk: “A lot of our goals we met, which is a dream come true! I’m so excited for what next two years have in store! Let’s keep the business growing, pushing design boundaries creatively through global finds and hopefully one day traveling as a team!”

Kell: “I’m hoping HON becomes a go-to source for people who are building new homes. I’d love for people in Charlotte to come into our studio and learn what we are passionate about and for us to share that.”