John and Sherry Petersik (Photo excerpted from Lovable Livable Home by Sherry and John Petersik (Artisan Books) Copyright 2015. Photograph by Todd Wright)
After logging off their wildly successful blog last fall, Richmonders John and Sherry Petersik, the duo behind Young House Love, are returning to public life this month with the release of their second book, Loveable Livable Home.
Unlike their 2012 New York Times Bestseller, Young House Love, which was shot entirely in their own home, this time they’ve focused their attention on the homes of others — including many Richmonders — to illustrate the different ways people combine form, function and meaning to create a livable home. The book also reveals a few home-improvement projects the Petersiks completed post-blog.
R•Home will help the Petersiks kick off their 12-city book tour on Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Massey Street of Hope at Hallsley (click here for ticket information).
We recently sat down with the couple to chat about their new book and life out of the spotlight.
R•Home: How did you find the houses that are featured in the book?
John Petersik: The No. 1 thing was relying on the readers of our blog. … The goal of the book was to say, ‘There’s not one right way to make a home.’ The best way we thought to illustrate that was to try to show … that two homes can be complete opposites and they can both be right. We got a lot of submissions from the website, some of which we were able to shoot on our own, some of which got submitted to us because of geography. And then we also found a lot through local friends and friends of friends … One of the cool things about it was we were able to showcase a lot of Richmond homes.
R•Home: I am sure you received more than enough submissions from your readers. How did you narrow it down?
Sherry Petersik: We wanted to show how every house works for the family that lives there. … It was really trying to choose people who checked a lot of different boxes. We didn’t want to have 30 white kitchens. If we have a maximalist, let’s find a minimalist. If we have a family with lots of children, lets find a family without children.
John: Since we were really trying to get the story behind the rooms and the way people have chosen to do things in their homes, our litmus test was not just, ‘Is this pretty?’
Sherry: We almost looked for people with challenges. It is not interesting to say, ‘They had an unlimited budget and a beautiful family who never makes a mess!’
R•Home What are some of the best design tips and ideas you learned from talking with the homeowners that are featured?
John: There is this fear that your house will devolve into a gross daycare once you have kids. Having lived that a little bit ourselves, we wanted to dispel that myth. We wanted to show that we are not the only ones who have proven this. ... There were a lot of people who used acrylic tables and chairs, leather, a lot of old wood pieces — things that already have patina to them so any more wear just makes it look better. I think looking at other houses is what influenced us to buy some of these Persian rugs in our own house because we saw you don’t need to get a cheap Ikea rug that you can dispose of when it gets dirty — you can get something that holds up.
Sherry and John Petersik with their children, Teddy and Clara, in their Richmond living room. (Photo excerpted from Lovable Livable Home by Sherry and John Petersik (Artisan Books) Copyright 2015. Photograph by Todd Wright)
R•Home: Your decision to quit the blog last fall created quite a stir, even prompting an article in the New York Times about “blogger burnout.” What has your life been like out of the spotlight?
Sherry: It has been excellent. It’s weird. We really miss our readers and the community. When you create this baby from nothing and work on it for seven years it’s very special to you. But, online life was getting too big and real life was getting too small. Readjusting has been awesome because the focus is in the right spot. We’re not blowing off family and friends for Internet evenings. … There was no boundary because the Internet is 24/7. There were no off hours, and I think that’s a personality flaw. John and I are all-or-nothing people and we went all in. It took that much of a scaling back to get the balance back.
John: The interesting thing that’s been really exciting for us from a design standpoint is that one of the things we’ve always believed is that you should make design decisions for yourself. Your home should work for you and reflect you. … I don’t think we realized until we stepped back from the blog that it was having more influence on our decisions than we consciously knew.
Sherry: Like we never would have chosen this color for our dining room. … It is the same color as our upstairs hallway. … That would have been the most boring post in the world! Out of love for our readers and our people-pleasing tendencies, we wanted to always do something exciting for our readers.
R•Home: Were you surprised at how invested your readers were in the Young House Love blog?
Sherry: I used to say, ‘Why does anybody care about us?’ I just didn’t understand … But this break has really put a lot into perspective: If you crack yourself open that much and you’re that vulnerable and that open, people get invested, and if they hadn’t [been invested], we never would have done the first book. It was either nobody in my business and never doing anything, or having this amazing trajectory and growing, but sharing a lot and that was the trade-off. Then the question becomes, ‘When is the trade-off good for us and when is it not?’
R•Home: Are you worried about how the book will sell without being able to promote it as heavily on the blog as you did with the last book?
John: I think that the interesting thing that will happen is that the book will get to earn its own merits as a book. We’re really proud of this book. There is so much in this book we are excited for people to see because we haven’t shared in this big way in a while.
Sherry: The cool thing is that the publisher [Artisan] was really supportive. They were like, ‘Do what you need to do, far be it from us to make you continue blogging to sell books,’ which I really appreciated. …. When we stepped back we knew we were knocking down the whole house of cards. We knew the book probably wouldn’t do as well. We knew the products wouldn’t do as well, we knew we couldn’t blog about the tour to make people come out. We will probably mention the tour one time on Instagram and Facebook and there will be a tab for it on our website and that will be all. … We had to make the right choice for our family and it could not hinge on selling books. … It felt sleazy to continue blogging for another year to sell more books and then say, ‘Bye!’ after everyone buys it. … We just felt like it was disrespecting the people who got us there.
R•Home: Do you think you will ever revive the blog?
Sherry: We always say, ‘Who knows?’ Maybe when our kids are both in school and blogging has redefined itself again, maybe we will find a way to return to it because it was a love of ours — a legit love. … It was never for fame or power. … Now you can get into blogging and you know it can be a career and you can make money. There are certain personality types who hire a team and create content and they work with an agent and we just didn’t ever expect to make any money from it. We did it so hard and loved it so hard and then it just felt like it had run its course.
John: Now that we’ve had this time away to reset, we’re just figuring out what’s ahead. … It’s been very fascinating to have a hard, cold-turkey stop. We didn’t know how we would feel.
Sherry: We thought we would really, really miss blogging so we took a month break before we stopped. … The weird thing was, there was this awesome release. We expected the exact opposite to happen.
Loveable, Livable Home Book Excerpt: Five Ways to Add Aged Elegance
If you’ve got a room that’s feeling too “new” — like you just took everything in it out of the box — try bringing in some aged textures or vintage pieces to give it more of a collected-over-time vibe. Here are five ideas to consider.
1. Classic armchairs.
With details like curved arms or full skirts, these can turn up the elegance factor, and can be found on Craigslist or at yard sales.
The Petersiks' new book contains useful design tips gleaned from the homes it features. (Photo excerpted from Lovable Livable Home by Sherry and John Petersik (Artisan Books) Copyright 2015. Photograph by Todd Wright)
2. An antique light.
Or even a new one that looks aged is a fun and unexpected addition to a sitting area. This one is hardwired and hangs from a wall-mounted hook, but a wire-free lantern with a candle inside is sweet too, and extra simple to hang.
3. Raw planks.
From chunky overhead beams to a full ceiling’s worth of wood, these can add interest and warmth to any formerly boxy or characterless space.
4. A concrete planter.
An old one with a family crest or vintage markings on it brings aged charm and some life to a room, thanks to the indoor plant it houses.
5. A gorgeous old rug.
They can add tons of texture and pattern to a room, and can be found on places like eBay and even Craigslist without breaking the bank.
Note: A ceramic animal is always a welcome addition in our book. (Literally, since this is our book.)