photographed by belathée
Remember that pair back in high school who were somehow on the yearbook staff, honor roll, and varsity team all at once? Well, they’re probably rocking pretty great jobs by now. They might be human rights lawyers, magazine editors, or high powered attorneys. Or maybe they even grew up to become big-time bloggers with massive followings. That’s certainly the case for Cassandra LaValle of coco+kelley and Erin Hiemstra of Apartment 34, whose friendship dates back to seventh grade. “We’ve been pretty much inseparable ever since,” gushes Erin about her bestie and fellow blogger Cassandra. Who knew that a friendship that started in a junior high clique could last through the competitive days of high school, the soul-searching college years, and beyond into their very successful careers as bloggers and creatives. We met up with Erin and Cassandra on a cold day in Seattle to learn more about a lifelong friendship that’s built on hard work and big ambitions.
Tell us your friendship story. We want the dish! How long have you two known each other?
Erin: Going on 20+ years! We’re starting to lose count…
Cassandra: We met in 6th grade and became friends in 7th.
Basically there were four of us in this little clique in Jr. High and then by High School we had a much broader circle of friends. Erin and I were the overachievers. We had honors classes and were leadership, wrote for the school paper, and played sports (admittedly she was always better in that category). Looking back now I think our group of friends balanced each other in certain ways, but Erin and I were the most alike in our goals and values, which is what made our friendship last into college and beyond.
What would you say are your “shared values” as friends?
Cassandra: High standards for everything we do. When we were younger it would come out as more competitive, but now we push each other to those levels. We also lean on each other for advice and reality checks because we know how much we both work to be balanced — strong, but feminine — women. We love good food, wine, and travel. And, of course, good design.
Erin: We’ve always connected over our drive to work hard, try new things and take some non traditional roads when it comes to our career. I’ve always loved that we can get excited over a killer dress one second and then have a serious discussion about business strategy the next! It’s about enjoying the lighter things in life together but knowing you can really count on each other when things get heavy.
How do you like to spend time together as friends? What do you typically talk about?
Erin: Our friendship has always encompassed pretty much every aspect of life. Love, family, career – we’ve always been one another’s sounding board.
Cassandra: We’re both sports lovers, which is probably one of my favorite things about our friendship. Put us in some good seats at a baseball game on a sunny day, and we’re the happiest girls on earth!
Any recent funny stories to share?
Cassandra: We used to laugh each other into tears when we were together more! Now that she’s in San Francisco and I’m in Seattle it’s a bit more rare for us to share a long giggle together between our busy schedules. These days we’re usually catching up on the madness of our life changes more than anything, but we did have such a fun time romping around Seattle for this shoot!
Is there anything style/music/pop-culture related that you disagree on?
Erin: While we share tons of similar passions — design, travel, good food there are a few key differences. We don’t make ideal road trip partners as Cassandra wants to sing along to every country station and my definition of country is Taylor Swift!
Cassandra: I’m probably a bit more pop-oriented than Erin. Or more than she’ll admit! I was a cheerleader in high school and she rolled her eyes at that a lot. That kind of dynamic still continues today… like, I’m definitely gonna put on some Taylor Swift and jam more than she does. On a personal style level I think we have similar aesthetics – clean styles, neutrals, etc — but I’m a bit more glam-meets-boho than she is in some ways. I like to take more outlandish risks with my style. Our body types also make us super different in our wardrobes. The greatest tragedy of our friendship is that we were never really able to borrow from each other’s closets because my short and curvy stature could never get away with her svelte, tall looks.
Cassandra, how would you describe Erin’s style?
Clean. Classic. Structured. Chic. Lots of neutrals. I’ve always been envious of how her stature allows her to pull of more interesting cuts when it comes to fashion. And I love that she doesn’t back down from wearing heels just because she’s already tall. Her style is empowering – she embraces ‘masculine’ details and makes them her own.
Erin, you’ve now got a second career going outside of your blog. Tell us a little about everything you do:
In addition to running Apartment34.com for the last seven (almost 8!) years, this year I started a new role as the director of Social Marketing for the Pottery Barn family of brands. I love that I get to combine all my passions: all things lifestyle, the amazing online world of blogging and social media and my background working in PR, marketing and branding in my day to day work — and still get to indulge my creative side on Apartment 34.com
Erin, how would you describe Cassandra’s style?
Cassandra knows how to add a touch of glamour to any space without making it feel overly feminine — her rooms are always comfortable and welcoming with the perfect balance of mindful design. But what I really love is that she can be crazy feminine one second (think strapless dresses and chic heels) and be down to cheer on her Gonzaga Bulldogs at a sports bar the next. That’s my kind of girl!
Cassandra, tell us about your role at coco+kelley. What do you love about what you do?
Putting an actual job title on what bloggers do these days is slightly impossible, but formally I go as Founder and Creative Director at coco+kelley. We’re all editors, stylists, brand builders and social media strategists. I feel incredibly lucky to be my own boss. I love being able to concept something from start to finish — telling a story and getting original and creative with our editorials is my most favorite part of this job.
What do you love about Seattle?
Cassandra: Seattle is special to both of us, having grown up here, but I think that it’s become even more of a dynamic city in the last few years, especially in Pioneer Square, where the coco+kelley offices are. Our studio space is in a historic building that was completed in 1891, so everyone who comes to visit loves hanging out in our bright, architectural space in this historic neighborhood.
What are a few of your favorite spots in the city?
Cassandra: Whenever Erin comes into town we head to my dad’s restaurant, Radici, for his famous red sauce and meatballs! Erin grew up eating his food just as much as I did, and it’s a tradition for us to have big group dinners together there, or catch up over a glass of wine.
A walk around Seattle wouldn’t be complete without coffee! Elm Roasters is a new coffee shop that I love for its clean, minimal decor and emphasis on quality. Perfect for an email binge work day or a coffee date!
How does your bestie inspire you?
Erin: Cassandra’s innate creative eye has always been an inspiration – no matter the evolution of her style it’s always been unique. She also has an uncanny ability to pull off anything in the 11th hour. She definitely thrives under pressure.
Cassandra: Erin never gives up. I think many people’s strengths are often their greatest weakness, and I know that it’s something she and I both struggle with in our lives, as many of us do, to find balance. But I’m always impressed with her level of achievement — it’s never mediocre. It’s never ‘good enough’. That goes into her personal relationships too — with her friends, her husband — she is 100% devoted. I can’t wait to see how she is as a mother, I think it’s going to be a whole other level of her giving of herself.
Cassandra, how do you see Erin in ten years?
Oh God. Could we not even talk about 10 years from now? 10 years ago I would have been happy to, but now 10 years from now seems so old… I can only hope that we will be more settled, balanced, happy, confident, and pretty much still the exact same people we are today but 10 times better from the years of experience! She’ll have a 10-year-old on her hands which should be interesting, but she’ll no doubt be running some empire or another while juggling motherhood with grace and authority!
And Erin, how do you see Cassandra?
I can only envision Cassandra as a powerhouse, always pursuing her passion in design, events and creating beautiful spaces. It’s a little hard to imagine ourselves in our 40s (oy!), but I’m excited to see how we move into the next phases of our careers, having families and hopefully enjoying the details that make daily life a little special.