Yellow Brick Home: An Interview With Kim & Scott
We spoke with the husband and wife dynamic duo, Kim and Scott, of the popular blog, Yellow Brick Home, in an effort to learn more about who they are and how they got started on their DIY endeavors. The 10-year DIYers currently live in Chicago, also known as the ‘windy city,’ where they spend a lot of time in their home “taking down walls, building them back up, and nurturing back the character that was so rudely taken away over time.” When they’re not salvaging their two-flat fixer-upper, they are probably rescuing furniture treasures from their local outdoor flea market or running one of their two online stores, The Pet Shop and The Print Shop. Read on to get more information on their background along with their tips for renovation, demolition, and DIY.
What is something you love most about being a homeowner?
The things we love most about being a home owner, aside from the more obvious aspects of being able to do whatever we want such as painting walls or changing out permanent fixtures, is that everything we do to our home is essentially an investment in our future. Everything that we work so hard on and every renovation that we decide to do is for a reason and we can think “this will add value down the road.” In our case, since we plan on living here until we’re gray and old, we like to say, “everything that we do to this home is going to buy us that beach house in California once we retire and can sell this place.” It’s really an investment in our life.
How would you describe your style?
That is always such a hard one to pinpoint and it’s something that we get asked quite frequently. For us, the most important… okay I’m going to answer in a way that might sound a little cheesy but… I think that we’ve learned a lot about our style especially since we’ve started blogging. I would say when we used to live in our old house, which was a little condo, it was very quirky and bright and sort of colorful. Then when we moved to this house we started realizing that we were sort of just dialing things back a little bit and when we really sat down to think about it, we realized that it was more or less our house that was the one sort of telling us how to style and work from room to room in our home. Our house that we live in now was built in the 1800s so when we make design decisions now, we tend to lean a lot more toward classic, especially for permanent fixtures. We haven’t lost the quirky because I always think every room needs at least one weird thing in it. We like to layer with fun artwork or colorful pillows as opposed to everything being bright or the walls being super saturated. So over the years, I would say our style has sort of evolved into classic but still fun and in the end, we just wanted to have a place that feels comfortable, not just for us, but for friends, our family, and our pets because they are the stars of our show.
What, to you, makes your house a home?
The things that make a house a home are… Okay, the number one thing is I can’t imagine a house without pets. They bring us so much joy and silliness and every decision we make around the home we always ask ourselves “is this pet-friendly?” and “will this still work with a pet?”. Surprisingly, a lot of things are pet-friendly but you don’t always have to stick to bone pattern beds and things like that. I also think that it’s, obviously, the people in the home. I know everyone says that and it sounds so cliche but I guess people say it because it’s true. So, for us, it’s the lives that live in this house whether it’s just the two of us having dinner or the pets that are sleeping at our feet every night. It’s really who is filling up the house.
What is something that you couldn’t live without in your home?
I think one of the things that we couldn’t live without in our home… I’m going to go down the more physical route since I’ve already said the living things that make a house a home. If there was a fire, and everyone was out and all of the pets were out of the house, I always tell Scott that the thing I would run back in for would be all of the collected artwork and photographs. They’re so important to us. We don’t necessarily hang things on the walls unless they make us really, really happy in some way. All of those things have been collected for as long as we’ve been together which has been 13/14 years now. So, over our time together, we’ve collected so many things and artwork from friends and photographs that I’ve taken. They’re physical memories.
What is one thing that you guys wish you would have known before you started renovating?
Ha! So many things! There were a lot of surprises in our house. Scott and I are both very driven people. Like for us, a fun weekend really is tearing down a wall, but that’s not to say that it’s just all fun and games. I mean, it’s still really hard work, and we still argue when we have disagreements over things. I guess, aside from just wishing we could have seen what was behind the walls or the secrets that might’ve been back there that have been complete surprises for us, something that I wish we would’ve known is that, in our minds, things just seem to happen just so quickly for everyone else from the outside looking in. Like when you watch television shows, for example, in 30 minutes everything’s wrapped up in a nice tiny package but that’s 100% not the case. I guess that I wish that there would be more honesty about that, whether it’s online or on television, that things move slowly if you want things done right. That’s something that has been a really hard lesson for us as we started renovating this house.
You all have a two-flat home… what made you decide to go that route?
Well, we actually weren’t seeking that out on purpose. The reason we ended up with our house is because when we were house hunting, it seemed like this was the only house available in our neighborhood in our price range. It was everything we didn’t want in a house. It had vinyl siding, was a two-flat with more space than we wanted, and was physically everything we didn’t want. It was a lot more work than we thought we wanted to take on but the reason we bought it was because it was the only house that was magically in some very low price point in our favorite neighborhood, essentially in the whole world. We love Chicago more than anything and this neighborhood was something we couldn’t believe we’d actually be able to live in. So, it was 100% the location and that’s why we bought a two-flat. This summer it will be 4 years at this house and we have turned the two-flat into a single family home. However, it is still zoned as two living spaces because we do rent out the garden unit of our home which was, when we bought it, 3 units illegally. (laughs) Does that make sense? That’s very common in Chicago. There’s a lot of illegal apartments just because people chop up the homes over the years because these houses are so old. It was illegally three families that were living here and we reverted it back to two properly.
What inspired you to start your Yellow Brick Home blog?
The reason we started the blog was not necessarily because I was inspired to write a blog. It was honestly because 8 years ago before blogs are what blogs are today. My friend would always come over to our house – this was in that small condo I was telling you about that was really colorful and during the time we were sort of learning our design style – and every time she would come over she would say “hold on, let me see what’s new since last week.” We were always tweaking something, repainting something, or switching something out for something else that we rescued from the alley. One day she just said, “you really need to start writing about this because this is so much to see what’s different every time I’m here and I see you all the time so imagine how things look for your family who you only see every few months or once a year.” And I was like “I guess… maybe that would be fun…” and that was sort of it. It wasn’t like some beautiful love story to begin with. I was just like “challenge accepted,” and I started writing the blog.
So why the name “Yellow Brick Home,” is there any type of special meaning behind it?
Yep. The name Yellow Brick Home is – well it’s really simple – the condo that we lived in was a yellow brick building. [starts laughing] So, it was literally an ode to that building. We’ve been blogging, at this point, for 4 years about the condo and, now, almost 4 years about this house. So when we moved, a lot of our readers were like “are you going to change the name of your blog now?” and I’m like, “welllllll, Gray Vinyl Siding Home doesn’t have the same ring. [laughs]
What would your dream home be? Describe your dream house.
It might be too easy to say but in our current situation, this is our dream home. It may not look exactly like our dream home but as far as where we are – on this earth, on this street, surrounded by our neighbors – we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world. We always say that we hit the jackpot with our street. Whenever you move, you never know if you’re going to have good neighbors, whether you’re going to have neighbors that are mean or some weird things that you just won’t know until you actually move there. For some reason when we moved here, it sort of was like the street that we live on had a turnover. All of the homes are starting to be sold and new families started moving in and we got so lucky because all of our neighbors are about our age and some of them have young kids, some have pets, and we’re all like in creative fields. We get along so well that we hang out with our neighbors more than anyone probably. We’ll say “hey, we’re thinking of lighting up the grill tonight, who wants to come over?” and everyone will come over. It’s just such a great sense of community right here on our block.
If you guys had an unlimited budget, are there some dream features that you would add to your house?
Yes. Okay so if we won the lottery today the first thing we would do is that off all of this horrible gray vinyl siding on our home, and we would reside our whole house. That has got to be one of the most boring answers ever but every single day when Scott and I are in the car driving around, and we see a home in a similar style as ours that has beautiful wood siding or anything that’s not chipped or cracked, discolored vinyl, we stop and take pictures of them and say, “That’s our future house color.” So that’s the first thing we would do. The second thing that we would do is probably tear down our front porch and rebuild it in a way that is a little grander. I’m not sure how to really describe it but our front porch was one of the selling features of our home, despite everything else that we were like “ugh” to. Our house had a front porch which is not common in Chicago so the fact that it had that we were like “we have a front porch, we can have our friends over and we can hang out on the porch swing.” Over the years, we did do that. We added a porch swing and a little painting area that you guys will see when we actually repaint our porch for an upcoming project and sort of revamp it for the summer. If we could start over we would probably make it just a little deeper, put in some beautiful tongue and groove ceiling, and add a big ceiling fan – almost make it look like a southern porch or something right here in the middle of Chicago.
What scenarios do you suggest not DIY-ing? What percentage of your DIY projects do you do yourselves and what percentage do you hire out for?
I would say 75% we do ourselves and 25% we hire out. The 25% that we hire out is for anything that requires putting a hole in our house like a window or a door and anything electrical or moving plumbing. When I say electrical I mean running new electrical. We are totally comfortable changing out a light fixture but if it’s anything that requires new outlets or new junction boxes, we’d hire out for that. Aside from that, we’re very hands on. We love to build up and trim out everything on our own. We are more hands on than we are not. However, we are not afraid to hire a contractor because they’ll get the job done quicker and safer.
What can we look forward to from you guys for the future projects?
The thing that Scott and I always say that we’re excited about at this point in our lives is that we’re finally to the point where we are fine tuning thing in our home. So, aside from renovating that garden unit in our basement which we are doing this summer, when it comes to our home, we’re finally to the point where the projects aren’t as big and dusty as they used to be but instead they’re more relatable to our readers. A lot of people aren’t in the middle of big, dusty renovations but a lot of people are looking for ways to fine tune their homes to make it just right for them, and we’re finally at that place. So I think you’ll see a lot more of that moving forward with Yellow Brick Home and the projects that I’ll be sharing with you guys too.