There’s something very American dream-y about making home improvements.
As proof of this, after a slow start just over 20 years ago when the word “man cave” hadn’t been invented yet, HGTV has muscled its way in to the top 10 cable networks, with shows like “Fixer Upper” helping the network have some of its highest ratings ever last year. DIYers spent about $34 billion in home improvements in 2013 and last year was forecast to be even higher.
But there’s a problem here: we military folks may move every 2 to 3 years. We don’t always own homes and living in rental properties and base housing like we do, we can’t always alter the home the way we want.
And since we always write in pencil in our address books and live on military pay, we can’t always afford the high-end things we see on TV and in magazines.
Enter a slew of military-related home decorating blogs, websites and Facebook groups, specifically geared toward military spouses who have a hankering to decorate.
The big kahuna of military decorating groups is probably White Walls. Not the Macklemore song; this giant Facebook group (more than 44,000 and growing) is a place where military members and spouses can share their decorating dilemmas, show off their interior design projects, and ask advice, which can sometimes be brutally honest. Hence the No.1 rule on the page is “Be kind to each other.”
Started by 2 military spouses, the original Facebook group has spawned a host of offshoots (Whites Wall Kitchen, White Walls Patio, White Walls Suds to name a few) and now has a website that includes a blog and a marketplace where they “promote handmade home décor businesses which are owned and operated by military families.”
Erin Morris, one of the cofounders of the White Walls “empire,” told me via message that the biggest trend she sees these days is that White Wallers are being inspired by one another to build their own furniture. She points out that there are some great resources out there that allow even those with very little knowledge of woodworking to be able to create their own pieces.
The White Walls phenomenon has generated a sort of anti-mainstream design movement: the Facebook group Black Walls. This group is geared toward PCS decorating for those with alternative ideas. As the group’s description says,
bring on your dark DIY, elegant goth, creepy, nerdy, weird and magical home decor ideas.
Recent discussions centered on Star Wars-themed kitchens, Edgar Allen Poe-inspired bedrooms and the best way to hang one’s sword. It’s all in good fun, though, and the page urges everyone to be respectful of one another and not diss other “popular military decorating groups.”
And then there are other, more geographically-specific groups, like the Germany-based Bloom on the Cheap and Easy, which emphasizes local stores and flea markets.
Most of these groups are closed due to OPSEC reasons and you’ll have to message an admin explaining your military connection in order to join.
Do you spend hours on Pinterest looking at stylish abodes but still have boxes that you haven’t unpacked and pictures that you haven’t hung 2+ years after moving in (raises hand)?
The blogosphere is also crowded with a number of military-specific decorating, crafting and “upcycling” sites.
One of the sites that focuses on some serious DIYing, including building furniture from plans, is The House of Wood, a blog by performing songwriter and military wife, Jen Woodhouse. Her projects are gorgeous and have been featured in magazines, blogs and on television.
If projects like Woodhouse’s seem too complicated, there are also those that mix decorating with more modest DIY hacks.
Life with a Dash of Whimsy is a lifestyle and interior design blog created by a military spouse who is also a veteran and a Gold Star wife. She has impeccable taste and talks a lot about storage, creative design solutions and decorating on a budget. She also discusses something I can personally identify with: not having anywhere to store her second-hand “finds.”
Military spouse Chelsea Coulston at Making Home Base seeks to bring style to rental housing through DIY craft, decor and organizational projects. While she and her Navy husband just bought a house in Florida, she told me via email that she will always feature decorating ideas for temporary housing because they, too, will be moving in 3 years and “nothing is permanent as a mil family.”
Willowleafinspired.com is a recent entry, but the author, Kristin, struggles with many of the same issues most of us do:
how to make base housing look like a home and whether or not to decorate for the holidays when you’ll be out of town.
If you really want to get lost down the rabbit hole, most of these entities are on Instagram, have Pinterest sites and some even have Etsy storefronts.