8.23.2016

Design Feature: Kevin O'Gara of Thou Swell


I have been completely blown away by a fellow Atlanta blogger for quite some time. From the moment I met Kevin O'Gara I knew he was a rock star but I truly didn't understand the depth of his accomplishments until I became a daily reader of his blog and began to watch his journey. You see, Kevin is just 19 years old and has been writing the lifestyle blog Thou Swell for a few years. My respect for his juggle of high school and the pressures of AP classes and college prep whilst managing a full time blog truly knows no end.

Working with brands like Hewlett Packart, Target, West Elm and Home Depot Kevin creates incredible posts week after week. Sprinkling in his own design work in his posts, Kevin shoots and edits all his own photography. A fellow participant in the last round of the One Room Challenge I was blown away by his finished product, a room he lovingly created for his father. Now knowing he not only designed the space but also shot it himself as he was finishing his last few weeks of high school my admiration for this bright and driven teenager continues to grow.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin before he left for his first semester at Cornell University as we sat over coffee at Caribou.  I was blown away by his relaxed and charming demeanor and he completely drew me in with his story of how it all began.


First of all, tell me about Kevin. How did this journey start for you?

I started out a little differently than most bloggers, because I began on social media before I even blogged. I had Tumblr (thouswell.tumblr.com) and Pinterest (pinterest.com/thouswellblog) accounts, so I was finding beautiful images from lifestyle blogs every day, and after a couple of years it occurred to me that I could take my love of photography and branding and try my hand at blogging. I didn’t start out focused on interiors, but as I wrote more posts I found that sharing home décor and design projects were most interesting to me. Over time, I have focused my content deeper into this genre and I learn so much every day just through the exposure with the digital design community!
Would you do anything differently?
I’m not sure I would – I’m really grateful for those couple of years pinning away because it gave me a platform for recognizing and honing my personal style, as I collected interiors I loved most. My style has definitely evolved overtime as my design vocabulary has grown. I think it was helpful to have that introduction before I started my blog. Perhaps my single regret is that the original name for my blog was ‘Kevin’s Crumbs’!

You have grown your brand so in such a short amount of time.  What would you credit for this success?
Although being a teen blogger has its challenges, like balancing school and my blog projects, I  am grateful for having grown-up with technology. Although I am especially interested in photography and branding – two skills which have served me well in my blog – I also have been able to quickly adapt to social media, new digital marketing techniques, and keeping up with a quickly changing landscape of bloggers and digital influencers. My photography has also set me apart, because I am able to style and shoot all of my posts on my own, and I strive for magazine-quality content! I also have been very driven to grow my blog quickly, and I’m always looking up to and inspired by the bloggers who are ahead of me in their careers to see what they’re doing and how they got there.
Share two people who have influenced you and why?
For the past three summers, I have interned with John Lineweaver in Atlanta, who specializes in marketing and branding for interiors designers and lifestyle brands mostly in the Southeast. I’ve learned many things from him, but one of the most significant was to not underestimate the power of carefully crafted words. He’s a master wordsmith, and his ability to choose the words that will ultimately define a brand is very powerful. The second person who has influenced me is Mandy Kellogg Rye, of Waiting on Martha. She’s one of the first bloggers I met in Atlanta, and has really shown me the power of being kind and engaged – and for Mandy it has created a strong community of creative and entrepreneurial peers as a result.

What inspires you to create?
When I create, I am envisioning an entire lifestyle represented in an image, so it drives me to imagine the details that define everyday living for people, and how design impacts residential life on every level. Although my blog is just a step in this direction, I hope to continue to explore how design can elevate lives.
Favorite thing to write about.
My favorite thing to write about would definitely be interiors! They always inspire me to pull out the most creative vocabulary, and I love imagining the lives of the people who live in the spaces. There’s a lot of personal information revealed in a room design that begins to illustrate how people live, their aspirations, and the client-designer relationship.

Three things you hope to achieve?
I hope to run my own design firm, design products that reach both high and low markets, and impact residential living beyond interiors – perhaps through thoughtful, sustainable housing and urban planning solutions.
You are headed to Cornell University in a few weeks, what does that look like for you?
I am ecstatic to begin a unique program at Cornell called Design & Environmental Analysis, which is a broad design program which will allow me to focus on interiors, but also give me a solid foundation in design problem-solving and sustainability.


Where do you see yourself in five years?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from blogging, it’s that I can never anticipate the opportunities that will come in the future! Although I’m not sure where my path will lead, I know that through my upcoming program I will know more clearly how I see myself moving towards my career goals.

What is your favorite way to unwind?

There is nothing like old, classic jazz to help me relax! I’ve heard it every night since my childhood at dinnertime, and it’s something that will always make me feel right at home. It’s one of the reasons my blog is named after a jazz standard, covered by Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few!


Five must haves.

White jeans, dogs, tasseled loafers, faux-fur throws, and hydrangeas.
Favorite quote.


I know it’s terribly cliché to choose a quote from The Great Gatsby, but I just love this one:

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 



Don't you love him? I can promise you this ... I will be able to say I knew Kevin when he first left for college before he became an award winning interior designer with his own firm and his own product line. That is exactly what is in store for him as he starts his new life at Cornell.

You can follow Kevin by subscribing to his blog Thou Swell, following him on Instagram and Pinterest. His images are incredible and you get a behind the scenes before the posts sneak peek!

Thank you Kevin for taking the time to share your journey with me. I can not wait to see you blow the doors off your new adventure. (muah)

2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for the amazing interview Paige!! I so enjoyed visiting with you over coffee and I look forward to seeing you again next time I'm back in Atlanta!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Insightful interview with this talented young man! Thank you, Paige. Stop in soon~

    ReplyDelete

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