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Are You A Renter?? Learn All The Ways You Can Design Big (And Get Your Deposit Back:))

Just over 3 years ago, I published my very first YouTube video specifically on renter-friendly design as I shared resurfacing the counter of our bathroom with marble contact paper. The thumbnail currently reads “reversible rental bath transformation” because I knew that while there are countless renters that hate & want to upgrade their bathrooms, I also knew that they needed to know that they could undo it later… aka get their deposit back. 

As a renter, I called everything I did “renter-friendly” design because I wanted people to know that they could rent without sacrificing design; but it was never lost on me that the real significance of this type of design was the fact that I could un-design it when it was time for me to pack up and move on. 

This urge to un-design goes way back, like before I was paying my own rent, because I’d always wanted to design my spaces… and these were never spaces I owned. By the time I was a rent-paying adult with a family, I leaned even deeper into the notion of renting being an opportunity for experimentation, and not a limitation. Buying a home was a long way away — wasn’t even on our radar! — so I needed to find effortless ways to create a home I would love while acknowledging that at some point I’d be leaving and my landlord was going to want this place back to the way I found it. 

From that first video back in 2018, I’ve shared a few other renter-friendly design upgrades, with our last apartment serving as the design lab — self-adhesive backsplash tiles in our kitchen, peel & stick wood planks in our bedroom, removable wallpaper in our daughter’s room, and plug-in sconces in our bedroom. Sharing these projects on my blog and youtube were my way of inspiring and teaching how easy it could be to design your home even if you don’t own your home; OR, if you did own, that you could change your mind as often as you’d like because they are options that aren’t as labor-intensive. 

I was teaching. 

Little did I know that after three years, half a dozen projects, one book, and countless blog posts, I would actually be teaching this very thing called “Reversible Design”!

By now you know all about Emily’s series of Skillshare, the follow-up to her styling course from 2019. I’ll never forget the day Caitlin messaged me asking me if I was interested in being part of the series. Full disclosure: if the message came from anyone else, like someone I’d never spoken to, I would’ve absolutely written it off as spam! “Me? Teaching a Skillshare course? A Skillshare Originals course?” These were just some of my initial thoughts. In theory, I love sharing, teaching, and inspiring, but I never considered myself an actual teacher. I’m just a girl who knows a little about a lot. Not to mention, I’d seen Emily’s course and all the behind the scenes deets she shared, so naturally I thought that this doesn’t make any sense because, “Who am I to teach?” But then I had a follow-up thought… “What do I have to lose?”

Now hopefully you caught that I had two distinct thoughts when it came to teaching on Skillshare — teaching a Skillshare course and teaching a Skillshare Originals course. 

What Is A Skillshare Originals Course?

This is going to be an oversimplification but in short, anyone can create and upload a course to teach on the Skillshare learning platform. Again — this is an oversimplification. A Skillshare Originals course, on the other hand, is a course that is created and produced with Skillshare. This means the Skillshare team would be handling ALL of the logistics of getting my course together, versus me filmining, editing, and uploading a course myself. This was a pretty big deal for me. Skillshare wanted to put their name on and behind MY content… my expertise. Say what?!

While I was no stranger to showing up in print and/or on video to talk about renter-friendly and reversible design, this felt different. Skillshare, first and foremost, is a massive platform! It’s def a whole lot more far-reaching than my blog, YouTube, and Instagram channels combined. Having a class catered to my love of reversible be produced — like professionally produced — by an entity of their size if a whole other level. Keep in mind, as a content creator, I am the talent, the photographer, the videographer, the editor, the copywriter, and the marketer, among a few other hats I wear. Doing this with Skillshare, however, I just had to be the talent. That’s it. 

What Would I Be Teaching?

When this opportunity first presented itself, to be clear, it wasn’t an opportunity for reversible design. It was an opportunity for me to teach what I know… what I love… what I want to share. If you know me even a little bit, you know I have a lot of passions, but a pretty short list of go-to areas of expertise. 

After one short & sweet meeting discussing what I wanted to teach, we unanimously decided that reversible design would be perfect for the series. 

This was also right on the heels of purchasing my first home, transitioning from renter to homeowner, and so it would be the perfect chance for me to illustrate how these design solutions would be applicable to any and everyone. I wanted to teach a class that could speak to multiple groups of design enthusiasts, not just one category. 

Of all my passions and fav topics to talk about, I knew that reversible design is one that, especially now, would connect with so many people — renters, homeowners, people living with roommates, students returning to campus… you name it. If 2020 gave us anything, it gave us all a deeper appreciation for our homes and a newfound desire to actually care for those homes. Having found that most people tend to resist designing because they’re afraid of dealing with it down the line — i.e. ruining their walls, losing their deposit, etc — this felt like a great opportunity to encourage people to take calculated risks and to love their home now. 

Getting Ready To Actually Teach

Now that we knew what I would be teaching, however, I had to mentally prepare myself for actually teaching on such a large platform. Skillshare couldn’t help me with that. Emily couldn’t help me with that. That was mindset work that I would have to do all by myself… and with my therapist. I remember having a conversation with Arlyn about our respective courses and just how nervous we were about filming our content. Aside from having to work around my family’s schedule, I was all too happy to push my filming day as far out as possible to give myself as much time to prepare… #sorrynotsorry… #impostersyndromeisreal.

I will forever be thankful for how the Skillshare team handled my spoken and unspoken insecurities. Kaye was super great about partnering me with a video operator that I’d be comfortable with, in addition to following COVID-19 induced protocols because, in case you missed it, we were def already in the middle of a pandemic when all this went down. The Skillshare team sent ALL the equipment to film straight to my house — like you guys… HUGE packages with everything from cameras to lenses to memory cards to things I couldn’t even readily identify. I just know it was a lot, it was heavy, and it was appreciated. I could just be the talent. 

Typically when filming anything, be it for my YouTube channel or for IG stories, I get all in my head and anxious about the video quality. I record a lot that, honestly, never sees the light of day. In this instance, to know that I wouldn’t have to worry about lighting set up and video equipment and post-production or any of that was such a huge relief. To film, all I had to do was give them my address and then show up looking video ready. And to actually teach, I provided them with a breakdown of the projects, that they then broke down into sections to fit the parameters of a Skillshare course. This would also later serve as the outline for filming day.

Let’s Get Into Filming Day!

We did everything remotely, with the Skillshare production team being on Zoom and one operator being on-site with me. He was awesome, by that way. As someone who had been creating video content, on and off, since 2017, that day was a HUGE crash course in all things video. I knew I was a novice but, man on man, everything about how the two days unfolded was truly illuminating and has stuck with me ever since! 

Day 1…

…was all about the set up and blocking so that the next day we could focus exclusively on filming. I had the advantage of having recently (at the time) completed our living room design, so this part of the house served as the backdrop for most of the series. It also worked out that the living room was the only completed room, so the very empty dining space right next to it was the perfect place to set up all the equipment… and boy was there equipment! The dining room was the staging area for everything, including some of the course content. Knowing that there was a wall we would eventually be demolishing as part of the kitchen renovation, it was the perfect place to test ideas and execute reversible projects. 

Day 2…

…was the longer of the two days because it was actually filming day. We kicked off at 7 am! Thank goodness I’m a morning person because this, otherwise, would have ended very badly. After he did a quick check on all the equipment and did all the things that videographers do, I got dressed, put on a face, and was ready to rock! The Seattle area isn’t exactly known for its bright and sunny days, especially during the winter, but we had the good fortune of clear skies throughout the day and were able to film without a hitch. Even with the mini home with me, we got through over 8 hours of filming pretty effortlessly, which is really a testament to the professionalism of the Skillshare team but also not having to wear all the hats. Mentally I could focus exclusively on my words and this helped in squashing most (even if not all) of my nervous butterflies… and there were LOTS of nervous butterflies. I mean, how could there not be… this is video… on the internet.

The End Result

After months of anticipation, all of that hard work is finally out in the world and over 500 of you amazing humans have actually signed up for the course. And in case you haven’t, feel free to just go ahead and do that here… thanks! This experience, in itself, is one that lands easily on my list of top 10 career moments, and to share it with people I actually know — Emily, Arlyn, and Mikel — makes it all the more special. It’s almost like a full -ircle moment, for me at least, as they also shared in the Share The Mic Now: Home Edition with me last summer. Little do they know, we all basically go together now! And little do the good folks at Skillshare know is that they’re so stuck with me… because if there’s anything people love more than an original, it’s a sequel *hint hint*.

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Ellie Lillstrom | From: What Happens When You Design Your Living Room and Then MOVE?? You Make It Work… Albie’s New Living Room Round One!

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kellyjo
25 days ago

All the accolades to you, Albie, and to Skillshare folks for knowing who can bring clear and beautiful content. You went and got this! KEEP GOING! We are all rooting for you.

Molly
25 days ago
Reply to  kellyjo

Agreed! And can’t wait to see it!

24 days ago
Reply to  kellyjo

Thank you 😊

Sona
24 days ago

What a great opportunity to share your knowledge in such a big way! And yes, imposter syndrome is REAL! I remember starting out in my career as a clinical social worker thinking I was too young and inexperienced to be telling other people how to fix their life!

24 days ago
Reply to  Sona

It’s so wild how no matter the industry or profession, we can all feel it

Martha Moore
24 days ago

Congrats on this! I’m sure this will be an excellent class. I definitely get stuck in the mindset of planning for “one day” so I appreciate the idea of making simple changes to love your home right now.

A.B.
24 days ago

Awesome!

Siel
23 days ago

I’m in love with the paper wall lamps you’re hanging! Could you share where they’re from?

KV
21 days ago

Thank you Albie. It is touching to hear about your learning curve as you “go big” and share your talent and knowledge with others, (it takes so much darn courage to do that), and also that you had good experience collaborating with others and coming “full circle”. That cracked my heart open.

Michelle
21 days ago

This seems like a great resource- thanks for sharing the process too!

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