DIY Decor with Rachel Mae Smith - Home Front

Rachel Mae Smith
Mar 01, 2018

Rachel Mae Smith is a lifestyle writer, photographer and author of the blog The Crafted Life. Her new book Hello Color: 25 Bright Ideas for DIY Decor will be published this spring. Her work involves helping readers create colorful objects that reflect their personal style. She stresses using accessible and budget-friendly items. She believes that the decoration of your home should inspire joy in your everyday life.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Rachel Mae Smith is a lifestyle writer, photographer and author of the blog The Crafted Life. She loves to work with easy to find materials. Her new book "Hello Color: 25 Bright Ideas for DIY Decor" will be published this spring. Her work involves helping readers create colorful objects that reflect their personal style. She stresses accessible and budget-friendly projects. Her mantra: your home should inspire joy in your everyday life. Sounds good to me. Let's chat.


Good morning and happy Thursday everyone! I’m so excited to here chatting with you today. If you’ve ever had questions on how to bring color or decor DIYS into your home, I’m here to help!

I’m in love with idea of large scale “engineer prints” you can have printed at copy centers, etc. But how does one use these B&W images and”happy them” up with color via crafts? Love your style.

Engineer prints are such a great cost efficient way to bring art into your home! I have noticed that Staples now offers them in color for a little bit more (I think the difference is less than $1). If you want to bring color to your B&W prints, because they're so cheap, I suggest printing a few extra to play around with. You can paint directly on the paper, or even embroider them. Try to pick areas of the print (for example the sky) and add a fun pattern like dots or waves. And if you want to play it safe, you can always craft a colorful frame to display the prints in instead!

How do you come up with your ideas for colorful projects?

Most of my projects are a result of a problem I'm having in my home. For example, I was not in love with my bedding at all. It was a little boring and really nothing too special to look at. I took the sheets off, dyed them a fresh shade of pink and then added some fun pattern by making some throw pillows. It's always best to look at what you have, and see if there's a way you can give it a colorful makeover. 

Are you able to supply the name of a local expert who specializes in re-adhering undamaged fabric that has fallen away from the wall or tell me what to do myself while not damaging the textile? Thank you.

This is indeed an annoying problem. Not sure how much you have to repair. I would call a wallpaper expert. Does anyone else have any ideas?


Hello Rachael Mae! Your work looks so exciting and inspirational! My boyfriend and I were fortunate to win a pizza oven in a raffle which was super exciting since we love pizza. Do you like pizza? Unfortunately once we set it up in our kitchen it totally made us realize how dull things are in there with the white tile and all of the stainless steel and white appliances. We are so distraught! Do you have some suggestions for some quick and easy ways to inject some color in our kitchen, and thereby also bring some more color and exhilaration into our life?? We look forward to your suggestions and can't wait to enjoy some pizza in our newfound world of happiness! Thanks!

Boy am I jealous! What an exciting win! You know I love pizza :) 

While your kitchen does sound beautiful, I think there are some easy ways you can add pops of color! I would start by adding a colorful rug. It doesn't have to be fancy, just something that's colorful and easy to clean. I always love organic color in the kitchen, so consider getting a bright fruit stand or bring in flowers. To stick to a budget, faux options, are actually great. You wouldn't believe how real some of them look these days! 

You should also look at the everyday items you have on your countertops. Give your sugar and flour containers some color with vinyl or even make a colorful tea towel to hang from your oven door. 

With winter (hopefully!) on its way out and spring just around the corner, do you have any tips on ridding yourself of the cold weather blues? What do you personally plan to do to welcome spring into your home/life in a big way and how can we do that as well?

Let me just say that I cannot WAIT for spring. I am ready for that warmer weather and sunshine. Its such a great time of year to open those window and declutter too. I say start by getting rid of those items that aren't bringing you happiness or that you're just not using, then add new pieces. Hanging new art is a great way to give a room a makeover. I'm also thinking that a fresh coat of paint, maybe a colorful accent wall, could be a perfect way to welcome the new season! Also when in doubt, flowers, flowers, flowers. 

How important of a role does your home decoration play in inspiring joy in your everyday life & what is your favorite personal home decoration piece that inspires you? Love, Nick Mounts :)

For me, my home and how I've chosen to decorate it is everything. I really wanted a place that I love being in, so I took my time with it. It was a little hard to do, because I really just wanted it to be done, but I'm so happy I waited until I found the pieces I loved (and for them to go on sale). Home is always the one place in the world that is your own, so why not fill it with what makes you happy? 

My favorite piece in my home is my DIY mounted wall desk. It's exciting that I was able to install something like this myself, and because I painted the brackets, it adds such a great pop of color to the room. 

What are your thoughts on wall color? Should I go with bright colorful walls to fill my house up with vibrancy or a more neutral tone with colorful furniture and decor that pop?

That really just depends on your love for color! I'm always going to say yes to more color, but it's a matter of what's going to make you happy. You could easily start by painting an accent wall to see how you feel, or just start with one room, like the bedroom. White walls with colorful furniture, pillows, and rugs will give you a pretty bright space. If you're feeling nervous, start there and then add wall color later! 

Is there any paint color you avoid? I wonder if orange or yellow is really a good choice.

I think paint color is such a personal preference (since you have to be the one to live with it day after day), but personally I would avoid beige. There are so many colors out there, why play it safe? I really love yellow walls and think it's actually perfect for the bedroom. It will make the room feel sunnier when you wake up, which is the perfect way to start the day! When going bold, buy a few sample colors in different shades and test it to see how it reacts to light in your space before committing. 

I like the result and lower cost of DIY, but have no interest in doing this type of project myself. How can I find people to hire to do a DIY project? Thanks.

I guess it depends on the nature of the project. Local handymen are great when it comes to installation and other fixes around the house. If you are looking for smaller, decorative projects, try reaching out to local artisan in your community and see if you can hire them. If you're not sure where to find them, try going to local craft events or even going into the store that sells local goods and talking with the owner.

Yes to yellow! But you do have to be careful and make sure you see it in all light - it's tricky. We have out whole condo in BM pale daffodil. It's lovey and buttery light - want to eat it up.


For the couple looking to add color to their kitchen, I found a couple of glass, turquoise-colored vases and put them on either side of my kitchen window. It's just a small thing, but they make me happy every time I look at them. Sometimes even just a small bit of color can be enough.

Yes that is so true. Thank you.

What would you suggest for bringing color to an outdoor space? My patio/deck is in in need of a serious makeover. I know flowers might be the obvious choice, but I need some color in the winter as well!

Yes! I went through this same problem last year myself! I covered my concrete walls with a roll of faux ivy and it lasted through so many snow storms. I also suggest getting metal chairs and giving them a color makeover with spray paint! When it's warmer out, add decorative pieces like an outdoor rug or outdoor pillows. 

Do you like pink walls? Do you have a favorite pink paint color? And also - how do you keep your hair pink?

Pink walls are great! For paint, right now I am really loving millennial pink. It's soft like a neutral so it pairs with almost anything! As for my hair, the trick is to add a little bit of dye to your conditioner to keep it vibrant in between trips to the salon! 

Hi Rachel, thank you for doing this! My wife and I definitely fulfill the stereotype when it comes to color choices. She loves pinks and purples and I'm more satisfied with dark blues, blacks, and greens. How can we make a space our own while still satisfying our personal tastes in color that seem to clash?

In this color situation, I think it's all about compromise and execution. Stick to a neutral wall color, and then add color by mixing in pieces that you can swap in and out as you feel. For example, maybe your couch is dark blue but it has brighter colorful accent pillows. And maybe your plants are all green, but they're in a pale pink planter. Keep the communication open and you'll be able to find pieces you both love!

How can you save money on framing? It is so expensive.

It is so expensive! If you don't want to frame the item yourself, check out Framebridge. It also helps to wait until Michael's is having a sale!

I love the idea of your book and look forward to bringing my home to life with color! What's next for you? Any other tips for living a more colorful life?

I will be driving across the country this July for my book tour! Dates and cities will be announced soon, so please come by if I'm in your area so we can chat in person! 

For living a more colorful life, it's always best to look at what you have already and see if you can give it a colorful makeover. Maybe it's a fresh coat of paint, or dye, or decoupage, etc. Find the colors you love first, develop your palette, and then start to look for items that match it. Before you know it, your home will be full of color!

What is the best color for a bedroom for good karma?

I'm not sure what color good karma is into, but personally for the bedroom, I like bright cheery colors! It sets the tone for the day when you wake up to see a happy color. 

What are some different and inexpensive centerpiece ideas other than flowers?

It's amazing what a little spray paint can do! Try collecting used glass jars and then giving them a coat of paint. You can paint them all one color, or do a rainbow! Fill them with votives or just some simple greenery you forge from your yard. 

Thank you so much for your questions everyone-- it's been so nice chatting today!

Thanks for a colorful chat, Rachel Mae Smith, on another of these cloudy winter days. Next week I'll have Carmel Greer, an architect whose Washington firm is District Design, talking about an awesome renovation she did for a family in Shaw. Until then.

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.

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Rachel Mae Smith
Rachel Mae Smith, lifestyle blogger
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