Five Questions With Deb Cohen of The Front Door Project

For years now, I’ve had preservation friends from social media; but, it was only about two years ago that I started to meet my “social media” friends in “real life”. I love making the world smaller and meeting friends who are doing inspiring work. Enter a new series to Preservation in Pink: Five Questions With. In this series, I’ll be talking with colleagues, social media friends, and others I admire to learn some tricks of the trade, hear their stories, and introduce you to more preservationists.

Introducing the second interview: Deb Cohen! 

Deb Cohen of The Front Door Project.

Deb Cohen of The Front Door Project.

Deb is a rising star in the Instagram/historic preservation crowd. She is creator of The Front Door Project Instagram account and blog of the same name. As with most social media finds, I cannot remember how I first came across Deb’s gorgeous architectural gallery, but I’m so glad I did. Wanting to know Deb’s story and how she emerged on the preservation scene, I am thrilled that Deb agreed to answer five questions for Preservation in Pink readers. And as a coffee lover, Deb fits right in with this crowd. Read the interview below.

  1. Deb, you are new (to me) on the historic preservation scene. Are you actually new to it? If so, where have you been hiding?

I am a lifelong lover of historic architecture, and grew up in an older Victorian home, but I am new to the historic preservation scene. My background is actually in finance, and I have worked for various insurance companies for over twenty years since receiving my accounting degree from the College of William & Mary. I have always appreciated historic architecture and as I look back on my life I realize many of my choices have been influenced by the look and feel of my environment.

My parents taught me the importance of maintaining original woodwork and about the value of antiques. I was drawn to William & Mary largely due to the old feel of the campus which is even more enhanced by its location next to Colonial Williamsburg, and one of the reasons my husband and I chose West Hartford as our home was because of its older architecture. I insisted that we live in an older home because newer homes just “don’t have the same charm”.

Until the last couple of years, my life was so busy with family and career that I lost sight of what I was really interested in. Through the photography I started in the spring of 2014 I have developed a passion for historic architecture and preservation. I became a member of the Historic Commission in town last year, and have become a voice in town advocating for the preservation of our incredible architectural history. I only wish I could turn back time and choose Historic Preservation as my major in college!

2. For people who don’t know about The Front Door Project, would you tell them about how its origins. 

I started taking photos of doors in the spring of 2014 as a way to occupy my time as I walked the neighborhoods of my hometown. My teenage daughter had an Instagram account focusing on preppy fashion and she had so much fun sharing ideas with other people that I decided to open one of my own to share my door photos.

Much to my surprise, people started to follow along which encouraged me to walk in new areas to find new material. I called it a “project” because it was really a project in terms of my self-improvement! To get more exercise, get outside more often and develop a new interest. I’m happy to say I have been able to do all of those things and more and am flattered and thrilled that so many people enjoy following along.

3. After studying doors for a while, what can you say about them and replacement doors v. original doors? 

[A bad replacement door] hurts my heart a little bit! More than any other part of the home, the entry says so much about the home’s character and history and even a little something about the owners, I think. When an original door is replaced with something that doesn’t suit the home it dramatically alters its appearance and makes things look off-kilter.

And, ever since I started this project many people have “come out of the closet” as door lovers as well, and quite a number of people have told me that they have started noticing interesting doors and homes too!

I think people notice if others have paid some time and attention to their door to highlight it as a welcoming point of entry into their home. It could be a unique color, a beautiful pots of flowers, a wreath or any combination of details that make an entry noticeable.

4. What advice can you give to people who are nervous about taking pictures of people’s houses? Have you had any bad encounters? 

Unless you are on private property, legally there is nothing to stop someone from photographing your home. I take my photos from the street or sidewalk for the most part, unless I have permission from the owner.

Having said that, with the exception of one individual, no one has ever asked me not to take a photo of his/her home. People are always flattered once I explain that I admire their home and use the photographs to provide inspiration to others!

On the one occasion that I was asked not to take a photograph, I didn’t. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable and certainly respect their wishes in that regard, even though I’m legally within my rights.

5. The best part of The Front Door Project is: 

That’s a tough question! There is so much I love about it. But I think the best part would have to be the community, whether it be fellow old house lovers, people passionate about home decor or those of us that just love to see pretty things and interact with one another.

I also love how it has opened other people’s eyes to historic preservation and an appreciation of our older architecture. In fact, I had one follower tag me in a photo of her new house recently, an older home. She said that I inspired her and her husband to purchase an older home for their first house. That’s pretty cool!

Thank you, Deb. You are inspiring! (And choosing just a few photos for this post was not an easy decision!) Keep up the beautiful work and welcome to the historic preservation world. Now, let’s go for a cup of coffee.


Five Questions with Raina Regan on Instagram + Preservation

For years now, I’ve had preservation friends from social media; but, it was only about two years ago that I started to meet my “social media” friends in “real life”. I love making the world smaller and meeting friends who are doing inspiring work. Enter a new series to Preservation in Pink: Five Questions With. In this series, I’ll be talking with colleagues, social media friends, and others I admire to learn some tricks of the trade, hear their stories, and introduce you to more preservationists.

First up, Raina Regan!

Raina is one of my dear preservation pals and we finally met at the Society for Industrial Archeology Conference in Minneapolis/St. Paul in June 2013 after talking for years through our blogs and twitter. We both love our cats, Taylor Swift, photography, preservation, and conferences!

You might know Raina Regan from her work with Indiana LandmarksSteller storiesTwitter, or more likely, her incredible Instagram account. Beautifully composed photographs filled with architectural layers and a mission to show viewers the world through her preservationist eyes,

Raina’s Instagram feed is always one of my favorites. Thinking we could all learn a few tips from Raina, I asked if she’d answer a few questions for Preservation in Pink readers. Read the interview below!

1. How long have you been on Instagram? Why did you start, and what do you love about it? 

I joined instagram in January 2012. I joined Instagram almost immediately after purchasing my first iPhone. I had seen a few friends on the app and really loved the way it was being used to call attention to historic homes, details, and little known places.

Interesting story, my first Instagram photo is a Modern home which is now on our Indiana Landmarks 10 Most Endangered list. I feel like that speaks to what my account has been and continues to be about: historic places (with some other fun stuff sprinkled in).

There are so many things I love about Instagram today, from the friendships I’ve made both in Indianapolis and around the globe. Instagram has opened my eyes and made me more observant of my surroundings.

2. You’re quite well known on Instagram (especially for a preservationist)! Taylor Swift has you beat at 50 million, but you have 23K. That is impressive! And, I’m so proud of you. How did you rise to instagram fame? 

At the end of March, I was surprised by a message from instagram informing me I had been selected as a suggested user.  Every two weeks, Instagram selects a handful (around 200) of users around the globe to highlight. How they select these users is relatively unknown. I like to think it is because I am actively involved with in my local Instagram community (@igersindy) and I provide a unique point of view that highlights architecture. Being selected a suggested user, instagram encourages you to be a “model instagrammer.” I try to stay active by posting daily, commenting and liking photos, attending instameets, participating in the weekend hashtag project, and trying new things with my photography.

3. Your photos are beautiful. Can you share your top tips for insta-worthy photos? 

The grid is your friend! I always have the grid on my camera app turned on and I use it as a guide when taking my shots. There’s a photography trick called the “rule of thirds” (google it for tutorials) which I try to follow when composing my photos and is particularly helpful for instagram. Both of these tips have really helped me increase the quality of my photos.

I primarily use the native iPhone camera for the majority of my Instagram photos. But, I do edit them in a few iPhone apps. My favorites are Snapseed for original editing (such as brightness), VSCO to add a touch of filter, and SKRWT to straighten or fix any skew. I also really enjoy GeotagMyPic which allows you to add the geotag information back into a photo.

4. How do you see instagram playing a role in historic preservation? 

Imagery and storytelling is such an important part of saving historic places. Connecting people to places, increasing awareness, or even reawakening someone’s memories of a place all can be done through instagram. I love getting comments from someone with a favorite memory of a historic place I’ve posted, or comments such as “I hope they preserve that place.” I find that most people I interact with on Instagram are preservationists at heart — even if they aren’t one professionally. We need to do a better job mobilizing these people to get them engaged in the preservation movement more directly.

5. What is your favorite instagram photo?

That’s a hard one, but I would say this photo of the Indiana War Memorial (see below). The War Memorial is one of my favorite historic places in Indianapolis and I love the composition of this photo and the play of textures.

Thank you, Raina! Keep up the great work!

p.s. Raina and I are collaborating for a fun (soon-to-be-announced) event during this year’s #pastforward conference. Stay tuned! 

p.p.s. You can follow Raina’s cat Quincy on Instagram, too. You know you want to.

Featured: Happy Vermont

Today, find Preservation in Pink at Happy Vermont, a travel blog by Vermont writer Erica Houskeeper. Interested in historic buildings and abandoned buildings, Erica asked if I would be interested in talking about Vermont’s abandoned buildings in time for Halloween. Of course! Read the post here and let Erica know your thoughts.

Click to read the article by Erica Houskeeper at Happy Vermont.

Click to read the article by Erica Houskeeper at Happy Vermont.

Happy exploring!