James Hirschfeld, cofounder and CEO of Paperless Post, will discussed online invitations and how to invite guests to a party. | Home Front

May 30, 2013

James Hirschfeld, cofounder and CEO of Paperless Post, oversees the company's creative vision. Hirschfeld discussed online invitations and how to invite guests to a party.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

Follow @jurakoncius on Twitter.

Home Front Live Q&A archive Older Home Front Live Q&As

James Hirschfeld is a cofounder of Paperless Post, a technology startup that delivers online cards and invitations. Thrilled to have him on the chat today. James launched the company with his sister in 2009 after two years of prototyping. As CEO, James oversees Paperless Post's creative vision. Recently the company added Oscar de la Renta designs. He is a great resource for the art of creating a sense of occasion for parties and events. Let's get going.

Hi everyone, thanks for your questions - excited to be in touch with you guys. My name is James Hirschfeld - I'm the CEO and Creative Director of Paperless Post, the online (and now ofline, too) invitation and card platform. Happy to share my insights on our product, invitations in general and the converging worlds of offline and online communication.

I love your online invitations and have used them for holidays and birthday parties. Can you tell me why you decided to add paper cards and invitations to your line-up?

Hi there, thanks for your thoughtful question. Glad to hear you enjoy our product.

I realize it seems funny for a company called Paperless Post to offer paper stationery, but the rationale is pretty simple: we live in a hybrid world that's neither entirely on- or offline. Our customer base was built on people looking for well-designed online invitations, but many of these same people told us they needed paper for certain occasions. By adding a physical product, we've been able to be loyal to the customers who love our designs and software but, realistically, have paper needs too—whether it be a formal event, a keepsake, or a guest who is more traditional. 

Hello, we're in need of new sofa and are considering a leather chesterfield from Loves Decades. Does anybody have experience with this company? We also have big dogs and small children. Will leather hold up well under these conditions? thanks

Wow. What a cool company. The Loves Decades website is very interesting. This is the first I've heard of them. Does anyone have any experience to share? Another company you might consider with big dogs and small children is Slob Proof.

I want to try paperless post, but am fearful of blowback from family who expect traditional invitations.

Hi, Old fashion—I like your name. Thanks for your interest in Paperless Post.

I'm glad you want to branch out and, as you can imagine, I highly recommend you do.  Your fear of blowback from more traditional family members is understandable—online invitations aren't right for everyone. To accomodate a mix of traditional and tech-savvy recipients, we offering matching online and paper designs so that you can choose the right medium for each guest. We offer digitally printed cardstock as well as engraving and letterpress on Crane & Co.'s fine cotton papers, which should certainly suit anyone expecting the utmost in timeless formality.

Hi Jura -- longtime fan here! I've been reading this chat since 2005 and always get some good advice. My DH and I recently bought our first house -- a 1950 Cape Cod -- and followed all your advice about getting ready to paint. We got about a half-dozen different BenMoore gray shades for the living room& dining room, painted squares on every wall to see how the light hit it, and lived with it for several weeks before we chose Bunny Gray, thinking it was a midtone, clean gray. Well imagine our surprise when we got it on the walls and it's not midtone, but a light bluey-gray. We have a charcoal gray sofa, a sea-foam green leather chair and an Eames with footstool. A shade or two darker would've been better -- and that's what we thought we were getting. It sure didn't show this light when it was in squares. The same thing happened with the BM Faded Denim blue we chose for the bedroom (transformed from attic). We thought it would be an adult, neutral blue, and now all over the walls it looks more appropriate for a boy. I have to live with it. I'm not getting either of these repainted. But what could we have done differently? Is it because we did not paint the test squares on primed walls but painted over the yellow (in living room) and light blue (in bedroom)?? There are still other rooms and the kitchen and I'd really like not to make the same mistake. Thanks !

Wow. Thanks so much for following this chat and getting ideas from it. I am so sorry that your paint color choices ended up being annoying. Sometimes it's hard to imagine an entire room painted a color with just a square to look at. I might recommend a color consultant - you can hire someone for a couple of hours to make sure you've chosen the color you were dreaming of. I also recommend the book HOUSE BEAUTIFUL COLORS FOR YOUR HOME - 300 DESIGNER FAVORITES. It breaks down color choices by room and by color palette. It has tried and true colors that designers use over and over again. Clearly, the light in the room affects how it looks but I am really really sorry you are not happy. Consider investing in a new color in one of the rooms before too long.

Lately, I've been receiving invitations to events, especially birthdays, quite close to the event itself. Perhaps a week out. Is there a proper amount of time to send out an invitation before hand? Does it depend on the event?

Great question! 

Unfortunately there's no rule of thumb, but it might be helpful to remember that the primary goal of your invitation is to get your guests to attend your event. Sending your invitations a week before the party risks the chance that your guests will have prior engagements—but if the party is casual and the friends are close ones, that may not be a big concern. If you want to play it safe for a bigger event, it's best to send the invitation three to four weeks in advance of the party. Anything earlier than a month should probably be a save the date rather than an actual invitation (unless the event is extremely formal or a wedding).

I just moved into a new home. The master bedroom is painted what I would call Williamsburg blue. I like the color, although I don't love it . I'm really not up for painting right now. Any suggestions on how to work with this color for a few years? I'm not sure what to do about bedding, and what other color I might add in accessories that would fit in with the blue.

You know, I think if you don't love the color in your bedroom, you should do something to change it. A bedroom should be a soothing place that is like a cocoon for you after a hectic day. If you don't like the color, it could affect your sleeping and relaxing in there. Can you get a friend or family member to paint the room for you if you don't want to do it yourself? If you don't like the color I would not suggest investing in new bedding and color coordinating it - it will just bring more of the color you don't like into the room. On the other hand, if repainting just isn't what you have in mind right now, I would say go with a classic fresh blue and white color scheme.

Hi--Any suggestions for inviting kids (pre-teens in my case) to birthday, other parties? Parents DO NOT RSVP, no matter if I send paper invites (which might get lost at school), or email if I have email addresses. I have to chase down answers via my daughter to her friends, which is hit or miss. Thanks very much.

Pre-teens are difficult because they're not really connected to email or postal mail the way that adults are (even these days). We see many parents addressing invitations to their kids' friends, but sending the invitations to the parents' email inboxes. Online invitations can feel as special as a paper invitation with the ease of an email. Plus, they our cards have the benefit of RSVP tracking and easy follow-up for deliquents you know have opened the card but not yet replied.

Paperless Post released an Oscar de la Renta line of stationary.. How did that collaboration come about? Any more fun designer lines coming up?

The Oscar de la Renta collaboration came about really naturally—we're both New York City-based design companies serving similar customer bases with a lot of respect for one another's work. The team at Oscar de la Renta is distinguished for its digital presence (@OscarPRGirl on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram) and as a preeminent luxury brand with roots in craftsmanship and quality. Creating a wedding collection line that includes both bold patterns and elegant laces was a natural fit for both teams. As a bonus, it was amazing to work with such an incredible design team.

We're launching a new collaboration with Jonathan Adler in early June. The collection will debut with summer entertaining, wedding, and baby, and be a lot of fun.

Good morning: this is a bit off topic but I'm hoping you can help. We own a 1917 brick home in DC, and the previous owners built a small two story addition on the back. Unfortunately they decided to use white vinyl siding on the exterior of this part of the home, I assume most likely due to cost. Any suggestions for what we could do to replace it and/or make it look a bit more elegant?

Guess what? I have the same lovely siding on the rear addition to my 1937 brick colonial. I just had it power washed to make it look more presentable after the mold had made a yucky film over it. I understand replacing the siding would be expensive and you're never sure what you are going to find under it. I'd call in a professional home remodeler to go over your options.

I'm sure someone knows a great answer to this question. What is the easiest and cheapest way to deep clean a small area rug? Dry cleaning? Renting a carpet cleaner seems like a big deal..... We are dealing with some pee stains from foster doggies.

How valuable is this rug? If it has some value, then have it professionall cleaned. Otherwise, I have a friend who puts his Orientals on his driveway and uses a gentle brush and soap and water to clean it, and then hoses it off with the garden hose. Give that a try.

As a regular user- especially of the birthday cards- how often do you add new designs? I feel like I use the same ones so often. They are wonderful - but would love to see more. Thank you

Hi—thanks for your question.

One of the great things about working on a digital platform is that we get to publish new designs every day. (We keep our in-house design team very busy!) You're right to notice that our birthday card selection hasn't been growing as rapidly as other categories recently, but we'll launching a large-scale greeting card program at the end of August—including a big birthday refresh. Look out for an influx of designs for everyday occasions in the coming weeks.

After seeing an article in the New York Times {sorry!} last week, we decided to throw a "Gin & Croquet" party. Since time was tight, I sent Paperless Post invites. I found a great one with pink and orange Chinese lanterns, played with the type fonts and colours and got it out to about a dozen friends within hours of coming up with the party plans. I love that you can now order the invitations in paper! Thanks for a great service to those of us who can't possibly manage to make it to the post office for stamps or mailing. 

How do you handle invitations for an elderly person who is on your party list but is not necessarily online all the time or does not have an email address?

This is a common question these days. We actually created PAPER by Paperless Post (our line of physical stationery) in part to answer this very need. We now offer matching online and paper designs, which means you can choose the right medium for each guest or occasion. You can even order just a single paper card—unusual for many web-to-print stationers. Users love taking advantage of our hybrid online-offline designs because it means they don't need to compromise.

Hello, I just wanted to say how much I love Paperless Post, I've used it exclusively for the last few years for all of the parties and gatherings we have - it's so easy, so many choices, and everyone always loves receiving "the envelope"! Thank you!

I also have used it numerous times. I think the beautiful designs really create the sense of occasion that every host and hostess is going for. Of course, you are also challenged to live up to the classy invite in your menu and decor.

Hi James, I love using your site - and my recipients are always so pleased to open them! I am hosting a large tea ( maybe 40 or 50 women) in September. Is it ok to send a Save the Date Paperless Post - and then I would like to follow up with a real paper mailed invite . Your thoughts? Thanks.

Hi—great to hear from a happy user.

I love the idea of sending a save the date online and following up with a paper invitation in the mail—we see a lot of people doing this for weddings. We recently launched a tool that allows you to collect mailing addresses through your online cards; if you don't have everyone's postal address yet, prompt your guests to enter them after they've viewed the save the date.

Do you have a company you would recommend to clean our light colored sectional? We dropped 5k on it about 5 years ago, and it looks pretty dirty now. I am wondering if a professional cleaning can help us save this investment. Thanks.

Definitely. Invest in a service to come and clean your sofa and maybe a few carpets or curtains. It will be well worth the investment in cleaning costs.

What is it like to work with your sister to start a company?

Getting to grow a business with my sister is very fulfilling—thanks for asking! Hopefully when you work with someone you're close with, the lines of communication are very open, which is key for effective collaboration. In our case, we're lucky to have complementary skills and a lot of trust in one another's talents. 

What is the most popular invitation design in your line?

We're always adding new work and collaborations, so it's hard to know which design is #1 at any time—especially as demands change seasonally. That being said, year after year people return to one of my favorite designs during the holidays: an overindulgent penguin wearing a Santa hat and snoozing inside a martini glass!

Hi--I've got a basement "bedroom" (only that b/c it's got a closet), which also houses a laundry closet. Ugh. I'm currently trying to make it over, to also be a home office. Nice Flor tiles, a desk I fashioned from a 90 year old door and extra kitchen IKEA cabinets. But it's not feeling well zoned. Any thoughts on how to create a true laundry area (currently side by side washers, 1 cluttered shelf), and a neat home office - I hate having loose socks in my space.

Do you have the washer and dryer behind folding doors? That might be a good way to keep that function of the room separate. So when you are at your desk you aren't thinking of the spin cycle. Make sure you have good lighting in there and a light paint color to keep it cheerful. Get some new desk accessories and put up some things on the wall. Hopefully, it will look homier and less industrial soon.

Thanks for taking my question! I never thought of a color consultant, but now I know to hunt for one. I'm in the NYC-suburbs so I'm sure I can find someone to help. I'm going to try to jazz up the living room with some patterned curtains and a rug; hopefully that will help! Again -- thanks for all your advice throughout the years!

Thanks for being a faithful chatter! Good luck - it's a good investment!

What sets paperless post apart from other only stationary companies?

This is a great question. The full answer is too long for this format, but the main point of differentiation between our paper product and others' is the extent to which the entire process—from designing to tracking RSVPs, sending matching reminders to those who haven't replied—is streamlined for you and your guests via the web.

Thanks James. That was a lot of fun and it's great to explore some new topics here on Home Front. Love that you are adding Jonathan Adler invitations to your line soon. Thanks everyone for joining us.

Thank you for submitting your thoughtful questions today (and forgiving my typos and spelling errors). It was  real pleasure to hear from so many of our users and fans - please feel free to reach out to help@paperlesspost.com if you any other questions or need advice. 

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
James Hirschfeld
James is a cofounder of Paperless Post, a technology startup that delivers online cards and invitations. He launched the company with his sister in 2009 after two years of prototyping. As CEO, James oversees Paperless Post's creative vision.
Recent Chats
  • Next: