One of our top requested subjects is lease or renter ideas, i.e. how do you make a home feel like yours even when it may not be, without putting real resources into it? So when Invitation Homes reached out for us to makeover a room in their Make It Home Show House (in a lease-friendly way) in Atlanta, we said YES. We’ve been approached about doing showhouses before and likely will do at some point, but this seemed extra interesting to me because it was meant for approachable, budget-friendly design and decor ideas. So instead of shopping online and just having a bunch of awesome new stuff shipped, I tasked my team with coming up with “ideas” for you all—things like DIYs, thrifted upgrades, and just more fun and creative ideas in general. We didn’t have a client per se, there is no homeowner (yet), so we could kinda do whatever we wanted as long as it would work for a potential future family.
So in today’s post, you are going to get a sneak into our messy creative process with a pretty EPIC DIY FAIL, while tomorrow, you’ll get the full reveal.
Here’s how it all went down:
The first step here (and for basically any room) is finding inspiration and gathering “good ideas,” things that people can go forth and make themselves. Emily B. wanted to create a DIY sofa. We have seen this floating around and thought that it was simple and we could do a version that would be easy to replicate. What I forgot is that A. We aren’t carpenters and B. The job is in Atlanta so we wouldn’t really be able to control, test, or troubleshoot it too much. But we took the risk because that’s what creative people do…ISN’T THAT HILARIOUS??
But we were in Atlanta where the style is fairly traditional, not modern like this and we wanted to fit the style of the house. So we doubled down. We loved this inspiration shot, both the black stripe, the striped rug, the gallery wall, the sconce incorporated—and we loved that it was traditional, but with an edge.
But that wasn’t risky enough. We then thought that it’s been a while since we mixed a stripe with a floral. Again, since there was no real client and we were doing this as a “showhouse,” we wanted to do something more editorial.
So we went shopping and found a few combinations that, well, excited us:
Great. We drew up the sofa plan, booked a carpenter in Atlanta and with five days to spare, we overnighted the fabric to the upholsterer.
We knew that mixing striped with floral would be a risk, so we had the upholsterer sew all stripes and a solid option, in addition to mixing stripes and florals. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a breakdown in communication and he made two floral seats, no back cushion and doubled the size of the bolsters.
The whole thing looked hilarious. But Emily B. and Julie weren’t laughing and neither was I at the time…
Meanwhile, they kept shopping for the rest of the vintage pieces. We had looked on Chairish and Craigslist before we went and tried to get any vintage stores to send us pics of the pieces, but ultimately we knew that they just had to go early to find the pieces and figure out how to upgrade them, refinish, reupholster before the deadline. They got there a week early which meant that triggers had to be pulled almost immediately for any upholstery jobs.
Early on, they found this amazing vintage sofa:
But we had our genius and beautiful sofa coming, so we didn’t need this…
They went around and took a ton of photos at all the stores, essentially photographing anything that is awesome and sending it my way to upvote or down vote.
Julie and Bowser found two chairs for $300 and, well, thinking that we had the sofa locked down, they pulled the trigger. But, of course, they had to find enough yardage in a color that we LIKE, as well as an upholsterer who would turn them around in time. ALSO, ATLANTA HAS INSANE TRAFFIC AND “RUNNING AROUND TOWN” IS NOT REALLY A THING YOU CAN DO.
They also found a ton of awesome other pieces the could potentially work:
They also started to pull together our ideas for the personalized gallery wall which we wanted to end up being a wall of art from in and around Atlanta full of super unique things that are framed in readymade frames.
They were finding some great pieces, but on Friday afternoon, they saw the first iteration of the sofa and they started to panic, shielding me from the stress since I had a major shoot that day. Then on Saturday morning, after a huge commercial shoot at my house, I get a text from them that said, “we don’t think the DIY sofa will work.” They were obviously bummed to give me that news, but I appreciated the honesty because I wasn’t going to be there ’til Monday and we had to shoot this room on Wednesday so if there were any major changes (like say, a SOFA) we would need to do it ASAP. Ultimately, even though we had more neutral cushion cover options made and possibly could have made it work with lots of pretty pillows, the couch wasn’t interesting enough on camera especially with all the cool vintage pieces we had for the rest of the room. It also wasn’t terribly comfortable and while it may have worked on a patio, it seemed like a lie to tell people they should put this in their family room. Sometimes, you have to make an uncomfortable call, but it’s sooooo much better than not making that call at all.
We played a game I often make us play called “staple-gun to your head” where I go around and ask people what they would do if they had a staple gun to their head and had to make the decision RIGHT NOW. We all unanimously said, “buy the awesome vintage sofa and reupholster it.”
So they had to find 20 yards of fabric (on a Sunday…most fabric stores are not open unless it’s big box like Joann’s) and get it upholstered by Tuesday. Cool, easy feat. Thank you for being stressed out for them…
See? It’s a messy process and yes we learned some lessons. We learned that we probably shouldn’t have tried to execute a major DIY that we’ve never done before, in another state, on a very tight deadline. It was too much of a risk. The base was actually totally fine and workable, it was just a miscommunication about the upholstery and if it had been in LA, we likely would have been able to catch it earlier and rectify it.
Meanwhile, our carpenter’s mother-in-law is taking it for her outdoor space and using it so at least it didn’t go to waste.
I got there on Monday afternoon and the room was getting there. They had found SO many great pieces that actually looked good together. Art directing from afar is challenging but we are starting to get our groove and I really loved everything they had chosen. I felt like the chairs were a bit too small for the sofa so we rearranged them and realized that the room worked better, but that we needed another chair.
We spent the next day shopping and pulling it all together—which was fun but stressful. I love a last minute install, it’s kinda what stylists do and I was having serious Secrets From a Stylist flashbacks.
We aren’t the only ones doing this Make It Home Show House; there are five other designers/bloggers doing other rooms and this week, I’m here meeting them, doing a ton of press and tomorrow we are revealing our room. Follow along:
- Kevin O’Gara of Thou Swell
- Erin Marshall of Live Pretty on a Penny
- Brittni Mehlhoff of Paper and Stitch
- Brittany Hayes of Addison’s Wonderland
- Rhoda Vickers of Southern Hospitality
So check out all their accounts to follow them along and yes, COME BACK TOMORROW for our big reveal. I leaked some sneak peeks on social but hopefully not so much that you don’t want to come back.
How do I like how it turned out? Am I happy with it? Come back, tomorrow folks. Meanwhile, if you are in the market for a house for lease (rent) or just want some general lease-friendly tips, head over to invitationhomes.com
See you tomorrow!