Thursday, February 19, 2015

Looking for the next Young House Love

In my latest edition of Stuff Green People Like, I lamented the fact that my favorite DIY blog, Young House Love, closed its doors four months back. It used to be part of my daily routine, every weekday morning, to take a break from my work at 10 am and check out the latest YHL post, and now that there are no new posts to check, I've been feeling a bit cast adrift. Up to this point, I haven't found anything that could really take the place of Young House Love in my life, but lately I've started to think that maybe I just haven't been looking hard enough. So I decided to actually undertake a search for the next Young House Love: a new site that can fill that same spot in my heart and my schedule.

My first thought was to do a search for "best DIY blogs," but after poking through those results feeling unsure where to start, I had a better idea: why not start with my own budget decor posts? I've already done four of these, and they all feature the exact sort of DIY project that interests me most: an ecofrugal room transformation, done on a shoestring budget with minimal waste. So I decided to go through those, visiting the original site where each makeover was featured, to see if one of them could become my new Young House Love.

Some of the makeovers in my original budget decor post could be skipped over right away, because they came from the original Young House Love, which is no longer available (waah). Several other makeovers in the first, second, and fourth posts were harvested from the sites of Better Homes and Gardens and This Old House, and I ruled those out as well because these sites are simply too annoying to deal with. In a blatant attempt to maximize the number of page views (and hence the amount of ad revenue) they get, the editors of these sites turn practically every article they post into a slideshow spread out over multiple pages. This means that not only does it take forever to click your way through, say, a list of 20 great budget remodeling tips, it's also impossible ever to see the before and after pictures on the same page. Moreover, these magazines don't really have an ecofrugal attitude: although they occasionally feature budget remodels, most of the makeovers they cover are of the rip-it-out-and-start-over variety.

So instead, I looked for blogs run by the frugal remodelers themselves. Not every makeover had a blog associated with it, but I found several:
  • Rice Designs was the original source for the boy's bedroom redo I featured in my first budget decor post. This was a great-looking room, and it was done in a very ecofrugal way, with lots of refinished and repurposed items. Searching the main site, however, I didn't see any new room renovations along similar lines, and in fact, I found that the blog as a whole hadn't been updated since last January. Well, Young House Love has been updated more recently than that, so this clearly isn't much use as a substitute. Next?
  • Two It Yourself supplied the a-mazing bath makeover I covered in my second post. This blogger achieved a truly incredible transformation on an even more incredible budget (under $100). But this blog, like the first one, had few posts along similar lines and no updates at all since last July.
  • SG Style (formerly known as A Home Full of Color) was the source of the great kitchen redo featured in the same post, which I originally discovered through Better Homes and Gardens. This blog has been updated recently (though not daily), and her posts are indeed colorful, but they're a little light on the nitty-gritty details that kept me coming back to YHL. Her home tour is just a series of "after" pics, with no info about what they did to each room—not even links to the "reveal" post in which they show the details. 
  • Kruse's Workshop did the bathroom remodel featured in my third post. This site is awfully slow to load, but once I managed to get a few posts up on my screen, the solutions in them looked very creative and DIY-oriented. The problem is that there's no budget information in them, which is kind of key for me. On the entire page, I found only one dollar sign.
  • View Along the Way supplied the bedroom and laundry room makeovers in my fourth budget decor post. I flipped through the photos in her house tour, and it appears that her design style is very similar to the Petersiks' (of Young House Love fame), but her tone is rather different. It's still light and perky, but it's also very Christian-centric. I think there's hardly a post in which Jesus doesn't come up at least once, and that's a bit much for me.
  • Designer Trapped in a Lawyer's Body was the source for the other, even more frugal laundry room makeover in post #4. This was a remarkable budget redo, with lots of ecofrugal reuse (she calls it "going shopping in your own house"). However, after looking at her "room reveals" page, I found myself somewhat torn. Some of the "after" pictures were quite nice, in a modern style similar to YHL's, and some of the budgets shown, such as the $700 kitchen redo, were simply amazing—but I have serious problems with some of her choices. Painting over natural wood is bad enough in my book, but seriously, covering up a natural stone fireplace with concrete? You do know that can never be undone, right? I was afraid reading this blog on a regular basis might become too frustrating for me.
That was all the individual blogs I could find, but there was still one site left that had covered several of the budget remodels: Apartment Therapy. Three of the kitchen remodels I covered in post #3 were found on The Kitchn, a subsection of the larger Apartment Therapy site, and the main site features plenty of remodeling posts as well. However, this is only a small fraction of what's available there. Apartment Therapy isn't just a DIY site; it's devoted to all things home-related, with sections for "Style," "DIY," and "Homekeeping." There are house tours, photos of individual rooms, and projects refinishing a single, small piece; there are whole sections devoted to "Small Spaces" and "Budget Living." All in all, it looks it's just up my alley.

So I'm thinking that of all the sites I visited for my budget decor posts, this one is probably the winner. But can it truly take the place of Young House Love? That, only time will tell. I plan to visit the site regularly over the next few weeks, and we'll see if it becomes my new home obsession.
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