According to Pinterest: How Inspiration (Almost) Killed My Renovation Dreams

Let me start from the beginning. Some women dream of their wedding day when they were girls, but not me. I was dreaming about renovating kitchens. And bathrooms. And bedrooms. This week, that dream is coming true; we’re kicking off the first phase of our home renovation! We have a whole series planned for you this summer (including video!) but before we start, I want to talk about why this project almost didn’t get off the ground, and how we’re going to be covering the process.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved designing interiors. I soaked up Trading Spaces like a sponge, and challenged myself to my own one-day decor makeover on my 10×10 bedroom. You can still see the spots of paint on our carpeting, marking each time I flip-flopped from one style to the next. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew I wanted to make things and play with space. When I was in college and decided to forego Interior Design for Graphic Design, I still collected the pages from glossy magazines, opting for Domino and Elle Decor instead of Vogue or Cosmo. I collected my inspiration in big black binders, preserving the pages in plastic sheets and making notes on post-its. When I graduated, I hauled them up to Minneapolis. I now realize that big binder was a physical Pinterest page.

So, here we are. Years after design school and many more years of soul searching, I’m still collecting. It’s fitting that Pinterest is where Wit & Delight‘s biggest following remains, because it’s been my longest held hobby; collecting, editing, looking. When I was 18 I couldn’t have imagined the amount of inspiration that would be available to me, at any time of day. It’s an enormously important thing for any creative, to see many things and to be inspired. So what was so different about collecting ideas for this remodel? Why was I feeling so overwhelmed? What about it felt heavy? How could I reclaim my love for the inspiration rabbit hole again?

I realized I needed to reconcile that inspiration and reality are often at odds. When I looked deeper, what excites me and what’s right for my life don’t always match up. For the first time, I understood why some brides have a horrible time planning their wedding. With all that energy spent dreaming of the possibilities, how can we ever possibly live up to our own expectations? Once our dreams have a price tag, how do you deal with the letdown? There had to be a way to dream big without the reality hangover.

The creative process includes a tipping point where we funnel ALL our inspiration and possibilities through a series of filters, requirements, and objectives. These filters and objectives are what connects aesthetic and beauty with function and purpose. Without them, we have a loose definition of art. Over the years, I’ve come to seek out these constraints. If you have the right variables to work with, one can focus more intently on the opportunity to make 1 + 1 = 100. It’s what makes creative expression most effective as tool, message, weapon, a Trojan Horse.

Enter my “ah-ha!” remodel moment. This old house is not my design project. It’s not Instagram and Pinterest content. This old house is where my story, Joe’s story, our story– unfolds. It reminds me of where we’ve been: our two years of marriage; how we learned to live with each other; when Winnie was 8 pounds; and where we are going: career changes, leaps of faith, moments when we fall apart and come back together. It’s a story that doesn’t stand still. Our house is our sandbox to create in, a piece of the earth we own and can do with what we will. As we move forward and become wiser and better with age, so will the walls that hold us. We build our homes to enjoy the lives we have, not the ones we hope to lead.

Everything began to fall into place after that. We cut things out to ensure we met our savings goal. We made practical decisions where the investment wouldn’t pay off. We communicated on what was important to us, as a couple. We grew closer.

We can all thank Pinterest for helping us dream a little broader, push us a little further, and ultimately see more than we ever have before. It’s easy to become enchanted by someone else’s version of reality, when we’re so familiar with our own. We find drive and energy and vision from our dreams, but it’s in our realities– right here, right now, just as we are– that contentment and peace can be found.

As we kick off this series, you’ll see plenty of inspiration and pretty things, but the crux is about how we can make improvements to the way we’re already living. We’ve taken footage of the house pre-construction, with no art direction, styling, props or flowers. Piles of papers and junk drawers, dry morning cereal and coffee in mismatched mugs. I’m proud of our mess, who we are as a couple, with our averageness. This certainly won’t be ground-breaking content, and maybe some of you won’t find it all that interesting. The point is the unremarkable matters a great deal to each of us. For it is in the remarkably unremarkable parts of life we discover what we just might actually need.

  • Ah, yes. The wonderful balance of dreams and reality, it’s such a difficult place to navigate at times!

    I feel bad that there were times when I RESENTED my life for not living up to what I wanted it to be, my “Pinterest” life that seemed so much better than my day to day life. I resented it for not being magical at all times, for having things messy and out of place, for sometimes being outright gross.

    But you’re absolutely right, it comes down to an acceptance your life, imperfections and all. By knowing that you are fine with the good and the bad. It’s not to say that we don’t have to improve our lives, growth and change are vital in maintaining happiness in the long run. But we can’t have everything perfect all the time, it would be downright exhausting.

    I wish you and Joe the best of luck in your home renovations, it sounds so exciting! Me and my husband are still renting, but when that time comes, we also look forward to making our future home more like ‘us’. Any advice and tips you learn on the way would be greatly appreciated!

  • We live in such a visual society. I’m an artist, so too often I find myself overwhelmed by all I see. Overwhelmed by this idea that things need to be curated and the best of the best. It’s so important to live your life and not worry about what your life looks like to others.

    I’m excited to see where this series goes…

  • Kate,
    I can totally relate to this. It’s almost like comparing yourself to others and feeling like you’re behind on “what’s supposed to be” when really you should just take in things as in and see what you can do (not what others can do).

    For me, I totally know I will be interested in this series because I love seeing and learning from others when they start from the beginning. To me, it’s more than seeing the results.

    Again, thank you for always sharing your thoughts and journey with us. :0)

    Happy Wednesday!
    Mailinh

  • I STILL have some binders of inspiration when I was a kid I collected house plans and even drew my own floor plans for my “dream home”. I can totally relate to this post. I just had three contractors over trying to find one to hire!

  • Kate, Thank you for putting into words the emotional tug of war that I’ve been enduring during my own home renovation. It’s so easy to fall into the magical Pinterest world and suddenly find yourself resenting reality.

    I’m so glad you’re documenting and sharing your reno journey and can’t wait to see it unfold. I look forward to both the ordinary beginnings and what I’m sure will be an extraordinary result!

  • I loved this post so much. Our first house ended up being a new development style home (not my personal style at all) and I could hear a voice in my head say “well there goes your blog down the drain”…and then I caught myself and decided that I was going to rise to the challenge. I was going to transform this newer house to my aesthetic and accept the imperfections…and be content with it all. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to that voice:).

  • This is such a wonderful reminder. Thank you 🙂 I guess we’re so caught up with “what our lives are supposed to look like” and neglect what we could actually do with what we have… and even when we have achieved our “goals” we’re forever wanting more, chasing for more and not really appreciating the current moment…

    1st world problems.

  • Looking forward to reading more about and seeing your progress. We have been in home renovations for three years now. Every room we do ends up being the best room in the house. Doing renovations together as husband and wife has definitely been challenging, but it has brought us closer together. It has been very rewarding to update an old home and make it clean and new again.

    Cheers!

  • Loved this! Thank you for reminding me that it’s Okay to be where I am and that my life doesn’t need to look like my Pinterest boards! Well written too

  • A great reminder to all that it’s ok to pull back the curtain. Thank you for the reminder to stay grounded in reality and focus on what matters most – living and loving life, friends and family.

  • So well stated! We are also kicking off our first home renovation, and I was feeling the same way. Second guessing every choice as new inspiration flowed. I’m enjoying following along with your journey and thrilled you’ll be sharing (video! yes!) as we have similar taste. 😉

    Good luck!

  • This was such well spoken truth at the perfect time for me – “An apple of gold in a setting of silver…”
    We are starting a home renovation and I felt overwhelmed to achieve perfection. This reminded me to enjoy my real life. I look forward to following your journey.