If you’ve read the blog Young House Love at all, you know Sherry and John Petersik are real can-do people. They’ve completely made over a house and a half and chronicled their successes (and failures) for millions of readers in their signature fun-loving, no-nonsense voice.
But less than 5 years ago, they were remodeling novices too, muddling through their first project as homeowners. In short: If you’re new to home improvement, they’ve been in your shoes and want to help. That’s the idea behind their new book, Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love.
To the Petersiks, home design isn’t about the big reveals, it’s about the small victories. That’s why they worked to come up with more than 200 home improvement ideas (most of which you can accomplish in less than a day) that range from easy DIY projects like recovering a dresser with wallpaper to shopping and storage tips to no-nonsense remodeling advice. A favorite: ‘A home-decorating decision is not going to save the world…or end it…it’s all going to be okay.’
As a new-ish homeowner who only recently began experiencing the angst (It’s been a month…why haven’t I accomplished more?) and satisfaction (I actually completed something!) that is DIY remodeling, I appreciate that the Petersiks have been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale. Their project ideas are pretty darn inspiring, too: Why yes, I think I will paint a pattern on my stair risers and frame a collage of favorite ticket stubs this weekend.
I chatted with co-author Sherry to learn more about the book and get her been there, done that remodeling tips. Plus: Get two sample step-by-step projects.
Design Happens: I love that in the book and on the blog, you talk about how things don’t happen overnight when done the DIY way. How do you stay motivated for the finish line?
Sherry Petersik: The expectation level is a huge factor in the enjoyment you get out of home projects. We went into it in our very first house, and we felt like we were always behind and that we should have already had a housewarming party. Once we learned to get past that, it got way more fun.
What is different about your book from the average home improvement book?
It’s the home remodeling equivalent of the 5-ingredient recipe. Our staples for the book were paint, wallpaper, spray paint, decorative paper and fabric. It’s amazing how something simple like etching cream or ribbon can change little things you already have around the house and make you feel good about where you live.
We didn’t want the book to be this big, glossy, expensive coffee table book that you look at and never use. I want people to use it so much they dog-ear the pages.
I love your DIY art collection, and there are so many simple art projects in the book. What’s the oddest thing you’ve every framed or turned into artwork?
I’d say our favorite is a lot drawing of our first house. It’s very abstract…just a bunch of rectangles, like some blocks with street lines and sewer lines. At the top it says ‘Distinguishing details: house is old.’ (Laughs) But we’ll really put anything in a frame. We’ve framed an old milk bottle cap from the Richmond Milk Company and some arrowheads that we found in our yard. We frame calendars that we don’t know what to do with. Anything is cute behind glass, I’ve decided.
Since you’ve already remodeled one whole house, how did you approach the remodel of your current home differently?
When we came in our second house, we knew it would take awhile. Once you figure that out, it feels amazing to finish something that takes 100 steps. Any rash decisions you make in a day aren’t going to be as meaningful as things that you ultimately take time with.
In your first home, what was the first DIY home project you completed and how long did it take?
Well, first we painted some rooms. At that time I didn’t have a very steady hand, now I can eyeball it without tape! You can do things better if you do it over and over again. The first remodeling-type project we did was removing this hideous green toilet. We thought ‘We probably need three people to do this.’ We were like three scientists looking over the directions, and it felt like Mount Everest. When you first get started, you don’t know how things function…but you get there eventually.
When you first move into a home that needs a ton of renovation, it can be overwhelming. How do you prioritize the projects you want to do?
We keep it simple. We write out an old-school list of everything we want to do, knowing that things will change over time. It can be like four pages of ideas, and some are super-vague, like ‘Do something with a fireplace.’ Then, we circle anything that we think can move up the priority list. We get it done, then we circle more. When I have a spare moment I take the tattered, crazy list and sit on the couch and rewrite it. The descriptions of things evolve over time, from ‘Do something in the hallway, maybe wallpaper?’ to ‘Do something in the hallway, maybe wainscoting?’
Do you go room by room or project by project?
I don’t go room by room. We learned that when you give yourself a little freedom, you have more fun. When you’re rigid, it kind of feels like another job. It pays to do whatever on the list seems fun to you. So every room is like 10 percent done, 20 percent done at any given time.
Working from home with your husband, in a work-in-progress home, do you ever have trouble agreeing what to do with a room? How do you work through it?
Every single thing we do, we both have to agree on. Even little things, like, ‘I’m going to get some Halloween decor.’ We talk about everything, and I think it means a lot of things get nixed. We’ve learned to just get past it, and not take it too seriously. I mean, who wins if I bring something in the house and John absolutely hates looking at it?
It’s a safeguard, really. Doing things on a whim, you’ll break the budget, the timeline will go crazy, it will take 5 trips to Home Depot. We talk through everything, and in the end, it’s more thoughtfully put together and it keeps us from just grabbing things that are there. We never regret things we do that take forever; we regret things we do in a pinch.
Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love is available in bookstores and online now.