Home Front: The Young House Love bloggers join the weekly chat

Nov 01, 2012

John and Sherry Petersik, of the DIY design blog YoungHouseLove.com, were the guests on Jura Koncius' weekly Home Front chat. They talked about their new book, future projects and answered your questions about interior decorating and home improvement.

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.

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When Sherry and John Petersik started writing about decorating and renovating their own small Richmond ranch house, they had no idea their blog would go viral.  Now, they've just written their first DIY book, full of great ideas.  Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love published by Artisan. We are thrilled to have them here today to answer your questions about making a twig mirror or sewing pillows the easy way. Let's go.

I can't decide where to hang bamboo shades in my living room windows. I have not bought any yet, but should I hang them inside or outside the window? I have not bought any curtains either (I know, I'm slow), but I will hang them "wide and high., what's the best placement for the shades? I f I hang them outside mount, can I do it before I buy curtains?

What we did in our first house's living room is that we hung curtains high and wide (about 3" from the ceiling and 18" wide on each side of the window, to make the window seem nice and big and not block too much light). Then we hung the bamboo blinds at the same height as the rod, so they "cheated" the height of the window (making it appear as tall as the rod). It was a pretty simple solution and the window looked much bigger. If you don't buy curtains I'd just say to hang the blinds outside mounted at the height that works for you and then add the rod at the same height later. Good luck!

Everyone should have flashlights handy during a power outage, but if you don't have any newer flashlights with LED bulbs, you should get some. They will last days, not just hours, on a set of batteries. I also have an LED booklight, and a headlamp, which both came in very handy during the hurricane.

This is really good advice. Who knew? Thank you so much. Now that I think of it, my son has a headlamp that he used to climb Old Rag last winter. We could have used that. Everyone, please share any other storm tips you have. We will need them later in the snow season no doubt.

What is the best way to clean bamboo floors? I tried Swiffer which works wonderfully on tile, but it left a sticky residue on bamboo.

We love mild soap like Mrs Meyers on an cloth mop (Target sells a cheap one with a removeable and washable head). Just be sure not to get the floors too soaking wet and it all should be great! Typically heavier products leave residue so we love milder options (Dr Bronners is also a good choice).

I just wanted to let John and Sherry know how much I enjoy their blog. It is a daily treat for me, and I can't wait to get their new book. While I love the creative and thrifty ideas that the Petersiks bring us, I've also really enjoyed getting to "know" such a lovely couple (and of course to see how the Bean and Burger are doing.) I can't be home to participate in today's chat, but I'm looking forward to checking out the transcript tonight!

What a great message.  Thanks for posting early. I'm excited that Sherry and John were able to join us today and enjoy reading all the good stuff tonight!

Full disclosure: I'm a huge YHL fan so forgive me while I freak out a little bit. On to the question: How does one decide if a home they're considering purchasing is just too small? I'm single, don't have a lot of "stuff" (though my mother may disagree when it comes to my clothes) and have been looking at an admittedly very small studio (under 400 sq. ft.). I can't afford much in this city but I think I can live comfortably in such a small space with the right design choices. So how do you know if small is too small?

Aw, thanks for reading our blog! And now onto your question. We would just think about the "functions" that you'd like in your space. If you just need a place to sit, a small table for eating, a modest desk/work area, and a bathroom, you can definitely get by in a smaller studio. Both of us have lived in tiny NY apartments and it's amazing how simple it can be as long as you don't have too much stuff or need the space to allow you to carry out extremely specific functions that a small space can't (ex: host parties for 10+ work colleagues, accommodate two large dogs, etc). Good luck with everything!

Now that you've successfully turned your blog into a book, what's next from your family!? A sibling for Clara? More projects? Can't wait!

Good question! We always say that five years ago we had no idea that we'd be here, so we honestly don't know where we'll be in the future. We would love to give Clara a sibling someday and of course we have about a million projects on the ol' to-do list!

I love your blog and am so excited you are on the weekly chat. We have recently purchased a house with 30 yr old wallpaper in every room except for one. It is not only on the walls, but on the ceilings as well. Realistically, we can't take it all off in one fell swoop, but will need to live with at least some of it for a while. Is there any way to make peace with it and perhaps even use it as a feature in our interior design, until we are able to dedicate the time and funds to remove it all? Also, do you still do mood boards for people? I would love to buy one for one of our rooms!

Aw thanks! We sadly can't keep up with custom mood boards anymore, but we love when people post photos of their rooms along with a question on our Facebook page where other readers can chime in with advice! It's a lovefest over there and many folks have awesome ideas to share. As for the wallpaper, if I were you I would resist making decorating decisions around it if you truly don't like it for the long term. The danger in decorarting around it and intentionally picking things that go with it or feature it is that you're spending money to make wallpaper you don't love look good, and when you finally remove it you might regret making color or design choices around that old wallpaper. I would just slowly save up for pieces that you love over time and build up the energy to tackle that wallpaper. You won't believe how much of a difference it'll make down the line when it's gone! Good luck!

So excited to get my hands on your 3rd baby! Though i'd love to give burger some pets too... Mostly just posting because of the photo on this site, look at teeny tiny Clara! We love her videos and save them up to watch as a treat! Congrats on the book!

Thanks! You're so sweet. It's so funny to see that itty bitty Clara picture. They grow up so fast. Sniffle.

We got water in our finished basement from Sandy. We've never had water before in what was a carpeted basement. We're planning to hire a waterproofing company but are wondering what flooring to install after the waterproofing. Maybe tile with some carpet tiles over it so the kids can play? Thanks for your advice!

So sorry to hear that. I think tile would be a good choice and carpet tiles are a very popular alternative to wall-to-wall which is a pain to remove during flooding. Make sure you get to the cause of your flood - sometimes all you need to do is reposition your downspouts from your gutters so they empty far from your foundation.

Any ideas where to find great large rugs (9 x 12) for reasonable prices? I love the Dwell and Anthropologie styles, but can't stomach $1500+ for a rug at this stage...

Ikea. Also check out Green Front, in Manassas or Farmville.

Hi John and Sherry! I've been reading your blog for years and you've recently inspired me to redo the kitchen in our house. We went with white cabinets, soapstone counters, and white/grey marble floors. I love it, but as you can imagine it could use a pop or two of color. What kind of functional accessories do you recommend to add a little interest? We also have one area of open shelving for our cookbooks and I'd love any ideas for accessories to intermix with the books (maybe an interesting pen holder). Thanks and congrats on the book!

We LOVE adding pops of color to any kitchen with the following items: a bold or patterned roman shade for the window over the sink, a statement fruit bowl (sounds funny, but a giant faux clam shell or textured carved wood bowl can bring so much character to all the colorful fruit that'll end up in it), a ceramic container in a bold color to hold wood spatulas and spoons next to the stove, a colorful radio on the counter (we have a yellow one), and a bright collander on a shelf. As for your open shelving, working in colorful vases or ceramic containers along with a fun kitchen timer or cake plate could be fun!

Our bedroom is painted Benjamin Moore Coventry grey and we mostly have navy/white/other shades of blue bedding and accessories in the room. I finally found two awesome bedside tables at Lucketts last weekend but they need to be repainted. Was thinking maybe yellow to add a pop of color to the room - any suggestions on a good yellow or perhaps another color I am not thinking of? Super excited to paint my first furniture piece - hopefully its not a disaster! Thanks

We painted our front door Full Sun EB1-1 by Valspar’s Eddie Bauer Home collection and we love it! It's a great happy yellow color without too much gray or orange in it. We also have a furniture painting tutorial on our blog's Project page if that helps! Good luck with everything!

I want to redo my kitchen w a very limited budget. Any advice on inexpensive sources for cabinets and counters? More importantly, what are you top tips for doing a kitchen on the cheap? Thanks!

We just try to do as much as we can ourselves. When you ask yourself "can I renovate my kitchen?" it's such a scary big question and your answer will probably be "no way!" but if you take it one step at a time and ask "can I unscrew the old cabinets?" the answer might be "sure I can!" Many of the things most people can do to save money is to remove old cabinets, switch out the light over the sink for something new, repaint the walls, assemble and install new cabinets (Ikea has some great affordable options that are well rated for lasting a long time and looking great). Some people can even learn how to install backsplash tile (we watched a few youtube videos and it wasn't that hard!). Then leaving things like major plumbing and electrical work up to the pros is a great idea, since you'll have saved a lot of money doing the things you can manage to do yourself. As for counters, local stoneyards or kitchen shops might have great deals, and installation is usually free, so that's also a great thing to hire out. Sometimes you even get a free sink when you buy counters. Hope it helps!

I am looking for new ceiling light fixtures for my updated 1924 kitchen. I really like the look of the fixtures at Schoolhouse Electric, but I would like to actually see the lights in person. Do you have any suggestions for stores with similar styles in the DC area? I prefer new fixtures, rather than actual vintage. Thank you

Don't rule out vintage. We have the great resource Brass Knob in Adams Morgan that has an amazing selection of lighting from every decade. You might try places such as West Elm or CB2  or Restoration Hardware. Any other ideas guys?

Love love love you guys. I started reading you when I found out that you had a little brick ranch (just like me!) but still managed to make it cool and chic. Can I just say that the deck was my favorite project ever? I checked in every morning holding my breath, thinking, "Oh, I hope they'll post about the deck today." Nerd alert.

Hahah! Thanks so much. That project was a prime example of how things didn't always go our way (we failed that first inspection, had crazy hot weather, found an unexpected concrete slab buried where we were digging) but taking it one day and one step at a time helped keep us from getting too overwhelmed. And lo and behold, we lived to tell the tale!

First off, I want to say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog and I cannot wait until your pre-ordered book is in my hands in a week or so. Then I want to ask - what kinds of tips do you have for a young couple who haven't really found their decorating style yet? We live in a small (>700 sq ft) apartment, have a hodgepodge of cool art/posters/sports memorabilia, and a lot of hand-me-down but gorgeous and/or workable furniture. I just feel like our place is kind of bland compared to what we could do with a house (can't paint here), but we won't be in a house for several more years. Any thoughts? Thank you so much!

We can totally relate! We both had white-walled apartments with a mix of random furniture and art. And we know all about not really knowing "your style" for a while (it probably took us five years to pin ours down). I would say that sites like Pinterest along with home magazines and design shows can be awesome when it comes to trying to define what you like. Try scrolling through Pinterest or leafing through a magazine and tagging everything that appeals to you. Don't really think about it, just tag and keep moving. Then once you have about ten things tagged, try studying them to see what commonalities emerge. Maybe many of them have boldly colored rugs (which you can definitely add to cozy up an apartment). Maybe a few of them have a piece of painted furniture (they're great for adding color in a white-walled space). Perhaps they all have a certain vibe (cottage chic, sleek and modern, elegant and traditional, eclectic and bright) which can help you decide what to keep and highlight versus what to craigslist or donate down the line. Sometimes it's just all about taking your time and saving up so that you can repurpose or upgrade the things that you have (John and I had hand-me-down furniture for years before slowly buying new things to replace those or repainting them or reworking them in some way). Just take it slow and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. You want it to be fun. And you definitely want to really think about what you like before committing too quickly to something you're not sure about. Good luck!!

I am renting my condo out after getting a job some 200 miles away. I picked lovely paint colors in the condo, but now that I am renting it out, I'm wondering if I should just paint over it all with a white or neutral paint? And if so, any suggestions on paint that would look good with everything?

I definitely don't think everything has to go white or beige to be more rental-friendly (some tennants might love some color on the walls) but you probably don't want anything too specific since a big ol' purple wall can clash with someone's sofa/rug/accessories, making it a deterrent. I love the idea of using a soft tone that has a good amont of tan or gray in the undertone, so it almost makes it a neutral without actually being beige. A good example of that would be Quiet Moments by Benjamin Moore. It's a soft blue-gray color like sea glass that seems to go with everything but isn't too drab or boring looking. Another option might be a soft celery green tone that it's not too "kiddy" like Nantucket Breeze by Benjamin Moore. If you'd just love a soft-yet-warm gray tone, we love Wishes by Benjamin Moore (it goes with everything) and if you're less into gray and more into tan, Ashen Tan (also by Benjamin Moore) is always a classic. Hope it helps!

Looking for something clean-lined. Any ideas?

Yes. Restoration Hardware and Remodelista.com as well as Design Within Reach. Stylish house numbers can really class up the front of your home.

Steam mop! I use the shark, there are others out there :) great on my hardwoods, when I had laminate.


Goal Zero wind up lantern with USB output is a must have survival tool. People were walking blocks to charge phones at public generators in NYC.

Thanks. Great tip. It is easy to carry too.

We tried the spray, and sanding. Some of it worked, but we wound up painting over the pieces that wouldn't come off and replaced the sheet rock that was a foot wide above the sink.


My husband accidentally spilled a flavored water drink on my favorite rug! We tried to clean it ASAP but it's still stained. What else can we do or should it be tossed out in the trash?

I would try and have it professionally cleaned. Tell the cleaner what you spilled on it. Don't try and do anything else to it yourself.

The pressure is the fun. It's always on.

It is always on.

I see someone mentioned a soapstone kitchen counter in an earlier question. I've had mine for 2 years and wish I had something else. It scratches too easily. I do put mineral oil on it, which makes it look better, but the scratches and nicks are still there. Any advice? I hear via gardenweb that there's a guy in Florida who hones (if that's the right word) soapstone so it doesn't scratch. Is that possible?


Would love to hear your thoughts on having a "blogworthy" house or wedding and pressures that folks seem to feel on having a place that is blogworthy?

Our best advice, and what we truly believe has gotten us where we are today, is to blog for yourself. Over five years ago we started our blog just for fun as a way to keep our friends and family in the loop about our kitchen remodel. We honestly didn't have a clue that half a decade later we'd get betting over five million hits a month. And if we think about that it makes us all sweaty! So we still do what we did the day we wrote out first post. We blog for ourselves and just pretend we're talking to ten friends and relatives. We try never to put undue pressure on ourselves to do things faster than possible (that's a quick way to kill creativity and end up with something that you'll regret) and we especially don't put any pressure on ourselves to have a perfect/clean/gorgeous house at all times. This is real life. We have a toddler. We have tools everywhere and half finished projects going all the time. So we love sharing photos of the real moments as well as the pretty all-cleaned-after-a-project moments. There are always tons of messy in-progress shots, and we've learned that our readers like seeing that stuff too! We have even done a few video house tours without cleaning a thing, so I'm walking around with the camera saying "here's a pile of Clara's toys on the floor and here's John's hoodie on the counter with a stack of unread mail" - we love keeping it real! I would recommend that any blogger who feels any pressure should just free themselves of that by being real. You'll be amazed how many folks love seeing a messy desk because they too have one. Nobody's perfect, right?!

Ikea doesn't have many rugs as big as 9 x 12. Check our Overstock or Tuesday Morning.

okay thanks.

Just wanmust say that the downsizing and moving I've done recently got a huge assist from Home Front (you answered a question that clarified one of my decisions, and I learned a lot from answers to others), and I was thrilled to learn about YHL from the Post. YHL further refined how I make decorating decisions. Not having a background in art or design is so much less of a drawback now. Together you have really contributed to my life. Plus it is so much fun to read you both. Thanks and thanks again!

You made my day! What a lovely message. I appreciate your writing in today and we are really glad that you got some useful information from the chats that you were able to put into practice.

Two items that might not have occurred to me, but for the superior preparations at the retirement community of an elderly family member: a whistle to keep with you, should you need to "call" for help, and a bathtub full of water for flushing toilets. We do not live in the Sandy region, but have found so many good preparation sources online in East Coast newspapers that we are using them to create our own "go bag" lists -- what do you need to have ready to go if your neighborhood is evacuated, for instance (e.g., gas leak, domestic violence) and what do you need to have ready if you need to secure yourself in your home for a period of time without water/electricity/phone. This is a great time of year to prepare, because camping gear is well suited to this and is on sale in many places at the close of the season. All that said, prayers and good thoughts to the people for whom this is not an intellectual exercise or a preparation but a sad and frightening reality.

Thank you for this very informative posting. You make some excellent points.

Might I also thank you guys for a nice reality check? Reno looks so easy when they do it on tv, but it's nice to see the realistic timelines on your blog. My projects around the house tend to take, um, a long time and I think I'd lose heart if you guys were redoing whole rooms in a weekend. I also appreciate that you change things up because my decorating also doesn't always work the first time. Thanks!

Oh heck yeah! We can totally relate to things taking longer than a commercial break, which is why we love sharing "real-time" posts as projects move along. Sometimes we're flying through something that we thought might take forever and other times we're hitting a ton of bumps in the road that we never expected, so it's all just trial and error. It sounds sort of "risky" to say "our method is trial and error" but it really is one of the only ways to learn how to execute something well and how to define what you love. How would we know we don't love black window trim if we hadn't tried it on our first house's bathroom window? How would we know the easiest way to patch a hole in the ceiling without trying a few ways and learning what looked the best? It's amazing how much you can learn and grow just by taking it one victory (or one slip-up) at a time. Sometimes it's the mistakes that help you grow the most!

Etsy! I just had a ceramic tile rectangle made with white background, classic black numbers, dark green border. $35. Bye bye, 80s-font brass numbers from previous owners.

I am now feeling very ashamed about my brass numbers.

embrace the scratches. it is supposed to be used and show wear. that is the glory of soapstone. a designer once compared soapstone to a beautifully broken in leather jacket. so embrace it-- like curly hair: don't fight the curls.

Embrace the scratches. So true for many things.

Dominion Marble and Granite is a great at fixing cracks, nicks, etc. in soapstone. They also carry a wax and oil product that really makes the stone look great (better than oil alone, in my opinion). However, please realize that part of the beauty of soapstone is that it ages and gets cracks and chips. If you don't like it looking worn it's probably not a good product for you.

How great. Thanks so much.

I know you're crazy for shadow boxes at YHL -- I've got some antique D.C. memorabilia that I want to put in a shadowbox, but can't figure out how to attach the stuff. I don't want to glue them in, as they're so old. Also, some are heavy (including a small paperback guidebook and a little chotchki item). How do you attach them to the backing?

Hmm, we've had luck using things like craft glue, wood glue, or super glue, but if they're really old/valuable and you don't want to damage the back of them your best bet might be some sort of removable putty. Maybe visit your local frame shop and ask what they recommend? Sometimes a hot glue gun can work on items that you want to remove (it can be peeled off down the line) but I'm not sure if that would work for your specific items. Good luck!

Portable boxes for writing materials had existed for many centuries and in many cultures. However it was not until the last decades of the 18th century that the socio-economic circumstances in England necessitated the wide use of a portable desk in the form of a box which could be used on a table or on one's lap. Hence "Lap Desk".  One of the first things I replaced after the disaster was my desk. It's smaller and doesn't require a truck to move.

Something to remember.

John and Sherry! Love you guys and read your blog on a daily (sometimes more than once a day) basis. Any tips for how to cram our office into the guest room while keeping the queen sized bed in there? We're turning our existing office into a nursery. We plan to get rid of most of the stuff we have in there but we'll need space for a desktop computer, a printer, and a filing cabinet. Seems like an impossible task. :(

I would definitely get that bed against a wall - maybe even into a corner if you can (so it'll free up as much floor space as possible). If it's in a corner you could toss a bunch of pillows along the two sides that meet the wall to give it a daybed-ish feeling and then add the desk on the other side of the room. You could also try to get a desk with a file cabinet as the base (they make many of them in stores or you can use a slab of wood to create a desktop that's laid on top of two file cabinets to make up the "legs" of the desk yourself) to combine two of your needs and save space.

Great chat. Thanks so much John and Sherry. You have a lot of fans here. I'll be writing about their new book next Thursday. Have a great weekend everyone.

Spray paint! Claim they aren't brass. Then you'd be ashamed of lying though.


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
Young House Love
John and Sherry Petersik write the home improvement blog YoungHouseLove.com where they share their DIY adventures (and misadventures) as they renovate and decorate their Richmond home.
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