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Better Homes & Gardens Stylemaker Event

Monday, October 15, 2018

Each year, Better Homes & Gardens selects influences who are "making style" in their industry. This year, I was so incredibly honored to have been named a BH&G Stylemaker, and to be among the eighty home, fashion and lifestyle bloggers to attend the invitation-only Stylemaker event in New York City. A lot of you have been asking me about the trip, so I thought I'd share a recap of the event, as well as the details of where we stayed, what we ate, and where we shopped in NYC.

Skyline view from BHG Stylemaker Event
Photo courtesy of David Keith Photography

Last fall, I received an email from an editor at Better Homes & Gardens asking if they could photograph my garage to be feature in the magazine. Ummm... yes! About a month later, they flew in a stylist and sent a photography team that spent a full day taking photos of the space, and it was featured on two full pages in the March 2018 issue. {Read all the behind the scenes details about my BH&G photoshoot}.

Blue i Style "I Did It" Feature in Better Homes & Gardens

Having my work appear in a national magazine - especially one with a nearly 100 year history, like Better Homes & Gardens - was a major pinch me moment and a check mark on my blogging bucket list! 

I was still floating on cloud nine about the magazine feature a few months later when I received the news that I'd been given the highly-coveted title of "2018 BH&G Stylemaker" and was invited to attend the Stylemaker event in New York City. I had followed this event online for years, so I knew it was not to be missed! 

Taxi with Empire State Building in Background

To make great news even better, my best blogging friend, Melissa, from Polished Habitat, received an invitation as well. A chance to meet up with best friend, in my favorite city, and hang out with Better Homes & Gardens editors and inspiring stylemakers from around the country... what could be better?!

Blue i Style BHG Stylemaker Mini Light Board

I'm pretty sure it's impossible not to over pack for an event called "Stylemaker"... I mean, a girl's got to have options, right?! When Melissa and I arrived at our hotel and found only about five hangers in the closet, we had to call down to the front desk to request more so we could hang up and de-wrinkle our shirts and dresses {I can't live with out wrinkle releaser spray}. The poor bellboy arrived at our door with a precarious stack of hangers that he transferred from his arms to mine. I'm sure he thought we were crazy! 

Arms full of hangers

The night before the Stylemaker event, we grabbed dinner with some of our blogging buddies: Home Made by Carmona, Hey There Home, Brepurposed, Place of My Taste, Bigger Than the Three of Us, and House of Wood.

BHG Stylemaker Bloggers at Dinner in NYC


BETTER HOMES & GARDENS STYLEMAKER RECAP

The Stylemaker event is held at a different hotel each year, and this year the venue was the Public Hotel in the NoLita {North of Little Italy} neighborhood of Manhattan.

Public Hotel BHG Stylemaker 2018 venue
Photos courtesy of David Keith Photography
From the moment we arrived at the event, there were so many friendly and familiar faces! And that view... can we just talk about how cool these BH&G greenery letters are with the NYC skyline in the background?!

BHG Stylemaker Event Decor

The day started with breakfast, lots of meeting and greeting, and of course, a few photo ops.

Angela Rathbun, BHG Stylemaker 2018

Angela Rathbun & Melissa George at BH&G Stylemaker Event
Photo courtesy of David Keith Photography

Stephen Orr, Editor and Chief of Better Homes & Gardens, kicked off the morning education session by giving us a video tour of the BH&G headquarters in Des Moines. I wish Scott could have seen the footage of their prop room {which is more like a prop warehouse} - maybe then he wouldn't think I have too many pillows and vases in my own prop closet at home. LOL!

Stephen Orr BHG Editor at Stylemaker Event 2018

BHG Edtor Stephen Orr speaking at Stylemaker 2018
Photo courtesy of David Keith Photography nopin="nopin"

The morning included some great panel discussions and educational sessions. Then at lunch, we heard from celebrity chef and Chopped judge, Maneet Chauhan. First of all, how stylish is her take on the traditional chef whites? And second, did you know that Basmati rice is kind of like Champagne? It can only be called Basmati (meaning "full of aroma") if it's grown in a few select regions of India and Pakistan.

Maneet Chauhan at BHG Stylemaker 2018 lunch
Photo courtesy of David Keith Photography

After lunch, we had a panel discussion on photography strategies with BH&G Beauty and Fashion Editor, Erica Metzger and lifestyle photographer, Annie Schlechter. I definitely need more practice to feel comfortable in front of the camera, so I can use all the tips I can get!

BH&G Stylemaker 2018 Photo Op

The afternoon also included some hands on workshops, including a cocktail making class led by Marie Viljoen, author of Forage, Harvest, Feast.

Marie Viljoen, author of Forage, Harvest, Feast, speaking at BH&G Stylemaker 2018

She taught us how to make a very fancy Yuzu Sumac cocktail.

Ingredients for Yuzu Sumac cocktail

Making Yuzu Sumac cocktail at BH&G Stylemaker Workshop

Of course, we couldn't just make the drink ... we also had to do what bloggers do best -  take photos of the process.

Photographing Yuzu Sumac cocktail workshop at BH&G Stylemaker
Photo courtesy of David Keith Photography

After taking lots of photos, we also posed for some as well.

Toasting at the BHG Stylemaker Event 2018
Photo courtesy of David Keith Photography

The afternoon wrapped up with a keynote chat between BH&G Editor Stephen Orr and Carla Hall, former contestant on Top Chef and co-host of The Chew. Carla started her career as an accountant, then spent years traveling Europe as a runway model, before finally finding her way to her true passion as a chef - a winding path to find her true passion that resonated with many of us in the room!

Stephen Orr & Carla Hall at BHG Stylemaker Event
Photo courtesy of David Keith Photography
After a quick break to grab a bite to eat, we reconvened for a cocktail party with stunning views of the Manhattan skyline! 

BHG Stylemaker 2018 Cocktail Party View from Public Hotel
Photo courtesy of David Keith Photography

A little rain and a lot of wind couldn't put a damper on this party!

Angela Rathbun & Melissa George at BH&G Stylemaker 2018 Cocktail Party
Photo courtesy of David Keith Photography

Throughout the event, I had a chance to catch up with some of my long time blogging friends, like Corey of Hey There, Home...

BH&G Stylemakers 2018 - Blue i Style, Polished Habitat, and Hey There Home

...and to finally meet in person some of the bloggers that I've admired and collaborated with over the years, including Rachel of This is Our Bliss.

BH&G Stylemakers 2018 - Blue i Style, Polished Habitat, and This is Our Bliss

Blogging isn't usually a glamorous job - most days it looks like one of two things: (1) me dragging photo lights and camera equipment around and making a mess of 90% of my house to get a good photo of the other 10%, or (2) sitting on my couch editing photos and writing content in between driving school carpool. But for this one day, Better Homes & Gardens put on one heck of a party and gave us all a reason to dress up and step out from behind our cameras and computer screens. The BH&G Stylemaker was a whirlwind day of inspiration, education, and celebration, and I feel so fortunate they invited me to attend! 

We made the most of our remaining time in New York City by seeing a Broadway show, doing some shopping, eating good food, and of course, taking in the views. 


WHERE WE STAYED

The Public Hotel, where the Stylemaker event took place, was gorgeous, but it was also expensive. If we'd just been staying a night or two, we probably would have splurged. But since Melissa and I wanted to spend a couple of extra days in the city, we decided to find more affordable accommodations. 

We stayed at the Cambria Hotel in the Flower District of Chelsea. We arrived on a rainy evening, but woke up the next morning to find the sidewalk surrounding our hotel packed with greenery.


Nearly hidden between all the foliage were dozens of store fronts, each leading to narrow, but deep, shops specializing in different types of flowers and plants. This orchid wholesaler was my favorite!


I was impressed with the size of the rooms at the Cambria Hotel {you may have noticed in that hanger photo above that we even had a couch in our room - that's pretty unheard of for NYC}, but the bathroom was straddle-the-toilet-to-close-the-door tiny. 

In between rain storms, we took advantage of the Cambria's rooftop bar - even taking out laptops up here a couple of evenings. You can take the blogger out of their house, but you can't make them stop working.


Our hotel was also within walking distance of the High Line Canal - a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets of the West Side. Urban landscapes have always been my thing, and the juxtaposition of old and new along the High Line really makes my heart pitter patter!



WHAT WE SAW

Being married to a professional musical theater actor, I'm pretty sure I would be disowned if I went to NYC and didn't see a show on Broadway. 

Melissa & Angela in Time Square

Since this was a girls' trip, it seemed like an obvious choice to see Mean Girls. I know the movie well, and I like pretty much everything Tina Fey does, but I still wasn't sure what to expect of this stage adaptation, especially because the Mean Girl's performance during the Tony Awards didn't really wow me. But I'm happy to report that I really liked it! As you'd expect, it's pretty fluffy, but  the music was fun and catchy, I set design was very clever, and the show kept me laughing out loud from beginning to end. In a show full of female characters, it was actually Damien, played by Grey Henson, who was my favorite.

Mean Girls on Broadway at the August Wilson Theater


WHERE WE SHOPPED

For years, I've been hearing that ABC Carpet & Home is the holy grail of furniture, accessories, and rugs. Since it was within walking distance of our hotel, Melissa and I window shopped our way there, finding lots of other gems along the way. Favorites included the three-story flagship Safavieh store, and Fishs Eddy with their quirky dishware and kitchen goods.

NYC Flatiron Building

When we finally made it to ABC Carpet & Home, we found out that it's currently under construction, so only a couple of it's six floors were open, but it was, nonetheless, every bit as "must see" as I had expected. New York Magazine describes it best: "Worn hardwood floors creak under your feet, glittering chandeliers and gigantic antique carpets adorn the high ceilings, and furniture vignettes—often more piles than displays—stand everywhere. It's like an estate sale for your packrat dowager aunt, albeit with impeccable taste." 

Vignette at ABC Carpet & Home in NYC

In the building across the street, there are three more floors of rugs and carpets. And tucked back in the corner of the upper floor was a revelation that blew my mind - an entire custom rug design studio called the Design Lab. There are tables covered in thousands of rug fiber color samples that can be used as a starting point for designing completely unique carpets and rugs. Of course, I could never afford to do this, but it sure is fun to imagine the possibilities.

Custom rug design "Design Lab" at ABC Carpet & Home in NYC

After spending a day shopping for home decor that we can't afford, we decided to spend our last day in NYC shopping for clothes and accessories on 5th Avenue. We started on the affordable end of the scale at stores like Top Shop, then worked our way up to the iconic Henri Bendel, which is sadly closing at the end of this year after 123 years. Since this was my last chance to be a #bendelgirl, I found a purse that I couldn't live without (though it won't officially be mine until Christmas).

Henri Bendel purse


WHAT WE ATE

Normally when I travel, I do a lot of research and have a list of restaurants I want to try. This time, we were pretty much winging it, and we got really lucky! During our first shopping day, we were wanding through the NoMad district when a sign outside a small restaurant caught my eye. It advertised a seasonal peach and bacon sandwich and grilled corn with lime aoili and coconut. That was enough to draw us inside. 

As it turns out, we'd happened upon Num Pang, a Cambodian sandwich shop with a cult-like following that has been named the #1 Fast Casual restaurant in New York by Zagat. Well, it totally lived up to that reputation {the reputation I didn't know it had until I got home and did some research}! It was so good, in fact, that I just ordered the Num Pang cookbook last night {affiliate link}.

Peach and bacon Cambodian sandwich and corn with lime aoili and coconut

Another afternoon, we were looking for a sit down lunch near Rockefellar Center when the decor aesthetic of B&H Kitchen and Bar caught our eye {because that's how everyone chooses what to eat, right?!}. This restaurant has been owned and operated by the same family for seventy years, so you know they must be doing something right.

Bubble chandelier at BH Kitchen & Bar in NYC

Melissa spotted a wall in the restaurant that warned, "Don't Share, You'll Regret It." But we shared, and we didn't regret it at all! It meant we got to try the club sandwich, the chili, and the onion rings.

Sharing lunch at BH Kitchen and Bar in NYC

A few years ago, Scott and I discovered the European-style "food hall" in the basement of the Plaza Hotel, which was created by celebrity chef Todd English and features lots of specialty food vendors. After a stroll through Central Park, Melissa and I wanted to something to hold us over for a late dinner, so I introduced her to the Plaza Food Hall where we snacked on some savory and sweet mini doughnuts. I may not be able to afford a night at the Plaza, but at least I can eat in the basement. Ha ha ha! 

Later that night, we finally made our way to Hell's Kitchen where we planned to eat at a small Thai restaurant. When it had a long wait, we took our chances on K Rico, the South American Steakhouse next door and It. Was. Delicious!

ENDING THE TRIP ON A HIGH NOTE

On our final night in the city, we got a call from some of our fellow Stylemakers that they were headed to the top of the Empire State Building so we decided to join them. I've been to the top before and enjoyed the views during the day, but never at night... it was fun to see the city lights from this perspective.

Midnight at the top of the Empire State Building

The romantic comedy fan in me loved being at the top of the Empire State Building (a la, Sleepless in Seattle), and being there with these Stylemakers made it even more fun!

BH&G Stylemakers at the top of the Empire State Building
Bigger Than the Three of Us, House of WoodPlace of My Taste, Polished HabitatHey There HomeBrepurposedHome Made by Carmona, and me.
Ok, if you've made it to the end of this post, I am seriously impressed! 

Until next time, New York!

NYC Skyline seen from airplane at sunset

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