Who We Are In Our Homes During and Post Pandemic with The Spruce

Mélanie Berliet, General Manager of The Spruce

I have a question for you.  Have you heard of The Spruce?  thespruce.com?  If not, you need to check it out right after you're done listening to this episode.  Think of it as a cross between the best reference books in gardening, home repair and cleaning but on an updated, interactive platform that's also entertaining.  I've been going to The Spruce for many years when I want easy, step by step help with a project or answers to my questions about how something went wrong.  My guest today is the General Manager of The Spruce, Melanie Berliet and we're going to talk about her perspective on how we've been living in and using our homes over the past year and thinking about what we can look forward to for the rest of 2021.  

Macrame : Photo Credits By Chelsea Foy, Mollie Johanson, & Letícia Almeida

DIY Cleaning: Photo Credits Ulyana Verbytska, Jorge Gamboa, & Cali Godley

Plants: Photo Credits: By Krystal Slagle, Phoebe Cheong, & Letícia Almeida

Episode Transcript:

Hello, and welcome to the Style Matters. Podcast Brought to you by little yellow couch. I'm Zandra your host, and I am so very glad you're here. You're listening to a show that is all about developing your signature style in your home, how to do it, how to create it and how to connect it to the life that you want to live.
Now, if you've been having trouble, figuring out what your style is or how to define it, or how to know if everything you have is even working together, I've got a great place for you to start. If you haven't already go to our website, little yellow couch.com and download the free Style finder, and you'll come up with your own one of a kind Style,
you can forget all of the typical Style categories out there, because this is unlike any other quiz or questionnaire you've ever taken before. When you've tried to define your Style instead, I'll show you how to create a mashup of design elements. That perfectly describe who you are and how you want to show up in your home. So again, go to little yellow couch.com
and click on free Style finder to get started. One quick note, this is our last episode of this season. We are taking a short two week break and we'll be back with all new episodes on Monday, May 24th. All right, let's get started with a question. Have you heard of the spruce or the spruce.com? If not, you need to check it out right after you're done listening to this episode.
Think of it as a cross between the best reference books that you and your mother and your grandmother and your dad and your grandfather ever had when it has come to gardening and home repair and cleaning, but it's on an updated interactive platform. That's also entertaining. I have been going to the spruce, the spruce.com for many years, when I want easy, step-by-step help with a project or answers to my questions about how something went wrong.
My guest today is the general manager of the spruce, Melanie burlier. And we're going to talk about her perspective on how we've been living in and using our homes over the past year and thinking about what we can look forward to for the rest of 2021. Let's go Melanie. Burlier I love saying your name, welcome to the Style Matters Podcast. Thank you so much for having me.
Yeah. So we're going to talk all about the spruce, which is a terrific resource, and I'm excited to introduce it to people who don't know about it yet. Now many of my listeners probably do know about it, but which will be interesting too, cause we're gonna kind of get behind the scenes a little bit, but I'd love it. If you could just start out telling us about it for who aren't aware,
because y'all need to be, it's such a good resource. Thank you so much. Yeah. The spruce Actually the number one home site on the internet, we reach nearly 40 million people a month. And yeah, our mission is really simple. We are here to help you make your best home. We are all about really practical, real life tips and inspiration to do just that.
I like to think of us as an aspirational site, but never unattainable. Mm yeah. Oh, I totally agree with that. Yes. It, it, everything is from the way in which questions are answered to the way in which you present. I feel like you kind of really break down a lot of the, the, the, how tos so that it doesn't feel so overwhelming in one big gulp,
you know, Thank you. Yeah, it's definitely a big part of what we try to do is make, you know, home decor and home renovation and gardening and cleaning and decluttering all really accessible. And we do that through creating best in class content. Awesome. Awesome. Okay. Well, I, before we keep going with that, I want to hear a little bit about you.
I don't know that much about you, but I do know to me, you have a very interesting background. So tell us a little bit, how did you land at the spruce and, and, and what do you do there? Sure. You know, my career is a little bit Zigzag hobby. I actually started my career right out of college,
on wall street before realizing about three years in that I was pretty miscast as a bond trader. Okay. I'm not, I'm having trouble picturing that. Yes. Aspects of the job I liked. It was psychologically fulfilling to be one of very few women in a male dominated industry. But for the most part, I felt really creatively starved day-to-day. So I,
I pretty much quit after saving a good amount of money that gave me the freedom to do that. And I didn't have a plan, but what I figured out once I gave myself some space was that I loved making content. So I eventually developed a career as a freelance magazine writer and a television producer. And I really happiest when I'm creating content. And what I get to do at the spruce is kind of a marriage of my skills whereby I oversee the high-level business strategy,
but also a lot of our content creation efforts. So as general manager, I get to do the business and the content, and I feel like it's perfect for me. Wow. That that's exactly how I feel only at a much smaller scale because it's just basically me and one person. I love where you are, you know, you've got, you're overseeing a lot of people,
but yes, it's that it's, that it's that mixed right. Feeling like, you know, you're, you're impacting the direction of the business as a whole kind of at the high level, but you still have your hand in the forward facing how you're presenting to your audience, which you have to be in touch with them as well, which Is exactly.
I love to sort of straddle two worlds. You know, I studied economics in college and I really am interested in the business aspect of what we do, but I also, I need a creative outlet. My brain feels too dark if I'm not in, you know, involved in creation and branding and marketing and all of those things really, really interests me.
Right. Okay. And so w w how does home in particular interest you personally, because, you know, there's all kinds of content. You can be creating beauty content, you could be creating, you know, athletic content. I mean, why home for you? I just feel really strongly about the power of home to make us feel comfortable and contented.
And especially the last year, I think everyone has realized just how important the spaces we inhabit are. And I also just feel really strongly about making home decor accessible. Right. I think for a long time, the notion of interior design was kind of this fancy Rippy thing. Only wealthy people could invest in, but that's not at all the case. And what I love is that home decor has really been democratized recently with,
you know, the availability of resources, like the spruce, where you can go to learn and be inspired free of charge on the internet and places like Pinterest and Tik TOK, like information is so prevalent and inspiration is so prevalent. And I just feel really excited about helping people feel comfortable in their home. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Well, let's,
let's, let's talk a little bit about what's happened in the past year and how we're all feeling in our homes from, you know, from your, from your bird's eye view, you've got a great vantage point. What, what do you think the pandemic kind of has done to us and, and how are we now feeling about our homes as we're finally on getting to be on the other side of it and kind of breaking through,
Right. I think, you know, I think our renewed appreciation for our homes and the spaces being habit, isn't going to go away. I think the pandemic forced us all to spend a lot more time in our homes. And people grew in appreciation for the power of making your space a sanctuary for you. And that can mean a lot of different things depending on the life stage you're at and your individual personality.
But I don't think that appreciation is going away. I think we've also realized that our homes can be so many different things. They can be beautiful and comfortable. They can also help us with our productivity. You know, many of us have created at home workstations or work from home offices. So the, you know, your home can kind of evolve with you and meet many,
many different needs. I also think, you know, there's been a big movement towards self care that goes beyond what we traditionally think of as wellness and into how we think about spaces. Yeah, Yeah. Right. It's, it's kinda move past just our personal sort of sense of taking care of our, our inner bodies to how is our outside environment influencing our,
our psyche and our, and our physical health and all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, Absolutely. It's exciting. Yeah. It's really exciting. I think that, you know, it's also not just about the final product. I think the process of, you know, investing in your space and thinking about your space can be really therapeutic for sure.
Oh, I love that. You said that because, because one of the things that I, I find some of the, like you said, we have all of this inspiration out there, but there, there is often a emphasis, an emphasis on the end right moment. And, and that's, that's great. It gives you this momentary high, but we,
we live in our spaces with our daily life routines that are often sometimes a little bit monotonous or routine or whatever. And I feel like we really need to be excited about that daily experience we have in our homes, you know? Yeah, yeah, yeah. To take their time to, I don't think anyone should rush to achieve this, you know,
Pinterest worthy living room, look there, they're going for, I think you need to consider it a process and trust the process and try to love your home at every stage of transformation. Right. It's not going to be perfect and that's okay. Right, right, right. Totally, absolutely. 100% with you on that. All right. I want to talk about your review boards.
I think this is one of the things that makes the spruce different and credible and, and really invaluable are these review boards. So just in case people don't know, you've got sort of expert panelists, I would say, in, in several different categories so that you are getting into like, like gardening, for example, you're, I mean, we're talking about master gardeners here.
Like they really know their stuff and you can go in there and just get information very quickly that you need. And so I want to, let's start with the gardening review board and, and kind of what they have been inundated with over the past year. Well, it actually started before the pandemic, this, this resurgence and interest in houseplants. Right.
I like it. You know, we were really big into them in the seventies and, and everyone had spider plants hanging in their bathrooms. And then, and then I don't know. I feel like we kind of forgot about them for a while. I, I don't, you know, I don't remember plants being a big part of my early adulthood.
And then all of a sudden we all have plants in our homes or, or at least they're in pictures of homes. If we don't currently right now, what do you think it is about houseplants? So I have a theory that I'm going to share with you about this, like collective love of houseplants. This is not based in any science, but my personal theory is that,
you know, millennials and younger generations are waiting longer and longer to settle down and get married and have children if they have children at all. And I think that we have seen this surge in care for houseplants and also pets actually, because it's a way to satisfy your instinct to nurture something that is not necessarily a child. And I think as people wait longer and longer to have children,
if they do so at all, we're going to see, you know, things like gardening rise and rise in popularity even more and perhaps as well in the pandemic people. So many people about pets. I was just, my husband was just telling me, there's this, there's this news item said that there's a shortage of cat food in English. It's hilarious.
I know, I know. I know we have that shortage of yeast when we were all baking bread at the beginning of the pandemic, but Oh yeah. But So w well, your point about yeast, right? So for some people, you know, sourdough starter was their thing and the pandemic, and for other people, it was gardening and houseplants,
and that's just, you know, it's really rewarding to nurture something and watch it grow. I think it satisfies an instinct. We have, that's very human. Yeah. I really hadn't thought, I didn't know. That's what you were going to say. I thought you were going to talk about it's, it's more about, you know, the health benefits of plants and clear care,
which is great, which is, which is absolutely true. But, but our instinct to nurture, because you know, now you see like coffee mugs and t-shirts and pins that say, plant mom, we're plant Papa. And that's kind of how we think of our plants as babies, which is, Oh, for sure. Planned Parenthood is a whole thing.
We have actually a social series that people who are fans of plants should check out. It's called in the weeds with plant people. We feature all of these plant parents who own, you know, upwards many owned upwards of a hundred plants in tiny apartments. It's so great. But I did want to speak about the review board that you mentioned, because you're right.
That it's really unique, particularly in our space that we have these review boards, you'll see them in finance and health. Sometimes that's what I was looking to do was by launching these review boards in the gardening space, the renovation and repair space and the pet health space was really just to emphasize how serious we are about providing accurate content that you can trust.
Right? Ultimately, this route is nothing. If you don't trust us. And basically we have, you know, a vast network of experts who write our content, and then we have the content double authenticated by our review boards. That's how I think about it. It's this like extra layer of authentication. That's meant to just emphasize how we are about accuracy.
I'll tell you, Melanie. I that's exactly when I first discovered the proof that the spruce, that was my exact reaction was like, Oh, this isn't just somebody whose opinion. They have actual experts that are reviewing it. It gave me the, that feeling that you're talking about of kind of like trust, you know, and, Oh, I'm good.
This is not just another one-off column on the internet. This is, this is actually something that's been vetted by, by people who know what they're doing. And, and you mentioned the, the DIY renovation review board. And that's fantastic too, because you know, it's one thing to have something in mind and try to follow some directions. And it's another thing to actually get questions answered by people who are actual carpenters and Right.
I mean, if you're gonna look into, you know, replacing your load bearing wall, you want some contractor actually verified the step by step process. You're about to follow. Right. Right. But there's so many projects that we can do on our own. And that, that aren't quite so dangerous as dealing with load bearing walls. Right. All right.
Well, let, let's get back to the plant thing because, because outdoor living is also well we're, first of all, we're in spring and the weather's changing and we're all excited to be starting to be outside without our masks on and everything. So what are, what are you, what are you seeing on the garden side of the spruce that people are really interested in doing outside their homes?
Like, are they, are they really starting to embrace outdoor living as part of how they live in their homes? Yes, absolutely. You hit it on the head a little bit earlier when you mentioned the soothing power of nature and the health benefits of being in nature. I think, you know, in the last year, especially spending more time at home isolated or quarantined,
people have really turned to nature as, you know, a place for self care and people are interested in all your note, indoor container, gardening, houseplants, outdoor gardening, landscaping. We've seen a huge uptick in content in all of those spaces. So for instance, I every year have an herb garden, but only this past year decided to actually start the seeds with my container garden.
So I think a lot of people like me have just taken things to the next level, right, because we're at home and we've just been thinking more and more about nature. I did it as a weekend project with my toddler and it was the most satisfying fun thing. And then to watch the little seedlings grow was so fun for us both and to missed it.
And, you know, I ran into my neighbor the other day on our, we have a little shared balcony and he has a small rectangular planter and was just saying how in the last year, the relatively modest outdoor space, he has modest garden, he has really, really kept him sane. And I think a lot of people feel that way about the gardening or just nurturing of house plants that they've been doing.
Right. Right. Yes. I mean, it's a lot like, you know, cooking in that, we spoke a bit earlier about how rewarding the process is. Right. You know, you're entering something, you're watching it grow. And then it turns into this beautiful thing. Or, you know, sometimes it, it needs a little extra attention and you have to figure out how to bring the,
a Brown leaf back to green and all of that can be really, really therapeutic. Yeah. It occurs to me that I feel like people are maybe have a little bit more patience with those kinds of things. I mean, there was a joke that that many people relate to about, you know, Oh, I have many plans. That's just that I only have one or two alive at a time.
Right. That I just keep replacing them every time they die. Whereas now I, I think you're right. And people are going to places like the spruce to say, why is this leaf Brown? Or what are these, you know, why yellow, what's the difference between yellow and Brown? I'm a leaf, you know, those kinds of things.
And first of all, it makes you feel accomplished when you figure something out and you bring a leaf back to life. Right. But it's also, I think an exercise in patience with ourselves and not giving up quite so easily and saying, Oh, I can't do this. It's too hard. Right. And I think people are just spending their time in different ways because,
you know, maybe things are reverting back to some version of normal now, but for the last 12 months or so, going out to eat, hasn't been an option spending times. And the way we were accustomed to no longer was an option. So people turn to nurturing different hobbies. And that seems like a very healthy thing to me. Absolutely. Let,
let's talk a little bit about cleaning because that's another big part of, of the spruce and another thing I think of a review board for cleaning decluttering, organizing that kind of thing, but cleaning in particular, I feel like we, we, over the, over the decades, you know, we sort of just rely on the big brand heavy duty cleaners and you guys talk a lot about things you can just quickly make at home or how to do things a little,
maybe a little bit more gently, a little bit more environmentally friendly, that kind of thing. And I know at the beginning of the pandemic, we were so worried about touching things because we didn't know yet that it was, it was transmitted via air. And so, you know, we were all had, I mean, the Clorox wipes, you can find those in the grocery stores and we're like,
you know, wiping down our groceries and we're spring again, it's time to spring clean. Like how do you think we're, we're approaching that? Is there a difference this time in how we're approaching cleaning because of this big scare that we've had? Yes. I think that people care a lot more about cleanliness these days for all of the reasons you just mentioned.
And I don't think that's going away anytime soon. I think it's been ingrained in us. And you know, that may be a good thing. I definitely think a lot of people are looking into making their own cleaning products. I, you mentioned we have a ton of content on DIY cleaning products. You can create from ingredients. You probably have in your pantry already like baking soda,
vinegar, lemon juice. So we're seeing a lot of people try to DIY their cleaning products rather than purchasing the brand named items. And sustainability is another big trend in the cleaning space. So people are just way more mindful of the environmental impact of single use plastics and thinking about the products they're buying. We've seen people move towards multipurpose products so that they're not buying,
they're buying one bottle instead of three last week, we actually launched the green cleaning awards on the spruce, in partnership with our sister site tree-hugger. And that was a way for us. Yeah. That was a way for us to sort of recognize eco-friendly cleaning brands earth day was last week. So it was in conjunction with earth day and we featured three winners in 10 different categories that met our sustainability standards and were all tested by members of a designated panel.
It was a massive success. There was just so much interest in sort of, you know, being more mindful of what you're buying, not just buying because of the environmental impact, but what you're spraying all over your home. Yeah. Yes. Well, that's the thing I feel like that's the, the light bulb that finally clicked for people that it's,
it's, we do need to take care of the earth. We have finite resources here and that's all incredibly important and it is valuable for each of us individually, but we, again, spending all this time in our homes and then you start to realize what's kind of lingering in the air and wouldn't, you rather have something lingering that has an actual, you know,
lavender essential oil with a little bit of water rather than, you know. Oh, that's exciting. So that's kind of where I want to want to go is, is if people were to go to the spruce and I mean, like, what's the, you have so much information where do people start? Should they just start with whatever particular question they have and just dig in that way?
Or is there a way to kind of go to the spruce and find out, you know, what, what is there I want to know sort of, if you think about it, like, like some sort of library or something like, you know, how would I approach it because like these, these green cleaning awards, I mean, that's, that's that I would love to be able to just read that and I think easily digest,
okay, these are the three things I'm going to do this week. That that's different, you know, as opposed to trying to absorb it all at once, because it can be so overwhelming For sure. I would say that if you're visiting the spruce for the first time, you'll want to take a look at what we call our global navigation, which is just basically the menu bar on top of the cross of screen.
Or if you're on mobile, it's in the hamburger menu. And those really speak to our main categories of content. So from left to right, I'm looking at our homepage. Now we have decor garden, home repair celebrations, cleaning, and then our product recommendations section followed by our news. And that's really, you know, a great breakdown of the architecture of the site.
And, you know, search is always a great way to find us. We rank really well for pretty much every term in our space, which is how we get a lot of readers. So if you have a very specific query, ask the question in your search engine and hopefully we're the top Results. Yup. Yup. And that's how I first found.
That's how I first found it was. Yeah, it was. Do you happen to remember what you searched professional curiosity? It was an upholstery project. It was, it was, reupholstering a chair and yeah, so that was years ago. So yeah. So I want to, I want to sort of wrap up with celebrations. I wanna, I wanna go on the high note here and I think that we are all so excited about being able to be with people again.
And what do you, what do you think is going to be really trending or really popular? What are people craving? They, they craving like elaborate parties or are they or not like, what, what, what should we, what should we expect out of ourselves? I guess I think the short answer is that I'm not quite sure, but I'm very eager to see how it plays out.
Okay. All right. No crystal ball, but yeah. Right. So, you know, the only social gathering I've been invited to in may so far is a toddler birthday party in a park rather than inside a home, but it is a party right. A year ago that that birthday invitation didn't come at all now it's arrived, but with certain parameters and the only other thing I can think of is that I did purchase some tickets to a James Taylor concert for July when I was feeling very optimistic months back.
So the concert has already been pushed back. Oh, that's fun. So That's sort of my personal experience with where we are in terms of celebrations. I'm most eager to go to Chicago to meet my pandemic baby nephew. Who's almost nine months. Yeah. I haven't. I have a pandemic baby niece. Oh, in Philly. Yes. That's going to be the sort of thing people prioritize their pandemic baby relatives,
For sure. For sure. Well, I wanna, I wanna ask sort of a whole different aspect of the celebration thing as we start to gather with friends and family again, do you think people are going to be, you know, pulling out their they're wonderful vintage linen tablecloths and, and whipping up there, they're the favorite dishes that they cooked over over the pandemic?
Or are we gonna, are we gonna kind of be more casual and potluck it? And I guess I'm asking because I had this really interesting conversation with another guest recently, and she was talking about the joy of hosting and really inviting people into her home and making them feel so welcome and whatever. And I'm sort of hoping that that's, that's where we're heading.
Sorry. No go. I would say the former, I think people are really eager to show off all of their new pandemic skills, learn to macrame. You want a new macrame wall hanging. If you learn to cook a slew of new, amazing dishes, they're going to want to really, you know, show that to their friends and family and you know,
all the, tablescape all the tablescapes you, you wanted to create, but haven't had an excuse to, we're going to be rolling those out. I do think there's, you know, enthusiasm to host, as you said, it's so rewarding to host. I'm glad to hear that, that that's kind of where your assumption is in terms of the direction we're headed.
Because another way it could go is, is we could be just like only eating out for like the next year, because we've missed so much. And I guess I just hope there's a combination. I certainly miss going out to restaurants and I certainly want to support my local restaurants and want to see those get back up and running. But yeah, I don't want to completely abandon all of this wonderful stuff we've we've been doing at home.
And I, I hadn't thought about like the macrame thing that cracked me up because you're right. I mean, it's, it's about not just feeding people, but I guess it's, it's also about, Hey, this is who I've been in this past year inside these four walls. Right. And inviting people to witness all of your new DIY skills. You know,
I love that. I learned how to turn tin cans into tiny little planters. I need people to see that, you know. Yes, exactly. All right. Well, final question. My signature question, I ask everyone, which is why does Style matter? I think it's really important to be able to express who you are. And for me,
I am able to achieve that through, you know, Style as it applies to home for some people that's fashion. But I definitely think that there's something inside us that needs to be expressed. And we can do that through Style. I think back when it comes to home decor to being a college student and being too broke to really afford, you know,
decor accents in my dorm room. And for the first semester I lived in my dorm room with no rug and no, you know, wall art, because I just didn't want to spend the money. But I realized that, you know, my mental health was actually suffering of it. So I finally over winter break invested in some, you know, pretty throw pillows and a rug and some art that really inspired me.
And the difference in my mental health when I returned to the following semester was just so notable. And I became more productive inside my dorm room. And I always think back to that moment, because that's when I learned how important it was to me to really make a space feel like home. Yeah. Well, you learned it kind of young then I think a lot of people don't get that until they have their first home or maybe their first apartment,
but, but that's yeah. That's, that's great. Well, thank you, Melanie. This has been really insightful and I am really happy to be sharing this wonderful resource with everyone Zandra for having me. It's been so much fun. Thank you so much for listening and thank you for all of the wonderful, sweet kind reviews that you've been leaving on Apple podcasts and iTunes and all those other places that you listen to your podcasts.
They really do make a difference in helping this podcast get found. So I really appreciate it and it, and it means a lot also don't forget. Download the free Style finder@lidlyellowcouch.com. I look forward to hearing what your unique style is all about.