Tell Us How to Make It Better

DIY Queen's Secret is to Keep It Simple

June 14, 2022 George Siegal Season 1 Episode 42
Tell Us How to Make It Better
DIY Queen's Secret is to Keep It Simple
Show Notes Transcript

June 14, 2022
42. DIY Queen’s Secret is to Keep It Simple

Cara Newhart is an Interior Designer and DIY Queen on a mission to empower everyday people to create spaces they’re obsessed with.

Here are some important moments with Cara from the podcast: 

At 6:15 What do you hear from your viewers when they actually dive in to your DIY projects?

At 11:42 One of my favorite videos was the boring nook. Why was that even there?

At 15:11 What is the biggest project you’ve taken on?

Here are social media platforms to follow Cara:

Instagram: @neverskipbrunch

TikTok: @caranewhart

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/neverskipbrunch 

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Cara Newhart:

I try to strike a balance because the people I really want to help are the beginners. And so it's easy for me as my skillset develops to just get more intense, like I could go get a welding gun and I could have all of these wild tools that professionals have, but I try to do things where it's like simple enough, where if you have five tools, you can do it in your space. So it's maybe like towards. You know, intermediate level. But that's as high as we go. We're not going like full on professional because at that point, the regular person would probably hire someone. It's going to be way more worth their time.

George Siegal:

I'm George Siegal and this is the Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Every week, we introduce you to people who are working on real world problems and providing actual solutions. Tell Us How to Make It Better is partnering with The Readiness Lab. The home for podcasts, webinars and training in the field of emergency and disaster services. Hi everybody. Thank you for joining me on this week's Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast. Every week on this podcast, I try to introduce you to people who in their job or in their life have identified a problem and are doing something to try to make it better. Well, something I think most of us would like to make better are things that are around our house, little projects or things where we might not like them the way they are and we want to change them. The do it yourself industry is booming and getting that project done might be easier than you think. My guest today is Cara Newhart. She's an interior designer and DIY queen on a mission to empower everyday people to create spaces that they are obsessed with. Cara, welcome. Thanks for coming on.

Cara Newhart:

Thank you so much for having me I'm excited to be here.

George Siegal:

Yeah. Now you have a huge following online. And I think when people see your videos, they understand why, because you do a lot of great stuff on there. But before we get rolling, I want to ask you a couple of questions that have nothing to do with why you're here. Tell us something about you that people will not know that nobody knows about, but you won't be bothered about if they hear it here first.

Cara Newhart:

That's a tricky one. I don't know. There's I feel like I'm so transparent. All my weird fun facts. I just have already shared, but I guess people don't know that I'm an economics tutor, like in college. That was one of my main jobs as I tutored economics. So people usually would never guess that one.

George Siegal:

Interesting. Does that come in handy in any way or was it just something that you did?

Cara Newhart:

Just something that I did. I could set my own hours. I loved economics and I love teaching. So I use it now, when I'm doing like, you know, how to videos or teaching you a math. The teaching experience comes in handy, but in terms of economics, I don't really use that anymore.

George Siegal:

Okay. Now, if you were told to go out today and do something fun, you just had to go out and have a good time. What would you choose to do?

Cara Newhart:

Definitely hanging out on a beach, reading or drinking a fun drink and just laying there.

George Siegal:

Awesome. It wouldn't be a DIY project.

Cara Newhart:

You know, it might be, but I do so many of those every day that when it's finally time to do something else, it's usually sitting down to do nothing.

George Siegal:

Yeah. You like to get away from that. Okay. So what is the issue or problem that you say that you work on on a regular basis? What are you working on?

Cara Newhart:

Yeah. So for the most part, it's empowering everyday people to kind of be their own designer and take charge of creating their own space. I feel like we're in such a weird time, you know, with the interior design industry has been so like formal and gate kept and showrooms, and now there's like YouTube where you can go learn anything you want and pick up any power tool and, you know, build your own space. But I'm trying to bridge that gap because how do you. People need a little bit of both professional guidance and kind of bootstrap teach yourself on YouTube.

George Siegal:

Yeah, it's amazing. The amount of money I was stunned. I've heard this many times before, but over $538 billion was spent last year for people remodeling their around their house. And it it's a major thing. Now I, as a filmmaker, I made a film about how houses aren't safe. So people don't know what's in their walls. They don't know how their roof is attached. They don't know wood versus block, but the, the area that you're tapping into, everybody wants to get into that. So what would you say is the, is the problem people run into when they try to do those things? What do you hear from people.

Cara Newhart:

Yeah. So I think the biggest one is budget and another one is just not knowing what you want. Like you see so much inspiration on social media, and it's really hard to curate that into like, how do we take that and put it in our own space in a way that functions well, is it, doesn't just look pretty on the internet. And I think we're coming off of, you know, the pandemic people staying home so much. It really illuminated everything that wasn't working about their home. I think it forced a lot of people to even move and change homes. And so it's like, how do we find a middle ground where it's like, you can be in charge of your space and you outsource when you need to, and you DIY and you're, you're not really giving your power away to a designer where you're kind of, you know, it's a mysterious process of, they just kind of hand you a design and like, do you like this? And it's done for you. It's like, let's take that power back and kind of navigate that ourselves. So that's what I like to help people with.

George Siegal:

Now do you find that COVID during that time really picked up on the DIY stuff because people didn't want maybe somebody in their house doing any work?

Cara Newhart:

A million percent. And then there was lots of places where people couldn't like a lot of contractors and businesses shut down and stop doing installs and home stuff. So, and people needed a hobby. You know, I think people, a lot of people turn to DIY is just something to do. Like we're baking bread, we're working out, we're watching movies and eating snacks, or it's like, what if we made something like, what if we painted a wall or tried projects that we maybe never would've had time or confidence to, but we're just, you know, at home. So we might as well test it out. For a lot of people it was like creating an office space. Like they needed somewhere to take the zoom meetings or work from home space. And so that was like kind of the segue project into like, wait a second. If I can set up this space, maybe I can do something bigger and maybe I could rearrange a whole room or get some power tools and try something even intense. So yeah.

George Siegal:

Now what are the challenges that people run into? Okay. When I watch your videos, I go, wow, that's amazing. But I have like all thumbs. And so I'm thinking if I try to do that, maybe I'm going to injure myself. I'm certainly going to mess something up. What do you, what do you hear from people when they actually dive in to this stuff?

Cara Newhart:

Yeah. So I think first phase is mindset, which is so funny. It's like grab the tools and do it, but it's like comparing to my videos. Like everything is time-lapse, it's sped up, so it looks really easy. And then I have experience that I've built over time. Like my first projects were horrible. When I first started, I was terrified to use a saw. I literally planned out the project, went to home Depot and had them cut all the wood for me, and then I'd bring it home and just screw it together. So like I've built a skillset, one tool at a time, one project at a time. So I like people to remember that, that just starting out. You're going to make things that are really bad and you're going to make mistakes, but as long as you stick with it and kind of embrace it as a creative process versus like, you know what we think of as like, if you watch HGTV it's the before and after, and they might show you one problem, like, oh no, we have to move this pipe, but it's such a condensed timescale that you have to remember, like real life projects are not that smooth, but if you're coming at it as like, oh, I want to be part of this creative process. I want to try. Then it's learning. Like if you've never used tools before you have a lot of learning to do before you get good, but when you get good, it's fun.

George Siegal:

Yeah. A lot of those reality shows, I think give a real false sense of, of how a project gets done because of that time lapse, because of how quickly you see a house go up in a week. And then you read about it a few years later, how the house fell apart. When you choose projects, what kind of thought goes into how doable this is for other people, because we know, you know how to do it. So, what are you hearing from your followers when they dive into them?

Cara Newhart:

Yeah. I try to strike a balance because the people I really want to help are the beginners. And so it's easy for me as my skillset develops to just get more intense, like I could go get a welding gun and I could have all of these wild tools that professionals have, but I try to do things where it's like simple enough, where if you have five tools, you can do it in your space. So it's maybe like towards you know, intermediate level. But that's as high as we go. We're not going like full on professional because at that point, the regular person would probably hire someone. It's going to be way more worth their time. So I try to target the beginner. We try to do projects with just like five or six tools that you could actually tackle in your space.

George Siegal:

Yeah. I think also finding good people is so difficult to even come into your house to do it that if you can pick a room. So for example the bathroom remodel that you show or the closet, at least if you mess it up, it's not right out there. It's not like messing up you're above your TV. You know, you try to put in something and where everybody's going to walk into your house and see it.

Cara Newhart:

Right. I like start in a closet, start in, you know, your garage start in areas where it's like, your first projects can be bad and they're not necessarily the focal point of your home. And then I also like to start with furniture. If you're just getting used to tools, like get some crappy furniture from Goodwill, thrift stores, something you even already have, chop it up, paint it, add new hardware. And that's a really good way to practice. That's like budget friendly. And if you mess it up the whole piece can go.

George Siegal:

Yeah. Now for anybody that's ever gotten a bid on redoing their closet, that's an expensive thing to contract out, but you, the way you do it makes it look makes it look like something people would want to dive into. Have you heard from a lot of people, how, how they, how they did with that when they were doing it?

Cara Newhart:

Yeah. I mean, you know, most closets that are builder grade have those wire shelves. So it's one of those projects that's like super impactful and can really like affect your day to day. But it looks more complicated than it is the end of the day you're just building a series of boxes and it's, it's easier than you think you have to build like the shell of the built-ins and then you have to make it look pretty. So it's kind of like a two phase process. But it's something you can practice too. Like you can pre-build shelves and then bring them in, especially if you're struggling with your walls not being even, but it's relatively beginner friendly. And then the hack I always use is getting existing pieces like Ikea pieces or just some sort of built-ins that kind of already come, you know, planned, you just assemble them and build around them that way you have a reference point. You're not having to build drawers and shelves from scratch with no experience.

George Siegal:

Yeah, just putting something together from Ikea is a project in itself.

Cara Newhart:

It's like adult legos..

George Siegal:

I have a filing cabinet behind me that I bought when we moved in here and I thought I was doing a pretty good job. It had like a hundred parts. Right. When I was done, I had about five parts left and it's never worked the way I imagined they expected it to it. So I, that was a little too much for me. Ikea is tough.

Cara Newhart:

It is, but then there's also stuff like task rabbit, which I use a lot. You can have someone come assemble the furniture and it starts as low as like $17 an hour. And you can have someone like build that for you. So at most more like detail intensive pieces outsource that. And then you do the big building around it.

George Siegal:

Now you're telling me I needed to do that five years ago. Now, one of, one of the ones I really liked was the window plant shelf, because windows can be so boring and plants can add so much to a room. Where did you get the inspiration for doing that?

Cara Newhart:

Yeah. So I was thinking, I like often kill my plants because I don't properly give them the right light they need, but I also don't want to fill up a window with plants where I can't see out of it. So I wanted something that gave me the best of both. So yeah, the plant shelf rotates in front of the window. So when they need light, they can get it. And then if I want to look out the window, you can just move them out of the way.

George Siegal:

The boring nook?

Cara Newhart:

The boring nook.

George Siegal:

That was a good one too. Sometimes. I wonder what were they thinking of when they were building this? Why'd they put that there?

Cara Newhart:

I have no idea, but there was much discussion on the internet. And a lot of concerned people thinking it was for my fridge, the fridge is actually on the other side of the room. It has its own dedicated place, but there was all kinds of guesses from like the trash bins to, you know, maybe you put art there, but yeah, it was literally just a nook. There was nothing else that needed to go there. The whole kitchen was set up, but yeah, I didn't, I'm an otherwise it's just as a weird cutout that collects dust. And it's funny cause it's like a strategy builders use to try to add like architectural interest in a really inexpensive way. Cause it's just a box, but it's like not interesting or useful. So I filled it up with a coffee bar.

George Siegal:

Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of the building industry, just because of all the experiences I've had building houses. And then with the film that I made about houses that get destroyed every year, because they're poorly built. And they make a lot of questionable choices. I think anybody that's ever gone house hunting, you walk through and you go, why did they put the staircase there? Why did they do this? Why did they do that? Is there a, is there a limit to what your projects will do? But I mean, cause some houses are just do, you could probably make any space better, but there's only so much you can do?

Cara Newhart:

Yes, when it comes to like big structural stuff. But I think if you're really smart with design strategies, there's always a way to like conceal and work around things or make really poor design actually function well, because at the end of the day, it's like a design challenge. And so if you have something weird to start with, you have like a framework to go off of to be creative when you're designing in a void with a blank paper, it's actually harder. So if you do have those weird spaces in your house, it can actually be easier to design something unique for them. Cause you're starting with something, but yeah, I have a weird dynamic because the two houses I've been in are new builds. Like we literally watched them get built from scratch, and the houses I'm moving to are like 1840 and 1880. So I'm like going totally the opposite direction, like hodgepodge houses where like there's an original footprint and then they've expanded and expanded. There's a lot weird spaces in my new houses.

George Siegal:

Yeah. But you know what? Those old houses might be better built than the new ones. I mean, you had the the good fortune to watch. I think if anybody's building a house and you can't be there the whole time, I would be very concerned. It's only as good as the person watching the people doing the job.

Cara Newhart:

Exactly.

George Siegal:

And every house I've ever lived in. The things I thought they were doing wrong, always came back to bite me in the end because, you know, I bet I've been in a lot of new construction there's trash in the walls. There's nails where they missed with, I went to one house, we had a basement and you could see all along the floor where they missed shooting the nails into the studs. And then you wonder why the floor squeaks.

Cara Newhart:

Right? Like maybe it's that. Yeah. Unfortunately with power tools, it's like you can have really untrained people that you teach to do the process where previously, like home builders, it was like a very skilled, you know, discipline. So that's probably the main issue and they're just going up so fast. Like the whole housing dynamic of the crisis in 2008, shut down construction. Now we're behind. Now we're throwing them up. It's not a good look.

George Siegal:

No, and I don't think they build them to last. I think they're just going to get called to rebuild them. And, you know, that's when we made The Last House Standing, it's people thought they had such a strong house and then they realized that it was, was worthless when the storm hits. So it's pretty scary. What's the biggest project you've taken on. What's your biggest one?.

Cara Newhart:

Hmm, probably. Well, I did a whole bedroom make-over in four days. So that was the most like intense did like everything from blink room drywall up. Other than that, the biggest probably the bathroom in terms of like going from blank spaces all the way up. I haven't had to rip apart anything in my house fully yet. Like I have a best friend that literally rips things down to the studs has done full showers. So that's next for me. But so far it's been mostly fun cosmetic projects that are easier, but...

George Siegal:

But you'll keep taking on bolder ones, I imagine.

Cara Newhart:

Yes.

George Siegal:

So what is what advice do you have for people who who see your videos? And they're just like, go, I don't know. I don't think I can do that. What would you tell people that, that, that would motivate them to do it?

Cara Newhart:

Yeah, just pick a project and start. And my best advice is to find something that will actually impact your life. Like find something around your house. That's not working. And have that be your project, like design something, whether it's something aesthetic, whether you need to add a piece of furniture to make it more functional, or a light, and then do that first because the reward payoff, not only is it going to look better, but it's actually going to affect your everyday life and help you like function in your house better. And then, yeah, just pick one and start with one, because you're not going to be able to do the exact project I'm doing on day one. You will fail horribly because it took me awhile to get here. So being self-taught embrace that process. It's so rewarding and so much fun. And like, you don't have to do it alone. Most of my projects I'm doing solo, but if you can find someone to help you, that does have experience or borrow tools it's a million percent easier.

George Siegal:

And do you have a crew of people shooting it? How big is your team that works behind the scenes? Because I watch your videos and I go, how did she do that? Like the dress that falls down out of the sky and lands on you in the closet and you're wearing it?

Cara Newhart:

Right. I have a very fancy tool. It's an $18 tripod off of Amazon and an editing app. I pay like $15 a year for, so there's no crazy team. I'm a trained photographer, but in terms of video, I'm pretty much self-taught so it's totally doable. And it's really just, I try to think about the shots beforehand instead of just shooting loads of things and trying to figure out how to edit it later. I really sit down and I'm like, what kind of video am I making? What does the transition look like? What story am I telling? And trying to plan it out so I can be more strategic, especially cause I have to do the whole project and film it at the same time. So gotta be strategic.

George Siegal:

Now you have a huge following on Instagram, you have a huge following on Tik TOK. A lot of us who aspire to that, it's a slow growth process. How did that take off to be, I mean, I know how it did cause I, I watched your videos and I think they're great. But how did, how long did it take to do that? And are there any tricks you could offer people to try to get that kind of following?

Cara Newhart:

Yes. So the biggest trick is to stop caring, which sounds so counterintuitive. But when I first started, I was a fashion blogger. It's hilarious now, because if we look at the outfits, they were horrible. And I started just cause I wanted to create something and share something. I was working in corporate finance. I needed kind of like a creative outlet on the side and I cared too much. Like I looked at every post and every like, and every comment and just really wanted people to like it. But it turns out I was creating content for me, and sit instead now I feel like I'm creating content truly for other people, like how can I help people learn? How can I give them inspiration? Or how can I just like have fun and show people that like, it can be fun. Like you can have fun renovating your house, designing spaces you like. And so ironically, the release of control and caring is what made it like takeoff. Cause people, I don't know if you're trying too hard and you want it too bad, like that comes through in your content. People don't really want to support that. If you're having fun. I want to be friends with her. I want to do that project too. Like, she looks like she's having the best time. So that's the secret.

George Siegal:

Now, the good, that's a good side of the internet, the bad side, I was listening to one of your podcasts recently where your guests talked about some of the mean things people would comment on and people can be really petty. You hear that from celebrities where people say horrible things to them. How do you deal with, I imagine you probably, you might get some of that, but how do you deal with it?

Cara Newhart:

Oh my gosh all the time. And I think at first I took it really personally. Like I took it as like, this is about my work. Like it's a critique. Like I need to consider this and make changes based on it. And then what I realized is it's actually not about me at all. It's people. Maybe you're unhappy in their own lives. So they're lashing out that don't have a voice. So they feel like to be heard they have to come on my platform and say something, you know, that sparks like controversy. And so once you realize it's about them, it's not about you, then you can handle it with a little more grace and be like, okay. Like I was really intense, but that I don't care. Like at the end of the day, if I'm having fun, I'm creating spaces. I like, and people are getting inspired. The few people that are here to be negative. You're not taking away from me. You're just, you know, being negative. And that's sad for you that you took you know, 10 minutes out of your day to be mean like, don't, you have better things to do because we should really find you a hobby, you know.

George Siegal:

A DIY project, you know, the good news is the internet gives everybody a voice, but that's also the bad news because now we're hearing from people maybe we shouldn't be hearing from . Cara Newhart: Exactly like no one needs to hear that you, you liked the paint color before. Like we don't care. But I think it also gets more personal than that. I mean, you know, I used to be on, on television and people would say horrible things. This was before social media, so...

Cara Newhart:

Especially being a woman in a predominantly male industry, you know, what was male dominated previously? It's like, people don't want to let me be here and be good at it. Like people tell me my toolbelts to clean. So that must mean, I don't know what I'm doing. Like, it's like a whole weird dynamic that I, you know, there's a culture in construction and I'm not fitting the culture and people don't like that.

George Siegal:

Well, good for you shatter the mold because I think that industry certainly needs that. And you have so much energy on there and there's such positive videos that I can see why you have such a huge following.

Cara Newhart:

Yeah. It's so fun. I'm if you would've told me I would be doing this when I was in school for finance, I would never have believed you that I'd be working with power tools, not in an office, but it is the best job I could have ever got. And I got to build it, which is amazing.

George Siegal:

Yeah of the last question, because I w when I've tried picking up some of those tools, I'm afraid I'm going to just butcher myself when you watch people do it, but you can do it safely. If you follow the instructions. I mean, people can, can dive into that?

Cara Newhart:

Absolutely. I teach workshops sometimes. And my favorite trick to play as I take the battery out of the nail gun. And I push it against my hand and pretend I shot myself with the nail, but just so mean. And everyone gasped in is like, and I'm like, see that fear, like that is a good thing. Like that will keep you safe. If you're not scared of the tools, that's how you get hurt. Like really experienced woodworkers, get comfortable. And, you know, cut their thumbs off on a table stock. Cause they aren't thinking and aren't being careful. So the fear is a good thing, but also like find ways to learn that fits you. Some people can learn from watching a YouTube video. They've got it down. They can go try the tool and they're good. Other people need like hands-on help. So that could look like a workshop there's shop classes that a lot of community colleges, if you have someone that's experienced that owns power tools. A lot of times with people's dad or uncle or brother, but some, you know, it doesn't have to be just that. So find someone that has the tools to teach you hands-on if you need that teaching, but yeah. Find a way to learn and the fear keeps you safe. So that's a good thing.

George Siegal:

Yeah. And the best thing you said is you can always run over to a place like a home Depot or one of those stores, and they could cut something for you. That shouldn't be your obstacle.

Cara Newhart:

Exactly. And then there's like the, you know, the easiest saw, get a miter saw it's on an arm. So you can't do too much damage. Like it can't hurt you, but it's way safer than like a rogue blade that you're in charge of moving. So try those first.

George Siegal:

Absolutely. So what are the best ways people can follow you and get in touch with you?

Cara Newhart:

Yes. So if you're on Instagram, I'm neverskipbrunch, on Tik TOK, it's CaraNewhart. And then my website never skip brunch.com is kind of where you'll find all tutorials, the podcast. And then kind of inspiration for doing your own projects.

George Siegal:

Is there a story behind the name? Never Skip brunch?

Cara Newhart:

Yeah. I was starting a fashion blog, every URL and every name I thought of was taken. And then I was annoyed and my stomach growled and my husband was like, let's go to brunch. And I was like, yeah, we never skip brunch. And I was like, well, we'll just name it that.

George Siegal:

That's a great idea. I mean, the name you give it, meaning it doesn't necessarily have to have meaning when you come up with it.

Cara Newhart:

Right. I just like the vibes of brunch. Like we sleep in, we hang out with friends. There's tons of snacks. It's not about brunch. Like it's not a food blog, but it's the vibe of brunch is what I say now.

George Siegal:

Absolutely. Well, I'm sure that a continued success with with everything that you're doing and I'm going to continue to watch them. I've become a big fan. And thank you so much for coming on today.

Cara Newhart:

Thank you so much for having me, I had so much fun.

George Siegal:

Thank you so much for dropping by the, Tell Us How to Make It Better podcast today. And thanks to Cara Newhart, whose videos will really help you get a lot of stuff done around the house, all the links to find her and get in touch with her are in the show notes. And there's also a contact form there. If you have any ideas for future guests or just some thoughts about the podcast that you want to share, I'd love to hear from you. See you next time.