Say hello to Rachel, our newest Designer!
We are stoked to introduce you to Campfire’s newest designer – Rachel Howlett! Rachel join us from Tulsa, Oklahoma by way of New Haven, Connecticut.
With a background in architecture, Rachel will be joining our interior design team, helping to bring brand experiences to life. She’s an impressive plant whisperer, part-time blogger, and seasoned DIY home renovator.
Originally from Oklahoma and transplanting from Connecticut, how did you know Richmond was the next place for you?
Ever since graduating college, I knew I wanted to be on the east coast. I had a great run living in New Haven but was definitely interested in getting back to my roots with some warmer, more southern weather. For the past few years my husband and I have been trying to figure out where we wanted to make our permanent home. We wanted a walkable city that had a thriving design community, warm weather, and lots of green space. We always had a soft spot in our hearts from Richmond but could never quite pull the trigger on the move. Once I found Campfire and our new house, I was totally sold and am super excited to call this city my home.
At your previous firm, Pickard Chilton, you had the opportunity to work some really unique projects. Tell us more about your fav ones:
One of my all time favorites was working on a large scale, mixed-used development in Japan. As part of the design deliverables, we created a 200-page book and another 100-page book that each were intended to provide design guidance to the individual architects and retail designers working on the project. The research for the project required a serious deep dive into Japanese culture as well as key architectural and philosophical principles of Japanese design. I loved it. Plus going to Japan a couple times was a nice bonus. Another favorite was a 50-story tower called River Point in downtown Chicago. It was my first built project and I worked on it for 4 years. Standing in your first building as an architect is such a crazy feeling.
In your spare time, you and your husband renovated a house, or a duplex rather, so basically two houses! What were the highs and lows of that process?
Camping out in one room of your house for 3 months without a kitchen or comfortable place to sit was definitely a low. To take it to the next level, one of those months we had no indoor plumbing and our sewer line kept backing up into our basement. Not the most pleasant lifestyle..
As for the highs, there were so many! Some of my favorite days during the renovation were early on in the project when my husband and I would spend mornings outside before work, stripping and sanding old trim molding for the windows and doorways. The crisp Fall weather was perfect and it was a great way to kickstart the day. Another high was seeing the giant hole cut in our roof to make way for the dormer. That feeling of progress during a renovation is so rewarding and keeps you motivated to finish it out.
Oh and you wrote a blog about it! What’s that been like? Trying to get on that Young House Love level or more just to document the process and share with family?
We’re still trying to figure that one out. We’ve always had dreams of combining our love of renovation, plants, and furniture design but haven’t quite nailed down what that looks like.
Writing the blog seemed like a great way to express ourselves and start to define our identity out there in the world. After the major renovation projects were wrapped up at our New Haven house I started to lose a bit of momentum on posting but am looking to fire it back up as we start our Oregon Hill renovation. I’ve been brainstorming lately about ways to revamp the blog and keep that content coming. Stay tuned!
Your role at Campfire & Co. will be a pretty big change from your last job. What are you most excited about?
My previous client base consisted of developers and large corporations so I am excited for the change of pace where I will be working directly with the people that will occupy the space. I’m also really looking forward to the hyper-local quality of the projects. While I loved traveling all over for my last job, I am excited to work on projects that directly impact the community I’m a part of.
You and your husband are have settled in a new house in Oregon Hill, and not surprisingly, you’re going to renovate again! What’s the first project on your list?
Where to even begin... we have so many projects planned that it’s been hard to decide where to start. Given the hot Richmond summers, #1 is getting central air installed. The rest of the list is constantly evolving. Just 2 days ago we came to the realization that we needed to tear off the back addition of our house and rebuild it from scratch. We’re thinking that project (along with a complete renovation of the kitchen) won’t start until the Spring. In the meantime, we’ve kicked off the gut overhaul of our laundry room and upstairs bathroom. Yay for new plumbing!
What’s your favorite thing to do in RVA so far?
I love how close we are to the river living in Oregon Hill. It’s so easy to take a quick stroll across to Belle Isle or over to Manchester. Looking out over the James at sunset makes for a seriously pleasant evening. I’ve also loved all of the outdoor activities available in the city from free yoga at Maymont to Friday evenings at the VMFA. It’s such a beautiful city with so much history. I feel like I still have so much to see and discover and am just enjoying these days of exploring!