With so many renowned architects and interior designers living and working in Napa Valley, it’s only fitting that one of the editors of the popular website Remodelista.com lives here as well.
Sarah Lonsdale, a founder of the site that defines itself as a “sourcebook for considered living,” moved to St. Helena with her husband and two children six years ago.
Looking to escape the “rushed lifestyle” of the city, the couple sold their San Francisco home and lured their children to a fully furnished St. Helena rental with a swimming pool. The premise was a year-long trial run, but “it was two weeks and I knew we weren’t going back,” Lonsdale recalled.
During the chaos of that same move, her friend, Julie Carlson, called with the idea of starting a home remodeling blog. Since both of them had been through the renovation process, she wanted Lonsdale to participate.
Consumed with trying to settle into her new house and new town, Lonsdale said she was hesitant and noncommittal. A week later Carlson called again and, with a little convincing, was able to change her friend’s mind.
Home-obsessed by nature, Lonsdale said her remodeling experience began long before she owned her own homes. During her childhood in England, her architect father bucked the country’s traditional trends and designed modern homes.
“There was always a project; we were always moving,” Lonsdale said. She seems to have enjoyed the changes and her father’s aesthetic resonated with her. “We always lived in fantastic spaces.”
She now spends her days sourcing, editing and curating images of beautiful spaces and unique ideas for Remodelista. Lonsdale explained that the original purpose of the blog was to provide an online resource where people like themselves could get information.
“There wasn’t a lot of info online then,” Lonsdale said. “We really just began it because we thought it was a great idea and would fill a niche.” She admitted that “we didn’t really think about it long-term.”
Carlson and Lonsdale also worked with friends Janet Hall and Francesca Connolly in San Francisco and New York, respectively. The three editors in the Bay Area met weekly around Carlson’s dining table, with Connolly phoning in.
As time passed, their once- or twice-a-week blog posts became more frequent, until Remodelista had transformed into a full-blown website. According to the company, today they receive half a million unique visitors each month.
Reflecting on the growth of the site over the past six years, Lonsdale described it as “organic.” She said their reach really expanded after Gwyneth Paltrow called Remodelista one of her favorite sites on her blog, Goop.com.
Another moment that stands out for the Remodelista team is when writer and director Nancy Myers called to ask about advertising her film “It’s Complicated” on their website. Lonsdale said that’s when they realized Remodelista was much bigger than where it had started.
She laughed when she recalled starting out — they didn’t just have to explain who they were, they had to explain what a blog was, Lonsdale said. With the success of the site, things are now quite different.
“It’s very flattering that the people you hold in great regard are excited you are profiling them,” she said.
Design aficionados aren’t the only ones who have been taken by Remodelista’s charm. Digital publisher Say Media acquired the company a year ago.
Of the partnership, Lonsdale was quick to call it “fantastic.” “We have all these great resources available to us that allow us to take it to the next level,” she said.
One of the new projects the team has launched is Gardenista.com — a “sourcebook for cultivated living.” The same clean aesthetic and thoughtfully edited photos, products, ideas and information that bedeck Remodelista adorn Gardenista. Both sites also now offer a library of do-it-yourself video tutorials.
Soon to launch is a new series the team is calling “Bring Back the Dinner Party.” The inspiration for this, Lonsdale said, is that “beautiful spaces should be lived in and enjoyed.” The series will suggest ways to entertain, table top ideas, and recipes, all meant to create stress-free entertaining that still looks good.
They are a small team that Lonsdale said has been moving “fast and furious,” which must be how they have also found the time to produce the first Remodelista book. Although not yet released, she said it will include “tours of some of our favorite houses with how-to chapters, DIY projects and remodeling advice.”
Lonsdale will even be sharing a few undertakings from her own home in a chapter about how to personalize a rental house.
“We do a job that we already naturally do. It’s what we enjoy,” she said. “If I weren’t doing Remodelista, I’d be taking note of the same things.”