The homegrown DIY blog Young House Love has grown to over 3.5M pageviews a month and its purveyors—husband and wife John and Sherry Peterisk—are about to release their first book this November. Since John grew up in Alexandria it seemed only fitting that we check in with them to find out what we can expect from the book and how they put it all together while also maintaining the blog full time. We couldn't help but tempt Sherry (a self-professed lover of white ceramic animals) with a few pictures so she could give them her usual treatment. Click through the captions for her thoughts on each one's personality and the names she would give each one, but if you want the interview with John and Sherry, it awaits you after the jump.
You've described this book as having 'deceptively simple' ways to upgrade a person's home. Can you talk about some examples of things that look hard but really aren't.
Sherry: I think even the simplest things can seem intimidating when you're heading into a project - especially if it's something you've never done before. For example, we totally dreaded laying cork flooring in our kitchen, but it was really simple once we got started - and it made such a huge difference that we were so glad we didn't give up before we started. Even picking a paint color, hanging curtains or art, or even placing your furniture can sometimes seem intimidating, especially since people worry a lot about making the wrong choice. The great thing is that there's usually not just one right answer, so there are tons of solutions that can work! We always just try to take things one day at a time and break projects down into manageable bite-sized pieces so we don't get burned out of overwhelmed.
You sort-of showed your readers what was going on when the photo crew was there shooting the pictures, but now can you tell us some more anecdotes from doing this book? I recall one of you writing you had to paint a wall a bunch of different colors every night, for example. Are there any other funny things that went on behind the scenes in putting this book together?
Sherry: Oh man, we were burning the midnight oil. We basically had two shifts going on. Shift one was from around 8am - 6 pm, which was when the photo crew was here in our house shooting all of the before pictures, progress shots, and after photos for the book. So we were busy running around with them to be sure that we got all the shots that we needed for the day. Then they went home to relax and have dinner and unwind and meanwhile we scrambled to set everything up for all of our shoots the next day (which often entailed painting a wall or a ceiling - even hanging wallpaper). Sometimes we didn't collapse into bed until two or three in the morning and then at eight in the morning it started all over again! That crazy cycle lasted for three whole weeks of shooting, and by the end we didn't remember our names. Haha. I think when it was all said and done we had painted four different walls of our house at least eight times!
John has mentioned that he went to TJ for high school and anyone who has seen the bumper sticker knows they are known for their woodshop classes about as much as they are known for their sports program. Did you have any early DIY experiences that gave you some experience before you jumped on the DIY train?
John: Back when I was growing up in Northern Virginia my dad actually built a deck on our house. He took his time and inched along, but after a few long months there was this great deck that my entire family enjoyed for decades. He also gutted a bathroom in their house over the course of a few months when I was older and I followed along with interest. I think Sherry and I got our slow-and-steady method from our parents since we both grew up in houses where they were happy to DIY something when they could. It didn't always go quickly or easily, but it was always worth it when they were done. [Editor's note: these two have also built a deck and completely gutted a bathroom since they've been homeowners, plus about a million other projects.]
But we do need to give TJ props where they are due since that is where you first learned to code and you do most of the work on the website. What other super hero skills do you guys have that help both the blog or with DIY. It seems like it isn't just your love for DIY that makes the blog/book so successful, but a ton of extra skills come in handy. Can you each list a few of the other parts of your personalities/interests that go into the your current day job?
Sherry: I'm definitely a visual gal, so I've loved learning how to take better photos (oh man, the ones in our archives a few years back are terrible!) and I was an advertising copywriter before I became a full time blogger, so I wrote magazine headlines and copy along with scripts for TV commercials. I think that writing background definitely subconsciously influences how I blog because it's completely normal for me to stare at the computer and come up with a few different post titles or try to phrase something in a new way just because I have a love of words. I also think my creative background (I went to art school in NYC, where I got my BFA) influences me to trying random and borderline-weird things in the name of creativity. I always just say "what's the worst that could happen?" and if the answer is "I'll just have to repaint" or "I'll abandon the idea if it doesn't pan out" it's not such a big deal, you know? One of the most fun aspects of our job is trying to come up with unusual ways to do a project (using new materials, colors, designs, etc) - like making a light out of an old basket or even out of 320 clothespins!
John: I certainly think that my science and technology background laid the groundwork for leaning to code/design our site and troubleshoot whenever we have technical issues. I was also in advertising after I graduated college (I was an account manager) so many of the business-side things that I do for the blog (managing sponsors, organizing giveaways, accounting) are definitely things I'm used to handling from my past career. I also had to do a lot of problem solving, so I think that's why I enjoy trying to figure out new applications/materials/methods with Sherry for fun projects like making a built-in desk from some old $1 thrift store cabinets.
When it comes to content you just have your house, yard, and occasional reader re-designs/housecrashing. And now you've gone and added 243 extra projects to the list. So how do you approach the content side of blogging/book writing to make sure you don't get repetitive and boring?
Sherry: I think the key has really been to always allow ourselves to continue evolving and to allow our house and our style to grow with us. That way we can keep tackling new things that appeal to us as time goes by. Maybe next time we'll use a different color or material or pattern to keep things fresh (ex: I might reupholster a modern rocking chair in a subtle tone-on-tone fabric a year after reupholstering a traditional dining chair with a graphic and bold pattern - and maybe I'll add nail heads to the rocker to give those a whirl and keep things interesting too). We definitely have noticed that we're more into bold colors and higher contrast in our current house, whereas our first house was a lot more subtle and tone-on-tone. So that's fun because instead of cloning our first house we got to see how our style and our sensibilities would evolve - and follow them to a new result in our current house. Our daughter Clara really inspires us to add as much function and color as we can, since she's so happy and cheerful... and messy! Haha. So our house has to work even harder - and make us smile while doing it!
You started this blog as a hobby to tell your friends and family about your kitchen renovation and it has grown into speaking engagements at home shows, magazine columns, and now a book. Can you tell us anything about what is next for YHL?
Sherry: We always say that five years ago we never knew we'd be here, so we have no idea where we'll end up! Seriously, your guess is as good as mine. Haha. We just know that a lot of hard work and a true passion for what we're doing got us here, so we can only hope that if we keep pouring love and enthusiasm into this little project of ours, we'll end up somewhere good. In general our DIY credo is "it's about the journey, not the destination" (it took us 4.5 years to finish our first house!) so we just try to do what we love - and we do our best to avoid stressing about things that we can't predict, like where this crazy DIY train will lead us! Haha.
· Young House Love [OfficialSite]