Envy is what one might feel when reviewing Lauren Baker’s resume. From Chicago to Canada and back again, Lauren has held roles at powerhouse companies such as Lululemon, CB2, Crate and Barrel, Holly Hunt, and now Land of Nod. When she’s not busy working as the marketing events manager for Land of Nod, she likes to spend time in her beautiful two-bedroom condo in Ravenswood, Chicago with her adorable pup, Lola.
After searching exhaustively for the perfect condo, Lauren finally took the plunge, bought her first home, and got to work decorating. By combining pieces accumulated over her career (with her many employee discounts), tackling a few DIY projects, and scouring her favorite second-hand stores, Lauren was able to create a beautiful living space on a budget.
Keep reading for a full rundown on everything Lauren Baker and the chance to walk through her impeccably decorated home. Enjoy!
Name: Lauren Baker
Current Title/Company: Marketing Events Manager, Land of Nod
Education: Purdue University/ Major: Retail Management
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
My first job out of college was at American Eagle Outfitters Corporate Office in Pittsburgh, PA as an assistant buyer for accessories. I was vice president of the Purdue retail organization my senior year of college, and also on the planning committee for the Purdue Retail Career Fair. Luckily, that year I introduced the keynote speaker at the conference, so it was a great chance to show my face to all the corporate recruiters! American Eagle was in attendance and I was excited to be hired into their assistant buyer teammate program.
You have had a slew of enviable jobs at companies like Lululemon, Holly Hunt, and Crate and Barrel. What positions did you hold at these companies, and what are some important career lessons you learned?
I spent over 12 years of my career working in merchandising. When I first moved to Chicago back in 2003, I started out at CB2 as a planner assistant. This was back when there was only one store, and they actually launched the website and catalogue during my time with them. Crazy to think of now! After a couple of years I was promoted to product manager assistant for dinnerware and ceramics for Crate and Barrel. It was such a fun job developing product. I am still so picky on what dinnerware and mugs I use at home!
I then made the really tough decision to leave my Crate family and take a position for Holly Hunt. My role at Holly Hunt was associate merchandiser of textiles. In this role I managed all the launches and sample programs for the show rooms. It was a great step to take in order to further my career, but a bit of a scary time because the recession hit. After surviving two rounds of layoffs, I felt very fortunate to have landed my position as planner associate with Lululemon Athletica in Vancouver B.C.
Honestly, at the time, I would have taken any position in order to work for Lululemon (thanks 2010 Vancouver Olympics for the recruitment). If I could have had my pick of any position, a role in merchandising planning probably wouldn’t have been it. However, I was ready for an adventure so three months and a work visa later, I was moving to Canada. Yet, I quickly realized I was on the wrong seat of the bus for that role. Although I loved Lululemon as a company, there was nothing about the job I was passionate about. My personality is not one to be in sitting in front of Excel all day. It was the toughest year of my career, but personally the best year of my life due to the experience and the amazing friends I made. For the first time since graduating high school, I quit my job without a backup plan and decided to move back to the Midwest. It was the hardest decision of my life, but one I knew I needed to happen—there’s no crying in retail!
Luckily, my coworkers at Crate and Barrel put in a good word from me at The Land of Nod and after two phone interviews with the soft goods buyer I was offered a job as a product manager assistant. I was so excited to be able to move back to Chicago and work under the Crate and Barrel umbrella. The one thing I learned most from these experiences is to follow your passion. No amount of money, beautiful mountain scenery, or discount on yoga pants is worth not doing something you love.
What advice would you give to women who want to work for a large company?
Network, ladies. I often call myself the ‘Kevin Bacon’ at The Land of Nod. Everyone is connected in some way, and it’s important to never burn bridges; keep connections intact. Make sure you are putting yourself out there at networking events and utilize every opportunity you meet someone new to help connect you!
You are currently the marketing events manager at Land of Nod and also came up with the idea for the Nod Tour Bus! Tell us about this project.
After two years working in soft goods merchandising for The Land of Nod, and throwing out a million ideas of how we could get involved with our store communities, Michelle Kohanzo, Land of Nod’s Managing Director, recognized my passion and helped create this dream role for me! I really learned a lot about community in my time with Lululemon, and couldn’t wait to bring that sense of community to Nod. Previously Nod only held a few events a year, and in no time #nodevents became my brainchild! I took off running, and it really proved to be a success. I planned over 100 events in our California, Seattle, and Chicago stores in my first year, and continue to build amazing relationships with small businesses, bloggers, and artists in our communities. There’s nothing I love more than to be able to support our store communities and connect with our customers.
The Nod Tour Bus emerged from one of my ideas for a different project that I presented to the executive team, and a year later it actually happened. The #nodtourbus is a mobile marketing tool that we take to different cities around the country; we interact with customers, display products, and once again, Make Fun Happen! It’s definitely one of my biggest challenges, but the tours are ridiculously fun—the first one was in California and the second in Texas. We are headed to the East Coast in April and May! Stay tuned for upcoming stops.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No day as the ‘events lady’ for Nod is the same! On any given day I could be: at the store hosting a play date; working with our creative team on collateral assets for upcoming events; on a conference call with a potential host for a future event; updating our website or social media for #nodevents; and searching upcoming stops for the Nod Tour Bus.
You live in Ravenswood, a Chicago neighborhood. Your condo is beyond beautiful! What drew you to this neighborhood and how did you decide on your home?
I lived in Roscoe Village for years and really loved it but knew I had to move a little more north to be able to afford a two bedroom. I loved how calm and green the Ravenswood area was (plus the new Mariano’s around the corner helped sway my decision too!). I was also really drawn to the outdoor space of my condo; it has both a front balcony and back deck. This was a dream for me and my bulldog, Lola. After living off Damen Street across from a liquor store for the two years before, I was ready for peace and quiet.
I actually looked for a condo for over a year with Redfin. I wasn’t in a hurry and my taste and budget were competing. It honestly felt like dating (until I found the right one that worked out)! I think it’s important to say that I wasn’t sold on my place when I first saw it in pictures. It just didn’t feel like it had the character I wanted; but I knew it was nice and so I had to check it out. The overall feeling of home and possibilities for decorating hit me as soon as I walked in. Plus, I couldn’t help but be excited about the in-unit laundry machines and the chopped ice option in the freezer!
Let’s talk about your home! A home purchase is an exciting and nerve-wracking decision! Walk us through the process: everything from finding a realtor and the home itself, why you chose this neighborhood, the negotiation process, all of it!
This is my first home purchase. I was really over living in subpar rental apartments with horrible landlords. My good friend Daryn Peterson is an awesome mortgage broker for Wintrust Mortgage and helped me understand the process. In fact, a client of his was buying a single family home and hadn’t put their current condo (now mine!) on the market yet, so I got the first look before it hit the market.
Everything just felt right about this home! We were able to come to an agreement without a realtor. Daryn and his team helped me through the mortgage process and connected me with a lawyer and inspector. The negotiation process was fairly simple because I had a very strict maximum price that I did not want to exceed. If it didn’t fit my budget, it wasn’t meant to be. Yes, it was all a bit intimidating but much easier than I thought it would be on my own! It also helped that I received so much positive energy from the previous owners. We actually hugged at closing and they left a bottle of Champagne in my fridge as a gift!
We love how you mix new and vintage pieces, truly making the space your own. How did you approach designing the space? Did you decorate on a budget?
I was inspired by so many of the places I frequent around the city (Heritage Bikes, Parsons Chicken and Fish), Apartment Therapy, friends’ personal home style, Instagram, etc. I definitely decorated on a budget. There are very few items in my home I didn’t buy on promotion, at a sample sale, with my employee discount, or at a vintage flea market/store. I am definitely lucky to have worked for some amazing home retailers in my career, and have accumulated my best pieces over time as my style has involved. I used Pinterest to make a storyboard for my space; I didn’t wanted my home to look like a catalog, but I did want my home to reveal my personality; I wanted it to feel like a home to be proud of!
How long did the decorating process take? What is your favorite thing about the condo?
It’s still a work in progress, but I planned using pin boards and tear sheets for inspiration while in the buying process. I also ran a lot of my choices by my amazing friend, Kim Doren, who works in design services for The Land of Nod. I trust her opinion and style so much! I invested in hiring a professional painter when I bought my place (which I would highly recommend) and it was a game changer. All my doors and walls were painted within two days! I had most of the furniture and just needed to install lighting, a new rug, and a few decor pieces. My living area was finished fairly quickly, but it took about seven months before I finished my bedroom. My favorite thing about my condo is the front window in my living room. It has the best light, especially in the spring and summer when the trees are green and the view is beautiful.
What are your favorite places to find unique and affordable furniture and décor? Also, we need to know the story behind that amazing slipper chair!
I joke that I am the unofficial PR girl of District Chicago. Seriously though, they find the most amazing mid-century pieces and make them beautiful again. I have a love for Hudson Bay stripes after living in Vancouver; I brought Chris, the owner, a Vintage Hudson Bay blanket and had them recover my old white Crate and Barrel slipper chair I had owned for years. I literally cried when I first saw what an awesome job they did!
I also frequent the Randolph Antique Market in the summers. I have been going for years, and you can always find treasures for decent prices there (especially if you wait until Sunday). I also like to do walk-throughs of Salvation Army on my lunch hour searching for treasures. Andersonville Antiques, Brown Elephant, and Merchantile M are my three favorites in Andersonville. Also, how could I not mention The Land of Nod; I promise it’s not because they give me a paycheck! I have found some of my favorite rugs, lighting, and decor at Nod over the years that work amazingly even for my 36-year-old self! The rock lamp in my bedroom is one of favorite pieces.
It’s evident that you are amazing at keeping clutter at bay. Give us your best organizing tip!
I can’t stand clutter in my living space, but this girl is so not perfect. I have a second bedroom that currently serves as a storage room. Honestly though, I am trying to become more minimal so if I don’t use something in six months, why should I own it?
What piece of advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
You can’t afford to shop on Armitage Avenue in Lincoln Park!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In a perfect world I will have a couple of children. This is still my dream, though it hasn’t happened yet; I strongly believe that if it’s meant to happen it will. I hope to still be at Land of Nod growing the events world!
Lauren Baker is the Everygirl…
Morning or night?
Morning, but only if it starts after 9 a.m.
What is your perfect Chicago Saturday?
75 degrees and sunny, walk with my bully Lola around the neighborhood, Over Easy for breakfast, searching for treasures at Randolph Antique Market, relaxing by the sailboats on Montrose Harbor, Antique Taco for tacos/margaritas with friends, and home by 11 p.m. (I’m an old soul if you can’t tell!)
I wish I knew how to….
Do a cartwheel. Honestly, I did a frontward and backward somersault in 8th grade cheerleading try-outs, and it still haunts me.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
The energy you give out…is the energy you get back.
If you could have lunch with one woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Well that’s easy! My best friend Krissy. Why take chances on a celebrity when I know who I would have the best time with? I would order poutine, because I know she wouldn’t judge me. (Although lunch and yoga with Yolanda Foster from RHOBH is tempting….sorry, Krissy!)
Tufted Couch, Jayson’s Home
Coffee table, Holly Hunt
Striped slipper chair, District Chicago (This was an old Crate and Barrel Slipper Chair I had reupholstered by District with a Vintage Hudson Bay Blanket found at Kane County Flea Market)
Blue velvet armchair, Vintage from Salvation Army
Bar cart, Vintage from Randolph Antique Market
Credenza/ TV console, District Chicago
White wool rug, Rugs USA
Ceiling light fixture, Schoolhouse Electric
Sunburst mirror, Home Depot
Gingham dog bed, Waggo
Bed Frame, Jenny Lind Bed The Land of Nod
Oversized wall calendar, Crate and Barrel
Bureau, Brown Elephant Oak Park
Side Table, District Chicago
Gold geometric lamp, The Land of Nod
Spotted bed linens, Schoolhouse Electric Designed by Ashley Goldberg
Lettered shams, Amazon
Striped blanket, Vintage Hudson Bay from Randolph Antique Market
Slatted bench, Amelia Jane Vintage
Floor mirror, Vintage from an Auction in Indiana
Metal #7, Vintage from Randolph Antique Market
Indigo rug, The Land of Nod Patina Rug