29 Sep Ep. 20 Sherry & John Petersik of YoungHouseLove.com
Back in 2007, Sherry & John Petersik started a blog called YoungHouseLove to chronicle their lives as they fixed up their home. Fast forward to 2015 and they are now on their 3rd home, have 2 children, garnered 1.1 million Pinterest followers, 156 thousand Facebook fans, 111 thousand Instagram followers, created their own signature hardware line for Home Depot, and their 2012 book, Young House Love, made it on the New York Times Best Sellers List. While in Salt Lake City during their tour for their new book, Lovable Livable Home, John & Sherry kindly took the time to Skype into The Hermann London offices to chat with Adam Kruse and Shannon St. Pierre about accidentally becoming successful bloggers, their favorite types of DIY renovations, and what to expect when they come to St. Louis on Friday, October 2nd for the book tour. The interview can be read below or you can listen to it as a bonus episode of the St. Louis Realtor Podcast With Adam Kruse.
Email questions to PODCAST@HermannLondon.com
0:29 -The pros and cons of life on the road for a book tour
1:13 -How did YoungHouseLove.com begin
3:47 -Have Sherry & John done renovations for other people
4:57 -How did Sherry & John discover that they liked fixing up homes
7:36 -What are the biggest lessons that Sherry & John have learned
10:30 -Is it hard to convince friends that they can also renovate their own homes
12:26 -Do Sherry & John ever use the help of other designers
13:52 -What are Sherry & John’s favorite projects
15:16 -What automated house gadgets do Sherry & John like
18:03 -How did Sherry & John get started with designing their own lines of products
21:55 -What the new book, Lovable Livable Home, is about 23:14 -Sherry & John are coming to the St. Louis County Library Headquarters on October 2nd
23:50 -Who lives under Sherry & John’s roof
24:08 -Where are Sherry & John at their best
24:42 -What are Sherry & John’s favorite blogs and podcasts
25:18 -What are Sherry & John’s guilty pleasures
25:37 -Who is Sherry & John’s mentor and how have they thanked them
John Petersik of YoungHouseLove.com-Hello!
Adam Kruse, Owner of Hermann London-Look at the cool chair he is sitting on.
Shannon St. Pierre, Realtor at Hermann London-Is that a bed?
John-I’m on a hotel room bed. We are doing a book signing in a little bit.
Shannon-What time is your book signing?
John-It is at 6 o’clock Mountain Time.
Adam-When you started this whole thing did you know that your life was going to turn into hotels and rental cars?
John-No, not at all. That is the funny thing about book tours is that everyone is like, “Oh my gosh! That is so exciting!” but you are like, “It is…for the 2 or 3 hours of the book signing but the rest is all airports, cabs, and all that stuff.”
Adam-…and fast food.
John-Yeah. Exactly. I’m eating great…
Adam-Well, I guess we will get this whole thing started if you don’t mind.
John-Sure! Here is Sherry.
Sherry Petersik of YoungHouseLove.com-Hi!
Adam-Hi Sherry! Nice to meet you! I’m Adam and this is Shannon.
Sherry-Nice to meet you!
Adam-We are calling from St. Louis.
Adam-One thing that I wanted to ask you is, obviously we know a lot about you guys and you have something like 1.1 million Pinterest followers, but just tell us a little bit about yourself if you don’t mind.
John-We are John and Sherry Petersik. We live in Richmond, Virgina and we are currently in our third house but shortly after we had moved into our first house and got married in our backyard we needed another project so we started renovating our kitchen. In doing our kitchen we needed a place to sort of document and vent about the frustrations of do-it-yourself and renovations so we started a website blog called Young House Love and it turned into this wild ride. Here we are 8 years later still doing it. It has become a full time job for both of us, allowed us to write a couple books, design products, and has taken us on this amazing adventure.
Adam-Neither of you are realtors but you were able to quit your job after staring the rehabbing? How did that work?
Sherry-It took many many years. We always say don’t quit your day job. We’ve written 3,000 posts over 7 years so I think that a lot of people think, “Oh, I’ll just start a blog and I’ll leave my current job.” but I took a big pay cut to do it for a while and then John finally came on years later when we had our daughter and realized that if I didn’t have a little help then I couldn’t watch the baby all the time and do the blog. It really was a slow progression but truly a big surprise to us because we never expected that any…you know, when you start a website in 2007 you don’t realize that they can be a job eventually.
John-And like you said, we’re not realtors. We don’t have any formal home improvement design or any sort of background in any of the stuff we write about beyond experiencing it as real homeowners.
Adam-It’s interesting because most of that is what people like anyway. You can go to school for it and then it might not be applicable anymore because we don’t use beige anymore. We use gray here in St. Louis.
Sherry-Yeah! Or the hybrid; greige. Do you have greige yet?
Shannon-Oh, I have seen some of that in the CITY city. The core part. I think I’ve seen it in a few houses. I like it.
Adam-I have all sorts of questions that I wanted to ask you about this backyard wedding and specifically you said it cost $4,000, but I probably shouldn’t take our time with you to ask, selfishly, my questions about having a cost-effective wedding. We should ask more about the…
Shannon-Is that because you have a wedding on the brink?
John-We will save that for your wedding podcast.
Adam-Yeah! Shannon’s got a lot of questions for you too so I’ll let you go ahead and start if you want.
Shannon-You were talking about your rehabbing, fixing up, and your love of it. Do you actually have other rehab projects that you’ve done?
Sherry-We try to take on projects for other people. We’ve done things like fix up his grandma’s bathroom. It was rusting and falling apart and that was a really fun project. We drove to West Virginia and chronicled the whole makeover. We’ve helped his sister out. She’s younger than us and moved into a few apartments. We’ve helped her do stuff there. We also on a larger scale decorated a whole show house in Richmond for an event called Home-A-Rama where people go through the homes. I’m sure you guys have Home-A-Ramas out by you where they tour show houses. It’s like a parade of homes. It’s an open house of 8 builders and they are decorated fancier and the homes are a little bit higher end. That was a really fun project for us because we are so used to doing things on a budget. We definitely had a budget but some of the materials we got to select were nice and high-end and that was fun.
John-All the designers had a very limited budget in terms of having to decorate an entire house. You know the home you live in and how much it takes to make it feel lived in. The budget was very tight in that regards. We had to be creative in getting some of the things donated to the house as well.
Shannon-Tell us about your love of fixing up homes. How did you discover the passion? Was it from your first project and you just wanted to do more and more?
John-It really was born from necessity in some ways. We met working in New York City rental apartments and we realized we both had this shared craving to put our own mark on a space so when we moved to Richmond, Virgina, we bought our first fixer-upper. It was born from two things; not having the money to afford the dream home that we eventually envisioned and also realizing that when we saw some of the homes that had recently flipped or rehabbed that, sure they looked nice, but they didn’t necessarily feel like us and so we realized that if we started from the place of a fixer-upper we could take that journey and put our own mark on it and choose our own finishes and really make it look like us rather than pay towards someone else’s choices.
Shannon-What do you think you see in a house that other people don’t?
John-I think it’s easy to feel like when you see a house that it is so permanent; like a home is a big structure that is expensive. It feels scary sometimes that you can change it, especially going through lots of DIY’s, it’s become apparent to us more and more that it’s actually really not that scary and a lot easier to make changes to the home if it doesn’t fit your vision perfectly. For instance, I was so nervous about the idea of adding electrical, lighting, or plumbing. Even opening a wall seemed scary because it was such a big thing but it really isn’t. It can be expensive. It can be scary if you find something back there, but for the most part, there are professionals out there that can help you. You can get things a lot more affordably than you might think, and if it gets you to the end of creating a home that works for you and fits your lifestyle and looks the way that you want, it really makes it a lot easier to see the potential of a home when you first visit it.
Sherry-I think as realtors you can relate to someone saying, “Oh, I don’t like the paint colors.” and you are like, “Look beyond the paint colors!”.
Shannon-All the time!
Sherry-Someone will say, “This room is so dark!” Just take the curtains off or paint the room a different color. I think those are things where if you did a tour and they said, “I would love this house if it just had a kitchen that is open to the living room.” and you see the wall and you say, “For $1,000 you can get a header beam put in and you can open up that wall. Stop looking at other houses if this fits all your needs. It will just be $1,000 to fix that.” Shannon-Through all of these houses, the three that you’ve done and all of your DIY projects, what are your biggest lessons that you’ve learned?
Sherry-One thing we like to ask ourselves is what’s the worst that can happen. If the worst thing that can happen is the house could collapse, catch on fire, or flood, these are things that we love to turn to professionals for, so that would mean hiring someone for major electrical, plumbing, and structural stuff. But if the worst that could happen is I might not like the paint color and I’ll have to repaint, that is definitely something where if you’re looking to save money you could try to tackle. If you don’t want to save money, by all means hire someone. It’s not for everyone, DIY, but if you have a desire to make a home look better or work better for your family there certainly are ways to keep it budget friendly and one of those ways is just learning basic skills; peeling the wallpaper yourself, painting yourself, hanging new curtains–you could even get them from affordable places like Target or Ikea. One of the things we’ve learned is doing things slow is usually a good thing. It saves your budget and it helps you end up with a room that is really thoughtful. A lot of times we hear from people who went out and bought a whole furniture set all at once or they rushed to finish a room and it’s not always what they love, but if they buy things slowly and collect pieces that have meaning from great traveling experiences or something they just can’t stop thinking about instead of settling on the basic suite that was on sale that weekend, it ends up creating rooms that they really love.
John-To build on that, I think that one of the lessons we’ve learned is to keep our expectations in check. I think there was this instinct, especially when we bought our first house, that we need to fill it immediately and we need to finish it right away. I think that robs you of a lot of the journey of it and also puts some unnecessary stress on you to make you feel like you need to finish it rather than let it evolve and build over time and adjust to suit your needs.
Adam-…and then you have it finished and you say, “We should have done it this way!”
John-Exactly. You give yourself the time and the space to really think through some decisions and find the right things and give yourself room to make mistakes and correct them. If you are really racing towards some deadline, whether it is invented or artificial, you might do things more quickly or you might not give yourself the room to readjust than if you actually gave yourself the space to create it and figure it out.
Shannon-…and let it come along naturally.
Sherry-We really beat ourselves up a lot with the first house when we didn’t have it done in 3 months. I think there was this weird thought that we will have a housewarming party when it is finished, which is crazy! It’s not finished for years and now we have fully embraced that a house is never fully finished. It takes years to get even close to where you want it to be so have the housewarming party and embrace the chaos, the mattress on the floor, and the boxes. Your family does not expect the house to look perfect when they get there and I promise they just want to celebrate your new place with you. There’s a lot of freedom in letting go of those high expectations.
Adam-I’m curious; I have to imagine that you have a lot of friends that say, “We need you to come over and do this at our house!” Do you have any success convincing them that they can actually do it?
Sherry-You are right. That’s the hardest step; just getting them to start because once people try one thing it sucks you in. You realize how much money you saved and you are so proud of yourself. We just always encourage our readers or anyone out there that wants something to look better but doesn’t have the budget to hire it out to just give it a try. I always say that not making a decision is making a decision and it’s a decision to stay frozen. Unless you want your house to look exactly the same way, you have to do something and just doing that one small thing will build momentum. For example, if you have ten rooms in your house, repaint the smallest one first. Maybe it is a bathroom. Maybe there’s fancy tile halfway up the wall so you are just painting the tops of four walls and it takes you 2 hours and half a can of paint. Just start slow and you will build momentum and you will build confidence and you’ll be surprised. Four years ago John could hardly build anything and now he’s a master builder.
John-You guys are exaggerating a little bit.
Adam-It’s neat that the things you are saying are the same lessons that they try to teach entrepreneurs; fail forward, just get started, that kind of stuff.
John-The great thing about failing in terms of designing your home is that if you do something you hated it might feel like a failure but you taught yourself that you hate it. You’ve learned something that you don’t like. Cross it off the list. It lets you focus in on things that you do like.
Sherry-Learning what you don’t like in a room is just as valuable as knowing what you do like in a room because it can save you money and time down the line from making that mistake. Once you’ve checked off the box and you say, “Nope. I’ve tried a dark color and it looks crazy so I’m going to paint it lighter.” you now know in your ten other rooms, “Maybe I’ll stay with a lighter palette because I like that.”
Shannon-Do you guys just pick out everything like colors and rugs? I look at your website and it is very bright. Do you do it yourself or do you enlist the help of a designer to give you direction?
Sherry-We do everything ourselves but we’re definitely influenced and we always say we have to thank all the inspiration out there on the internet, fellow bloggers, and designers. We love reading design books and magazines. We watch design shows. It is certainly something that was self-taught in a way that it is a passion and we love to learn about it but we definitely recognize there are experts that might do it better. As non-experts, the best way we can get close to their experiences is by trying and aiming high and look at inspirations and draw out what we like about those spaces. Even if we don’t have that budget maybe we can adapt that color palette or that layout and use it in our home.
John-For someone who doesn’t have either the desire or the means to hire a designer, you can also rely on the people who work at the stores that you are shopping from a lot. For instance, our local fabric store in our hometown comes to mind. They are so knowledgeable about fabrics and what goes together that you can go there just as a shopper and get a lot of help in making those decisions just by having that outside perspective. You can still get some design input if you feel like you need that assistance. Try to rely on some folks like that.
Shannon-What’s been your favorite project?
Sherry-I think one of our favorite rooms to design are children’s rooms. Whether they are nurseries or…we have a five year old daughter and we did a room for her when we moved into our current house. She wasn’t a baby but it’s still a child-like playful space for her. She was three when we moved in. Those are fun because there are no rules. There shouldn’t be rules in any room but especially in a kid’s room. Both of our kids have a bright and colorful closet door. Our son’s is a bright emerald color and our daughter’s is a pinkish red watercolor. Everyone walks into their rooms and goes, “That’s so much fun!” and it’s not like the main door so it doesn’t look weird off the hallway. It’s in their room and it’s the proper color. Giving them a space to experiment and play helps their rooms to feel that much more special like putting their stamp on it. Our daughter is old enough to say what she likes now and it is really fun to get her involved. It feels like we are fostering that love of design in her and honoring her choices.
John-I always love projects that teach me new skills. In our second home I laid a patio for the first time and I had to learn how to do that. I was freaked when I started. I probably freaked out several times during it, but at the end, having it done was such a sense of accomplishment that I’m glad that I wasn’t scared of by the intimidation of it all.
Adam-I bought a house recently that I did a bunch of work to and one of the things that was really important to me but I ended up doing basically none of was I wanted to have an automated house with thermostats and all that kind of thing. We have cameras but we still have our old thermostat. You guys are obviously in the know with your own product line. What are the cool automated house things you can do; any ideas or tips?
Sherry-We have a Nest Thermostat and we really love it.
Adam-…that you can control from your phone?
Sherry-Yeah. Exactly. We saved up for it and it is not inexpensive but it is so cost-effective in the energy savings that it gives you that it basically pays for itself. It tracks your movements and knows how you are as a family. It knows when you are home and learns when you are gone. It turns itself off when you are gone. It has auto-away so it will shut itself off. It is amazing. We will be on vacation and we will be an hour away and I will check on my phone and it will say auto-away.
John-It’s great because when we are an hour away from getting home and we want to cool the house off or heat it up depending on what season it is we can get on our phone ahead of time.
Sherry-My favorite thing about it is when we are laying in bed and we are hot or cold we just pick up our cell phone.
John-It’s a kind of laziness.
Sherry-It’s amazing. We don’t have to get out of bed and we can adjust the temperature. I love that it learns and it tells you every month how much you have saved and what percentage of energy savings tracked from other homes that didn’t use it. It makes you competitive in that you want to save more and more every month so it makes you really turn it down or up depending on when you don’t need it. It helps you conserve.
John-The next thing I’m looking at are those automated light bulbs. Have you seen those yet?
Shannon-No. What are those?
John-They are wi-fi connected light bulbs. I forget who makes them and I don’t want to say the wrong thing. You can control them from your phone. It’s great for if you are away or out of town you can set timers on them. There are also some where you can choose any color on the spectrum to make the light.
Sherry-We have some friends that are graphic designers and they love it because they say, “At night, a soothing light is yellow and in the morning it is blue.” so they set it so they gently wake up to a light. It dims itself, turns itself on, and it glows.
John-I don’t know if the cost is there yet for us.
Adam-Those are probably expensive per bulb.
Sherry-There are these whole systems at Home Depot and Lowe’s. I think they each sell a different brand, but it is automated from your phone so you can unlock your doors if a contractor is coming over to let them in or you could even control the doggy door if you want to let your dog out at a certain time.
Shannon-Oh my God! Automated doggy doors?! I’m going to have to look those up!
John-You will have to buy your dog a phone.
Adam-Do you mind if I ask a little bit about your products? You guys have products now, right? Tell us a little bit about them, how that got started, and what your favorite ones are. I’d like to hear more about them.
Sherry-I think the surprising thing is that none of this is anything that we ever expected, but when we wrote our first book that came out in 2012 it actually got on the New York Times Bestseller list which, was a shock for the publisher and us. I think that’s when brands started to say, “Wait a minute. Maybe this is someone interesting to talk to about endorsing something.” and I think people came to us about endorsements and we said, “We have ideas for what’s missing in the market. Let us make it with you.” That’s how we did a collaboration with a local lighting company called Shades of Light. They sell nationally so it was a really fun way to work with someone local but do something that anyone in the country could get a hold of. From there we started creating a line of hardware and that got picked up by Target. It was sold as Young House Love for Target, which was amazing. Then we did a collection with Home Depot that might now be ongoing so we are working on more designs with them as we speak.
Adam-Hardware? What is that?
Sherry-Yeah. Hooks and rails and knobs for dressers and lots of metal things and some acrylic things. A manufacturer we started working with makes that stuff and we realized we are always looking for that stuff. For example, Home Depot didn’t sell gold hardware and gold is very in right now and it is super expensive to get it on a website. Some people want to hold it and touch it in the store and they don’t want to order it online so it was really fun to create these items that we know we would like to buy and hopefully others might. It has been great to see them being purchased all around the world.
Adam-Yeah. You are kind of setting a trend because if people go to Home Depot and see it and buy it then it is in their house and it is a cool thing.
John-It is crazy!
Sherry-It is really exciting when we see things show up. An octopus hook that we designed for Target ended up on a TV show in the background on the set. I don’t even remember what it was. It wasn’t a show that we watch but one of our readers took a picture of their screen and said, “Look at this fake kitchen! There is your octopus hook with a dish towel on it!” That was pretty cool.
Shannon-How do your lines differentiate from what is out there?
Sherry-I think we just try to do something that is missing by using different materials and finishes and maybe doing something a little bit more modern. The octopus hook is an example where we thought when making a cute bathroom for kids or a nautical bathroom for yourself you might see a bunch of S-hooks or J-hooks but how fun would it be if the little tentacles of the octopus held the towels.
John-A lot of the things have a little quirky ring to it or a lot of color to it and also we are very cost conscious because we look for good deals that are within our budget to make our rooms beautiful. That was one of the things where with Shades of Light we said we want to keep a price cap. In our first collection everything was $99 or less. It gave everyone a way to get these higher end looks without a higher end price tag.
Sherry-We also like that DIY component so our new collection with Home Depot has hardware that we can pop out the color insert so you can spray paint it or change the color and put it back in.
John-It’s easy to hack.
Sherry-Right, like a pattern or you could spray on a chalkboard, use a chalk pen, and write socks, underwear, or whatever is in each drawer. We thought it was fun to personalize things that way.
Adam-We probably have to start wrapping up, right? You guys have to go sign books and you’ve got your public probably lined up somewhere, right? I’ve got my short 5 questions that I like to ask everyone but do you have anything else?
Shannon-Do you want to tell us about your new book that just came out?
John-Cool! Our second book is called Loveable Liveable Home and it just released this week. It is all about celebrating homes that are meant to be lived in and not just looked at. I think being entrenched in the design community we get so excited about these beautiful homes that inspire us that we sometimes forget that homes also have to live in reality and reality has messes, crumbs, remote controls, kids, and pet hair. We wanted to take the approach of not shuffling those things to the side and ignoring them but also saying we all deal with this. Let’s figure out how these things can live together in beautiful functional spaces that mean something to the people that live there.
Adam-Your house doesn’t look like it does for the pictures on the website all the time, right?
Sherry-Right! We love showing people. We will do a video showing a pile of junk next to the camera. John-Every once in a while we used to do a Youtube video that we’d call our messy house tour where we would walk around our house, and we had not moved a thing.
Sherry-If my bra was on the chair then my bra was on the chair!
Adam-Anything else we forgot to ask you?
Sherry-We are coming to St. Louis on the book tour.
John-Next Friday, October 2nd, at the St. Louis County Library. All the details are on our website.
Adam-The St. Louis County Library Headquarters on Lindbergh in Frontenac.
John-We will be there giving a short talk about some of the things that we just mentioned, sharing some pictures from the book, and signing books.
Sherry-I can’t wait to see everyone. We have never done a St. Louis signing before.
Adam-Everyone will be happy to have you. Your website is YoungHouseLove.com. I want to ask you the quick questions that I ask everyone if you don’t mind; my five quickies. Who lives under your roof?
John-Myself, Sherry, two kids; a five year old daughter named Clara and a 1 year old son named Teddy, and a chihuahua named Burger.
Adam-Where are you your best?
John-It sounds cheesy but I think I’m my best at home because I’m my most comfortable and I’m surrounded by people that know me and get my sense of humor. I think we always like creating spaces where we can feel comfortable so I think we’ve succeeded in our house so far.
John-Are you just going to steal my answer?
Sherry-I was going to add to it. I think we are our best at home and we are our worst in the airport.
Shannon-That’d be true for a lot of people. Don’t worry.
Adam-Do you have a favorite blog or podcast other than your own?
Sherry-We have so many it’s hard to play favorites. We certainly have been inspired by the design community. We love a website called DesignSponge. We have a really good friend who is a blogger. She writes a website called BowerPowerBlog. We really love one called MakingItLovely; based out of Chicago. Podcasts! We’ve been listening to a ton but what are our favorites? Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! because we love trivia. Startup is really interesting to us.
John-We are all over the place topic-wise.
Adam-Number 4: What is your guilty pleasure?
John-I thought you were going to say The Real Housewives.
Sherry-…and The Real Housewives!
Sherry-All of them!
Adam-Oh my gosh.
John-Not The Housewives; at least not all of them.
Sherry-Yours is soda.
John-Yes. Probably soda is my guilty pleasure.
Adam-Okay. Lastly, who is your mentor and how have you thanked them?
John-Oh gosh, that’s a good question.
Sherry-That’s a good one. I feel like there are many answers to that because the strange thing about us is that we’ve done so many different things. There is an author named Gretchen Rubin who I feel like has been a huge inspiration to us and she wrote…
John-…The Happiness Project was her first book. It was a study about Happiness.
Sherry-Our first book needed an author to say something about it so she read our book and made the blurb. It said From Bestselling Author, Gretchen Rubin and she said something wonderful about our first book. We have always been grateful to her and wrote her a big thank you. We all have to help each other out.
John-She actually started a podcast recently called Happier. That’s another recommendation. I actually wrote her an email a few weeks ago because she had done a podcast about taking time to say thanks to people and I thought I should say thanks to her and I’m enjoying her podcast. She would probably like to know.
Adam-Beautiful! I hope you guys have safe travels and we will look forward to seeing you in St. Louis. Thanks so much!
Shannon-Good luck on all your future projects!
Adam-Good luck and keep on writing!
Sherry-Thanks to you!
John-Great talking to you!
Adam-Take care! Thanks again so much!
(Sherry & John will be at The St. Louis County Library Headquarters Branch at 1640 S. Lindbergh in Frontenac at 7:00 p.m. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Seating is limited. Call 314-994-3300 for more information.)