Sherry and John Petersik of Young House Love break groundon their Homearama showhouse with John Waters (left) ofBiringer Builders. Photo by Terry Brown
They may be known for the renovations they have made to their own homes — documented in their DIY blog, Young House Love — but Sherry and John Petersik have spent the past few months designing the interiors for a brand-new house that will be part of this year's Homearama at Magnolia Green in Chesterfield County.
The Petersiks were eager to embrace the challenge of working on a new construction project without having to move. With a second child on the way, a second book in the works and a new line of shelving and wall hooks debuting at Target — as well as a successful blogging empire to maintain — they have too much on their plates to consider packing boxes anytime soon.
For Homearama, seven builders — Biringer Builders Inc., Harring Construction, LeGault Homes, LifeStyle Builders & Developers, Falcone Custom Homes, Ray A. Williams Construction Co. and Southern Traditions — have constructed showcase homes that are being decorated by regional interior design teams. After the event, the homes will be sold.
During a few minutes of rare downtime, John Petersik talked to us about working with Biringer Builders to design a home for Homearama.
R•Home: Since you have never worked on a project of this scale before, how did you feel going into this project?
Petersik: Naively excited [laughs]. We loved the idea of it having so many new challenges. We have never started from scratch before. … While blogging, we have always bought existing homes and tried to fix them up using what was already there.
R•Home: What has surprised you most about the process of building and designing from scratch?
Petersik: How many decisions go into a house. It really reminds you of how many pieces make up a room … One of the more interesting experiences was walking through the house when it was just studs and pointing out where we wanted all of the light switches and outlets to go.
R•Home: Tell me about the project's connection to Habitat for Humanity.
Petersik: When we had the opportunity to do [Homearama], we wanted to make sure it gave back, because in some ways it could be a very selfish endeavor. … The home will not be donated to a Habitat family — I think there are some misconceptions about that — but we are donating our design fee entirely to Habitat. It has become multifaceted … the sponsors, the builders are donating money [to Habitat].
R•Home: Are you approaching this project from the perspective of how you would live in the house yourselves or from the perspective of a potential buyer?
Petersik: It's really a juggle of a lot of things. We certainly want to approach the house from our style viewpoint. … At the same time, we have been juggling that with the idea that someone else — not us — will have to live in this home. If we design with just the potential homeowner in mind, it paralyzes us into safe decisions and does not make for a very interesting show house. We have been walking that line between safe vs. risk and where possible, trying to lean into that risk so that at least it is interesting.
R•Home: You are known for being thrifty. Have you made choices differently with the show house, since you are not spending your own money?
Petersik: This is a more high-end house than we have ever owned ourselves … we are trying to pick furniture and finishes that match the quality of home the builder is putting together.
R•Home: What are the biggest differences you have found between designing this show house and working on your own home? Do you ever confuse the two projects?
Petersik: In our own home, we have to make sure [projects] fit within our skill set and time and budget. With the show home, we have pros doing the work and are working with someone else's budget. We don't get those wires crossed too much, but there has been some overlap. When we start thinking about the office space in the show house, as we are choosing things, we are getting ideas for our own office. We have to decide who gets what idea. We don't want to do it in both places. We don't want to squander the opportunity by being repetitive.
Another new thing is that we are so used to pacing ourselves through a home. We like to take our time, live in a space and adjust and course-correct as we go. We are used to making these [design] decisions over a series of months. This has been such a new way of making decisions — making them in our heads, putting them on mood boards and making them happen.
R•Home: What are your favorite spaces in the house?
Petersik: Sherry is really excited to see the breakfast nook come together. She has had a vision for a space like this for a long time. One thing that I like, myself, right now is the front porch. It was another one of the ideas we came to the builder with, saying it would be cool to have an open A-frame on the front porch. The whole building team is really excited about the front of the house.
R•Home: How did the partnership between YHL and Homearama come about?
Petersik : [Homearama marketing manager] Justin Calliot contacted us back when Homearama was going on in 2012 and invited us to participate in some way. They were too far along in the process for us to do what we are doing this year. And we were so in the thick of our book at the time that we passed. When it rolled around again, [Justin] said, "We want to get you guys involved from the start." We thought it would be a new way to flex our design muscles, so to speak.
For the 2012 Homearama, we did a "house crashing" on the blog, and we will do that same thing this time around. Our ultimate goal in this thing is to bring interesting ideas to our readership, whether it is through this house or the other houses. The variety of homes, decisions and styles is really going to be interesting.
R•Home: I know you have asked your readers for input on some of the design decisions. How has that worked?
Petersik: That is one of the ideas we had, talking with the builder. We thought it would be fun to catalog the process with our readers along the way and get their involvement. We chose to do a poll on the door color because there was so much possibility with it. We came up with a few ideas and put up a poll [on our blog]. The last time I looked, it had 38,000 responses. We thought we would get 100 or 200 people. We were floored by the amount of input.
And there was a clear winner: It was the color we had dubbed "rust." But we got a lot of comments that said we should do white. We had not even considered that, but I think we may go with white!
R•Home: You have a lot going on in your lives right now. How do you keep from feeling overwhelmed?
Petersik: [With Homearama] it is not just us doing it, by any means. We have a nice safety net. Whenever we don't know what to do or what the process is, there is the builder and the other designers to keep us on track and help us to not panic.
We are also working with some of our favorite local companies, artists and stuff. U-Fab is doing the window treatments, and Shades of Light is doing all the lighting in the home. This is also is a chance to showcase some local people again.
Richmond Homearama 2014
May 1-18, 2014
Thursday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Admission is $10 for adults and free for children 18 and under