It’s every home-renovator’s dream: Couple buys fixer-upper, couple begins kitchen remodel and blogs it for their friends. Blog gets hits in the millions every month, couple publishes best-selling book and takes it on tour. That’s exactly what happened when Virginia couple John and Sherry Petersik began their blog younghouselove.com. They’ll bring do-it-yourself advice and budget-chic ideas to the 30th annual Tacoma Home and Garden Show on Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
And they’re not alone. This year, the largest combined home show in the state is theming itself on the DIY-shabby chic aesthetic. Along with the Petersiks’ presentation, there’s a vintage market featuring repurposed fabrics, furniture and salvage from more than 20 local vendors, DIY garden advice sessions from experts such as Marianne Binetti, Sue Goetz, Ciscoe Morris, a plant market and more than 750 exhibitors with plenty of ideas. The show runs through Sunday.
For many home show visitors, the draw will be the Internet phenomenon of the Young House Love bloggers. The Petersiks bought a 1,300-square-foot fixer-upper in Richmond, Va., in 2006. After beginning a kitchen remodel with essentially no DIY knowledge, they started a blog in 2007 to keep family and friends up to date. The next five years of misadventures and triumphs, plus good ideas on how to fix up anything on a budget, saw younghouselove.com go into five million hits a month, followed by a book offer. “Young House Love,” published last year, hit the New York Times bestseller list and launched a new paying career for both of them, even amid selling their old house and buying a new old house to fix up.
“Young House Love” isn’t the ideal reference book. It doesn’t have an index or a glossary, though it is organized room by room with a general key to cost, labor and time. What it does offer is 243 ideas for little DIY projects that’ll spice up your décor at a minimum cost. Advice includes how to reuse thrift or big-box items in creative ways, such as turning an Ikea table into a groovy headboard or stenciling a rug. It also has a no-nonsense, “we started at the beginning, too” style of explanation, and a useful list of online and product resources. And if it’s told in the cutesy style of a tween fashion blog, that’s all part of the youthful attraction.
The Young House Love journey hasn’t all been rosy, as the Petersiks tell in their show presentation. John Petersik talked on the phone to The News Tribune about how he and his wife (and toddler and Chihuahua) became the center of Internet remodeling fame.
Q: It’s been a pretty amazing trajectory for you both. Why is what you do so popular?
A: You’re right, if we had to recreate this whole journey from the start with a business plan, we couldn’t do it. It’s so serendipitous. It’s hard to see what people find captivating about what we do, but DIY, crafting and frugality is something we’re so passionate about, and we’ve managed to communicate that passion in the way we write ... I like to think that passion is contagious. Our goal is to show that love and passion and give people the same confidence.
Q: There are plenty of other DIY books and blogs out there. What makes your style different?
A: No two people’s style is exactly the same. There are a lot of folks out there who read our blog who aren’t exactly our style. But they can see through that to the essence of how we do it, which is doing it ourselves. To a certain extent, it transcends our particular style.
Q: Is shabby chic more of a trend these days, maybe because of the economy?
A: Sherry and I definitely think we lucked out with the timing of this. We’ve reached out to a lot of homeowners on a budget. But we would have been low-budget anyway because both of us came from that background. Our parents were always thrifty.
Q: What’s the most challenging thing you’ve done, renovation-wise?
A: In our first home, we completely gutted the back room. It was the biggest project we’d ever done at the time, ripping down the walls, ripping up the floor. Sherry was pregnant, so she wasn’t too helpful. It was one of the most physically exhausting challenges I’ve had, and then we had to build it all back up again.
Q: Have you ever made any colossal mistakes?
A: We’ve made plenty! It’s a thing we always like to share with folks, because people have this impression that we’re so perfect all the time. We’re not. When we started on our first house, we had no background in DIY. Sherry managed to repaint all the wood trim using flat paint. That’s a big no-no we later learned. We had to go back and do it all over again with semi-gloss.
Q: What projects are you into right now?
A: We’re in a bit of a lull because of the book tour. We’re trying to decorate and finish our sun-room. It’s been the storage room for all our book photos for two years. After that, we’ll finally do a big-girl room for our daughter, Clara. It doesn’t stop. There are days when that list sounds overwhelming. But most days, it’s really exciting. It’s something we really love to do.
Q: So what will you talk about at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show?
A: We have a presentation where we talk broadly about seven lessons we’ve learned over the years about home ownership. We mention all our painting mistakes and talk about the spirit of enthusiasm we bring to it all.
Q: If there’s only one DIY skill people should learn, what should it be?
A: That’s a hard one. I can think of lots of things. But the most important is – a lot of people take this for granted – but it’s important to be comfortable around painting. We hear a lot from readers that they’re paralyzed about painting a room. We can practically paint in our sleep these days, and it makes it much easier to makeover the room. And it carries onto other projects in the book. Feeling confident with a paintbrush in your hand can give you a lot of possibilities.
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568
5 picks from the Vintage Market
Returning this year to the Tacoma Home and Garden Show is the Vintage Market, where more than 20 local vendors offer ideas to repurpose old stuff into new. Here are our picks:
Blue Ewe of Puyallup makes over vintage fabric into purses and totes; recently featured in Folk magazine.
Cowpunchers of Port Orchard custom builds bars, kitchen islands and more out of salvaged materials such as old barn wood and distressed flooring. Cowpunchers also offers antique cowboy gear, from spurs to chaps.
Shabby Shack Boutique from McKenna transforms vintage home and garden finds through paint or upholstery in styles from shabby chic to French to rustic.
The Urban Gardener from Tacoma repurposes vintage glassware into beautiful terraria for indoor or outdoor plants, plus other eco-ideas.
John Bob Cool Junk of Federal Way specializes in turning industrial units and old fences into unique furniture, updating the old and forgotten into something unique.
5 picks for gardeners
In the southwest corner of the Tacoma Dome, you’ll find the Green Theater, a stage where local and national garden experts give seminars on everything from greening your house to taming your garden. Other than John and Sherry Petersik of the Young House Love blog and book (1 p.m. Friday), here are our picks:
Marianne Binetti offers tips to tame your garden (2 p.m. Wednesday, 3 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday) and her choices of new plants and old favorites (2 p.m. Thursday, 2 p.m. Saturday)
Kirk Haffner explains how we can use solar energy, even in the rainy Northwest (noon Wednesday, 4 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday)
Marty Wingate details using small trees as screens (3 p.m. Thursday, noon Friday)
Sue Goetz covers topics including, fixing yard dilemmas (3 p.m. Wednesday), herbal landscaping (noon Saturday), and fool-proof perennials (noon Sunday)
Ciscoe Morris challenges you to bring your toughest gardening questions (1 p.m. Sunday) and takes a worldwide virtual garden tour (1 p.m. Thursday)
If You Go
Tacoma Home and Garden Show
When: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. today through Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. “Young House Love” presentation and book signing 1 p.m. Friday.
Where: Tacoma Dome, 2727 E. D St., Tacoma.
Admission cost: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (62 and older) weekdays only; free for ages 16 and younger; two-day passes are $16 for adults, $12 for seniors.
Information: 253-756-2121, otshows.com/ths, younghouselove.com.