haven recap 2012

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What a week!

I’m back from the Haven Conference! Well, I suppose I never really left, considering it was held right here in Atlanta. But I’m finally able to come up for air and get my thoughts online. I have so much to cover in this week’s posts – products, swag, business cards (er, if I can find them), stories, new friends, and plenty of recommendations based on the amazing experience. In this post I’ll cover the trip itself, and take a deeper dive into some of the details later in the week.

Why I Went

Let’s go back to the beginning:  when I began blogging in 2010, I’d already been visiting Young House Love regularly. Almost immediately after my first post on this site, I realized that there were other DIY home improvement blogs and started following them, too. Soon after, I was gobbling up before and afters from a whole community of DIY bloggers – sharing ideas, collaborating on projects, and showing off my hard work.

Fast forward to this year, and I’ve now been blogging for over two years. Still no finished rooms, but the house (and I) are getting there. As I’ve gotten busier over the last year with adding school to the mix, I still make time to read a handful of blogs every single day. It’s strange to feel such a connection to people I’ve never met (well, until now, but I’m getting to that), but the connection was definitely there.

Around January, I got an email from Allison from House of Hepworths that she would be in the Atlanta area for the Haven Conference and suggested I go too. I had never been to a blogging conference before, and hadn’t given it much thought. Me? Why? I don’t blog full time.  I don’t consider myself “one of the big ones” like the ladies who were putting the conference together. Part of me even feared it might feel isolating to show up, know so much about these women, and have none of them know a thing about me.

But after a little more contemplation (and because Allison asked so nicely), I realized that this would be the easiest opportunity I would have to meet some of the ladies I’ve been stalking following every day. I felt like I knew so much of their lives already. And they were coming to Atlanta, so I wouldn’t even have to fly or pay for a hotel. How could I not go? A few more months of procrastinating, and I bought one of the last 13 tickets available.

The First Night

Leading up to the conference, I was getting excited. So were the other bloggers – the chatter on Facebook and Twitter created quite a bit of buzz for all of us. Unfortunately, I would miss the first night’s cocktail party – my sister, mother and I were heading to a spa Wednesday night for a belated Mother’s Day present (it was a Groupon, of course). Still, I wanted to be prepared – so I drove to the hotel where the conference would be held to scope the place out a little. Knowing Atlanta traffic, I wanted to have a solid idea of where the conference rooms were so I could head directly there in the morning.

The minute I walked into the hotel, I saw familiar faces. Ana White was climbing out of a shuttle (and despite the urge to run up and hug her like a stalker fan, I walked on), Roeshel from The DIY Showoff was chatting on the phone, and a cluster of women stood in a conference room speaking to Marian of Miss Mustard Seed. I took a deep breath and introduced myself. Much to my surprise, the first response I got was “Oh, I know you. I follow your blog!”


The Keynote Speakers

The following morning, I drove back over to the hotel to grab a quick breakfast and file into the main room for the Haven kickoff. John and Sherry Petersik (from YHL, the people who write the blog I read before I had my own) were our keynote speakers. Their presentation was all about how they found themselves running a successful business because of their blogging habits. It was funny, witty, and inspiring – and may or may not have included mentions of farts and aliens (multiple times).


I wish I’d gotten more of a chance to chat them up later that evening, but I did get a quick picture. Sidenote: I also had the opportunity to meet Katie from Bower Power, who was there watching Clara while Sherry and John showed us all how to be better bloggers. It made my morning when I introduced myself to both Sherry and Katie – and they’d heard of The Ugly Duckling House! Imagine both my shock and my giggly girl reaction to this kind of validation. I pretty much decided on the spot that I’d already gotten my money’s worth.

Meeting Sherry and John at Haven 2012! Learning

The next two days seemed to go by in a blur. The genius organizers of the conference planned to have two days of the exact same sessions so that attendees had multiple chances to see the speakers they wanted to. Among others, I  learned more about advertising with the blog (Beckie from Infarrantly Creative was incredible – mind blown), got the courage to take my camera off auto with the epically awesome Layla and Kevin Palmer (from The Lettered Cottage and Shoot Fly Shoot), and got my power tool fix with the folks from Ryobi and Ana White (who is not only super sweet, but does carpentry with perfect hair and bright purple pumps like a total badass). These pictures don’t do justice to how much fun (and informative!) each and every session was.

Using Ryobi tools

A learning session on Ryobi tools – and a new wine rack to take home :)

Making a wine rack for the Ryobi demo


Ana White - Carpentry 101Friendly Faces

Of course, the conference wasn’t just about learning. It was a chance to connect with my fellow DIY enthusiasts. I met a ton of new blogging buddies, including:

and many others.

It was also thrilling to finally see some of the ladies I admire on a daily basis, including Sandra from Sawdust and Paper Scraps, Brittany from Pretty Handy Girl, and of course – Allison!

Allison and I

I also spotted Kathleen from Between Blue and Yellow – I met her two years ago when I bought the primary bedroom dresser. I had no idea she was even attending, but it was really nice to see a familiar face in a more traditional sense.

Kathleen and I, Between Blue and Yellow
The Swag!

Sponsors are essential to an event this size. And the sponsors were simply amazing. The swag bag each attendee received is nothing short of a gold mine:  paint from Annie Sloan, a paint brush from Purdy, spot remover from Oreck, a mini Kreg from Kreg Tool Company, painters tape from Frogtape, rug grippers and protective glasses from 3M, and other items from Minwax, Rustoleum, Home Depot, and Cutter. I’ll be sharing a few highlights from these booths later on in the week.

Checking out the sponsor booths

I had an unfortunate spill with my Annie Sloan paint (not sure how the cap got loose, but I opened my bag for the first time to find quite a surprise!), so I borrowed the photo below of the entire swag set from a fellow attendee.

A great swag pic from DIY On the Cheap

Home Again

Before we knew it, the conference was over. My brain felt like an oversoaked sponge. All of my energy was totally and utterly spent. I was in a rush to get home and start immediately applying all of the knowledge I’d picked up during each information-packed session. But where to begin? I decided that a good night’s sleep was the best choice. Especially since I had an exam bright and early the very next morning.

My Thanks

Many, many thanks go out to the speakers and organizers who put the event together. It was a dream conference, and so very worth the time and effort to attend. Looking forward to next year!

Haven 2012 group

Top Row (left to right), the ladies of: Just a GirlInfarrantly CreativeHome Stories A to ZSouthern HospitalityThrifty Décor ChickCentsational Girl

Middle row: My Blessed LifeMiss Mustard SeedNot Just a HousewifeThe Shabby NestBeneath My Heart

Bottom row: Sawdust and Paper ScrapsDIY ShowoffPretty Handy Girl

(More about the conference is still coming up later this week. I seem to have misplaced a box of the business cards I collected, but I’ll share some of the good ideas I saw in case you’re looking to design some of your own. I’ll also share my opinions about what to expect if you plan to going to a conference yourself, and some of the neat product demonstrations I witnessed at the sponsor booths. Oh – and since I don’t need two of something, I’m planning on a giveaway too! Be on the lookout later this week!)

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  1. Great 1st recap, Sarah! It was awesome to finally meet you in person! Just wish we would have had more time to socialize – so much fun, so many friends, so little time. :)

  2. I really liked your review of Haven and wow, waht great gifts you recieved!

  3. Sarah, this is such a great recap … I found it impossible to put mine all in one post, too. I was on total info and intro overload. But feel inspired and motivated. You got some great pictures!!

  4. Hi Sarah! I am sorry we did not get to meet at Haven. It was an amazing time. I was giggy over all that generous swag! I am an ATL blogger and I think we may live near each other. How crazy is that! Happy Day to ya!

  5. I love the recap – sounds like a great time. I just started a blog in May so I am a newby. Hoping to attend something like this one day. :-)

  6. Loved this recap! I don't think we got to officially meet at Haven but here..

    “Hi! I am Skye from Neathering our Fest (here is where you imagine me handing you a business card)” It is lovely to meet you!

    You are so sweet and genuine on here that I am sad we didn't cross paths! I will be keeping an eye on your blog! xoxo

  7. Hi Sarah!

    So great to meet you, wish we could have talked more but let's be in touch! Glad to see you had so much fun, I have a long to do list after Haven!

  8. It was absolutely awesome meeting you! Thanks for the shout-out too! :) I (finally) did my recap today… LOL… I'm a little late, but I just HAD to share! Haven was a blast! I hope we get to chance to get together again- I'll definitely be hitting up Haven again!!! If you ever head out to California, let me know!

  9. Just like you I too started out reading YHL and that was the only blog reading I did for months until I finally ventured out and discovered everyone else. It was neat to read your recap since I wasn't there. Man oh man did I miss out on a great swag bag! :)

  10. Oh my gosh….can you tell I am stalking ALL of your Haven posts in anticiaption. Although I might send myself into a panic attack when I think about being “the new blogger” in a room full of so many amazing people, it’s comforting to hear that everyone was so nice!

    1. No worries. Kit and I have already agreed; find us, and we’ll grab a beer at the bar. Icebreaker!