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DIY blogger earns cash while following her passion for interior design
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert/twelvaert@qconline.com
Kristin Cadwallader sits at her laptop Thursday, Jan. 9, at her Rock Island home. She turned her passion for interior design into a paid job writing for her blog Bliss at Home. The stay-at-home mom embarks on do-it-yourself home projects and posts updates on them at bliss-athome.com.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert/twelvaert@qconline.com
Kristin Cadwallader sits at her laptop Thursday, Jan. 9, at her Rock Island home. She turned her passion for interior design into a paid job writing for her blog Bliss at Home. The stay-at-home mom embarks on do-it-yourself home projects and posts updates on them at bliss-athome.com.
Stay-at-home mom Kristin Cadwallader started her home design blog with an audience composed entirely of friends and family, but after a few months she began receiving requests from companies for product reviews and endorsements.

"Bliss at Home" is the brainchild of Ms. Cadwallader, of Rock Island, and chronicles her work as she undertakes a series of renovations and interior design projects — each with a certain homemade or "do-it-yourself" aesthetic.

The blog features photos and step-by-step instructions for her DIY projects for readers to replicate and put their own spin on. The projects range anywhere from staining glass dishes to installing a library wall of Ikea bookcases, complete with lighting and hidden speakers.

Since its launch in June 2012, the blog has attracted a sizable readership — a lot of young married women who are first-time homebuyers — and the interest of home improvement companies looking to connect with DIYers.

"I kind of fell into this," Ms. Cadwallader said. "I started it to eventually start an interior design business, where I would do residential design, and then it just kind of took on a life of its own."

"A couple months into blogging, I ended up getting approached by brands and by other bloggers and by companies asking me to do reviews or write for them," she said. "I ended up starting to monetize my blog, and after a year's time it became a real steady income."

She admits she didn't entirely understand how to run a lucrative website until she got in touch with some more seasoned bloggers who were happy to address her concerns, she said.

"Some people go into blogging, and they know exactly what to do to make money with it," she said. "I went into it just wanting to share ideas and feature what I could do."

She said her success comes from making the blog as reader-friendly as possible. Plenty of eye-catching photos make the blog easily shared on social sites, like Pinterest, she added.

"I think you've got to fly your freak flag, in a way," she said. "I think that you've got to just own who you are and write how you talk — have a vision of what you want to inspire people to do."

By keeping readers engaged and always responding to their comments -- often inquiries for further information on her projects -- she made her blog stand out even more, she said.

"Companies are really savvy," she said. "They realize that we have a reach that they can't get through magazines or newspapers or television."

Most of her readership is made up of women between age 24 and 54, which happens to be the target audience home improvement companies are looking to court, she said.

Ms. Cadwallader worked with 45 different brands throughout 2013, she said. They typically ask her to review a product relevant to her projects or publicize a sweepstakes that may appeal to other DIYers. In some cases, companies spring to sponsor her renovations by supplying some of the material.

One of her sponsors, The Tile Shop, supplied tile for her fireplace, as well as materials for projects in her kitchen and bathrooms, she said.

"Some of this stuff we've never done before, even though we're both pretty handy with tools," she said.

Free classes, open to anyone, were offered through a store in Madison, Wis., so she and her husband, David, took a day to learn the ins and outs of tiling.

HomeRight contacted her to be one of its "brand ambassadors" for the year. The company, known for paint sprayers, wanted to know what home remodeling projects she planned to take on for the year so it could send her a new product each month to feature in a blog post.

Still, she's not shy about turning down business when a company doesn't quite match her interests and style, she said.

"I'm very choosy about who I work with," she said. "This blog is more about what I like to do, and I don't want to sell out; I really want to stay pure to who we are as a family."

Ms. Cadwallader structured her past ten years around taking care of her boys, Bryce, 10, and Sam, 4. She left her job as a bank teller when she had her first son and has since worked to create the perfect home for her family.

"It's hard when you first stay at home because you miss that second income, and you miss just getting out and being part of the workforce," she said. "That was an adjustment, but it's one I'm glad I chose to do."

While her job as a blogger has given her an outlet to express herself and create her dream home, her family remains her priority, and she schedules her day according to her boys' activities.

"If it took away from our family, or if it took away from me being with the kids, I wouldn't do it," she said. "But it fits what we do."

To get a closer look at the projects that inspire Ms. Cadwallader, visit her blog at bliss-athome.com.





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  Today is Friday, Aug. 1, the 213th day of 2014. There are 152 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: A mad dog was shot in Davenport after biting several other canines and snapping at several children. The police should abate this nuisance — there are about 500 dogs in this city that ought to be killed at once.
1889 — 125 years ago: Track laying operations on 2nd Avenue, stopped by the Moline-Rock Island company last spring for lack of rail, have been resumed.
1914 — 100 years ago: Bulletins allowed to come through the strong continental censorship of all war news indicated that Germany was advancing with a dash against both Russia and France.
1939 — 75 years ago: Emil J Klein, of Rock Island, was elected commander of Rock Island Post 200, American Legion.
1964 — 50 years ago: Members of the Davenport police department and their families are being invited to the department's family picnic to be held Aug. 27 at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.
1989 — 25 years ago: Beginning this fall, Black Hawk College will offer a continuing education course in horseback riding at the Wright Way Equestrian Center, Moline, located just east of the Deere Administration Center.




(More History)