Saturday, February 2nd, 2013
They were so fun to chat with and to have around, we would’ve kept them here all afternoon, if they didn’t have a flight to catch home to their kids. Followers of the Petersiks’ wildly popular DIY home-improvement blog–it gets 5 million hits per month–know that would be almost 3-year-old daughter Clara and beloved Burger, their chihuahua. (Daughter and dog get featured on their parents’ lovely spinoff blog, Young House Life.) But we did have a chance to talk to Sherry and John about their house, their blogs, the book, Sherry’s hair, John’s favorite project, and having a J.Lo moment….
Congrats on the book. Beautiful cover! Did you have a hand in it?
Sherry: It was a total group baby. Originally the book wasn’t going to be called Young House Love. It was going to be called Spruce. The subtitle is “243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love,” and we thought it would be wrong to have “love” in the title and subtitle. But then we were told, “Everyone loves your blog, it should be called Young House Love!”
John: Those wood letters that spell “house” were actually hand-carved and are in our home now.
Sherry: We threw on those keys on the “e” at the last minute.
And cute picture of you two on the cover….
Sherry: At first we didn’t want to be on it…
John: …and to have to look at our faces at every signing.
Sherry: Yeah, it was more like we didn’t want to see our faces big on the front every time. But our shot is small and we’re very happy with it!
How does it feel to be authors?
John: Throughout this whole process I was so excited to say my book is in a library somewhere, and that someone can check it out. It still has an element of being surreal. It’s exciting because not everyone reads blogs, and it’s nice to be able to dip our toe in different waters.
Do you notice you have new readers now, thanks to the book?
John: We were just taking about this at lunch!
Sherry: Someone will say, “I got your book as a gift at Christmas, and now I’m reading your blog.” We’re like, “Oh weird—it’s backwards!” For so long it’s been people reading our blog. So it’s funny to hear people who went book-then-blog.
What’s your favorite project?
Sherry: We have the same favorite project. It’s number-one in our book. [The project: "Faux Wallpaper the Back of Your Bookcase."]
John: It was one of the first ones we came up with.
Sherry: It’s gift wrap! It’s so easy. You probably have gift-wrap in your house already. You could do this on a rainy afternoon without leaving the house. Or you can use fabric or wallpaper or posterboard or foamboard. It’s really wrap anything with anything.
John: I have another favorite, though. It was that desk I painted. That took a very long time.
Sherry: Oh yeah, John was the tapemaster with that one.
John (pointing to project in the book, “Paint a Graphic Pattern on a Desk”): These were all individually cut pieces of tape, so I’m pretty proud of that! I was excited about how that came out. We didn’t need that piece for the house, so It was fun to loosen the reins and do bold colors.
It seems you’ve gotten bolder with your design picks over the years.
John: Before Clara was born, before we were parents, we tried very hard to make our house look like a “grown-up house,” like because we’re 25-year-olds who have a house, we have to make sure you can’t tell!
Sherry: Everything was beige. The cream slipcovers with cream pillows and a tan rug and tan walls!
John: And when we had Clara we realized, OK, we don’t have to convince people any more we’re adults. That gave us a little more confidence to be more playful, to realize we have a child—let’s be fun for her. We don’t have to put up these airs anymore.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions you think people have about decorating?
Sherry: I think the general fear is you have to hire someone who knows what they’re doing, like “I need to hire a design consultant,” or a painter. It’s surprising to me when someone who’s been reading our blog for years says, “I’m going to hire a painter to paint my bathroom.” I’m so tempted to say, “Don’t you dare! It’s a bathroom! It’s small and you can do it!” And it takes everything in me not to say it. Ultimately, though, people need to do whatever’s in their comfort zone.
What’s one of the more surprising questions you’ve received?
Sherry: Someone asked me if I wear thongs!
Sherry: When I was really pregnant, someone asked me! I said, “I’m going to plead the fifth on that.” And I get loads of questions on my bangs—why aren’t I wearing bangs?
You’ve overhauled two houses, have an almost three-year-old, the dog, the book, the blog. How are you so productive?
Sherry: The truth is we sleep much less than we should. The misconception of blogging is, “What a cakewalk, you work at home.” But it’s like working for a newspaper and you do it all yourself: Every day there’s another story due, and some days you have two stories due, but you don’t have a photographer so you shoot it yourself, you edit yourself because you don’t have an editor or proofreader, and because it’s on the Internet you answer questions indefinitely. I’m answering questions for posts that are three years old, every morning, and then I’ve got new questions. Then I also have to find time to do projects. So we do 90 percent of our projects when Clara’s napping or sleeping for the night–mostly when she’s sleeping for the night
John: Or sometimes I’ll get up before she gets up.
What time do you get to bed?
John: About midnight.
Sherry: Sometimes we’ll light a room at night like a stage, and paint it then collapse into bed at 1 or 2 in the morning.
John: This is the year we said we’d find more balance, but….
Sherry: We’re learning, to say no more. We realize we don’t need to take every single thing, every interview.
With readers feeling such a connection with you and expecting so much, how do you decide which parts of your life go on the blog, and what stays off?
John: I think that’s a line everyone draws differently. I think many readers would like to know more. We judge it on a case-by-case basis. If people want us to write about potty training, we will—but we’re not going to share pictures about it. We think about whether this is something that might embarrass Clara later down the road….
Sherry: Right, like when she’s 13! The Internet is forever. The best thing I ever came up with was when I was lying in bed one night is: Our blog is like a window on our house. We know we don’t have shades on it, and we know people look in there, but there are a whole bunch of other windows with shades on it, and that’s the life people don’t see. Like when a family member’s ill, or when we get the flu, or we’re doing our taxes—we don’t talk about everything. We have a real life behind the windows, and the same is true with Clara. When we show a 30-second video of Clara, that was 30 seconds of her whole day.
John: You missed the tantrum, and the bath, and the mealtimes…
Sherry: Right! Its not like her whole life is on the Internet. You saw a video of her singing her favorite song, or a picture of her on her birthday—you’re not seeing her whole life.
Do you get recognized in public?
Sherry: Yes, but it’s funny. We’ll go to an event and 700 people will be lined up to see us, then we go around the block to a restaurant and nobody knows who we are! So it’s funny because one minute you’re like, “Wow, people are yelling our name! They want pictures with us!” It’s like a J. Lo moment! And then we get on the plane, and no one knows who we are…
John: …and you’re quickly brought down to earth!
Sherry: In certain settings, we’re setting ourselves up…
John: Yeah, like Target or Ikea or Home Depot….
Sherry: Those are our places!
Be sure to check out Young House Love for more details about YHL, the book.
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