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#055: Uncovering Your Style & Upleveling Your DIY Projects with Designer + NBC Making It Star Rebecca Propes

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On the show today I am sitting down with one of my really good friends Rebecca Propes. We have a really fun conversation that covers all kinds of things from experimenting with DIY, uncovering your style, and even a little about her time on NBC’s Making It. She is literally an amazing designer and creator. You might have seen her places like the cover of HGTV Magazine or in a JoAnn’s commercial she shot with Phyllis from The Office and all other kinds of places. 

I am so excited for this conversation! I think it is going to be so helpful to energize you. Rebecca has such amazing expertise in this space from being an interior designer to owning a shop to doing DIY projects and inspiring people every day through what she creates. I am honored to have her on as a guest and I can’t wait to let her inspire you. 

You can download this episode from Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsStitcher, and Spotify – or listen to it below!

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in this episode:

[01:52] Quick Design Strategies: 3 Rug Tricks

[06:55] Transferring inspiration & making it your own

[09:16] Materials needed for projects

[11:41] DIY is not always budget-friendly

[13:53] Uplevel your DIY projects

[17:16] Rebecca’s journey

[24:21] Uncovering your style 

[27:44] Being on the cover of HGTV

[31:47] Rebecca’s experience on Making It

[37:46] Her biggest challenge on Making It

[42:15] Ways to stay unstuck in the DIY process

[43:44] Rebecca Propes’ Rug Collection

[49:11] What’s Cara’s obsessed with this week

[50:24] Trend talk: Washable Rugs

[01:52] Quick Design Strategies: 3 Rug Tricks

I wanted to give you just three quick rug tips so that when you run to buy a rug you know what you’re doing. Tip number one is all legs on deck. When you’re buying a rug one of the most common mistakes I see people making is that the rug is too small. The way you know it’s big enough is that all legs of your furniture grouping should be on the rug. This includes your dining table when you pull the chair out to sit down, the legs of the chair should be able to remain on the rug.

Tip number two is what I like to call blend or bold. So a rug in your space is either going to be a neutral kind of like a canvas and let other things shine like furniture or artwork or it’s going to be the statement of your space. If you want to blend in go with a neutral rug. Go bold if you really want the rug to be the focal point in your space if you want the rug to kind of be like the artwork on your floor.

Tip number three is that materials matter.  In this day and age, there are so many rugs that are pretty inexpensive, but it still matters what materials the rug is made of. So you want to make sure you’re purchasing a rug that works for your space. Are you in a really humid area or do you have a pool that people are gonna be walking in and out of getting the floor all wet? You want something that’s quick-drying in that case. Do you have a lot of dust and a lot of dirt and it needs to be cleanable? 

[06:55] Transferring inspiration & making it your own

When we look at Pinterest, the first thing people want to do is they just want to jump in and they don’t have a plan. In design, everything started off with a planning phase event. I think writing down the goal of the project you want to accomplish is a good place to start and keeping a list of the materials you’re going to need. It doesn’t matter whether you’re great at sketching or not, but sketching out an idea also helps. It is just really having a plan to jump off on because then it helps keep you on track and it is something to relate back to. 

So right I typically start with a mood board. When you are planning it’s important to think about what materials you are going to use? How big do you want it to be? Not everyone’s rooms are the same size. Keep in mind scale, proportion, textures, light, and all those design principles that you can probably find on any sort of downloadable elements and principles of design home guide. Having a plan is the first and foremost important thing.

[09:16] Materials needed for projects

If people aren’t calling out specific materials that they used on products or if you have a picture you can go to a home improvement store and tell them you want to recreate the project. They can tell you the best materials for your project. Learning as you go and collecting that information is really important because you might think that they used one thing and they didn’t. Go to the experts and ask lots of questions. Ask questions and go to the specific sources to ask those questions.

[11:41] DIY is not always budget-friendly

DIY is budget-friendly in the sense that I’m doing the physical labor versus hiring somebody because that’s really where a lot of project costs can incur is with the labor and the installation. But DIY doesn’t always mean budget-friendly, because you shouldn’t skimp on materials. Pay a little bit more for the nicer paint or the nicer wood and your end goal will be much better. There are areas where you save on DIY like not hiring professional things but there are also areas where you shouldn’t take the risk. Make lists of pros and cons and a list of things that you know that you can tackle or that will be easy to learn.  Then leave certain things up to professionals. Not everything has to be DIY essentially.

[13:53] Uplevel your DIY projects

When you look at a room take notice what about the room makes it look next level or high end.  Really pick apart those elements and try to mimic some of those things in your own space.  The two things that I noticed in people’s faces that are a dead giveaway that they were not achieving a designer look is their art was hung too high and their drapes were hung too low. It is an old rule that you hang those drapes as high as you can go so that it gives you a more custom look.

Artwork is another big thing.  Where do you want your art to be incorporated into your space? You want it to be friends with the things around it. There are so many ways to DIY art. You can frame your own art and give it that polished and elevated look without spending nearly as much. At the end of the day, it is really picking apart those elements that you really like and see how you can add them into your space. 

[17:16] Rebecca’s journey

If I go back to my early childhood years, I was always creating. There wasn’t a time that I wasn’t asking for an art set, calligraphies, or  clay. One Christmas I wanted a potter’s wheel, spin art, and a woodburning set. I wanted all the DIY sets. I think starting back when I was really young, I was always creating and painting. From a young age, I was always super drawn to any type of art medium.  I took all the art classes I could in elementary school, junior high, and  high school. 

As I started my journey through college, I realized there was something that I wasn’t feeding in my soul. It was like something was missing from my life. So I started taking art classes again.  Then I started working and I realized that I wasn’t paying attention to what the desires of my life were. Once I got married, I went back to design school and took one class just to see if this was an interest. When I went back to school, I jumped in with both feet, focused, graduated and realized it was exactly where I needed to be. So I really loved it! 

When the housing market crashed in 2007, I got laid off from a job and I was seven months pregnant and I was like, “What am I going to do with my life?” So I started designing mood boards, online invitations, things that I could pour my creativity into, and that I could do from home. That’s sort of where my blog started and I started contributing to a site called Project Nursery. So it’s been a long journey and it’s kind of changed over the years. But I feel like everything I’ve done has kind of molded me into what I’m doing today. 

[24:21] Uncovering your style 

Find somebody that inspires you or that you feel like aligns with your style or passion. I put projects out on Pinterest, Instagram, and all the social media channels to spark inspiration.  A good starting point is to recreate or paint something whether it’s repainting furniture, painting a wall, painting a design, or painting a canvas.  That’s a great place to start just to kind of open up the doors of creativity. With paint, it opens people up and it gives them that practice. When you do so many of these practice projects, you then spark your own creativity and before you know what, you’re creating your own projects and your own variations.  It’s like training wheels. Especially if you pushed that down for so long, you have to pick it up in some way.

[27:44] Being on the cover of HGTV

There’s certain things that I would say lose their luster over time, but this is not one of those things. HGTV in general, as a brand, has always been embedded into my design journey. I remember when the magazine had first come out and I absolutely loved the magazine. I loved the colors, their focus on DIY, and I just loved everything about the brand. For the last couple years, I was thinking, it’d be so honored to have just a project like a headboard or a painted wall in a little corner with my face on a project that I’d done.  So when they approached me about a home tour, I had no idea what to expect and it was life-changing for me.  They shot my home and they didn’t tell me it was going to land on the cover. So it wasn’t until I went to the drugstore and picked up a copy that I realized my room was actually on the cover of the magazine. 

[31:47] Rebecca’s experience on Making It

The whole interview and audition process was crazy and it spanned over a few months. It was one of those things where you didn’t really know you’re on the show until you were actually on the show. So to actually land in LA, be there and walk on set, it was like a dream come true. Actually the whole process was astonishing and just to be amongst the talent was really overwhelming and intimidating.

[37:46] Her biggest challenge on Making It

I would say the most challenging episode for me was the lawn ornament because I knew I had to go big because there were only eight episodes. By that time we’re halfway through and I just remember thinking I need to started off with a color scheme. There really was no inspiration to start with. It was just like, you know the challenge and I knew what my end goal was. So I would start with the color scheme and everything was built upon the color scheme, how these colors were going to play off each other, and be incorporated into the project. So the lawn ornament was most challenging and where I got pushed the most. I had to build the structure in a way that it wasn’t going to tip over and give a good stance on it. So there were a lot of components that in a normal DIY, I wasn’t thinking about.  That’s one thing I think people don’t get to see. They didn’t get to see how much building we actually did. So not only do I do a lot of DIY and design stuff, but I do a lot of building as well now.

[42:15] Ways to stay unstuck in the DIY process

We can do whatever we choose to do and whatever we have passion in. If you want to become an expert in something, then become an expert in that, but you don’t have to do everything and be great at everything. The important message is to be in love with the finished product but you don’t have to be obsessed with the lamp, the chair, or every element that goes into it. A lot of times, we’re searching for the holy grail or a needle in a haystack or something that doesn’t even exist, that we think exists. Then that prolongs the project, and it can stifle creativity, and it can even stop you. Control the things that you can control. If you’ve got this skill but it’s not your jam, give it away and skip it.

[43:44] Rebecca Propes’ Rug Collection

I’m collaborating with Well Woven on a Rebecca Probes Collection. I can’t tell you how many parts of the collection there are quite yet because we are still figuring all those details out. However, we are launching my first rug. The first rug in the collection is called the Emerson. I named it after my firstborn son and I just thought it was appropriate. His name is Grant Emerson so I went with Emerson. This rug reminds me of him because it has a very structured design and his personality is very structured, but then it also has playful elements like a braided Tesla trim. It’s just really soft. 

I’m one of those weird adults, I’m a floor person. I will sit on the floor in airports and anywhere I go. I’m a floor person so texture was really important to me and the way it felt to my hands and feet. The first rug in my collection is neutral. There is a reason I went with a neutral palette and that was because I feel like rugs are a big commitment. This is a great way to bring in texture, pattern, and incorporate color in other ways. Then you’re not so committed to a color palette. 

[49:11] What’s Cara’s obsessed with this week

What I’m obsessed with this week is super simple. They’re these little sticky squares that are made to keep your rug down. They’re basically like those 3M strips but they’re made for rugs, so they’re a little bit larger. These are amazing because you put one in each corner of the rug, and it helps keep it stuck down to your wood floors, tile floors, or whatever kind of hard flooring you have. So it’s not sliding all over. They’ve worked really well.  I have a runner in my kitchen that I’ve used them on and it stays down when we’re walking across it. That’s a really high traffic area and it’s a really simple solution. I liked it because I didn’t have to cut a whole rug pad or even buy a whole rug pad. It’s a lot cheaper and very effective. 

[50:24] Trend talk: Washable Rugs

The trend we’re covering this week is washable rugs. Ruggable were the very first ones to do washable rugs. I have two of them, one in my entryway and one in my dining room, and I’m obsessed with them. When you need to wash it, you can just pull up the fabric layer, the soft side, throw it in the washer, and wash the rug. It’s amazing. If you have pets, kids, or just a high traffic area that’s going to get a lot of dirt, mud, or  moisture it’s amazing to be able to wash your rugs. So I’m very obsessed with Ruggable. I was really unsure about them at first, but they are a game-changer. 

A lot of other brands have come out with something similar as well. I haven’t tried all of them yet. I can only recommend Ruggable because that’s the only ones I’ve tried, but other brands have them too. I think this is really innovative and really an amazing balance between aesthetics, function, and  being able to get the look but have it be easy to maintain and upkeep. So if you don’t have a washable rug yet, and you’re a messy person, you live with tiny, messy humans or pets scampering around, I would totally recommend it. You can also switch them out so you can leave the rug pad down and then switch the rug out to different ones. 

connect with rebecca propes

instagram: @rebeccadiy // website: rebeccapropes.com

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