Back From Alt

I spent the second half of last week in Salt Lake City, first for the Alt Design Summit—which was wonderful and inspiring and full of people far more fashionably dressed than I will ever be in my life—and then for a quick two-day ski trip, during which I decided that I do not particularly like skiing. Here is the thing about skiing, see: you are cold a lot. You fall down a lot. You wear unflattering clothing that goes swish-swish-swish when you walk. I always think I like skiing until the moment I am confronted with the fact that I actually have to ski. At that point I suddenly remember that I am, in fact, distinctly lukewarm towards skiing, but by then it's too late and my feet are jammed into boots that have drained roughly 90 percent of my will to live. I sometimes think the only reason I keep skiing is for that glorious burst of happiness when you finally take those ski boots off. Future business leaders of the world, I have your next million-dollar idea: capture that feeling, crush it into a fine powder, and sell it on the corner along with a rolled-up twenty pound note.

Yeah, it was great until we couldn't feel our limbs anymore.

Anyway, Alt Summit was amazing from start to finish; if you are at all interested in design and decor and DIY-type things, I highly recommend it as your conference of choice. Everything was so beautifully presented and everyone in attendance looked like a model from an Etsy store. You'd think this would be intimidating, and you would be right; I left that conference with a phone full of notes, a suitcase full of aesthetically-pleasing paper products, and a severe compulsion to cut myself some bangs in the airport bathroom. Never have I been so grateful to the TSA for confiscating the world's nail scissors.

On Thursday morning, I spoke on a panel—about how you can use Pinterest to organize your online life—which was something I had been fretting about for weeks. Turns out, however, that I'm a bit of a ham, and once I got going I was fine, particularly when I remembered to heed the advice Karen had given me beforehand in the hallway: when in doubt, go more British. This is a fairly useful mantra for all aspects of life, honestly, and I intend to capitalize on it wherever I can. Asking to use a restaurant's restroom? I shall charm them by calling it the loo! Returning a sweater without a receipt? I shall channel Kate Middleton! Asking for a raise? I shall do it in cockney rhyming slang! And then iambic pentameter for good measure!

If you are wondering whether it is a little stressful to know what to wear to a design conference like Alt Summit—where most people's business cards were more stylish than the majority of my wardrobe, by the way—I will tell you that you are right. Friday night's "diner en blanc" was particularly challenging, as the dress code specified all white, but at the last minute I remembered a dress I had that belonged to my grandmother, a white lacy number that she had—if you can believe it, on account of the "white" and "lacy" parts of that description—worn to my parents' wedding in 1975.

So I wore that. And ate exclusively neutral-colored food all evening. Seriously, I couldn't even look at anyone drinking red wine.

While the entire conference was wonderful and inspirational, one of my favorite panels was called "The Ins and Outs of Design Blogging," and it featured both Jenny from Little Green Notebook and HGTV's Emily Henderson, neither of whom I was brave enough to go up to afterwards and introduce myself to, despite the fact that I'm a huge fan of both. I did, at one point, screw up enough courage to line up to say hello to Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan, the founder of Apartment Therapy, only to find that he wasn't just casually chatting with people, he was conducting on-camera interviews for a promotion with Cottonelle. At that point, however, I'd waited so long in the line that it seemed silly to back out just because our conversation was going to be filmed—I mean, this logic is airtight, right?—and so this is how I found myself answering questions, into a microphone, about Jonathan Adler's new range of toilet paper covers. I sure hope they can edit out the wild panic in my eyes.

In conclusion, if you're wavering on whether or not to attend Alt Summit next year, I can wholeheartedly vouch for its wonderfulness, both in terms of the people you'll meet and the things you'll learn, and also the number of adorable miniature cupcakes you will coo over. I'm already counting down the days until the next one.

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Jan 25, 2012

I LOVE that dress! It's perfect on you.
And yes, the very best part of skiing is stopping. And drinking fabulous hot drinks with alcohol in them.

Jan 26, 2012

The dress looks amazing. I'm absolutely jealous. And the conference sounds like a lot of fun. i wish I was a designer or something like that so I can go! And as for skiing, I've only ever tried to do it once. And I don't think I will ever do it again. Actually, I have a feeling that was the reason why the boy broke up with me. lol.

Pretzel Thief
Jan 26, 2012

Ahh, you look gorgeous and fabulous! (And how the Dickens does your long side fringe stay put like that?!)

Glad you had such a great time and that your panel gig went so well! I'd attend Alt next year but, you know, that'd be kind of difficult and inconvenient given I'm IN AUSTRALIA and all...bahahah.

Jan 26, 2012

I've always thought it would be fun to go to Alt Summit - especially given that my entire family and best friend live in SLC, so I could combine the visits. But I feel like it's for hard-core bloggers. People with more than just cousins and old roommates reading their blogs. Did you find that to be the case?

Jan 26, 2012

"and sell it on the corner along with a rolled-up twenty pound note" - you're already going more British!

SLC looks amazingly beautiful. Picture postcard perfect.

I have never tried skiing, I don't think I have the co-ordination for it. Plus, I don't like paying to be cold. Can I go and just hang out for the apres ski?

Jan 26, 2012

I've been seeing all of these design bloggers posting about Alt, and it's so weird when I see stuff about Maxwell. See, essentially he's my "boss," though he has no idea who I am. I freelance shooting house tours for Apartment Therapy on occasion. I'm not a design blogger myself (I only wish I had that kind of talent), but I love photographing the beautiful spaces other people come up with!

I live in NC, so if you know anyone out this way (I think I once read you used to live in Charleston, SC?) who has an "AT-worthy" home and wants to have it photographed for the site, please let me know. I'm willing to drive. :)

Alison Presley
Jan 26, 2012

I am in love with your grandma's top. Between this and her statement that she'd dance to anything at your wedding, I sort of want her to adopt me.

So glad you had fun at Alt Summit and I'm quite sure, you fit right in.

Anna Louisa
Jan 26, 2012

I can't believe that you just had that dress! It's amazing! I'm sure you held your own amongst the other bloggers :)

Jan 26, 2012

I may or may not be trying to replicate your flirty little smile in that picture. I suspect I need to British it up a bit to make it work.


Killer dress! And, as I'm sure I've said before, I go more southern in times of distress. Works like a charm.

Jan 26, 2012

I really want to go next year! You just convinced me I absolutely can't miss it :)

Jan 26, 2012

Love your grandmother's dress... is it just me, or does it strike anyone else as a bit asian looking? Very cool! I think it's the way the sleeves hang.

Skiing is a pretentious, overpriced, overrated hobby. Of course, I probably feel that way because I sucked at it the first (and only) time I tried it. Give me the lodge, the fireplace, and a scotch and ginger on the rocks, thank you very much.

And yes, you were right... going British is the way to bamboozle us Americans. We're total suckers for an accent!

Jan 26, 2012

Confession: I'm a born-and-bred Utah native and I've only been skiing once. However, I have been to the spa at Snowbird Ski Resort more times than I can count. Clearly, I have my priorities in order!

So glad Alt and SLC in general was such a great time! I love it when my hometown makes a good impression.


Jan 26, 2012

Oh, Holly! I was at your panel at Alt! I sure wish I'd worked up the courage to say hello as well! I stopped myself because I sensed you were nervous about speaking so I thought it best not to intrude. Which is so lame of me! Isn't that so funny, everyone's intimidated about something. You did great btw, I enjoyed your panel's banter & scored some good tips. Perhaps we'll have another opportunity again!!

Camels & Chocolate
Jan 26, 2012

I'm not particularly into design and DIY, but watching your Twitter and Instagram feed--as well as those of the other dozen or so people I knew there--made me REALLY want to go.

One Third Acre Woods
Jan 26, 2012

I hate being cold and injured. I have never been skiing and don't plan on starting now. My lack of coordination is the biggest reason. I like all my bones to be in the one piece that God intended. The family went tobogganing over the weekend and I stayed in the Chalet reading a book. Life is good.

Jan 26, 2012

I second that emotion on skiing! I hate lineups, hate pretentiousness, hate overpriced gear that makes you look horrid, hate the cold, hate falling down. But I rock the apres-ski! :D

Jan 26, 2012

OMG, you were there?! I wish I would have known, I would have introduced myself to YOU!

Jan 26, 2012
Savvy in San Francisco
Jan 27, 2012

It was fabulous to meet you in person at ALT! You are adorable! I'm counting down till the next one as well!

Amy Dowell
Jan 27, 2012

I love your description of skiing and the bit about your British accent! LOL.

Jan 27, 2012

What is your twitter handle? I searched for you! I did not get the right Holly Burns'.

Jan 27, 2012

Just wanted to say that, my grandmother is British, and she also wore all-white to my wedding, so . . . maybe it's a thing?

Jan 28, 2012

I hope you thoroughly enjoyed SLC despite the swish-swish-swish of your ski attire. Its my home for 7 years now and I love it both in "swish" weather and in the summer. In fact, I HIGHLY recommend the state with the "greatest snow on earth" in the summer. HIGHLY recommend it. I also have many recommendations that involve hikes, shopping, food, farmer's markets, temple square visits, concert series, and scooter gangs. Note the last bit of that referring to the scooter gang I plan to start this summer with my turquoise scooter coincidentally (not stalkerly/weirdly) named Holly.

Nothing But Bonfires
Jan 28, 2012

Jen: I don't think so at all! Everyone was very welcoming -- you should definitely come next year.

Alison Presley: Other grandma!

Margon: Thank you so much. You should have said hi!

Courtney: That WOULD be a good theory, but this grandma is German, not British. Maybe it's just a European thing?

Jan 29, 2012

Do you have a link for Pinterest? I would love to follow your boards!

Nothing But Bonfires
Jan 29, 2012

Thanks, KK -- you can search for me; I'm just Hollyburns.

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