Straight out of college I started a punk band with some girlfriends. It wasn't that I liked punk music, but it was all we could play and most importantly, it was a lot of fun. The beauty of punk rock is that you don't need much skill; you just need something to say and the courage to scream it out in front of an audience.
When I started Living Room Realty I wanted a courageous message to be at the center of our business. As a result, we decided to focus on the stories of the people we helped rather than the houses themselves. We designed a website and populated it with images of real people in our community, not an idealized version of who we thought “the market” wanted to see. We wanted our clients to show us what mattered most as we helped them find Room to Live. And we wanted to share those stories with everyone.
I say this took courage, because as familiar as this way of doing business has become, no one in real estate was doing this in 2008. Experienced people warned that we would alienate the high-end market; that we risked becoming fringe; that this vision was the path to irrelevance. Who would be persuaded by our images of skateboard ramps, tattoos, mismatched roommates, blended families and adored mutts? Who would be interested in the messiness, the passion projects, the everyday stuff that fills the lives we actually lead, rather than the glossy exterior photos with the perfect, white picket fences?
What we’ve learned is that the unvarnished and revelatory stories our clients share with us are central to our business growth. We owe a debt of gratitude to everyone that has trusted us to serve them, and allowed us to tell the unique story of their home and lifestyle. It’s not just our courage that allows us to succeed—it also depends on your courage as well.
Today, Living Room Realty has reached more than a billion dollars in sales. We are amazed to have told more than 3,300 stories about sellers and buyers. I feel confident we are onto something. I no longer listen to the critics and “marketing strategists" advising us to edit and airbrush, or do anything but simply hold up a mirror to our communities and our clients, and let them shine.
Gathering courage from our experience, we are proud to launch Where’s Your Living Room? Magazine, our new, online living room. We are taking an even deeper dive into the untold stories of beloved homes, distinctive businesses and cherished communities. We are committed to bringing our audience the arresting beauty of revitalization, well-worn patina, clutter, collaboration, discards, decay, new locations, found objects, daily commerce, and visions newly-formed and nascent, burgeoning in every corner of the city.
We’ll include profiles of neighborhoods, told largely by residents, with an eye toward finding connection points that hold communities together. There will be ideas about food, DIY projects, and activities for all. Whether you rent or own your living room, we want you to be inspired to inhabit a meaningful space. We’ll include information about the housing market, offering insights from professionals who solve problems for buyers, sellers, renters, investors and businesses every day. At the core, we believe there is uncommon loveliness all around us, and that is where we will focus our lens.
With the ribbon-cutting at our new office in NW Portland last month, we have now expanded into every quadrant of the city, while stretching to the Oregon coast and Vancouver, WA. This magazine is our next ribbon cutting—and we hope—a way to tie all of us together more closely with shared values of tolerance, resilience and respect. We want to appreciate the faces and stories, the struggles and triumphs of our neighbors; to learn how we go about making room to live, and to celebrate the diverse answers we receive every time we ask, “Where’s Your Living Room?”
Jenelle Isaacson, founder, Living Room Realty
Davia Larson, contributing writer