Inspiration from a Modern Contemporary Home

Today the Washington Post featured a beautiful new contemporary home located nearby in Chevy Chase, MD.   The owners reluctantly replaced their cozy farmhouse with an entirely modern design after their home was destroyed by a fallen tree.  While many urban dwellers don’t have (anywhere near) this much space to work with, I think something can be learned from their design and layout.

Clean lines and lack of clutter make this already bright and open space feel even more vast.  Also notice how the colors and tones run for full lengths of each of the surfaces – providing an unbroken line.  For instance, the cabinets and wall beam are the same rich chocolate brown, floor to ceiling, and the blonde floors are not disrupted from room to room.  Think of it like wearing solid color slacks that almost brush the floor as opposed to patterned capris.  Sleek, unfussy and gorgeous!

washington post PH2009093002704

In the dining room you continue to see the same use of continuous surfaces.  Also, the moulding in the ceiling, dining table, floor application and windows are situated in a way that accentuates the length of the room.

Modern Dining Room

Modern Dining Room

A continuation of the same technique in the living area – solid sofas in a light oatmeal color also provide a sense of more space.

Modern Living Room

Modern Living Room

Finally, you can imagine the sense of space the solid white vertical stairway creates.  I’m not a fan of cutouts in general, especially in a seemingly random pattern, but I think given the otherwise blank canvas these walls create, it works.   In my own space I might have preferred to utilize some glass, no cutouts / one or two very large cutouts, or at least more of a rhythmic pattern.

Open Contemporary Stairway

Open Contemporary Stairway

So by using some of the techniques used here to emphasize the open look and feel of the space, we can all bring a bit more open feeling to our smaller spaces.

You can view the entire Washington Post article here.

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Women Grow Business – New Post on E-commerce!

Thank you again to Jill Foster at Women Grow Business for having me as a regular contributor – despite my not always regular contributions!

Here is our latest post, published today:

From Navigation to Web Video: Increasing Traffic and Conversion Rates for Your E-commerce Site

Sometimes I have a tendency to overcomplicate things.
For example, when creating a strategy for my e-commerce business – an online contemporary furniture store – I became overwhelmed with the perceived complexities of the project.

However, it boils down to a few very basic points.

As an online retailer, it’s fair to say your business is about generating revenue from the sale of goods. Just as in traditional retail, this is the result of ensuring two fundamental activities are taking place – ‘traffic’ and ‘conversion’ i.e. you have shoppers visiting your online store and they are turning into buyers.

On driving traffic
There are many ways that you can drive traffic to your site and many consulting companies that are ready to provide you with expertise in any of them. However as I see it, basic traffic can be derived from the following:

1. Site optimization
The key words you use throughout your website are what ensure that when a shopper uses search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) to find an item that you carry, they will find you. It is simultaneously a simple process (including words that describe your site/products) and more complicated (such as competing for key words with other vendors).

It may help reading-up on a good overview of the basic steps to give a better understanding.

2. Advertising
A popular mode of online advertising is Pay Per Click (PPC), which allows you to obtain prominent page space on search engines. You can also list your products on Amazon to utilize their popularity or place ads on social network sites such as Facebook or MySpace. I’ve found Amazon where your products are viewed by folks (who are actively browsing for products like yours) to be an effective way to generate traffic at a reasonable cost.

3. Customer interaction
It’s important to engage and interact with your customers. The word of mouth factor can be an effective way to create traffic. On top of this, the more you learn about your customers, the better you are able to determine what they are looking for and thereby tailor your site to more effectively meet their needs. Some popular methods of communicating with your customers include your company’s blog, Facebook and Twitter. Distinguish yourself by being quick to respond and be transparent. I also recommend using Google Alerts to track when folks are talking about you/your business so you can be sure to respond.

So now that you have driven visitors to your site, you need to make sure that you convert them into buyers.

On converting traffic to buyers
You can project your sales by utilizing a conversion rate – the percentage of your site’s visitors that will become buyers. A goal of all online retailers is to increase this conversion rate.

Some ways of doing this include:

1. Provide clear product descriptions and quality images. Especially when selling a tangible product, having these are important. It ensures the buyer has a good understanding of the product and thereby the confidence to purchase.

It has also been shown that videos demonstrating the product are also helpful in instilling confidence and thereby converting shoppers into buyers.

Certain manufacturers whose product lines I carry only provide a basic image. From experience, I know shoppers will not purchase an item that’s not clearly portrayed. So often I’ve found in this case, the best option with some of these products and vendors is to not carry them — unless you can obtain better images yourself.

2. It is important to make sure your site is easy to navigate. This includes the checkout process. It is also key your customers can find what they are looking for on your site. Outside of a basic search function, custom search fields can be created to make it easier for people to find exactly what they are looking for.

3. Ensure the visitor will feel comfortable shopping with you i.e. think personality here. Imprint your personality and/or your brand’s persona within the various facets of your site. It is key to have a company blog so you can show the personality behind the storefront and interact with visitors. Videos have proven to be helpful in this aspect as well. User reviews are extremely useful in convincing a shopper about the quality or relevancy of a product for them, as well as sharing positive shopping experiences.

4. Consider that shoppers are concerned about safety when shopping online. It is important to show customers it’s safe for them to disclose their personal information — such as contact and credit card data. Use services that certify the safety of your site and thereby put your visitors at ease. VeriSign, McAfee and Kikscore are a few to consider.

That’s my initial plan to traffic and conversion — both so integral in creating revenue. Approaching the process in this logical way has helped me to create a systematic plan to building my company.

What else do you think is key in growing your online retail operations?  Please feel free to share your thoughts!

No more stress over paint colors!

I am very excited to announce the debut of the new line of Perfect Palettes from Gibson Design Group.  Really, the palettes couldn’t be more ingenious – as soon as I heard about it from Alexandra Gibson I was on board and ready to purchase a palette for myself!

The idea is simple:

The talented and experienced team at Gibson Design Group has chosen eight proven, fool-proof palettes of paint colors and wallcoverings.   Each of the options are carefully chosen to evoke a unique look, whether you feel at home in the chic, sophisticated hues of Central Park or are drawn to the rustic, natural tones of Lake Tahoe.

Kalorama Paint Palette from Gibson Design Group

Kalorama Paint Palette from Gibson Design Group

You will receive a digital version of the palette of your choice as well as a hard-copy by mail.  Both will give you all of the information you need to order the paint and wallcoverings.  The version you receive by mail will include the actual paint and wallcovering swatches so that you can see them in your home.  You can also opt to receive sample cans of paint for all of the colors in your chosen palette for a very reasonable price.  Also available is expert assistance from the team at Gibson Design who will consult with you to determine color and wallcovering placement in your space.

So be done with the stress of the difficulty in choosing paint colors make your home look like you hired an innovative interior designer.   Simply choose a Perfect Palette from Gibson Design and finish your space in a beautifully polished and cohesive way.

Central Park Paint Palette

Central Park Paint Palette

Catching Up!

After a nice long weekend in Las Vegas (more about this later) I returned to attend the Grow Smart Biz Conference here in Washington, DC.   It was a day of information and inspiration for small businesses and a fantastic chance to meet other fellow small business owners.  I can say that I walked away feeling energized (even after a weekend in Vegas!), inspired and ready to get back to work.  Thank you to Shashi Bellamkonda at Network Solutions for pulling the event together, which included high profile visits from Senator Mark Warner and Chris Anderson.  Several excellent panels provided thoughtful insight and advice on major small business topics.   What a great time!

To keep up with all things social media and small biz, I suggest you follow Shashi on Twitter or at one of his blogs.

Product of the Day – Boy and Girl Lamps

The Boy and Girl Lamps from Barbara Cosgrove are one of my favorite lamp sets, proven by the fact that I’ve talked about them here before and… well… I have them in my own bedroom.  One boy, one girl.  A touch of vintage and a lot of modern.  It doesn’t get any better than this!

Boy and Girl Table Lamps

Boy and Girl Table Lamps

Enjoy 10% off the Boy and Girl Lamps today!

Grow Smart Business Conference in DC – with Coupon Update!

Grow Smart Business Conference

I wanted to share news of an upcoming small business conference here in DC. It will be held downtown next Tuesday in the Renaissance Hotel and it looks like it’s going to be a fantastic opportunity to learn and network with other small business owners:

“Small business owners and entrepreneurs should attend to learn how to overcome challenges that all small businesses face. Attendees will hear from an outstanding group of panelists for concrete takeaways including:

  • Proven strategies for business growth despite the current economy
  • Executable, cost-effective ways to market their businesses
  • Insight and tactics for securing small business financing
  • Actionable ideas for integrating social media into existing marketing”

Learn more and sgign up to attend here. Hope to see you there!

UPDATE:  I’ve just received information on a coupon to attend for only $99.  Enter coupon code “SHASHIB” at checkout for tickets at this great price!

Also, be sure to visit the SmartBiz Answers Booth at the conference (my hubby will be one of the experts on board – save your toughest legal questions for Raj while your there)! http://blog.networksolutions.com/2009/the-growsmartbiz-conference-featuring-the-smartbiz-answer-booth/

Deal of the Day – Bark Hearth Fireplace Screen

We’re just a few days in to Autumn, but I can already feel the excitement building as we prepare for the cooler weather.  Festive fall decorations, cozy sweaters and cozier moments.   To help you get things rolling, we’ve extended our sale on modern fireplaces and fireplace accessories.

On top of that, save an additional 10% on our Bark Hearth Fireplace Screen.  It is available in two sizes – wide and tall.  Since I’ll be traveling to the less seasonal Las Vegas, the sale will run through Tuesday!

Bark Hearth Fireplace Screen from Roost

Bark Hearth Fireplace Screen from Roost

Enjoy the lovely fall nesting time!