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Pandemic-related job loss inspires photographers to fast-track new career

A Collingwood couple has taken their blog to bricks-and-mortar opening a home decor shop in Duntroon

Kasia and Adrian Azcurra never thought their passion project would turn into a profitable business — at least not so quickly and especially not during a pandemic. 

Nevertheless, the Collingwood couple celebrated the official opening of White Hill Home, a home decor shop inspired by slow living, at its location in Duntroon on Feb. 25. 

“It’s more than just a storefront but an inspiration source to inspire slow living and celebrate the beauty that is every day,” said Kasia. 

Originally branded as The Styled Life Journal, White Hill Home started as a simple side project — a way for Kasia and Adrian to express their passion for creative styling. At the time, the husband and wife team ran their own freelance product photography business, Style + Swoon

“It was totally meant to be for fun. I love home. I love decorating and styling and all that, so it was a creative outlet. We said, let’s just see where it goes and didn’t put too much stake in it at the time,” said Kasia.  

And then, not two weeks later, the pandemic hit. By mid-March, all of Kasia and Adrian’s commercial clients put their existing contracts on hold indefinitely, leaving the couple with no steady source of income. 

Kasia said she remembers being temporarily frozen with fear, unsure of what the future would hold for her and her family. With all the extra time they now had on their hands, she and Adrian decided to focus all of their energy on this passion project … And it worked. 

“I was hopeful that White Hill Home would grow in time, but never expected it to happen so quickly or for it to become our full-time career path in less than a year,” said Kasia. 

By May, the online shop had experienced exponential growth, connecting with a community all across Canada. As the summer progressed and restrictions eased up, Kasia and Adrian decided to host a pop-up shop at a local event space to connect deeper with the local community, and find a way to give back as well. 

On a sunny September day they took over Studio Seventy Four, a photography studio and event space downtown Collingwood, and transformed it to showcase their curated selection of wall art and home decor — donating a portion of the proceeds to Out of the Cold. 

“We were so taken aback and so grateful and thankful for everybody who came out,” Kasia said. “It was then we knew it was time to take a leap of faith and open up a storefront.” 

The couple began looking for a location last fall, and when they found the space in Duntroon, they knew they had found their new home. They wanted a new name to accompany their evolved product offering and the brand they were growing into, so White Hill Home was born.   

“It’s all a modern farmhouse feel… That’s what I love. What the shop looks like is what our house looks like, there is no real story there, it's just what I love,” Kasia said. “I think it’s timeless, and a lot of the pieces can transcend into other interior styles.”

Kasia joked that this passion has made it difficult for her to sell some of the pieces Adrian refinishes, and often has to resist the urge not to keep them for herself or as permanent pieces in the store. 

“We have a running joke in our house because my husband does most of the salvaging, so the first thing he says when he brings a piece home is that I can’t keep it,” she laughed. 

The majority of the pieces they refinish come from local people and places, including several from Facebook Marketplace and antique shops in the area. 

“There is history behind the pieces,” Kasia said. “Where we live, people love local. So the fact that these pieces are typically locally-sourced makes them happy knowing that the piece is going to be preserved and given a new life and new home.”

What Kasia loves most about this whirlwind of a year is the fact that they were able to capitalize on possibility even in a pandemic, and bring their passion to life. 

“I feel like I am playing house. It doesn't feel like work, it doesn’t feel like a job, it is 100% my passion and it is so much fun to do,” said Kasia. “And connecting with people too… I think everyone would agree that this past year taught us that we are meant to interact and feed off of each other in a really positive way.”

As well as their new storefront, they continue to offer online shopping and shipping across Canada, and have plans to connect with and support the local community as restrictions ease. 

White Hill Home is now open at 2791 County Rd 124, in Duntroon.

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Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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