Sugar & Gold

Introducing Vacasa Designhouse

Emily Vaca3 Comments
VACASA | Sugar & Gold Relaunches as VACASA

In 2012, I took the leap to officially start my first company. I had been freelancing on the side of my full-time job for a few years under my own name. But with my side business picking up, I felt like it was finally time to incorporate and make it feel a little more real. More like a business, rather than just a passion.

I went back and forth for weeks, trying to decide how to put that passion into one or two words— a name that I felt encompassed everything I thought my work stood for and what I wanted it to become. Even years prior, I knew one day I wanted to start my own company, a design studio. And one word kept coming to mind when I pictured walking into the front door of that office, filled with all white furniture—Sugar. It was the nickname my father—also a graphic designer—had given me since I can remember. He was the force behind my design talent and my biggest inspiration and connection to the world of design, as well as an extra set of hands for all of my DIY projects even before I had ever heard of Photoshop (which he taught me in 7th grade). So it was only fitting for him to be the reason behind the company name.

So years later when it was time to fill out the incorporation form, I already knew part of what the name would be. But I wanted to make it a little more unique and unexpected. And “gold” came time mind immediately. Not only did friends joke that if I could spray paint everything in my life gold, I would’ve by now. But I loved the analogy of “striking gold.” That ah-ha moment when you feel like you figured it out.

Sugar & Gold was born in September of 2012 with a primary focus on designing and printing wedding letterpressed invitations, as well as creating custom event decor. The blog began a couple years later when planning my own wedding, wanting to document everything I was created for my own special day. And after one of those projects became a pin, so many future brides were reaching out to make it for them, that I started to realize that it made more sense to create one product that could be customized for each bride, instead of only creating custom designs for each bride that contacted me for my design services.

In fact, exactly a year ago today, on May 10th, 2016, on a flight coming home from our vacation in Mexico, I had a flash of what I wanted my company to be. Custom design services will always be a big part of my company, but the thought of developing a product line truly was my ah-ha moment. Everything just clicked. And then, just a few days later, on May 14th, the idea for our first product hit us like lightning... It felt like we struck gold!

And ironically, this was also the first step towards deciding that it was time to change the name of my company. As bittersweet as it is to say goodbye to the name Sugar & Gold (especially the logo I hand-lettered), I felt like the direction of the company had evolved beyond them. And with the goal of creating a product that would hopefully end up on retail shelves one day, I wanted the brand to feel a little less delicate, a little more ownable, and to have some connection to our name and our story.

If you've been following the blog for awhile, you'll recognize it as the name we lovingly gave our first home when we got married and I became Mrs. Vaca. Not only was our home the Vaca Casa, but it became “The Vacasa.” So it only seemed fitting that it become the official name of our designhouse!

For me, the name is also a symbol of where it all began, in our casa… where we spent hours designing and creating brands for amazing clients, hours creating DIYs for our wedding (which also means hours and hours spent sweeping glitter from our hardwood floors), and hours thinking up and designing a product line of home and party goods that would create a joyful home for ourselves and others. Like for so many, we believe home is the heart of everything and we want to celebrate it! Plus, I’m a total sucker for puns so the fact that we could sneak our last name into the word “casa”… done and done. And with a focus on home and party product design, Vacasa made even more sense!

So at the end of the last summer, I incorporated Vacasa Co. and started developing future products while streamlining my design service offerings, which I offered to my first client under the new name in December of 2016.

And now that our first home product—the one that hit us like lightning on May 14th of last year—is almost ready to reveal (!!!!!!!), it is time to officially say goodbye to Sugar & Gold and introduce you all to VACASA! 

Over the next few days, I will be transitioning everything to the Vacasa name, explaining a little more about the design of the logo itself, and updating the website to include an online shop feature—just in time launch our very first product!!

Mega News Coming Soon!

Emily VacaComment
Sugar & Gold | Megaphone Confetti | Big News Coming Soon

Listen up! The radio silence is finally over... and big news is coming soon! 

Kicking off May with some megaphone confetti because, after over 3 months of silence, this month is going to bring some mega announcements! As I mentioned in my 2016 recap post, I was going to be taking a little break from blogging to focus on putting the final touches on some of my 2017 goals... and it's almost time to start revealing what we've been working on over the past year!

First up, our new look! So keep your eyes (and ears) open for more to come soon!

Sugar & Gold | Megaphone Confetti | Big News Coming Soon
Sugar & Gold | Megaphone Confetti | Big News Coming Soon
Sugar & Gold | Megaphone Confetti | Big News Coming Soon

2016 Wrap Up & 2017 Goals

Emily VacaComment
Sugar & Gold | 2016 Wrap Up & 2017 Goals

The chaos that was 2016!

I know the saying goes: "The days are long but the years are short." But for me, "The days are short and the years are short," seems a little more accurate. The year 2016 was a total whirlwind, and so many exciting things happened that trying to sum them up now seems quite hazy. But I will also say that it for sure was the most stressful year so far... at times it was even 10x more stressful than the year planning and designing my own wedding... at times I questioned why I was even running a side business at all (usually around 3am when I was still finishing up a client project)... at times I was wishing that the days actually did feel long or that there were actually 36 hours in a day... or I had a clone maybe.

But with each challenging moment, I knew it was just a piece of working toward a bigger goal. I just had to push through. But still, I couldn't have kept working towards that end goal if I didn't have some pretty amazing moments between to relax and get reinspired. And with all that craziness, I didn't have nearly as many chances as I hoped to post on the blog and share some exciting moments in the process. So here's a little glimpse at what I've been up to the past year between the radio silences. 

Just a heads up: It's a long post... so many 2016 highlights! But be sure to check out the end where I give a little glimpse into what's to come in 2017 for Sugar & Gold!

Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Paper Floral Headband and Blush Chiffon Gown
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Paper Floral Headband and Blush Chiffon Gown
Sugar & Gold | Isla Holbox, Mexico | Coconuts
Sugar & Gold | Isla Holbox, Mexico | Papel Picado
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Mayan Ruins
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Coqui Coqui
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Coqui Coqui
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Coqui Coqui Gold Hammock
Sugar & Gold | Tulum, Mexico | Ocean Pineapple

Mexico: Tulum & Isla Holbox
The most relaxing and inspiring break this past year was in May when we traveled to our favorite spot in Mexico—Tulum—for our 4th time. So much has changed since we first traveled there in August of 2010, but getting to enjoy all of our favorite spots again was so amazing (including Coqui Coqui before it closed...wahhhhhhh).

We also hit Isla Holbox before heading to Tulum, and it definitely might be our new favorite destination with everything we love about Tulum, but an even stronger sense of local culture. Not only was it insanely inspiring to be surrounded by the beauty of the ocean and the details of Mexican culture, it was a time to completely reset my creative mind... I used my time relaxing under the palm trees and listening to the crashing waves to think of some really exciting projects. And because my husband knows I am a true Capricorn and I get antsy with idol hands, he even encouraged me to bring some supplies to create while I enjoyed our time just sitting on the beach. Some people read a book while relaxing on the beach... I made tissue paper flowers while sipping piña coladas. My heaven. And we even took advantage of the gorgeous ocean landscape with a little photoshoot... tissue paper flower headband and all.  

This trip truly reinvigorated my creativity and gave me a chance to think about what I wanted to focus on the rest of the year. In fact, after giving our minds some rest, the idea for our biggest goal came to us the day we landed back in Chicago. It was so necessary to take a break from the chaos of our day jobs and side business, both of which are consistently creative, to breathe and let new creative ideas come through. 

Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Gold Foil & Acrylic Faceted Wedding Invitation
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Blush Faceted Plaster Candle Centerpiece with Gold and Copper Ombrè Candlesticks
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Blush Faceted Plaster Candle Centerpiece with Gold and Copper Ombrè Candlesticks
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Blush Faceted Plaster Candle Centerpiece with Gold and Copper Ombrè Candlesticks
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Faceted Napkin Ring with Glittering Geode Center
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Faceted Napkin Ring with Glittering Geode Center
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Gold Foil and Acrylic Escort Card with Faceted Jade Card Stand
Sugar & Gold | Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot | Blush Faceted Plaster Candle Centerpiece with Gold and Copper Ombrè Candlesticks

Geode Wedding Inspiration Shoot
When I first met the super talented Katherine Brown of Clover Events at the beginning of 2016, we quickly got to work collaborating on a wedding inspiration shoot with amazing photographer Belen Aquino for Gerber Scarpelli Weddings, as well as several other super talented vendors. We decided to pull inspiration from geodes and crystals, which I leveraged to create faceted and glittering details balance by an overall soft palette. One of my favorite details that I created was geode napkin rings that looked like a cross-section of a heavy faceted rock that revealed an interior crevice of glittering crystals. And designing and creating an acrylic and gold foil invitation and escort cards with faceted features was such a fun way to pull the crystal theme throughout the paper goods as well. 

Photography Gerber Scarpelli Weddings |  Planning Clover Events | Event Design & Stationery Sugar & Gold | Table Settings Gather Vintage Tablescapes | Dresses Alyssa Kristin Bridal | Cocktails Valcohol |  Cake Design Alliance Bakery | Lighting Chicago Lighting Design | Makeup Kate Johnson Artistry | Venue W Hotel City Center

Sugar & Gold | Event Design | Gold Brushed Stationery & Art Deco Table Numbers
Sugar & Gold | Event Design | Gold Brushed Stationery & Art Deco Table Numbers
Sugar & Gold | Event Design | Gold Brushed Stationery & Art Deco Table Numbers

Collaborating with Clover Events
Quickly following the inspiration shoot collaboration with Katherine of Clover Events, I was lucky to get to assist her on the day  of some insanely gorgeous weddings that she planned to perfection! Not only has she been so amazing this past year by showing me the ins and outs of the wedding industry, but she's also introduced me to some wonderful brides. And for one wedding in particular, I was thrilled to create lovely gold brushed details including menus, escort cards, and signage in addition to constructing art deco table numbers for wonderful bride, Julia, and her wedding this past April. And even more exciting was to see the details I created and many others from that special wedding captured by Emilia Jane Photography featured on The Black Tie Bride this past December! 

Sugar & Gold | Los Angeles
Sugar & Gold | Los Angeles | The Pink Motel
Sugar & Gold | founder Emily Vaca | Los Angeles | The Pink Motel
Sugar & Gold | Los Angeles | The Pink Motel

On Set in LA
I got to go on production in LA to shoot TV spots twice this past year! And I got to work with some amazingly talented directors (they were all female too, which was SUPER inspiring!!)—definitely one of the biggest perks of my day job in advertising. And this last trip in June was full of summer fun (although it's always summer in LA compared to Chicago). Plus, these were by far, some of my favorite locations to shoot at in LA—including a real vintage diner and motel that was turned into a full-time set. That pink wall!

Photo by Stephen Vallera
Photo by Stephen Vallera
Sugar & Gold | Napa Valley | Secluded Cottage
Sugar & Gold | Becoming a Godmother

Celebrations with Friends
This year also included some inspiring and hilarious and heartfelt moments with some of our closest friends while traveling to some familiar and completely new places.

I got to head to Nashville for the first time ever to celebrate the very special milestone birthday of my college roomie and soulmate, Chrissy!! She lives in Ohio... so to celebrate, we met up in Nashville for a few way-too-short days to spend some much needed time together in some really inspiring local spots. We even found the famous pink wall... I love this joyful photo of her with her disco cup! I knew I'd love it from what I've heard about Nashville, but it really is one of my favorite cities now, and I'm so happy I got to experience it for the first time with her! 

I've been to California more times than I can count (and still think we'll call it home someday far away in the future) but Napa was one area I had never gotten to experience yet. We were so fortunate that one of our closest friends had a chance to invite us to stay at his friend's picture-book beautiful secluded cottage in the middle of Napa. The best wine we've ever had with the best company ever made for a perfect Napa experience. After our time in Napa, we snuck over to San Fransisco for a night and explored the city and the gorgeous Sausalito area... can't wait to go back!

And I also got to spend some super important time back home in St. Louis to visit my bestie of over 20 years and meet the new love of my life, her adorable baby Max! I always get so sad when I have to head back to Chicago because I will never get to spend as much time with both of them as I want. But one of these trips was beyond special because I received one of the biggest honors in my life... becoming Max's Godmother! He is the most perfect Godson ever, and I love him more than I could ever imagine. Now if I could just keep him from growing up too fast between my trips home!

Sugar & Gold | Gold Drip Ombre Cake | Papel Picado Cake Topper
Sugar & Gold | Anniversary | Wedding Photo by Sean Cook Weddings
Sugar & Gold | Anniversary | Wedding Photo by Sean Cook Weddings

This year we also celebrated a few exciting milestones! We celebrated our first full year in our casa, The Vacasa! We spent a lot of our summer fixing up our private roof deck, building custom walls and refinishing the decking to make it our own little piece of Tulum, Mexico. It was inspired by our trip there this year. We have a lot more work to do in the Vacasa to tackle this coming year, but overall couldn't be happier in our first home together!

On October 10th, we celebrated both our 2nd anniversary of marriage and 8th anniversary of our first kiss. It is insane to think about how fast those anniversaries have crept up on us, but such an amazing feeling to also feel like your still at the start of your life with someone. Even after 8 years together and having been through so many experiences together as a couple, it feels like we have the most amazing life together ahead of us. And for that I couldn't be more grateful! 

wedding photos by Sean Cook Weddings

Sugar & Gold | Gold Foil Wishbone Friendsgiving Invite
Sugar & Gold | DIY Faux Marble Breakfast Tray
Sugar & Gold | Bridesmaids Accordion Booklet
Sugar & Gold | Holiday Mantle with Snowy Garland

Most Popular & Featured Social Posts
I started the Sugar & Gold company in 2012 and the blog in 2014, but I didn't launch a social presence until a few days into the start of 2016. So Sugar & Gold made it's first appearance on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook just barely over a year ago... but, wow, what a year's it's been. The most exciting part of engaging with social has been getting to see how you all are interacting with our posts and projects, and I've actually had a huge response of people looking either purchase or DIY our projects (which has lead to a new focus for the company... as well as a new goal for 2017... more below). 

Pinterest is like Target for me... you go to check out one thing and get lost in the aisle and walking out with a cart full of goodies. So I was so jazzed to see some Sugar & Gold pins making their way around Pinterest, including these top 3 repins! 

I couldn't believe that the Friendsgiving invitation I created for last year's celebration hit over 3.6K repins & likes this year! The DIY faux marble tray hit 2K! And the Bridesmaid accordion booklet hit over 800, but lead to almost 1000 downloads of the template on the blog! 

This year Sugar & Gold also got some exciting features on some of my favorite blogs! We were so honored that Domino featured and linked to our DIY faux marble tray in two of their DIY roundups here and here! And our snowy mantle Instagram post was included in the "30 of Our Favorite Reader Photos from #TheEverygirlHoliday" feature on The Everygirl blog here. And a repost on Darling's instagram feed here

Sugar & Gold | founder Emily Vaca | Looking Ahead at 2017


With all of the excitement that the past year has brought in the blink of an eye, I can't help but look forward for what's to come in the next year... and based on what's already planned ahead, it's going to be even more amazing (aka more chaotic)!

I started 2016 with some pretty big goals in mind, and while I was surprised that some of them came to life pretty quickly in the start of the year; I was even more surprised that some amazing opportunities came about that I has no idea were coming and they really pushed me to question my goal for Sugar & Gold.

I had started the company primarily as a design and wedding invitation company that evolved into wedding decor and home DIYs over the years. So deciding how that would continue to evolve this year into something more focused and also profitable in the long term was key this past year. And now the work we put towards that goal in 2016 should really start to pay off and be something we can launch publicly in 2017!


Goal #1: Rebranding Sugar & Gold
I can't reveal too much quite yet, but in the next few months a big change will come to Sugar & Gold... including a rebrand! Being a designer with a speciality in branding, this is such a huge task to do for myself. Knowing how many possibilities there are can make it hard to land on just one. But I have finally been able to make some decisions and start building them out. So in the next few months, a new brand look will be revealed! And I can't wait to share it!

Goal #2: Website Relaunch
Along with the new brand look, we will be relaunching the site with more features and organization. Currently, the blog is the main focus on the site, but building out more of the portfolio section as well as a more robust category section will be a definite feature. If there's anything you'd love to see, let me know for sure!

Goal #3: Launching Our 1st Product Line!
This had been a big goal of 2016 as well, but some opportunities came up that I totally wasn't expecting, and what that product line would be actually shifted quite a bit! And we're so excited about it! I have actually been working over 6 months to define the product line and work with manufacturers to make it a reality; so if all goes as planned, the first of our products will definitely launch this year! As soon as we have updates to share, you'll be the first to know!

Goal #4: Finish Building out My Studio Space
One of our favorite features of the home we bought was that there was 3 bedrooms, one to be dedicated for my studio. And while all of my supplies have their own organized space now, we haven't had the time or budget to focus on making it a super efficient working space with a large surface area yet. So projects still end up on our kitchen island at times. But that is our next room to tackle and I can't wait to share progress photos!

Goal #5: Weekend Dinners In
For a more personal goal, my husband and I are going to focus on spending more time cooking at home together. In Chicago, there's so many amazing restaurants that it's so hard to not be tempted to go out for dinner just us or with our good friends on Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday too! So in effort to watch our budgets and our diets, we're really going to focus on going out just one weekend night, either just us or with friends, and cooking together the others. And I'm really looking forward to exploring some new recipes!


A Little Blog Break...
So while I am excited to announce that changes are coming soon, I also have to say that I will need to be totally focused on finalizing those changes and new developments over the next few months. I have a lot of plans for new content, but need all of my available time right now to focus on the specific goals above, most specifically the product line and launch! Therefore, the blog may go silent until then... but I'm still be popping in on Instagram, especially to let you know when to check back here for the big announcements—the first being the new look of Sugar & Gold! 

So until then! 

Another Year Over... Another Year Older!

Emily VacaComment
Sugar & Gold | Emily Vaca | Fiesta Forever Giant Piñata

Since my birthday lands on day 6 of the New Year every year, it truly always feels like a fresh start… not only am I saying goodbye to the previous year with everyone else, but also hello to being another year older!

While the New Year is a total reset and pushes us to consider what we want for the year ahead, a birthday just a few days later pushes me to also consider what I want to accomplish at this point in my life. Have I achieved what I expected to by this age and what else can I push myself to do within the next few years? 

I have accomplished some of my biggest goals over the past few birthdays, but of course there's still more I have to tackle... and soon. Before another birthday creeps up! But luckily I could not be more of a Capricorn if I tried... and in my birthday horoscope today, "You are at your best when you have a goal in mind." Nailed it. 

So my birthday wish is to achieve the goals I have for this year... and the main one I have in mind is a big one. No pressure! 

Next week I'll be sharing my look back at 2016 and a look ahead for 2017, and what I hope to accomplish before my next birthday. I have some exciting news and can't wait to give you a little hint of what's to come this year for Sugar & Gold!

Hello 2017!

Emily VacaComment
Sugar & Gold | Hello 2017

NYE champagne tower aftermath... 2016 was quite a party and beyond anything we could've expected, paving the way for 2017!! I cannot wait to see what amazing things come to life this year... I just know it will be our biggest year yet!! We already have so many huge things in store for Sugar & Gold this year, and we can't wait to start sharing the BIG news soon! Best wishes to you and yours as you step into the New Year!