Project Plans for 2021

Last night we had a family meeting (with the 3 oldest kids joining via videochat). Each of us reported on our year, and we reviewed a list of family goals we had made at the beginning of 2020 — laughing hard at how few we accomplished. For example, at the beginning of 2020, we were confident we would be moving into the Tall House, probably in the fall, and certainly by Christmas. (Hahaha!)

I like making goals, though I don’t beat myself up if I don’t always accomplish them. A big part of what I like about goal-making is creating a picture in my head of a possible future. Goals help me focus, and they give me something to look forward to. I make goals throughout the year, but January is my favorite time to think about what’s next — even though I know the calendar is arbitrary.

For 2021, here’s what’s on my mind goal-wise:

Launch a Show
I really want to create a show based on the renovation work we’re doing in France. This is by far the biggest project idea on my mind these days.

I love the work we are doing, and I love sharing the work with readers and social media subscribers. And I’ve received a ton of feedback that people want more and that they already think of it as a sort-of show.

I’m confident an actual show will help me share more consistently, and that having structured episodes will be easier for people to follow along with the renovations — and make it easier to re-watch or go back to an episode if they missed something (which is hard on Instagram stories when footage disappears after 24 hours).

We have several projects to feature in a potential show — the Tall House, the Small House in the back (from the 1400s!), and the Cottage in the countryside. If the show is working, we’d also love to tackle a bigger renovation project here in France — like a small chateau or a building that could become a boutique hotel.

There are two very frequent comments I get from people who see the renovation updates in my Instagram stories. One of them is how calming it is to watch; that even when problems arise, it’s not stressful. Our oldest, Ralph, who has been watching the renovations from America, described the footage as a cross between HGTV and ASMR. (Hah!) I like that description and think it’s a good base for how a possible show could look and feel: Calming. Mr. Rogers vibes. Wholesome. Unstressed responses to troubles or issues.

I also want the show to have strong elements of learning and discovery, because so much of our personal experience while renovating has been about learning and discovery. I’m picturing sidebars about history when we find shrapnel in the attic, and learning about products and restoration techniques — like a factory tour of the tile producer, or learning how to tint plaster.

The other most frequent comment I get from people who see the renovation updates in my Instagram stories is how much they enjoy seeing our children working with us on this project. And I think showing our family working together could also be a really positive aspect of the show.

I can easily visualize what this show is. I’ve mapped out a season of 20 episodes and what we could cover. But I don’t know how to go about creating the show. I mean, I kind of do. We did this with Olive Us all those years ago. We just hired a crew, and brought them to France, and started creating videos. No one told us to do it, we just wanted to, so we did. Eventually, Scripps approached us and bought 20 episodes beyond the 20+ we’d already made. Related, I know people build shows on Youtube or IGTV as well (my kids love watching Binging with Babish, a cooking show on Youtube). So we could try to take that sort of DIY approach to the show, but right now, I think it’s the wrong direction.

What I really want is to do a more traditional show with production and distribution that launches on a big streaming platform like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Apple TV, Disney+, etc.. But I don’t have a sense of the steps I would need to take to pitch that idea or create that show or generally how to make it happen. (If you have any knowledge or experience with this and can point me in the right direction, I’m all ears.)

I think a show would also help me with a second goal…

Help People Learn About Moving Abroad
We field a ton of inquiries on the why and how we moved to France. And as you know I try to share that information freely and have several blogposts I point people to. But I’d like to create an Official Guide that would really help walk people through the process, and give them everything we’ve learned — every mistake and helpful tip and experience hack — all in one place.

It used to be unusual that Ben Blair and I both worked at home, which allowed us to work from anywhere in the world that has reliable internet. But the pandemic changed everything. The world has now clearly demonstrated that there are a ton of jobs that can be done remotely. It’s easy to predict that even once offices are safe again, many employees will continue to work from home. I think that means more people will opt to experience the same sort of adventure our family is on — working from another country, or even a non-big-city part of the U.S.. I’d love to help people make that happen.

Beyond creating a Guide, I’ve also talked with people locally about creating a network/service so that people can easily move abroad for a couple of months, as a temporary experiment to see if they enjoy it before they commit to applying for a visa.

But first, I’m focused on creating a Guide. I’m still unsure on the format. I’ve considered some sort of downloadable digital book/pdf, but I think I would prefer a format that can be easily updated with fresh information so that it’s always up-to-date — possibly a dedicated website (or section of a website) would be better than a pdf. If you’ve ever purchased a guide or e-book or online course, I’d love to hear which formats you prefer.

Write a Parenting Book with Ben Blair
This project has been in the works for much of 2020. In the late spring, Ben and I set time aside weekly to work on a book proposal. We gave the 75-page proposal to our book agent just before Thanksgiving, and she found a publisher before Christmas! We’re supposed to sign the contract this month and once it’s official, I’ll tell you more about it.

For now, I’ll just tell you that I’m so excited about this. I loved working on the proposal with Ben and can’t wait to write the book together. For years, I’ve been collecting the parenting questions that Design Mom Readers send me, and I feel like we have a really good sense of the parenting topics where we can be most helpful.

Publish a Coffee Table Book about the Tall House Project
This is another book project that I would love to tackle this year. Ideally it would publish as we finish the Tall House renovation — even better if it publishes at the same time as a show that showcases the renovation!

For this project, I would like to hire a photo-editor and a writer. For the writer, I want them to interview me and Ben and then use the interviews to help tell the story of the renovation. For the photo-editor, I want them to go through all images taken at the Tall House (we have so many), select the best images for the book, and figure out which images we still need to finish telling the story (and then we would shoot those images).

The actual renovation work, the photos, and the words in the interviews would all be ours, but we would hire out the “building” of the book. My thinking is that brain-wise, I want to use my writing energy for the parenting book, but I don’t want the Tall House book to be delayed, so if I can hire out the building of the Tall House book, that could mean both book projects are doable at once.

But I haven’t talked to my publisher or agent about this idea yet, so it may get totally nixed. Hah! We’ll see. We may have to push this book project to another year. : )

There you have it. Project-wise, this is what I’m thinking about for 2021. Will I accomplish all of this? Maybe. Maybe not. But it will sure be fun to try. What about you? What is on your mind for 2021? Are you thinking about projects? Self-improvement? Maybe you have reading goals? Or perhaps you’re delighted to have survived a pandemic so far, and you can leave it at that. (By the way, I’m serious about the show — if know how to make it happen, please reach out.)

P.S. — There is one more project, but I hesitate to write about it. I’m still interested in doing a Podcast. I want to call it A Few Things and I want it to be like my Friday blog posts — personal updates, current events I’m thinking about (including article links), cool products I’ve found, reports on different projects, responses to reader inquiries, stuff like that.

But I don’t want to make a big deal of it. In the past, when I started working on a podcast launch, it became too weighted and stressful in my head, and I had to stop. So for this attempt, I’d like to keep it casual, and experiment a bit until I find a format that is enjoyable for listeners, and for me as the creator. And then build from there. So maybe I’ll try a beta-launch-podcast. Is that a thing?

97 thoughts on “Project Plans for 2021”

  1. You should reach out to Ree Drummond the Pioneer Women about doing a show. I think she would share her experience, as she started with a blog also.

  2. Your old friends Joanna and Chip Gaines are starting a network. I bet they would have some tips for you or even be interested in your show themselves.

  3. I would definitely listen to a podcast of yours. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just try it and see if it works. If it doesn’t do something different, either within the podcast or different entirely. I’ve always admired your “have a go” attitude – look at what you built with Alt summit!

    Regarding a show about the house updates, it sounds wonderful. One thing I’ve noticed with commercially produced TV is that they insist on “jeopardy”. So in an episode about bathrooms they’ll push the story of a leak, or in an episode about finishing there will be a “will they be in for Christmas” storyline. If you do get in talks with anyone see if this element can be left out, if it’s not something you enjoy either.

    I too find your stories calming. But many “factual” TV shoes that I ought to enjoy are made unwatchable to me by this focus on jeopardy. Tiny House Nation, for example. Instead of just focusing on building tiny liveable houses (so watchable) they always some “element” that they are forcing into the home purely, it seems to me, for the purpose of a storyline. I recall one about a wine cellar, but honestly I stopped watching after two episodes for that reason.

    I’m not sure if I’m explaining what I mean well, but I hope you know what I mean.

    Thanks for continuing to share here Gabby. I love your blog and check many times on a Friday waiting for A Few Things! All the best for a wonderful 2021.

    1. I love your comment so much, Hayley. I totally agree about shows trying to force some sort of jeopardy into each episode — and it has kept me from getting into most reality TV shows. It bothers me so much. I would love to try a different approach — maybe a show modeled after PBS learning shows is where I should aim. Maybe the show should be like Bob Ross but for house renovations.

      And yes to just trying the podcast. That’s what I want to do — just record some stuff and see if there’s anything worthwhile there.

  4. Hooray!! What amazing, creative, and EXCITING goals! Count me in to watch your show + buy your parenting book — thanks for sharing your goals with us! I love how many creative modalities you engage in, it inspires me to find new ways to create in my life. Cheers to a hopeful and healthy new year!

    1. Thanks for the enthusiasm, Gillian. It’s much appreciated. I’m really excited about the direction of the parenting book and can’t wait to put it out into the world.

  5. oh my goodness, I am in awe as always. YES YES YES to all these projects! And I love that the idea of pitching a show to Disney, HBO, HGTV etc is not stressing you out, but the thought of a podcast does. That little detail just tickles me and makes me love you more.

    1. Hahahah! I hadn’t thought about how funny that is, but you’re right. The idea of pitching a show doesn’t intimidate me (even though I’m sure to receive some rejection), but for whatever reason, the podcast is SO intimidating to me. I want to get it right and I’m not sure what “it” is.

  6. Sooo excited about the possibility of a show and I so agree with what you envision as the tone! Would also be stoked about either/both of the books and a possible podcast. Bring on the content!

  7. I recently stumbled across this, and it might be an option for launching a show. It also sounds perfect for the Magnolia Network. Don’t you already have a connection to JoAnna Gaines? Good luck! I’d love to watch it.

    1. Thanks for the link, Jessica. I’ll check it out. And yes, I do have a connection to Joanna Gaines. If I figure out how to create a good TV pitch, I’ll be sure to send it to her.

  8. wow! talk about an ambitious 2021. all those projects sound incredible and like five years of work in one! I’m excited to follow along as you undoubtedly progress towards achieving what seems inconceivable to mere mortals in your audience!

    1. Hahahah. You’re right. My list is very likely too ambitious. But hey, if I only accomplish some of this — or just make progress on some of these projects — it will feel great.

  9. I can’t offer any advice on how to make any of these awesome projects a reality but I can offer my support and encouragement! All of these projects sound amazing and I would 100% watch your show, buy your book, and listen to your podcast.

  10. Hello Gabby! I’m looking forward to seeing the results of all these exciting projects! I just sent you a message about podcasting. We are also an American family living in France for the last 5 years and love seeing your take on some of the things we have also experienced. Wishing you and your family a happy new year!

  11. Those are impressive goals! Congratulations on your book deal. No leads on the show sorry, but I’d definitely watch such a show. I’m inspired by the bravery of your goals; it can be scary to admit to the bigger goals, I think, because of the possibility of not achieving them (or is it just me who feels that way)?! But why not, right?

  12. I love reading your big dreams! My husband is a big dreamer/goal setter too. I’m a small dreamer. My new years goals include things like getting a haircut and buying very soft pajamas. Cheers to the big and small dreams of 2021!

  13. Long time reader and I would absolutely buy, watch, read, listen to, learn from all of these. Your creativity and ambition are so inspiring to me!! I also think you should publish a book of your essays!!

  14. I believe the Bucket List Family went through a lot of steps to create a cartoon, including pitching to a lot of big online networks and may have some tips! I love watching your stories, I love the extra knowledge I learn, like about the weights you found in the garden and watching your family work together and with local experts! I look forward to what you come up with!

  15. I love the calming aspect in a design/home show. I see so many of those home improvement show that include drama. I swear some of it is made up. Maybe they think we love having extra drama, but to be honest, I personally cannot handle it. One show featured a snapping turtle, an alligator, a skunk and a t-rex (just kidding about the last one) that came unto or into the property during the reno. I know that there are all sorts of surprises that come up. But I would enjoy the calm solution finding approach rather than the heated drama.

    1. SO MUCH of the drama is made up. I remember that clearly from the House Hunters International episode we did. And I’m with you — I would much prefer a calm, drama-free, problem-solving renovation show.

  16. I’m sure there will be a network or platform out there interested in creating a show with you and your family! Audiences love a good renovation, along with the allure of your homes being in France in such charming areas.

    There is a show that airs on PBS in the US called “Escape to the Chateau” that has a similar vibe.

    It’s an Irish/British couple renovating a chateau in France (both as a family home and venue for weddings and a small hotel), while raising their 2 young children.

  17. I just watched the Minimalists’ documentary on Netflix that came out on January 1st. They might be helpful in offering advice on getting a show on a streaming service.

  18. I am totally here for all of your goals! Maybe the show in particular. Your stories about renovating the tall house are so soothing and inspiring– definitely a bright spot for me in these challenging times!

  19. I mean, you did kind of get the ball rolling for Chip and Joanna Gaines. They should be able to help you out :)
    I love your ideas and will support and promote you along the way. :)
    Your home show idea sounds kind of like a This Old House, French style, with factory tours, respecting history, and involving community. Add your family to it, and voila!

    1. “Your home show idea sounds kind of like a This Old House, French style, with factory tours, respecting history, and involving community. Add your family to it, and voila!”

      That’s a really good description. I’m going to make a note of it. Thank you, Kristen!

  20. I have been loving your renovation updates on instagram and really do find them calming. Watching them is like taking a deep breath. I also love the intermittent political twitter updates!

  21. I imagine I’m in the minority (perhaps a minority of 1) but I feel ambivalent about the prospect of a show. I look forward to reading your blog so much. I do enjoy programs about architecture, design, history, culture and travel. You mentioned Mr. Rogers – so I would love to imagine a series like those on PBS instead of HGTV. Whatever direction you go, best of luck and thank you for all that you’ve shared.

  22. I would absolutely be a regular watcher of a show about your renovations. And like many other commenters, I too would welcome a lack of drama that seems a bit unreal on HGTV shows. I really enjoy your laid back, “lets learn from mistakes” and “always move forward” approach.

    A question: do you also make personal goals that are not related to the family businesses? I appreciate you may not want to share those with your instagram audience. I am just curious as to whether you create them.

    1. I do make personal goals for sure. But they tend to be things that are harder to quantify or “mark off the list”. For example, I want to study French more and be better at French. But that’s sort of lifelong goal, you know? I won’t be done by the end of 2021. Still, I like to make personal goals anyway. I should probably make the personal goals more specific — like for the French-speaking goal, I could aim to get through a certain level of a French course or language app.

  23. HGTV meets ASMR is so accurate. I love your stories, I love your posts, and I love your videos. Basically, I’m game to support/watch/read/listen!

    1. I imagine my big dreams are obnoxious to some people. Oh well. I make big plans a lot — and many times they fail or don’t come to fruition. But that’s okay. Because other times they work out and it’s awesome.

  24. Yes please on the guide to moving abroad! It’s surprisingly challenging to piece together all of the logistics and I’d gladly pay for a go-to guide.

  25. Wonderful goals and I will be following along with all of them. Your IG house renovation stories are the absolute best! Thank you and cheers to 2021!

  26. One of the things I have always loved about the projects you share and the aspects of your life that you choose to share is that you Dream Big! I just have not found the confidence to think this way yet, and I’m always awed and inspired by your writing!

    1. That’s really kind of you to say, Caitlin. Thank you. I do dream big. Sometimes I don’t dare to say the dreams out loud, and other times I feel no hesitation. I wonder what that’s about?

  27. As a long-time reader, I’m 100% in on watching/reading/listening to all of these! I’ll second (or third) that the “calm” aspect to the show would be very appealing to me — more of a This Old House than HGTV false cliff hanger vibe. I also urge you to jump in with a not-perfect podcast. I imagine you put a lot of time into the A Few Things posts but one of my favorite things about them is that they feel very casual and I think that could work for a podcast from you as well.

    1. “more of a This Old House than HGTV false cliff hanger vibe”

      Yes! That’s exactly what I want.

      And thank you for the encouragement about diving in on a podcast. If I can figure out a casual approach I will be over the moon about it.

  28. Just commenting to say I would love a guide to moving abroad, specifically with children. We just set our own ambitious goal to move to Spain in 2023, but I feel overwhelmed by all the steps we need to take between now and then. I’ve started to dip my toe in the water by joining expat Facebook groups for the cities we are considering moving to but am finding that most expats are either single 20-somethings or retirees. There don’t seem to be a lot of Americans moving to Europe with their elementary schoolers and I’d love to read really in-depth accounts from those who have done it.
    Maybe that’s what you need to create: a place on the web where we can all find mentors! I’d love to communicate with people like ourselves who are already in our future country and can help us find our way. I’d love to be an early participant in something like that getting off the ground.
    Or if it already exists, can someone point me to it?

    1. I think you’re right about there not being many expats with young children. And when they do exist, they are usually with the military or a specific company who makes most of the arrangements on their behalf. But I also feel like we can predict that with more flexible work situations (because of the pandemic) that we could see more expats of all ages and stages in the near future. Which is a big reason for me wanting to create a guide. I receive so many questions about how we did it!

  29. Bravo to you, what great plans to have! I would adore a show on the renovation, your instagram stories are the best thing on there. Am here for it all, congratulations.

  30. I love all these ideas and agree that the renovation is very relaxing and interesting. I like the details, working with the tradespeople, and the unrushed pace. Unlike the super fast overnight renovation, your project feels real and attainable. I also really like how your family finds small things and cleans them up to save as elements in the house. Like the green glass knobs and the others that you soaked in vinegar. This was fascinating to me!

  31. I’m very excited about all of this but I am especially excited the parenting book. I take your design book out from the library a few times a year and just love the way it’s written. You have a lot of love and respect for your children and I find it so inspiring.

    Your goals are inspiring too and I believe they are totally achievable. Best of luck to you and your family!

  32. I look forward to everything you post and have especially enjoyed the Tall House IG stories. They’ve been a sweet balm during these challenging times. My favorite reno program is This Old House on PBS for many of the reasons you have stated — it’s calm and focused on solving problems, no drama — plus teaches all kinds of interesting things, historical and skills-based, while showcasing and appreciating wonderful craftsmen of all sorts. Anyway, best wishes as you work on these worthy projects. Personally, I’d like to know what a day in the life of Gabrielle looks like!

  33. These big dreams are so inspiring, Gabby. I so appreciate the direction you want to take with the Tall House show. It seems that steering clear of the “manufactured tension” vibe would point you toward the BBC or PBS and away from HGTV. I’m imagining that nice Britsh lady with the soothing voice who does the narration for The Great British Baking Show and Escape to the Chateau telling us about the tile factory or your plaster guy’s tool box. I’ve got the whole show in my head! Ha!
    I can’t wait! (When is season 2 coming out?)

  34. I love your ideas, I love the big dreams, and I so appreciate you sharing them publicly. It inspires me to set a few dreams in motion too!

    I have not read all the comments, so forgive me if I am repeating – one thing I always appreciate about your posts / projects is your ability to both search/find AND include stories of others, that relate to your own. (I loved hearing about Winckelmans! I loved hearing about Olive’s college decisions, even about the places she ultimately did not choose! Etc) I think I appreciate your blog / social media etc more because you tell complex stories, that ripple out in many directions. I’m excited to see what you do in 2021! May it be a better year for everyone everywhere.

  35. Your goals are so ambitious compared to my “no cookies in 2021.”

    During the pandemic I’ve been watching a lot more YouTube content than I ever have in my life, and actually prefer it over commercially produced shows on Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, even PBS (except Antiques Roadshow and GBBO, of course). I’m so over the aspect of a show needing drama or a failure to propel an episode forward. I like that the YouTubers I’ve been watching a focus on one topic and reports it without drama. Some of the channels I like and would recommend bc they have aspects similar to your hopes:
    Garden Answer – like gardening + ASMR
    Tasting History with Max Miller – food history + recipe trying
    English Heritage – I love their Victorian Way series, the production value is great even though it is essentially a period Victorian cooking series

    As you can tell, I love combining history, DIY, and a soothing presentation. I like Babish too but I can’t even attempt what he makes! I find Food Wishes to be entertaining and more approachable.

    Good luck!

  36. the book about education is the most exciting project! (for me ahaha); you have so much experience and your kids are so different and have gone through all the major stages! How do you make your family a team and how do you keep a good humour in the famoly, that would be my 2 main questions. And thank you for sharing your renovation, it’s true, it is relaxing (but in the last episode I couldn’t help wondering about your back! scrubbing the floors is a hard exercise). All the best from Paris

  37. I love all of these ideas and that you are putting them out into the Universe for them to come to fruition.

    For the podcast, I would consider a format like the “Youre Wrong About” podcast. It’s very easy and entertaining. Almost sounds like you are having a conversation with friends. Or eavesdropping on a really great one.

  38. A friend and I talk about how much we like to look at your highlights during stressful times (like today’s Georgia runoffs) – it is a sort of ASMR experience. I think you are on the right path re PBS/Bob Ross – or maybe the BBC and not HGTV. There’s a BBC show called Repair Shop that Netflix has picked up here in the US – it has that same vibe.

  39. You should definitely try to watch Escape to the Chateau it’s so good! A combination between that and This Old House with your family in the mix would be fantastic!
    I so hope you achieve it!! ☺️

  40. The parenting book, yes, please! I’m so curious about how you’ve built such a lovely dynamic of family with your children. I’ve got a 2 and 5 year old and am striving for the same. <3

  41. I love to hear about your plans, I’d love to watch your show and I would like it if it were an YouTube/Netflix thing as I could see it from Spain. I agree with other comments that some networks add drama to episodes for no reason and I feel like Great Designs (BBC) or even the new Studio McGee show on Netflix is not dramatic at all and feels good to watch. I love how you tell your stories on Insta. Good luck with your projects, whatever format you end up with the story you’re telling is still great. Cheers,

  42. This is so inspiring! My partner and I love watching old episodes of This Old House for their wholesome charm. This feels like a cousin of that show in some ways! Thank you for sharing.

  43. These are amazing ideas and I wish you luck with all of them! Have you seen the show called “The Repair Shop” on Netflix? It’s about master craftspeople who repair and restore people’s family heirlooms. It has a similar vibe to what you’re describing – it’s very gentle and any difficulties are framed as learning opportunities. I enjoy it tremendously, as I’m sure I would the show you’re describing about your family.

  44. I have another goal for you to add to your ambitious and inspiring list (so generous of me to add your list – ha!): a marriage book. Your family is lovely, and clearly you have such a great philosophy and wonderful, useful ideas around parenting, but having a rock solid marriage/partnership is crucial in a two-parent household. I so admire the relationship you and Ben have. The plans, ideas, and goals you have accomplished would be nearly impossible without it. I have a million questions about how you relate, communication styles and techniques, goal setting, how you resolve important differences, how you support each other or ask for support. I could go on and on. It’s especially impressive because you married so young, before your pre-frontal cortexes were even finished developing, and yet you’ve grown in the same direction all these years and share the same vision. I’m so impressed with you two.

  45. I love all of these ideas and would watch and read the heck out of all of them, but the one I’m particularly interested and excited about is the guide to moving abroad. Its always been a dream of mine to take my family to a new country but am daunted by the details and process. Having a guide and a network of people to turn to would be so incredibly helpful.

  46. I love these big goals. Like many others, I like your take on a home improvement show! Yes to educational, calming, historical, family, etc. And, I also appreciate and am inspired by your big goals. I have a couple of project ideas that I’ve never started because they seem too daunting but this nudged me to move forward on them. So thank you!!

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