I was fortunate enough to catch up with one of our favorite bloggers this week, Karla Holley of the Small Town Rambler.
First of all, I just love the blog’s name–Small Town Rambler–it just speaks to Americana, the American spirit, and the desire we all share to express and share our ideas with others.
The following Q and A session with Karla will give you an idea of what her blog is all about, and will no doubt pique your curiosity about Karla’s world, and we hope you will enjoy her blog as much as I do!
BA: Where did you get the idea for Small Town Rambler-what triggered your desire to create the blog and share your ideas?
STR: The idea to start a blog came to me a few years ago after I had completed several DIY projects around the house. I was very excited after I had completed my first furniture makeover and having a house that needed so much work, I just went on tackling more projects from there. I had the desire to share my projects thanks to two things: fear and results! I hear from people all the time that they are afraid to take on a project for fear of failing. I was very scared of my first furniture makeover becoming a disaster. It was my Great-Grandmother’s antique buffet and it was missing hardware and had water damage to the surface. After it sat in my dining room for several years, I finally figured I had nothing to lose! It was not in good shape so it was worth the risk and effort. It turned out great and I am still pleased with it. My hope is to encourage others to give it a try! There is so much satisfaction and pride about a project that you complete yourself!
BA: What makes you so passionate about DIY, gardening, and home decor?
STR: My passion for DIY, gardening, and home decor started with my Grandparents, who have all inspired me in their own ways. I watched them create so many things with their own hands and still have some of those things to treasure. My Grandfather was a skilled woodworker (as a hobby) and he would build things like beautiful pieces of furniture with added detail, cabinets, and toys for his Grandchildren. Both my Grandmothers sewed, one sewing adorable outfits for me when I was young and the other creating beautiful quilts for our babies when they were born. They always decorated their homes in their own way and did what they enjoyed…not to impress others, but to reflect their own style and make it comfortable and inviting.
My other Grandfather was a dedicated gardener and did projects around the house himself because he wanted it done right and didn’t want to spend the money to have someone else do it. He taught me a lot about saving money and spending wisely. They all did their part to keep a lovely, yet modest home and put their heart and hard work into their projects and creations. They had the same furniture pieces and decor for many years and still managed to update a room in small ways. Thanks to them, I learned to work with what I have, do things myself if I am able, and to appreciate special family pieces…which I love to add to any space.
BA: How do you go about choosing projects for yourself? What makes a project exciting for you?
STR: Deciding on a project is always a difficult task for me. Sometimes, it’s difficult deciding where to start and what project is most important to start on! Some projects are chosen because they are more pressing and need attention right away. Others may be for fun or because I want to bring life back to something again, such as a family piece that I can use in some way that needs work and has been hiding away. I get excited when a project begins to come together. It’s one thing when you have the idea in mind or on paper, but when it begins to take shape and you see it come to life, it’s very exciting!
BA: We know you are in the process of doing a fireplace ‘”makeover” with a friend. Have you ever updated a fireplace before?
STR: I have updated a fireplace! Our house was built in the 60’s and the fireplace was built with a solid wood surround and built-in bookshelves. I liked our fireplace, but it was missing two things-color and a mantel. I decided to build the mantel myself a couple of years ago. Since I had never completed a project like this before it took a lot of time preparing. The hardest part was deciding on how the mantel would look as I pieced together the decorative trim. I wanted it to be just right..not too plain, but not too decorative. Although it was a lot of work, it was very rewarding! I had a great structure to work with and now my fireplace looks so bright and updated. I also painted the back of the built-in bookshelves with a dark turquoise color so my decorative pieces stand out as much as my mantel does!
BA: A lot of our readers are looking for ways to make their fireplace stand out in a room redesign or update. How do you approach a redesign or design challenge in a room with a fireplace?
STR: Always feel like a fireplace is the focal point in any room. It’s the first thing that draws my attention, anyway. It always stands out in a room when it looks nice and it can take away form a room when it’s empty or missing something. It’s a place that provides warmth, where people gather for conversation, and it’s a great place to display the very things that represent your style and interests. People often display their favorite art pieces, decorative items, books they enjoy, and family photos. I think it’s important that it displays the things you love and reflects your personality. I have seen the fireplace present a challenge when it comes to furniture placement though. You don’t want any furniture pieces blocking the fireplace, for looks and safety reasons. I always tell people just to move the furniture pieces around, try different angles, or take away or add smaller pieces. You might be surprised at how you can make it work!
BA: In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing someone (you?) when starting a home design or update/DIY project?
STR: The biggest challenge I face when starting any project, is making it something I love while staying within our budget. I don’t have a lot of money to spend on an entire room makeover or project all at once. Some projects and rooms have taken me months and even years to complete. It’s taken several years to get my kitchen to the point where it is now with painted cabinets, new lighting, paint, and building the mantel…yes, our fireplace is in the kitchen! I did it a little at a time. I still want new flooring and furniture, but that will have to wait until we have the time and money.
BA: What are your best tips and advice for people who want to tackle a DIY or home decor project on their own?
STR: I often tell people to take on their first DIY project with a furniture piece or room that you can look at and think ” I have nothing to lose.” As I mentioned with my Great-Grandmother’s buffet, it had a lot of damage…I figured it could only get better with the work I put into it. Once you’ve done a few DIY projects, you’ll have more confidence with each new project. Some will be fun and others frustrating, but you will learn to let go of the small stuff, like little imperfections and fear of failing. And sometimes, you’ll have to call someone for help…I have had to call my Dad a lot more than I would like to admit!
As for home decor, I am not as good at decorating a room as I am completing a furniture makeover or DIY project. I am thankful for Pinterest for that reason! My advice for decorating would be to gather pieces you love and try mixing and grouping until you like the way it looks! Try to include pieces you already have. You might be surprised how much they add to the look of your room or styling a furniture piece. I dug up a small glass pitcher that was my grandmother’s and used it as a vase for my fresh cut hydrangeas. I was pleasantly surprised with how it looked sitting on books I had stacked on an old dresser I had refinished. It was pretty and added to it visually next to the picture frames and antique typewriter I had sitting beside it.
BA: What is the most frequently asked question you get from your readers at Small Town Rambler?
STR: I don’t get questions too often but I always appreciate when I do! If I receive any questions, it’s usually about the small details of the project. When someone asks those questions, it shows me that I was not clear enough about the directions or may have left something out altogether. It’s very important to me that my readers have clear direction on a project they want to try themselves, so I want to make corrections to the tutorial and add that information right away. I appreciate that my reader’s have asked those questions so I can learn from that and improve my blog posts!
BA: What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned along the way?
STR: The most unexpected thing I’ve learned is that I can put a lot of time and work into one project and not get much interest, then a super simple post or project will take off! It’s wild how that happens, but if it is valuable to my readers, no matter how many or few, then that’s all that matters! I have heard from readers that happen to have a similar piece of furniture or room design, and my projects have given them the very idea they needed to complete it. Whether it’s one person, or 100…it always makes me happy that it inspires an idea. I once had a man who told me the chifferobe I refinished for my daughter gave him the very ideas he needed to get started on the one he had sitting in his garage. The one he had was similar to mine and he was so excited to refinish it in a similar fashion for his new Grandson. I could feel his excitement as I read about his plans for the chifferobe, and that he was thrilled to be a new Grandpa!
BA: What room in your house resonates most with you and why? What aspect of gardening is your favorite?
STR: Our kitchen is definitely the my favorite room! So much happens in the kitchen, long conversations at dinner, my husband’s wonderful dishes (his BBQ ribs are out of this world!), our kids playing games and completing their school projects, and family gatherings…it’s the room everyone always seems to gather no matter how big or small it is! That is why we made our kitchen/ family room combo just one big kitchen! With the living room and family room, we decided we didn’t need another room to watch TV. Why not have one big kitchen and have more room for family and guests when they visit? That is why there’s a fireplace in our kitchen.
The kitchen is also my favorite room because it’s the room I have done the most DIY projects and updates. I have seen this room through some major transformations, especially changing the look of our cabinets with paint and new hardware and building a mantel for the fireplace! My favorite piece in our kitchen is definitely my Grandfather’s old butcher block that we use as an island. He was a butcher at the old A&P grocery store in our downtown area in the 50’s. It quickly becomes a conversation piece any time someone visits our house for the first time.
What aspect of Gardening is my favorite? The first bite of the first red, juicy tomato that I waited so patiently to ripen! I enjoy everything I grow but the tomatoes are my favorite. Another aspect of gardening I enjoy, is that I can go into the backyard to gather the ingredients I need to prepare a meal. Zucchini always makes a great meal, especially paired with tomatoes and herbs.