At only 26, Megan Koranda has already experienced three major life moments: she left her job as a graphic designer to found her startup jewelry company busywrist; she fell in love and got engaged; and she purchased her first home. And when we saw photos of her Chicago condo, we pretty much fell in love in too. Despite having only lived there for a year, Megan designed a space that is both meticulously curated and also perfectly lived-in.
Grounded in neutrals, her Bucktown abode is serene and intentional, and it fits the homeowners just right. Making their home a sleek yet personalized place was of the utmost importance to Megan and her fiancé, both of whom work from home; she manages busywrist from the dining room table while he runs his finance company in a small home office (not pictured). We chatted with Megan about the process she went through to decorate the space, the ways she shops sales to purchase her investment pieces on a dime, and how she found that ever elusive work life balance working from home. Sit back and unwind as we catch up with Megan and tour her tranquil home.
Full name: Megan Marie Koranda
Current title/company: Founder/Owner of busywrist.com
Education: Columbia College Chicago (degree in Advertising/Art Direction)
While studying at Columbia College in Chicago you interned for Variety, a top entertainment site. How did you find and land this internship?
I really lucked out with this internship. I was an intern in their London office for a summer thanks to my aunt. She bid on the internship at a silent auction with me in mind, and won! I realize how rare of an opportunity that was and consider myself very blessed. I was able to do a number of different things for them and they were kind enough to tailor my experience to fit my major (which was art direction/design) by letting me design web banners, and other promotional materials for Variety. I also got to play around with writing and even had the opportunity to interview Tom Hanks at a movie premiere (yes, he is just as wonderful in person as you would want him to be). I am incredibly thankful for the experience, and I still stay in touch with the friends I made in that office. Also, being able to live on my own so far away from home at such a young age, was a very eye-opening experience that I cherish.
After graduation in 2012, you began your career at George Street Photo and Video as a graphic designer. What were your day-to-day responsibilities there?
As the in-house graphic designer in their marketing department, I was responsible for designing all of the company’s marketing/advertising/promotional materials such as: print ads, e-blasts, their website and social media design, and more. They are a national company with markets in many different cities, so my day today also consisted of sifting through thousands of images from weddings around the country to find and edit photos to use for marketing purposes.
When you started at George Street, you also launched busywrist, a bracelet company. How did you juggle running an online shop with your day job?
A lot of late nights and weekends! It was tough and draining at times (a lot of the time). However, busywrist acted as a great creative outlet for me while I worked for a corporate company. Once my nine to five workday was over, my busywrist work day would begin. Lunch breaks turned into busywrist breaks, and I spent most of my weekends back in the suburbs at my parents house (where I kept my inventory) photographing bracelets, working on new pieces, and designing my website (www.busywrist.com). My parents were and still are very supportive of my business, and they assisted me so much during that ‘juggling’ period. My mom would help ship orders while I was at work, and my dad helped walk me through the not-so-fun parts of starting a business (taxes, paperwork, business license, etc.).
Ultimately, you were able to leave your job at George Street to manage busywrist full-time. What type of financial preparation did you take before leaving (saving, health benefits, etc)?
I had some money saved, but I definitely could have had more! You can always have more though. I’m a bit antsy and impulsive by nature, so once my mind was set on leaving my corporate job, that was it. I decided to just make do with what I had and figure the rest out from there. I don’t necessarily recommend that for everyone but I do believe that if you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it work. However, I did make sure to have a couple freelance graphic design gigs lined up before I left and that was a big help. I still like to do some graphic design work on a freelance basis (www.meganmariedesign.com), and I focus on working with other small creative businesses and blogs to help them develop a brand, design/build a website, etc., as I have done for busywrist.com.
Please describe a typical day for you.
I love having the opportunity to create my own schedule, therefore, every day looks a little bit different. I usually wake up and surf Pinterest for a bit while I have my coffee and then once I’m officially awake I begin tackling emails. Typically, my work load consists of packing and shipping orders, working on busywrist social media (@busywrist), updating inventory, designing marketing/promotional materials, and working on whatever graphic design projects I have going on at the time. I really enjoy collaborating with bloggers and boutiques on busywrist projects and usually have a few in-person meetings per week set up for that as well.
Let’s talk about your home! You recently bought an apartment in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago with your fiancé! What sold you on purchasing your home?
We had been looking for a while, and this was really the only place that felt right to us! It is a new building and we were excited about that, it was rare to come across a place in our price range that was updated and still spacious (for a while we thought it would have to be one or the other). We also love the location. Our apartment is right off of North Ave. and somewhat away from the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood, but still within walking distance of a ton of our favorite spots.
Your fiancé is a financial planner who currently works from home, and you also work from home managing busywrist. How do you handle working from home at the same time? How do you separate your work and home lives?
I would say we’ve handled it pretty well. Especially given the fact that this is our first year living together and both of our first years working from home. Kyle is in the process of transitioning his business from the suburbs to the city and has set up his office in our second bedroom for the time being. It was a big overall lifestyle change for both of us but we both love what we do, and we have found ways to work alongside one another, without wanting to rip each others heads off (we do have our days though). While Kyle has a more secluded office space, I kind of take over the dining/living room area for the day. We wake up and make breakfast, hang in the kitchen for a bit, and then basically go our separate ways. (Although, everyone once in a while we’ll use our lunch breaks to catch up on some of our shows.) He is often on the road seeing clients and I like to go set up a “coffee shop office” a few times a week, but that is getting harder to do in these cold winter months!
Where did you shop for the items in your home? What are some of your favorite pieces?
I love shopping for home decor items anywhere and everywhere. We have pieces from: Homegoods, West Elm, thrift/antique stores, Overstock.com, Restoration Hardware, Anthropologie, H&M Home (they have great pillows, linens and throws for cheap!), Wayfair.com, Crate & Barrel, Ikea, Target, and Z Gallerie – just to name a few! I would say my favorite piece is our couch; it’s from Restoration Hardware and it is very comfortable. RH can be pricey but they run some great sales a few times a year. I had my eye on this couch for a while and waited until a sale came around! Since we didn’t have enough length to fit a huge “L” couch, we went for depth with the 8 foot Belgium Track Arm sofa (it’s as wide as a twin bed!) and added an ottoman to it. This couch is bigger than it looks; I’ve seen my younger sister and her friends sleep four to it when they crash at our place on the weekends. Another favorite is our bed frame from Macy’s. It’s excellent quality and very reasonably priced compared to others out there. I also love our coffee table (wayfair.com) and how the reclaimed wood contrasts against the modern finishes in our apartment.
Tell us how you’ve decorated on a budget! What items in particular have you saved on?
I did a lot of research before making any big purchases and really shopped around for deals. I would say I’m most proud of our dining room table; we got it from a furniture warehouse in Ravenswood called Nadeau. This place is a must if you are looking for quality wooden pieces! It is all imported from India and Indonesia and sold at wholesale prices. Our table was very affordable compared to similar ones we were finding at brand name stores. We also found a beautiful new outdoor sectional for our rooftop on Craigslist; a woman was selling the floor models from a trade show and we only paid half of the retail price! Don’t be afraid to check Craigslist. Lastly, I spent close to nothing on artwork. All of the photography and most of the artwork in our gallery walls is my own (with the exception of a few pieces). You can really get creative with artwork for a gallery wall—one of the pieces in our living room is just a cool coaster that I kept and framed!
What are your favorite unexpected sources for furniture and accessories you have found while decorating your home?
My parents attic! I’ve cleaned that place out. I found what is now our bar cart up there, and almost fainted from excitement. My parents used it as an end table in their living room back in the 80’s. Another great attic find was the blue pot by our dining room table (my mom bought it at an antique store in Japan when she was pregnant with me). Also, you’ll see brass candlesticks randomly dispersed throughout our apartment—I found those in my parents attic as well, they were being prepped for a garage sale when I swooped in and stole them. Old stuff is the best stuff, I highly recommend raiding your parents houses when decorating a new apartment!
When you moved in with your fiancé, what changes did you make to your decorating style? Did your styles easily mesh? Did you purchase anything together?
Luckily, our styles mesh very well together. I have always had more of a gender-neutral aesthetic and Kyle is laid back enough to let me do my thing when decorating. I consulted with him on (almost) everything first, but he didn’t object to anything which I was grateful for! However, I did nix his old plastic sports cups—the ones with different athletes on them from the 90’s—as our main drinking glasses. (He kept a few in the cabinet but most are in storage now.) Since we were both previously living with roommates, we had been using a lot of our parents old furniture and hadn’t really invested in any quality pieces of our own yet. We figured that since we were buying this home and planning on staying a while that it was time to invest in some newer, long lasting items. We ended purchasing a lot together and it was really fun!
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Don’t stress so much! And don’t compare your path to others. The future is exciting and everything will unfold and work out as it should, just be patient and enjoy the process of figuring out who you are and what you want to do. Also, start moisturizing now.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Well I’m really looking forward to getting married and I’ve always been excited to start a family, so hopefully in five years I will be a mother. It is also my goal to continue sustaining a living doing what I love and I hope that the busywrist brand has grown substantially by then as well. I know balancing a family and a business will be crazy, but the thought of it really excites me.
Megan Koranda is The Everygirl…
Flowers or chocolate?
Both are my favorite. But I love fresh flowers.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
“Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”
TV show you wish was still on the air?
Friends (Cliche but true.)
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Can Mary Kate and Ashley count as one woman? I’d probably order a well-done steak, or something that takes forever to cook so I could have more time to stare at them.