We are so excited to welcome Cait Pappas of @nest.out.west to the blog today for #5QuestionswithSPPR!
Cait is the founder and lead decorator at Nest Out West, an interior decorating & e-styling firm based in Greater Denver, Colorado. She also serves clients nationwide virtually! She started her company with her husband Jason because they wanted to help others transform their home the way they had and now runs a six-person small business operation!
Cait continues to work with clients who place trust in her and her team to provide them with new decorating concepts, step-by-step shopping and DIY plans to bring these concepts to fruition for spaces in their homes. We are OBSESSED with her work and so excited to have her here!
1. What are your sources of creativity and design inspiration?
I feel like this sounds so cliché, but I love looking to nature when I’m searching for new ideas. The color and texture combinations that occur naturally get my imagination going, and they tend to inspire most of my DIY ideas. I also turn to Pinterest quite often if I’m feeling I need a creativity boost. One thing I aim to never do is flat-out copy a DIY or room styling situation that someone else has done. There are two reasons for that actually: 1) That idea belongs to that person—not me—and I almost feel that in a sense I’d be stealing someone else’s intellectual property; 2) It would be unoriginal for me to replicate something exactly as another person did it. Also, what kind of a creator am I if all I’m doing is mimicking something that someone else has already done? That’s fine for other people, but since people look to me for new, sometimes avant garde home decorating ideas, I would feel like a fraud if I were to copy off of someone else’s work. That said, I find loads of inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram. What I try to do when I spot ideas I love is to put my own twist on that idea. Maybe I can pull in a new material, or use this product they featured in an innovative way.
I am also obsessed with the design sets used in the Pottery Barn, CB2, and Wisteria catalogs. If you haven’t flipped through their pages to see, then you should pick up a copy or order one online! There is SO MUCH TEXTURE in all of those scenes. Sometimes, too, the way a product overlaps with another on the page will give me a new idea for, say, a wall feature I’d like to try.
2. How do you discover new home goods brands and what brands are you loving right now that you recommend our readers check out?
I discover nearly 100% of new home decor brands through Instagram and collaboration requests, actually! There are quite a few small- and mid-sized businesses that have reached out to me to inquire about sending a product for me to use in my home’s decor (and then post photos and tag those brands on Instagram), and most of them have a gorgeous‚ albeit sometimes limited, selection! Some of those include Homeplistic, Haden Home, Hazel Candle Co., Ansel and Ivy, Cuddle and Kind, The Citizenry, Boll and Branch, and Parachute Home. I’m also currently working with Pottery Barn and Serena & Lily (not quite as small of brands haha), and I am simply enamored by all of their products. You can’t go wrong with those two! Oh and there’s a removable wallpaper brand I recently discovered that I’m dying to work with: Livette’s Wallpaper.
3. You have been successfully navigating virtual work with design clients for years, what tips do you have for those struggling with working from home?
Thank you! And you’re right! Before I started doing e-styling and social media influencing, and before I moved to Colorado, I used to work in PR. The year my husband and I moved here (my husband was offered a career opportunity we would’ve been dumb to pass up), I was managing the PR efforts for a start-up tech firm in Chicago. It was 2015, and I was lucky enough to keep my job and work remotely. I was also in the process of earning my master’s degree remotely (although I did travel to the brick-and-mortar school for graduation because I graduated magna cum laude with a 3.95 GPA). I’ll be honest, there have been many times when I definitely did not feel my work from home efforts were successful.
I started this business while I was teaching seventh grade English full time up at Evergreen Middle School in Evergreen, Colorado. It was a struggle because I wanted to be the best teacher I could possibly be, but I also wanted to hone my passion for being creative and running my own business. I would stay up late grading papers on weeknights, and then I’d check up on my client projects and prepare my next post for Instagram after I had finished that. Most of my weekends were spent working, and I quickly started to feel like I was burning out. My husband and I were going through fertility treatments, and it was in April of 2018 when I learned I was pregnant with our baby boy. My doctor told me I needed to limit my stress and scale back on what I was doing if I wanted a successful pregnancy, so I made the call to not go back to teaching that year.
Those next nine months were the most successful months I’ve had, at least for growing my brand and figuring out how I wanted my processes to run. Once I had our son Joe, my attention took a very sudden 90-degree turn. I found I didn’t have the time I needed to get in my creative mode and make good headway on my client projects (or when I did have time, all I wanted to do was nap), so I scaled back the number of projects I worked on at one time. My Instagram account continued to grow, though, and new opportunities came in that I’d have hated myself for passing up, so I said yes to them. Some of those include guest speaking opportunities at Denver summer events and (twice!) guest speaking in conjunction with Domino Magazine and Refinery 29 at the CB2 store in Cherry Creek (Denver).
I was also offered once-in-a-lifetime client projects, such as one where the client’s mother was a film producer and American billionaire, so she handed me her credit card to decorate her brand new apartment and trusted me to pull it all together in time for her to move in. The day she moved in, it felt like an HGTV moment where I opened up the door to her apartment that she was seeing completely decorated for the first time, and she started crying, saying, “Oh my god, oh my god, I love it!!” It was a moment I’ll never forget! There was also the time I was commissioned to decorate local soccer star and 2019 USWNT World Cup Champion Mallory Pugh’s home top to bottom. I drove myself nuts trying to balance mommy time with work time, but in the end, it was a successful project, and Joe still loves me 😉
Baby or not, it can certainly be tough to work from home all the time. Sometimes you want to stay in your jammies and keep up with the Kardashians or watch reruns of Fixer Upper. I learned early on that if I wanted to make the most of my day, I needed to start my day as I would if I were working from an office. First thing when I wake up, I freshen up, get dressed, and brush my teeth. I don’t watch TV when I’m working (which I think falls contrary to the popular belief that people who work from home get to watch TV all day). Rather, I turn on some music, open my laptop (or phone, whichever has the more pressing to-dos), and go after what my husband and I call the “low hanging fruit.”
This just means I tackle all of the quick and easy tasks first. It gives me a really great sense of accomplishment early on in the day knowing that I’ve already knocked 10-20 to-dos off my list. Once I get those little things out of the way, I can focus more closely on the bigger tasks that require coordination with other people, or perhaps that require me to solve a design puzzle a client has presented me with. Coffee helps, too!
Finally, I always try to make time to get outside and go for a walk or a jog to clear my mind so that I can reset and focus even better once I’m back.
4. We love following you on IG – not only for your beautiful designs, but you are also a pro at sharing your authentic self, being relatable and open with your audience. What’s your secret?
You’re too sweet! I’m so glad to hear that! You know, I’ve always been an open book. My mother used to tell me I shared too much and it made me vulnerable, which oftentimes, it did. We also have a joke in my family that when my sister and I go out (we’re 15 months apart), she wears an invisible sign that says, “Fuck off,” (can I say that in here?), whereas my invisible sign says, “Please, come talk to me! I’d love to hear your life story!”
I’ll admit, it was very hard for me to think of what to write in my captions when I first started my IG account. I have two younger sisters and two younger brothers, and when I wrote my captions, I used to only think about what they’d say to each other behind my back about whatever it was I was sharing. Another part that was tricky for me to navigate early on was that I worried that my friends, extended family, friends of family, and so on would think I was being arrogant… almost like, “Hey, everyone! Look at my beautiful home and how great I am. Look at how perfect my life is, and while you’re at it, read all of those super-nice comments people I’ve never met are leaving on my pictures…” It’s so not me to be like that. It felt weird sharing something I was proud of because I was always nervous about crossing that fine line of sounding braggy or boastful. For that reason, my go-to defense was to put something relatable, such as a drawback we faced or a real-life problem that might’ve interfered with the project, or even a mom-fail, into my caption. Sure, this was because I wanted people to know that my life isn’t perfect, but also (selfishly) it made me feel better about showing-off something I was proud of or excited about. This sort of became second nature to me over time, and then that combined with the growing sense of comfort that came naturally with sharing my personal life online and getting positive feedback from complete strangers.
It also doesn’t hurt that my siblings have celebrated seeing my images appear on their IG Explore and Pinterest feeds, and that they’ve shared my reposts from brands such as West Elm, PotteryBarn, AllModern, etc., in their stories. So I know they’re excited for me even if they can’t always say it to my face, and that helps me relax a little and not think of what they’ll say about the captions I write 😉
5.What are you looking forward to?
Gosh. So many things. I’m looking forward to the day when my business runs like a well-oiled machine (it’s so close and yet still feels so far away). I’m looking forward to not having to work until I go to bed for the sake of keeping my brand’s image and reputation healthy. I’m looking forward to bringing my passive income ideas to life. I’m looking forward to the day when our new/current house (we’ve been in this 1999 fixer-upper house for one year and two months, so I’m not sure I can still call it our “new” house) doesn’t require any more weekend projects.
I’d also love to be able to work from coffee shops again while Joe is with his nanny a couple days a week. Speaking of Joe, I’m looking forward to being present while he grows up (running my own business out of my home gives me that unique and special privilege, and I don’t plan on ever taking this time for granted).