Last September, Sherry and John Petersik published an emotional post — aptly titled “FEEEEEELINGS” — that announced their indefinite leave from the blogosphere, where a million loyal readers had been following their daily home-design updates.
The departure was acutely felt among their large fan base, which had little information to go on after the Richmond couple behind Young House Love put a halt to their “diary,” as they liked to call it, and returned to jobs in advertising. On the side, they worked with Home Depot and local builders, but never under the Young House Love name.
One year later, the Petersiks, both 33, are back in the public eye with their second book, “Lovable Livable Home,” out next week.
“We’ve been getting a lot of questions about leaving blogging and the drama of it,” Sherry said. “But now we’re in this amazing happy place. The home renovations you see from us in the book are pure — we didn’t have all those ‘check-ins’ like when we were doing the blog.” At the blog’s height, they were posting updates and responding to comments several times a day.
When it started, the Petersiks were the darlings of DIY: an earnest young couple with two cherubic kids and a sleepy chihuahua named Burger. They crafted! They painted! They tiled! It seemed like they could do no wrong.
But the Internet is never without its malcontents, and seven years after it all began, the negative feedback on their projects was piling up. The Petersiks, who had come to rely on the blog for an income, realized that the pressure of appealing to the masses had detracted from their initial joy in building a home true to their tastes and values. So they stopped.
“We finally got to live what we’ve preached for a long time,” John said. “You should make your home feel like you and fill it with the things that you love and make you happy regardless of what anyone else thinks about it.”
“Lovable Livable Home,” divided into chapters such as “Eating Spaces” and “Washing Spaces,” features pearls of design wisdom from families the couple has gotten to know over the years. Originally, that was all the book was going to be — a compilation of profiles distilled into practical advice for a variety of homes and lifestyles. But in their year away from blogging, John and Sherry had completed some major projects of their own, and they decided at the last minute to weave those updates into the book as well.
They call these the “unadulterated projects” — such as a stenciled pastel wallpaper and a half-bathroom makeover — because they were done without the white noise of online commentary.
The Petersiks shared with us the most useful tips they’ve gleaned along the way from their year off the grid, most of them from the diverse families they met.
This philosophy is at the center of the book, which is as much about imbuing the nooks and crannies of your home with personal significance as it is about practicality and aesthetics. “It was cool to see how people used sentimental items to bring meaning to their homes,” Sherry said, citing a woman who hung her young son’s paintings in the breakfast nook of a high-end home.
“In the past, having kids has always steered us toward making temporary choices,” John said. “We would get things that were cheap, plastic and covered because we assumed that we would need to replace it soon anyway.” But their visits to other homes expanded their definition of “kid-friendly” to include leather and acrylic, both trendy materials that age well and are very “wipable” for those inevitable spills. “We saw two kids jump on an acrylic table and it was fine,” John said, chuckling.
This one may seem counterintuitive, but the Petersiks found that a mix of high- and low-cost things makes for the best room. “If you have your eyes on this particular couch that is really expensive, sometimes it is the more expensive and better-built thing that will hold up in the long run,” Sherry said. “A hundred percent wool is a lot easier to wash than synthetic fiber.”
The Petersiks were inspired by homes that featured thrifted and antique furniture. They recently bought two Persian rugs that are more than 50 years old. Because they’re very colorful and already weathered, Sherry pointed out, any new stains will hardly be noticeable.
“Wherever you are, whether it’s your favorite restaurant, cafe or on Pinterest, just stare at what you love and home in on what makes it attractive to you,” Sherry said. Then when you go to re-create that thing in your own home, don’t hesitate to get creative with substitutions. If you love white marble, but marble doesn’t quite work for your family, you can easily find a synthetic replacement for the same aesthetic effect.
The bottom line, as Sherry put it: “You want your home to be beautiful, but you don’t want it to be a place nobody can touch.”
More from Lifestyle: