My Life As An Interior Decorator vs. My Life As A DIYer

This week I’ve been working on installing the rest of the trim in the dining room and entryway (an incredibly frustrating experience that I’ll tell you about later) and also working on my ceiling light that I’m making for the music room. So yesterday as I was working, my mind was naturally gravitating towards my decorating plan for the front rooms, and the changes I’m probably going to make to the plan based on the new wall color I’ve selected. And as I often do when I’ve changed my plan for the second, third, fourth…tenth…time, I fell into the trap of thinking, “My gosh, Kristi, you used to work as an interior decorator! This should be so much easier for you to just make a decision!”

Then I have to remind myself that working as an interior decorator for clients, and DIYing my way through my own home remodel, are two completely different things. In fact, for me, there’s very little resemblance between the two.

My life as an interior decorator

I really enjoyed working as an interior decorator for clients for the most part, and compared to what I do now, it was so incredibly easy. Everything was fairly cut and dried. While the designs were unique to each client, the process was pretty formulaic.

I’d meet with the client for the first time, and hear their wants and needs regarding their room(s). They’d tell me about the styles and colors they want, and if they were really prepared, they’d have stacks of pictures and magazine pages (this was before Pinterest 🙂 ) to show me what they had in mind for their house. I’d take measurements of the rooms and photograph the rooms, and then I’d take all of that info back to my office and come up with a cohesive design plan based on all of the information I had just gathered.

My office was filled with hundreds of books filled with fabric swatches from all of the major fabric houses — Kravet, Fabricut, Schumacher, Robert Allen, and so many more. I had trade accounts with furniture stores, home decor stores, fabric houses, flooring stores, paint stores, wallpaper vendors, both local and national. Sitting at my work table in my office, with the information I had gathered from my client and virtually no outside input, and surrounded with thousands of fabric samples, paint swatches, product catalogs, wallpaper samples, etc., I could put a decorating plan together very quickly.

But here’s the main reason it was so easy for me when dealing with someone else’s house — I had absolutely zero emotional attachment to their house whatsoever. For me, it was about coming up with a beautiful and cohesive design plan based on the colors and style that they wanted. That was it. When you take the emotion out of it, and give yourself a set amount of time to get it done, that’s a pretty simple task.

Once I had the decorating plan put together, I’d present it to my client. The plan might have required a few tweaks here and there, and generally when it came to things like large furniture purchases or wallpaper selections, I’d present three or four options that I thought would work, and let them make the final decision. But once they signed off on the plan, the main part of my work was pretty much finished. From there on out, I worked in more of a supervisory role as the drapery workrooms, painters, wallpaper installers, and all of the other trades implemented the plan. At times, I’d do some of the work myself (a special paint treatment on a wall, or making the draperies, or upholstering the dining chairs, etc.) but the decorating decisions had already been made. It was just a matter of getting the work done. When all of the main stuff was done, I’d do some shopping to accessorize the room, and then it was finished.

See what I mean? Formulaic. Easy. Non-emotional. A night a day difference from my life now. 🙂

My life as a DIYer (and a DIY blogger)

DIYing the remodel of my own house has virtually no similarities at all to any client work I ever did. I mean, I still pick paint colors and fabrics, and I still hope to end up with a room that’s decorated in a beautiful and cohesive manner, but the process is nothing like anything I ever did for a client.

For starters, I never personally did this to a client’s house…

new wiring 1

Remember when my kitchen looked like that?

Or this…

bathroom demolition - 1

Yep, that was my hallway bathroom about 10 months ago.

The sheer scope of the projects I’m doing at my own house is FAR, far beyond anything I’ve ever done before, much less for a client. If clients needed a bathroom or kitchen remodeled, that was hired out to the pros, and I just checked in periodically to see that everything was going according to the design plan. But I certainly wasn’t picking up tools and tearing out rooms to the studs. And at most, full-scale remodels took around three months.

And talk about an emotional investment! I’ve poured my heart into this house, as well as my literal blood, sweat and tears. This house is nothing if not an emotional investment for me, and I want it done right. That kind of pressure that I put on myself often makes it so difficult for me to make final decisions. I’m like a person who can’t commit to a relationship because I’m continually thinking, “But what else is out there that I might be missing? What if something better comes along tomorrow, and I’ve already ruined my chances at at that better thing by committing to this thing today?” 😀

There’s also the time factor. My kitchen remodel, from start to finish, took me seven months. MONTHS. That was with me doing almost everything by myself, with my own two hands. From that perspective, I don’t think that seven months is unreasonable at all. But do you realize how many “better ideas” one can come across in a period of seven months?! 🙂 I can get on Pinterest right now, and within 30 minutes, I can find at least 10 “better ideas” for my dining room window treatments, or 5 “better ideas” for a dining table design. Now multiply that times seven months. My bathroom remodel also took seven months from start to finish. Sooo much inspiration can be found in seven months!

How many times did I change my plan for the music room? And how many times have I now changed my plans for the living room-turned-dining room and entryway? I’ve lost count, and I’m sure you have, too! 🙂 But this room has been a work in progress for nine months so far. It was last April that it looked like this…

dining room ceiling 4

dining room ceiling 1

In nine months, I can’t even imagine how many hours I’ve spent on Houzz and Pinterest looking for ideas. But in addition to that, I’ve gotten thousands upon thousands of comments from blog readers with various suggestions as well! Last year, my blog posts averaged 172 comments each (on the blog and on the posts on Facebook for each blog post). That’s over 32,000 comments last year, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that at least 30% of those were readers offering suggestions.

I’ve got ideas coming at me from all directions on a daily basis, and I love it. If I could make a full-time job out of searching for ideas on Houzz and Pinterest, and cataloging ideas from readers, I’d do it in a heartbeat. 😀 I LOVE creative inspiration. The more the better. My mind never turns off, and while that might seem exhausting to others (especially the not-so-creative, “just get it done” types), I thrive on it. But with the sheer amount of creative inspiration that’s readily available to us now literally at the tips of our fingers, combined with the many months that it takes me to actually get my rooms finished, along with the huge emotional investment that I have in my own house…

Yep, I may come up with 120 decorating plans for my room by the time I land on the one that I’ll actually stick with. And in the nine or ten or twelve months it takes for me to rip a room down to the studs and then get it to the point where it’s actually ready for the fun decorating stuff, I’ve probably been exposed to literally thousands of “bigger and better” options that have left my original plan in the drywall dust, never to be seen again.

It’s been two years so far that I’ve been working on this house, and I’m finally learning to cut myself some slack, and not be embarrassed when I come here and say, “Well, I’ve changed my mind again.” 🙂 For others, this is just a house that just needs to be finished, just like I used to view my clients’ homes. For me, this is my home, my heart, and my emotional investment. It’s my blood, my sweat, and my tears. In my own home, I’m not an interior decorator.



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  1. Thank you for the great blog post, Kristi. I now have a better understanding of your journey and the differences in the approaches. I am so glad I happened upon your blog as I look forward everyday to see what you are into next. Your struggle as a DIYer is the part that we all relate to trying to do it ourselves.

    I think some day if you ever wanted to do something different, you would be great at creating a place that is a resource of ideas of colors/ fabrics/ styles etc…Looking forward to seeing where the journey takes you.

  2. I get it and would not change anything about your blog or approach. As always, I am enjoying the journey as we have similar tastes. (You spooked me last week when you picked Feng Shui. That’s the colour I had finally landed on after much too-ing and fro-ing. (Gasp)) You inspire me with your fearless DIY and I learn so much from you. My favourite blogger by far!!!

  3. Oh, my gosh! I so get this even though I’m not nor ever was an interior designer. Cousins ask me what I think of such and such in/for their homes inside and out, and it’s very easy and clear what my answers are. In my own home? It takes me a year to pick out a paint color!

    I appreciate the way you’ve defined the differences between a personal DIY journey and a professional design journey. Thank you!

  4. Well said! For what it’s worth I totally get you. Immense creativity like you have begets even more creative ideas and with Pinterest and Houzz it can become overwhelming. I do have to say that while I too love these sites, I sometimes think we might be better off without the over stimulation. Years ago when the only design inspirations has was magazines- I was never without creative ideas and constant ideas in my head. I don’t know about everyone else, but for me I find that the abundance of styles sometimes gets me off track from my true style.

    1. Yes,yes,yes! I KNOW in my heart that I gravitate to dark colors like Navy blue, Burgandy, Forrest Green etc. And, I know that I love rustic or “BEAT ON” furniture and natural or dark wood. I love combing through antique and junk stores to find decorative pieces that were erevyday useful long ago. But blogs and Pinter eat make me question my decorating and I want to change everything to light, white and elegant or aqua and coral…… Oh wait Yellow and Gray with white accessories is pretty! I need to be like Kristi and remind myself what I love is what should be my “my” home and I can just appreciate the beautiful designs of others from my tablet!

  5. Love this post……I tend to get into a project with ideas only and then thingk do I really neeed this will it make a difference in my likfe am I being obsessive and sqandering funds and the end up doing nothing. I adore that you ‘do’!

  6. Great blog post Kristi. I completely understand the difference that personal involvement makes in the decision making process. After decades of working in healthcare, I can tell you I dealt with the same thing. Health care providers feel empathy for their clients’, but it’s not their struggle. You had boundaries that worked for you as an interior decorator. Those boundaries just don’t work for the home you live in. So give up that wrong-headed notion! And here’s another notion I suggest you abolish from your thinking. That a plan is fixed and finished. You have shown us time and again that just isn’t so. And in my own experience with decorating two complete houses, those places were never done, either, and the plans were always subject to revision.

    Here’s my take. Ideas evolve. That’s what they do if you are a thinking, creative person. That is what they will always do. So stop thinking about your plans as final or fixed. They just won’t be, because you live the experience of being in your home, your space that is transforming around. Do not feel guilty any longer about this!!!! That is counterproductive and self-defeating. Your evolving ideas will always open up new possibilities. Why, exactly, can’t you remain open to those without apologizing for it? It’s only those without your talent that stick with something that turns out not to be optimal. Your readers love you the way you are. I say embrace it.

  7. Kristi, I empathize with your struggle. Having “done” many homes for others my own newly purchased home remains as it was when I bought it. Sorta like the shoemaker’s kid going barefoot. I hereby resolve that THIS year I will start work on MY home.

  8. This might be your best post, yet! I love how real and vulnerable you are here. Thank you! I’m painting a Maxfield Parrish type sunset on my bedroom walls. I got injured in the middle of the project and I’ve lost my inspiration…

    You’ve helped me see that it’s OK to be overwhelmed by ideas and inspirations, to vacilicate between this and that, over and over again… I enjoy your process. I like that you are stuck by new concepts and you just rip into things to get them JUST right, for you, for today…

    Good job!

  9. I totally get you, Kristi. When you were down while working on your bathroom and the red waterproofing stuff on the walls made you even more sad, I absolutely felt your pain. I would have felt overwhelmed by the task ahead and exhausted from the hard work you had already done to gut the room. The crayon box blood red on the walls capped it off. No contractor working on someone else’s house would have that reaction.

  10. I too have that creative mind that’s doesn’t turn off. Some people don’t get. My husband now has a sense of humour about it. Most of the time I can balance it out, between thinking and actually getting stuff done. But I find with home improvement that since I am still learning, the reality of what I thought vs. what actually ends up happening is different. I thought that for the next room I do I would try and come up with a idea board to help me stay focused? Yes, Pinterest and Houzz make it ten times worse! You have inspired me to build things, so the process that you go through for the decor doesn’t bother me. I can relate.

  11. I’m wondering if Houzz and Pinterest are a blessing or, perhaps, a curse. Being constantly enticed to find “better” could easily morph into not ever being happy with what you have, or not getting to enjoy and feel peace in your own home. I am glad that you love the DIY process and do not feel tied to ideas once you have them. Where you’re at in this process, it’s absolutely necessary to cut yourself some slack! I guess that based on how I feel about things (which I realize is completely my perspective and maybe not yours) I pray the day will come for you that when you walk in your front door you just enjoy and live in your beautiful home. I imagine that at that time, so many other projects and opportunities will be open to you.

  12. I am a DIYer who has become an Interior Designer. I feel just like the car body shop guy who drives some dented up Honda! Thank you for putting it all so eloquently! Cheers for your bravery and perfectionism!

  13. Hi Kristi, I believe you always said that you had no formal training in Interior Design. Did you belong to any of the accredited design associations? I know here in the northeast in order to get trade consideration you have to be able to produce your credentials. I am wondering how you were able to get in to the design showrooms and fabric houses. There are people up here who will call themselves interior decorators but have no access to the things that dues paying members have. Therefore they cannot get the best prices for their clients. I have to agree with you, when it comes to your house you are definitely a DIY’er. When it is all done, that’s when you get to put the icing on the cake with your own personal decorations etc. As always, anxious to see what you have been up to the past few days and what color you finally settled on.

  14. It IS different when it’s your own home! While you may change your mind on colors and finishes, I greatly admire that you are going room-by-room and fixing flaws before you get to the colors and decorating. In the long run you will have a well built structure with renewed infrastructure that will last for as long as you own it. When you have that well built basic structure you can set about using all your ideas and change colors and decorating to your heart’s content. I’m always excited to see what you come up with.

    By the way, if you come up with a way to make a living off of looking at all the great ideas on Pinterest, let me know!

  15. I am the same way. I used to work at a decor/wallpaper store. We sold home decor, art, wallpaper and home dec. fabric, as well as custom window treatments. It was so easy to help a customer decide what they wanted, and see the vision they had after a bit of probing. They most always came back to say we were spot on in our recommendations, and came back multiple times for help. When I was in the process of building my own home, I bought fabrics and items before I had walls. As the house got completed, I changed gears and bought more, and in the end, none of it worked except for a 20 yd. bolt of clearance fabric I got at the last minute. Our store was closing down, things were selling for pennies, and this bolt cost me $10 for the whole thing!!!
    I meanwhile had to sell or give away over 100+ yards of fabric, decor items and wallpaper. Lesson learned, we are now building another new house, and I don’t have the connections for bargains anymore. I won’t buy a THING until we move in and live there for a while. Luckily, it’s a pretty private location, so I don’t have to worry much about privacy!
    I can’t even seem to settle on cabinet colors, so am going with white – with the idea that if I want, I’ll have my son in law the painter change them!

  16. Thanks for today’s blog post. I struggle with every design decision in my home to the point of paralysis at times. Reassuring to know that professionals face that same thing.

  17. Kristi, please, don’t feel embarassed because you change you mind. Since I found your blog, I’ve learned a lot of things from you but the most important one is that it is OK to change your mind and re-do things that are already done. That is what I am doing now. Thank you for this!

  18. It’s okay to change your mind, really! Having to do do-overs may be frustrating to you but when the final product is exactly spot on (the beautiful green kitchen! With beautifully stained floors) it makes it worth it. Besides every time you have a do over there’s material for the blog 🙂
    Happy for your Kristi-keep on keeping on 🙂

  19. What a great job of communicating you’ve done on this subject! Being involved with your projects via your blog has inspired my own creativity and taught me (by your successes AND failures AND plan changing) invaluable lessons. THANK YOU!

  20. I appreciate you just the way you are……I know I can “change my mind or direction” by a picture I see, and idea that pops in my head or cruising around your blog. It sure keeps life interesting! This blog is my favorite. You’re unique. Sometimes I get tired of all the houses that are neutral- white, beige, greige, and gray. Love that you are not afraid of color and willing to make your house YOUR own. Looking forward to the journey ahead on this dining room!

  21. Just found your blog and this is the first post I read, so I obviously have a lot of catching up to do to see what has transpired. But, YIKES! I too used to work for others as an interior decorator but I have never stripped to the studs and I am amazed when people do it. I suppose once you just dive in there isn’t any going back and you make your way.

    As far as changing minds…I rarely can leave a room alone for too long. I just get another inspiration that I think may take it to another level of use or beauty and we’re off! I also had a really bad habit of getting attached to the things I did in everyone’s home and would buy a few chairs, paint, art, etc for me…really not a great idea. As I sit writing and now just starting my own blog, I am looking at a couple of chairs I just had to have for my master bedroom. They looked great in the store and had them made so there is not returning them. I love them. But alas, they are too large for my bedroom space in reality and I have not yet found the best resting spot. For now, they are my traveling chairs.

    I actually got started blogging today because of Pinterest. We are going to custom build a home within the next 6 years…Dreamtirement and I just enjoy getting ideas there. Once I started clicking through to some sites I was in awe of the amazing women writing, vlogging and teaching on every imaginable subject. So, joining the bloggosphere and excited to follow you! Thank you for letting me peak inside of your amazing projects.