2014 Spring

Nimble Well: A Look Back by Natalie Pavela

Forth alum and friend Kelly Connolly owns and operates Nimble Well - a rentable collection of pieces for thoughtful and imaginative events. Kelly has graciously shared her collection of vintage rentals with us for all of our 2014 salons to date. Nimble Well recently launched an updated website, which does a great job of showcasing Kelly's broad collection.  Today we're taking a look back at the gorgeous array of glassware, cake stands, plates, silverware, and special accent pieces that Kelly brought to each 2014 salon to create a color-toned theme fit for each season! nimble well 2014

Minty greens, citrusy yellows and the bluest blues ushered in the very first hints of spring on a blustery march evening.

nimble well spring collage 2

nimble well spring 2014

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nimble well spring 2014

nimble well spring 2014

nimble well spring collage 1

nimble well spring 2014

nimble well spring 2014

For our Summer salon in June, bright berry colors celebrated the cheerful joy of the season's warmth and abundance.

nimble well summer 2014nimble well summer 2014

nimble well summer 2014

nimble well summer 2014

nimble well summer 2014

And this Autumn, we brought some fresh greenery to compliment her collection of mossy greens, Liberty of London napkins, wooden pedestals, amber glass platters, and delicate crystal glasses for cocktails! 

nimble well fall 2014

nimble well fall 2014

nimble well fall 2014

nimble well fall 2014

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Special thanks to Forth alum Sarah Burrows who's vintage china was utilized for the table setting at our fall salon, through her rental collection Plate.

nimble well fall 2014


We can't wait to share what gorgeous pieces Kelly brings out for our Winter salon in a few weeks, a gathering of all the wonderful women we met in this past two years' salons. Stay tuned!

Forth Follow Up: Brenda Bergen of Wink Design by Natalie Pavela

BForth Spring 2014 Brenda Bergenrenda Bergen is, among many other things, a process person. She wants to know why and how we do the things we do. A conversation with her is likely to take infinite spins and turns. In it, she'll dazzle you with stories and insights, listen intently, and ask questions you may need to think on. Her work as a creative director and designer spans the music industry and luxury worlds and her extracurriculars include things like Get Fueled, a blog she uses to explore the creative processes of really cool people. Boundless can easily be applied to her energy, creativity, and capacity to make things interesting.

She offered to share some of her own processes of reflection and assessment.


Following Up By Looking Back

I’ve been thinking lately about my career, what I’ve done, what I’m doing and what I want to do. I’ve been lucky; I’ve had some wonderful experiences and opportunities—going to a mind-blowing grad school (Cranbrook Academy of Art), living in one of the most exciting cities in the world (NYC), working for various entertainment companies (Vibe Magazine, VH1, Atlantic Records). All of this surrounded my interest in graphic design and photography and creating personalities.

The Power of Breaks

And then, I started to feel a little stir-crazy. I know, how could that be? But it’s true, it became routine and my designs felt repetitive. I needed to do something BIG and I needed to make something by hand—off the computer. So, I left the record company to go off on my own. One of the first projects I did was for Ford Motor Co. Car show—BIG graphics. And I took my hobby (jewelry) and created a line and sold to stores like Steven Alan and Erica Tanov. It was great; I worked on a huge variety of projects.

A few years later, I moved to Chicago, had a son, and took another break. Then, I fell into the job of Creative Director for Vosges Haut-Chocolat (who could pass THAT up?!).

What It Seems

And now, I’ve circled back around to having my own design business, for the second time. And, like most of you, I pause sometimes and take a look around. I see people I’ve gone to school with or colleagues who seem to be more successful. ‘Seem’, that’s the magic word. I don’t actually know how they feel about their career, but it looks more successful from the outside. I wonder, if I had stuck with a straight path, would I be more successful (whatever that means)?

Forth Spring 2014 Brenda Margot

Do Better

I know some of you are thinking—wha ?? You ARE successful, you jack ass, don’t you appreciate it? Yes, I do appreciate it. I have this odd combo of happiness and optimism mixed with constant dis-satisfaction. Because I know I can do better. I’m always thinking—how can I make this more interesting, more fun. How can I elevate this brand? How can I make this design better? And then that nagging questions pops up in my brain—do I even want to be doing design? I’ve always been ‘in like’ with design, but never ‘in love’ with it. My career has taken twists and turns and forks. I’ve always wanted to make things, or design things, but never the same things, and I need to change up my environment.

The Positive Power of Change

Sometimes I like working in a company, heading up a team, with an office and every resource I could ever need. And then, I like some freedom and flexibility and the ability to play my music REALLY loud and sing along to it. So now, even though I sometimes wonder if I'm ‘as successful’ as some of my colleagues, I've started assessing where my successes lie. I do get to make some pretty great decisions. I get to decide what I work on (most of the time) and who I work with (no a-holes). I decide when I work (I feel most creative at midnight) and where I work (this summer, I’ll be working from my sailboat—anyone want to co-work with me?).

No Need For the Straight Path

But I wonder…what’s next? and how do I get there? I’m feeling a tiny bit stir crazy again, I want to get back to my carefree bold and fearless design that I used to do. I want to produce and create big juicy projects, a series of cookbooks maybe, art directing for photo shoots again, or curating fashion or products. I want to do work that brings me across the ocean or the planet—a fresh perspective. I want to break out of my norm and take another fork. I guess this is exactly why I could never follow that one straight path, but hopefully this road still takes me to the top of my game.

Forth Spring 2014 Margot Brenda

Need even more kick-in-the-pants inspiration from Brenda? Wink Design Atelier / Get Fueled / TwitterPinterest / Facebook / tumblr




Forth Follow Up: Lee Clifford of Altruette by Natalie Pavela

Forth Spring 2014 Lee Clifford Our spring salon focused on women working together in business - whether as partners, clients, or studio sharers. Lee Clifford is the co-founder of Altruette, a jewelry company with a philanthropic focus, donating 50% of their net profits to their cause partners. Lee brings an interesting perspective to the table, as she and her co-founder live halfway across the country from one another. Today Lee shares advice on a few items to consider before starting a business partnership with another individual.

Reader's Note: this piece is adapted from an online column Lee wrote for Inc. Magazine's website.

After diving into the Spring salon theme, I’m thrilled to be sharing a bit about working with a business partner long distance today. Julie and I met more than a decade ago (we had offices across the hall from each other as young reporters at Fortune Magazine in New York). When we decided to leave our jobs together to start a company in 2010, we really only knew one thing: that we loved working together. (Oh, and that we wanted to create a really awesome company that helped raise money for the causes we cared about – Altruette). I say ‘together,’ though by the time we quit our jobs, we were based in different cities. People ask me all the time what it’s like having a business partner and how we knew we could make a partnership work. I always say it’s a leap of faith – but in truth I was pretty certain Julie and I would make great business partners. Here’s why.

Forth Spring 2014 Lee Clifford

We’re Not Best Friends!

Don’t get me wrong – we are great friends. We went to each other’s weddings, we’ve traveled with our families, our babies play together. But we’re not best friends. We met through work and that has always been the starting point of our relationship. Seeing someone at work is different from knowing someone socially. Julie had seen me hit deadline after deadline. I’ve seen Julie take a room full of editors and art directors with completely opposing visions and get them all on the same page. We had traveled together. We’d disagreed and compromised. But the beautiful thing is that having that history, now when we disagree – and even the best of partners do – it’s not loaded with emotional baggage like it might be with a close friend. (“She always has to have the last word – it’s been like that since 7th grade!”)

The Houseguest Test

You know how there are some people in life who you adore, admire, respect, maybe even think they’re brilliant…but if they were to stay with you for more than two nights you might lose your mind? Well, a business partner is somewhat like a houseguest that moves in permanently. You will be stunned by the amount of time you spend working on your startup. The hundreds of hours you spend together on the phone, the thousands of emails, the number of trips. If your partner has the potential to get under your skin even a little bit, you’re going to be in big trouble. Think about it this way: if you wouldn’t want this person moving into your spare bedroom for the summer, don’t go into business with them.

Forth Spring 2014 Lee Clifford

Opposites Attract

It’s said that forming a partnership is like a second marriage. So perhaps it’s not surprising that we each ended up with a business partner that shares many similarities with our spouses. Lee’s husband is a champion brainstormer – just like Julie. Julie’s husband is a detail oriented perfectionist – as is Lee. That underscores an important point: we picked someone to work with that has skills that complement our own. With only two of us running Altruette, we had to cover as many bases as possible. Julie’s love of meeting new people and networking is vital to our business, as is Lee’s glee at making sure each spec sheet is picture perfect. One of the questions we’re asked the most is how we divide our responsibilities, and the truth is: we don’t really have to. We’re both so clearly good at different things that nine times out of ten it’s obvious who should handle what job.

Which brings me to one final point about working with a partner – especially one that lives in another city. This is a variant of the marriage rule “never go to bed mad.” I’d amend that to say “Never send an angry email.” Email is a great tool – but can cause so much friction. Whenever I find myself typing something that has even a hint of annoyance in it, I hit delete and pick up the phone. It has saved so much drama and meant that there are no hidden agendas/bitter feelings/misinterpreted comments.

Forth Spring 2014 Lee Clifford

I feel so lucky to have found such a wonderful partner and I’d love to hear from others out there in the Forth community that have business partners. Do opposites always attract? Do you ever get sick of each other? How do you handle disagreements?

If you have answers to any of Lee's questions, or thoughts of your own to share, we'd love to hear 'em!

Learn more about Altruette by following them on Twitter or checking out their Facebook page.

Forth loves Nimble Well: Vintage & Uncommon Tabletop Decor by Natalie Pavela

Four our 2014 salons we're tickled to be partnering with Kelly Connolly, owner of Nimble Well, to utilize her collection of vintage and beautiful tabletop rentals. Kelly's a 2013 Forth alum and we were eager to partner with an individual that really understood the mission behind what we're doing. We were oh-so-glad she signed on to style out our salons, as her pieces - linens, glassware, china, silverware, cake stands, platters, vases and more - all aid in creating a beautiful setting for an intimate evening of dining and conversation. Today we're showcasing some of Kelly's collection that brightened up our spring salon. We chose a color palette that and seemed perfect for the season - blues, greens, and yellows, oh my! But more importantly, we're also taking a peek behind the curtain at Nimble Well, getting to know the business & the lady who runs it.


You founded Nimble Well in 2012, and last year transitioned into this as your full-time gig. Tell us a bit about what encouraged you to take that leap of faith to grow Nimble Well and go out into business of your own. What have been some of the biggest hurdles you've had to overcome in the past few years?

In the fall of 2012 I knew I just had to go for it. In the spring of 2013 I built up a small collection and I hired a photographer to take pictures of 5 different tablescapes with the small collection I had and I built a website around that. My collection was tiny and I knew it had to grow, but I needed to have clients to know how it would have to grow. I just had to keep taking small steps forward. It's been a series of get clients-get inventory-clients-inventory to fund the growing inventory. My inventory is growing in a way that will make it a true rental collection, not just a group of things I like or one couple would like.

Getting my own space out of my apartment was a big step. I had to have a place that clients can visit and also to keep some physical separation between home and work. I was just out of room, too.

There were a lot of things I had to learn. I had no experience in the event and wedding industry, so I had to figure out who the different business were, what they did, who I would like to work with -- and would work with me. I spent a lot of time online before I even met anyone, and I then I was lucky to find some very friendly people who didn't hold it against me how tiny and raw my business was.

In the beginning I did a lot of "eye training" on wedding blogs and Pinterest to see what was going on in wedding style and where my business could fit in. I originally knew nothing about vintage glass or any of the things that are in my collection now. I spent a lot of time in the resale world and looking at pieces online to start making sense of it all. I've built my own categories around things that I like, what my clients like, what is possible to find, or what is a good investment.

I definitely invested in more things in the beginning that I liked (but clients did not) and I would search for just about any special requests from clients, even if it wasn't likely to be rented again. I'm a lot more careful with how I expand the inventory now, mostly from experience.


Where do you find the majority of your vintage pieces? Any pieces go straight into your personal not-for-rent collection?

My home and my collection are pretty separate. My car is the main place they mix, and I feel a lot better to have that separation. My rental inventory can't go in the dishwasher, so that nixes most of it for home.

I get asked a lot about where I find my stuff, and I wish I had a more succinct answer. It's a mix of resale shops/yard sales/estate sales/flea markets/online/private sellers/pickers. I have certain places or people to go to for certain kinds of things, but many of my finds, like cake stands, are a one-time find at a certain place and then I'll never see one at that place again.

What materials, pieces, or collections have clients been asking you most for this upcoming wedding season?

This year blush and gold is the big hit, so I've been building up those collections. Brass is definitely more popular than it was in the past. Overall the trend in vintage is less rustic (Ball jars and burlap) and more refined, so it doesn't necessarily come across as "vintage."


We love your new Labor of Love blog series! Tell us a bit more about what inspired it and what you have in store for us next!

My most recent post featured Sarah Drake and I'm working with a baker and wedding planner right now on a future post. I'll be starting to follow several more businesses in May when the wedding season really picks up.

There is a lot of anxiety about the cost of weddings. And not just from the couple spending the money. There's anxiety about buying a house and all kinds of big purchases, but with a buying a house--you get a house--the investment is tangible. People are getting married and still finding it meaningful to have a wedding. But they're getting married later and paying for their own weddings, and now a wedding can be any kind of event that the couple wants, reflecting their personal style. So there's more choice and more pressure to make good decisions about what to do and how much to spend, which means that couples have to think through every aspect of their wedding, every purchase and service, to determine whether it's good for them. And there's many different businesses that couples can go to for finding a version of what they're looking for at many different price points. Because of the volume of small and large decisions that have to be made people get decision-fatigue, and can get cynical about what they're paying for.

The purpose of the Labor of Love series is to show the work of wedding professionals. Maybe it will help explain the cost to couples making choices about their wedding. I'm basically saying, "Here's what you're paying for if you go with this kind of professional. Here is the work involved." And you also see the people doing the work, and I think that re-frames it from being just another purchase. The work looks easy when it's done well. And it's easy to take for granted what people have done to make it appear so easy.


Nimble Well shares a studio space with Sarah Drake Designs. Can you share one way think your businesses and you as creatives have benefited from co-working? What are 1-2 challenges of a situation like this as well?

The best part of sharing a space with Sarah is that I don't feel like I'm working all alone. I'm someone who can spend a long time by myself and not feel lonely, but it's really nice to share the office with Sarah because she has a separate businesses in the same industry and can share information, successes, and frustrations. Sarah has worked for herself for a lot more years than I have and she's a parent, which is in my plans, so it's inspiring to have a good example of how it all fits together too.

One challenge for me is that my office visits are by appointment. Some people don't realize that I'm not in the office all the time and occasionally they'll stop by when I'm not there and Sarah is and she has to figure out what they need.


What made you interested in partnering with Forth? I like the open-ended nature of the group. I was a little puzzled about it first, I thought that there might be some kind of sell at some point, like a weekend at a hotel where you have to sit through the timeshare presentation. I like that there isn't a pitch and there really isn't any monetary purpose to the group. It's women doing good, interesting work getting together to talk about things that are important to them. I love art, spending time in nature, and got a degree in something that isn't technically useful, so I think this structure is perfect.


What goals do you have for Nimble Well in 2014? What would be your dream event/client to work with this year?

The number of weddings and events I will do this year is a big jump from last year, so my goals are mostly about refining my processes to handle the workload smoothly. I am collaborating with a few local non-profits on their fundraising dinners and events this year and I'm excited about that. I would love to do some outdoor dinners this summer--with restaurants, one-time events, farm dinners. And there are some photo shoots in the beginning stages of planning that I'm looking forward to--also outside. That's what I'm excited about right now: doing things outside.


What about Nimble Well are you most proud of?

When it's thought of as a real thing by other people, and it feels like something separate from me, and I see it's growing there is a relief from the usual white-hot panic. When I'm proud about Nimble Well, it's something like the feeling of having figured something out. But most of the time it feels like Nimble Well is just the name I call what I do every day, and if I stop, it stops.


Thank you Kelly for sharing openly and honestly about your company, how you've grown, lessons you've learned, tips on sharing a studio space, and more. It looks like you have an exciting year of unique events ahead and we can't wait to see what gems you pull out of your collection for our summer salon!

Nimble Well / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest



Make Ahead Appetizers: Radish Sandwiches, Purple Potatoes, & Minted Pea Crostini by Kelly Allison

Easy, delicious, and partially make-ahead dishes are key to hosting a stress free (or at least reduced stress) event. These appetizers offer all three of those attributes, and are sure to please your palate. Plus, each has a little twist to adapt to this spring's unusual pairings culinary theme.

spring radish and arugula
(vegetarian; can be made gluten free & dairy free)
1/2 loaf dark bavarian rye sandwich bread (or other dark loaf)
1/2 loaf jewish rye sandwich bread (or other light loaf)
* We like S.Rosen's bread, but if you're outside of Chicago, Pepperidge Farm is nice, too. 2 bunches radishes (1 radish per half sandwich, or 1/2 if using longer heirloom varietals)
5 oz baby arugula
4 oz unsalted European butter (Plugra or the like), softened to room temperature
1 T local honey
zest from one clementine
fleur de sel

Make Ahead: Up to 2 days ahead, place softened butter in a standing mixer and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Adjust mixing speed to low and slowly add the honey in a steady stream. This will cause your butter to separate a little--which is normal. Add clementine zest and mix until fully incorporated. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and mix well before using.

clementine honey butter

1 day ahead, remove greens from radishes and use to make this. Slice into very thin rounds and place into an ice water bath. Store in refrigerator.
Place one slice of dark bread atop one slice of dark and cut in half (vertically or on the bias, depending on your desired look) If you're wanting the elegant look of tea sandwiches, trim the crusts from your bread. If a more rustic look is desired, keep them intact. Keep halves together and put back into the bread bag until ready to use.

radish and arugula sandwich

Just before serving, wash arugula and drain radishes, place both on a towel to dry. Slather each half of bread with orange butter. Top one half with a small handful of arugula, then arrange the radish slices in a thick layer on top. Sprinkle radishes with fleur de sel and top with bread. Serve as is, or wrap in parchment + twine for an extra special look.

(Dietary restrictions? Substitute toasted gluten free bread, &/or Earth Balance spread for butter.)



Have you ever seen these? I mean up close and in person? They really are this color. And they are amazing. For the potatoes, I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. These can be made up to one day in advance--bring to room temperature before plating.To add a little twist on the flavors, spoonfuls of potato were served atop watercress leaves, giving a peppery & aromatic boost to the bite. To keep the watercress from wilting, toss with a touch of olive oil just before serving.

mint and pea with balsamic

MINTED PEA CROSTINI WITH BALSAMIC REDUCTION (can be made gluten free, vegetarian & dairy free)

1 loaf crusty bread (baguette or peasant bread) 1 clove garlic 3 - 5 T extra virgin olive oil 16 oz fresh or frozen peas 1 bunch garden mint 3 - 5 T balsamic reduction 1/4 lb prosciutto (optional) 3 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano fleur de sel

Up to 1 day ahead, preheat oven to 350˚. Slice bread into thin rounds (cut slices in half if using larger loaf) and arrange single layer on a baking sheet. Brush or drizzle olive oil on both sides of each. Bake on the center rack for until golden brown (about 7 minutes). Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Blanch peas in boiling water, then mash with a potato masher or pestle until most peas are about 1/4 of their original size. Coarse chop the mint leaves and add to the peas. Drizzle with olive oil to coat and mix well. Store in an air tight container until ready to use.

Just before serving, bring the pea mixture to room temperature and add more olive oil if the mixture seems dry. Brush tops of each crostini toast with a halved clove of garlic. Top first with a slice of prosciutto (if using) then a spoonful of your pea mixture. Drizzle tops with balsamic glaze and sprinkle with fleur de sel. (Note: the amount of fleur de sel depends on your ingredients of choice. If using prosciutto &/or parmesan, you'll need less. If you're serving just the peas, you'll need more.) Top each crostini with either a shaving of parmesan or a small mint leaf.


Spring Salon Venue Spotlight: Heritage Littles by Natalie Pavela

Yesterday we introduced you to Melissa Salvatore & Becca Doell, the women behind A Little Photo Studio. Today, we're taking you on a tour of Hertiage Littles, the space above A Little Photo Studio that Melissa owns and runs with her husband Mike (the site of our recent spring salon!). Heritage Littles opened up in the Lakeview neighborhood in October 2013 as a sister company to their first business just a few blocks up the street - Heritage Bicycles. The Heritage brand is truly built upon the Salvatore family's life experiences, and they credit their toddler Bennett as the inspiration behind expanding the brand with a new space geared towards kids.

The space that houses Heritage Littles is multi-functional, selling a small selection of bicycles and bike accessories for kids of all ages while also housing a milk and cookies bar - it's basically a kid's dream! In the basement you'll find A Little Photo Studio, Avery House, as well as the Chicago arm of Smilebooth. Take a tour of the Heritage Littles space below!

The storefront view from Lakeview Ave. (there's a second entrance off of Lincoln Ave.)

Heritage Little Storefront

The lovely milk and cookies bar. They thought of every detail in this space, including seats and a counter top at an appropriate height for little ones.

Heritage Littles Milk and Cookies Bar

Candy bars and sweet lunch boxes on display!

Heritage Littles Milk and Cookies Bar

And of course, some chairs at adult height to accommodate the parents.

Heritage Littles Milk and Cookies Bar Stools

We were dying over this teepee made from recycled burlap from Stumptown coffee sacks - a kid's dream!

Heritage Littles Bikes and Teepee

Yakkay bike helmets for kiddos adorn one of the exposed brick walls adjacent from the bike collection.

Heritage Littles Kids' Bike Helmets

Heritage Littles sells bikes for kids of all ages - from the Shperovelo to their own Bennett Balance Bike to gorgeous Linus bikes in kids sizes. Did we mention the Bennett Balance Bike has a version made from recycled milk jugs? How fitting for this milk and cookies bar!

Heritage Littles Bicycles for Kids

And how cute is the chalkboard art on the bathroom wall?

Heritage Littles Chalkboard Wall Bathroom Art

Smilebooth has a backdrop station available to capture the moment when a kid receives their first bike, shots from a birthday party or any other event hosted at Heritage Littles!

Heritage Littles Sink and Smilebooth Backdrop

Heritage Littles Storefront

Big thanks to the Salvatore Family for sharing their space with us for the spring salon. We can't wait to come back for milk and cookies sometime soon!

Chicago friends, be sure to visit Heritage Littles between 10am-6pm on Wednesdays through Sundays at 2868 N Lincoln Ave.