Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When young love meets a good house much is possible

From page C4 | December 07, 2012 | Leave Comment

Young love is a state unto itself — full of starry-eyed possibilities, idealism, passion and a hefty dose of delusion. Young house love is exactly the same.

Though it’s been a while, I have experienced both. I now possess wiser hope, tempered passion and a bag of combat stories from both fronts so large it would take a case of good scotch and a patient listener to get through them all.

When I talked this week with Sherry Petersik, who with her husband, John, writes a popular blog and now has a book titled “Young House Love” (Artisan Books 2012), it took me back. The flashbacks were so strong I got whiplash.

Just like my husband and me, only 17 years later, the Petersiks bought a house, soon after got married at the house, then began taking the place apart while starting a family.

We were fools in love, all of us. What else could explain why four otherwise sane people would tear off the roof over their heads, live among tarps with a camp stove and park a Porta-Potty permanently on the curb?

The key difference is the Petersiks did it all more adorably. Their book and blog recount the tale, along with lots of ideas for those reckless enough to go on the same adventure.

As Sherry and I talked, memories engulfed me like drywall dust and paint fumes.

The Petersiks’ journey started the year the couple, who both worked in advertising, moved from a cramped apartment in New York City to a palatial-by-comparison, 1,300-square-foot house in Virginia.

Neither had any interior design or architecture experience. “We didn’t even know how to use a screwdriver,” said Sherry.

Straightaway, they began planning their wedding a DIY affair. They cooked the food, bought the glasses and plates from the thrift store then donated them back, and made centerpieces out of citrus fruit. “We wanted to,” said Sherry, plus they were on a lean budget.

“We lived frugally, and still do. We had one car and cut each other’s hair,” she said. That right there would have killed my marriage.

Being supremely good at sharing, they blogged all about it all.

Unlike most couples who wake up the day after their wedding and say, “Man, I’m glad that’s over!” The Petersiks looked at each other and said: “Now what do you want to do?”

“We’d been bit by the DIY bug,” Sherry said. “It feels much more special to do a job yourself and not just slide a credit card.”

So they took on the house, and kept blogging. “We just wrote about what went wrong. It was a big lament meant just for a few friends and family. We were completely surprised that people started following us.”

Follow indeed. Five years later, the blog gets more than 5 million hits a month thanks to their can-do-so-let’s-do attitude and complete candor: “Dude, now we’re writing a book about the stuff. Who would’ve thought?”

Eventually, Sherry, now 30, and John, 31, left their advertising jobs to feed the blog. First Sherry quit, then, after their baby arrived in 2010, John.

That year they sold their first home and bought another “old seen-better days-house” that they are turning into “a holy-buckets-we-love-it home all over again.”

They share it all in their book, whose subhead reads: “243 ways to paint, craft, update and show your home some love.” The design tricks are mostly downright cheap (some free), and many can be done in an afternoon.

I combed through the book with the holidays — and my limited budget — in mind. Then Sherry and I lit on a handful of decorating projects that could easily be tweaked for the season for less than $20. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Glam up a clear container. Get any clear glass vessel — a jar, hurricane lamp, trifle bowl — and fill it with ornaments, pomegranates, apples, or pine cones and holly berries. Set the vessel on a scrunched piece of burgundy velvet runner. “I love this tip because it’s so easy, fast, and low maintenance,” said Sherry, who, like me, worships speed.
  • Repurpose a homely wreath. Get a cheap fake wreath, or several. They don’t have to match, but they should be the same size. Spray paint them all the same super high-gloss color. Silver, gold or high-shine red looks chic and sleek. (Hit them with several coats.) Let dry, then hang them in every window on matching satin ribbons, or over a mirror.
  • Upgrade old coasters. Find the cork type at a thrift or import store. Pick out some classy festive holiday scrapbook paper (about 50 cents a sheet). Buy several patterns that you can mix. Trace the shape of your coaster onto the paper, and cut it out neatly. Glue it to the coaster. Apply craft glue with a sponge brush so it goes on smoothly and doesn’t ripple. When dry, coat with a few layers of Mod Podge (satin finished), a sealant that makes the coasters water resistant. I’m making them as hostess gifts.
  • Make a branch candle holder.  Find an old branch or rustic piece of wood. Spray paint it gold or silver. Take clear votives and dip the rim in gold or silver paint to coat the top quarter inch. Nest the votives along the branch, then pop in a tea candle for a festive centerpiece.

Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through


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