The Introduction: NH – ID Book

My friend Nadia is an incredibly talented designer – she designed everyone’s favorite Minneapolis boutique, Mille, and worked with Commune in LA on projects including the Ace in Palm Springs and Heath Ceramics in LA. When I eventually own a house, there’s no question that Nadia will be who I turn to for all of my design needs. But – interior design can be expensive and time consuming, and, unfortunately, there is only so much of Nadia to go around – she can’t help everyone who comes her way. Brilliant business woman that she is (seriously, I’m so lucky to have met so many incredible entrepreneurs over the last few years!), Nadia has come up with a solution that will help everyone benefit from her design skills – the ID-book, launching today!

Described as a “A personalized guide book to your perfect space, a stylish alternative to E-design,” the ID-book is a simple, affordable, stylish, utilitarian guidebook, tailored to your space.
ID-book was created to give YOU the ability to achieve a designer space without retaining a full-service interior designer. With a fixed price, Nadia will work out the design details while you do the legwork.

I’ve played around with the ID-Book over the last few weeks- it’s awesome. It would have made all of my most recent moves so much easier. And all of my previous homes so much better. If you are in need of some design assistance, I cannot recommend Nadia highly enough!

Nadia is also an avid proponent of American made throughout her work… so I asked her to share some favorites with us. Read on for more from Nadia – and the most amazing ping pong table I’ve ever seen!

I believe America is the great innovator. Americans are inherently risk takers, we have all (either due to our ancestors or ourselves) landed here, and it is, and has always been a pretty wild place… I have a deep respect for risk takers (not only because I come from a long line of them) but because they’re always searching for something greater.

I’m always excited to discover people and companies that manufacture and design in the U.S. When I can create a direct relationship with the innovators: the craftspeople and designers; I get to know their process, the time and work that goes into making a piece of furniture, a light fixture, wallpaper, textiles, etc., it makes me a better designer.

Ultimately, I want to work with people and companies that are risk takers who are always searching for something greater, that are innovative, and who are proud of their goods.

Lake August Wallpaper | Commune Design V-lite | Seawall coffee table | Ping Pong table

Of a Kind

When friends ask me my favorite spots for online shopping, Of a Kind is always on the list. I’ve followed this incredible e-commerce + editorial site – which launches limited edition products from emerging fashion designers each week- for years and was ecstatic when we arranged this interview. I could have talked retail and favorite designers with Claire and Erica for hours – and they come across on the phone exactly as you’d imagine on the site. Read on for more about Of a Kind – and a preview of the items that are launching this week!

Also, make sure to check out their blog, Stuff We Love, and sign up for the hysterical email newsletter – one of the few that I actually read each week! Thanks, Claire & Erica!

OF-A-KIND-KYYOTE-EARRINGGold Crescent Quill Earrings by Kyyote for Of a Kind | 45 of a kind | $88


Clare: We’d been friends since college at the University of Chicago and had both moved to New York. Erica was working in magazines and I’d been working in the art world. I felt like the future of supporting artists and creatives was on the internet, and I wanted to be a part of it. Erica was helping me edit my cover letter for 20 x 200, a  site focused on introducing artists to new collectors, and we realized that we could translate that model to the fashion world. We knew that if we told the story behind the product, we could sell the work of unknown artists and designers.

We had the idea in January 2010 and launched in November 2010, focused on one of a kind pieces and content geared towards the designer – interviews, photo essays, etc.


We’re inspired by other companies in our space and in similar industries. The magazine world. The food world. We’re very inspired by other entrepreneurs:

Ten Over Six Founders Kristen Lee and Brady Cunningham have built an incredible brick & mortar business that is now five years old and still growing.

Susan Feldman, the founder of One Kings Lane. She has built a huge company that is backed by venture capitalists but is still very grounded and down to earth and she takes things one at a time.

Jen Bekman from 20×200.

The designers that we work with. It’s inspiring to be a small business that supports other small businesses. We’ve built great relationships with many of our designers and we learn from each other and can help each other.



We still love an instore experience. We are focused online but we still love to support boutiques. These boutiques support the same ecosystem that we are in and we can support each other.

Our story telling perspective is best for an online model. We grew up in small cities and towns that didn’t have many independent boutiques so we like that we have created something that everyone can have access to.

We take inspiration from the best boutiques – the owners can give you guidance as to what to wear or buy and can tell you the story behind the product. Those are enriching experiences and that is what we are trying to create online.


Launching Collections was a natural step in growing our business. As the site grew, we found that there was a need from our customers to access the entire collection from the designers we featured – either because our exclusive item had sold out, or the customers simply wanted to buy more pieces than what we were selling. Our designers also started to come to us for help in building out their e-commerce sites so we realized we could create a solution for our customers and our designers.

Collections make it easier for designers to sell their product and also provides customers with more options and selections, as well as the comfort of shopping from a site they can trust.

OF-A-KIND-BLANCA-MONRO-GOMEZ-RINGChampagne Diamond Tiny Solitaire Ring by Blanca Monros Gomez for Of a Kind | 45 of a kind | $215


Jeans and a flat boot, typically Loeffler Randall. Statement accessories – shoes, bags, and necklaces that can stand out when paired with streamlined clothing.


E: A Black Crane Striped Linen Top

C. Two A Piece Apart shirts and a Demylee cropped sweater – I buy a new version every year and wear them all of the time.

Thank you, Claire & Erica!
Follow Of a Kind:

J.W. Hulme


Heritage has become a buzz word lately, and – after reading hundreds of brand pitches touting heritage ideals and craftsmanship – for products that looked poorly made even from my laptop screen –  it was starting to lose it’s meaning.

And then I visited J.W. Hulme in St. Paul.

And suddenly heritage – real heritage – made a lot more sense to me.


I’ve been a fan of J.W. Hulme bags for years – that weekender is entirely impractical for my preferred methods of travel but is just so gorgeous that I’d consider working out just so I could carry it around the airport with me – but didn’t know much about the brand until Ashley and I visited the factory a few months ago.

After this visit, I have such a different understanding of what heritage really means – and it is impressive.

J.W. Hulme opened in 1905 as a field and sport company, and all products have always been produced in St. Paul, Minnesota, using domestically sourced materials. The company has always focused on quality over anything else – the bags are classic, meant to be used, and are guaranteed to last.


The production of these bags is rather incredible. The company only uses A-grade, heavy leather hides from carefully selected partner tanneries across the US. The leather arrives, is inspected, and then is split – which thins the leather out to a uniform width, and hand cut using a steel die. Each bag is made up of 8-10 pieces of leather, using the right part of a hide for each piece is imperative – and knowing which part that is is an art.


After cutting, the ends of each piece are hand painted (!!!) for consistency, and then the leather is lined and backed. If the product is part of the American Heritage line, the leather is hand buffed and burnished to create a patina. The bags are finished with solid brass hardware and Riri zippers – considered the best zippers in the market. And the bags are guaranteed – for life.


Making bags is labor intensive, but the attention to detail – and the respect for the craft – of each employee was obvious. Many of the employees have worked for the company for over 20 years, and J.W. Hulme is also a partner in The Makers Coalition, an organization working to build a trained cut and sew industry within Minnesota. I asked Laura, the Vice President of Brand Management, about her experience at J.W. Hulme, and she said “There is an amazing level of integrity that everyone brings when they come in in the morning. It’s not just a job, this is a mission. Everyone gets what we are doing and why we are doing it.”


This is a mission I’m proud to support. Thank you, Alfred and Laura, for showing us the factory and helping us to understand what J.W. Hulme – and heritage – is all about.

Original photography for TAE by Ashley Sullivan | Instagram

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Good Morning!

I apologize for the lack of posts this past week… after months of frustration with the site being slow or down, I moved to what I’m considering a more grown-up server – as a friend told me recently, if I believe in TAE, I have to treat the site with the respect that it warrants, even if it hasn’t quite earned it yet.

“If you build it, they will come…”

And let’s be clear – I do believe in TAE. I left my corporate job – which had at one time been my dream – just over a year ago, and never could I have imagined that I’d be as creatively fulfilled and inspired as I am now. It hasn’t been an easy year – punctuated with more downs than ups, to say the least- but the feeling that I’m building something that I believe in, and that others see value in, keeps me going.

The other thing that keeps me going (besides espresso) – the people I’m so fortunate to call my family and my friends. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that leaving my job would be a bit like a divorce. I moved to Minneapolis when I was 22 and built my life here around that job – until I met Matt, everyone I knew worked and lived within the same two blocks in the city. My entire life revolved around my place of employment, and when I left I had to rebuild. To find a new common ground with the people I’d been friends with for years, and to find new people who understood what I was going through. It was tough. I was lucky in that Matt had had undergone his own professional reinvention years before, so he understood the process – but I was wholly unprepared. Last summer was pretty dark – I think I’m just now accepting how hard it really was for me – I felt immense pressure to succeed and to prove that I’d made the right decision, and I really had no idea what I was doing. And I was lonely, and at home, most likely in my sweatpants.

But there were many bright spots. I’d written a personal blog for about a year, and through that had become internet friends with local (and many non-local) creatives – that’s how I met Megan, and Wing, and Michelle, and Elizabeth, and Melissa, and Kate, and Lisa, among others. Megan forced me to quit my job over dinner one night, so she had no choice but to be my friend afterwards, but the other women were just incredibly supportive of my dream from the start. That they believed in me helped me to believe in me. That they were willing to sit me down and tell me the hard truth about the life I was setting myself up for (over wine, obviously) terrified me but also helped me to know exactly what I was getting into. Without them, I’d have been back at my corporate job with my tail between my legs in months. Because of them, I’ve survived a year – and even partnered to launch a new endeavor – and I’m confident that I’ll make it through at least a few more.

Another, obvious bright spot – the readers and followers of TAE and the makers I’ve had the incredible fortune to meet and profile. This will never be the most popular or the biggest website in the world, but the fact that there are more of you each day brings me incredible joy. I really do believe that little things make all of the difference, and if together we can promote conscious consumption and domestic production, we could legitimately change the future.

That’s pretty incredible.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading, and PLEASE let me know what I can do to make this site better for you.

[some thoughts on “making-things” & the internet – by adam-j-kurtz,  via swiss-miss]

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