What attracted Jackie Hernandez to her Woodbury home wasn't the beige walls, outdated light fixtures or plain carpet. Those things she could change.
It was the walkout basement, two-level great room with tons of natural light, openness of the floor plan and quiet, convenient location of the Bailey's Arbor single family home.
It's been three years since Jackie, her husband and two boys moved into the home, but it's been years since her love of design and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects began.
Documenting her journey of owning her third house and turning it into a cozy, comfortable, home full of personality started out as a hobby.
Now her blog "Teal & Lime" is a full-time gig that brings in readers and advertisers nationwide hoping to reach a broader DIY market.
It wasn't always about interior design for Jackie, though. She shifted careers from the Air Force to information technology, while doing the decorating and writing as a way to escape and share projects.
"It was sort of an outlet for the kinds of things we were already doing around the house," she said of "Teal & Lime," which rolled out in June 2011.
Along with other places, Jackie found inspiration all over the Internet. At first she began commenting on other people's blogs, which in turn brought readers over to hers.
Then when DIY'ers and authors John and Sherry Petersik of Richmond, Va., featured her custom dining room on their "Young House Love" blog, more readers started going onto "Teal & Lime" for extra money-saving tips at the height of the recession.
"The traffic just started slowly growing," she said.
Now with more than 300,000 page views a month and a custom Mood Board business, executing the projects, writing about them and giving decorating advice is keeping her busy.
"That kind of gave me the confidence that I can leave my job and have some income coming in," she said.
First things first
The first thing Jackie wanted to change was the builder-grade tan walls. Since the house was a spec home, builders were still showing it to potential buyers even after the Hernandezes moved in.
A few weeks later they began incorporating their favorite colors: blues and greens.
For the first time, Jackie planned out all the wall colors at once, to make it easier to coordinate the living room with the dining, nursery with the hallway, kitchen with the entry way, and so on.
"In any room, it's the thing that can make the biggest impact," she said of paint colors.
Second thing: lighting.
Covering up a plain white drum shade with ironed-on fabric gave it a modern, geometric pattern over the kitchen table that ties in with the living room.
"You should be able to have cool lighting and it shouldn't be that expensive," she said.
Another accessory she found was an affordable painting to hang over the fireplace. It had the same tones as the rest of the house, but it just wasn't good enough, so it became another project to share on her blog.
Jackie taped up a star and abstract geometric pattern, painted the whole thing white, took off the tape and ended up with a custom piece.
"The art by itself wasn't my favorite, so I spruced it up," she said. "When you can't find it, tweak it."
Coordinating the same tones but accenting with different patterns and textures gives flexibility throughout the home, as well, she said.
"I move stuff around all the time so it's easy to have things that can mix and match," she said.
But Jackie comes across many design dilemmas where people are too busy and just don't know how to pull things that they love together to make a room cozy and inviting, yet still fun with a little personality.
Mood boards are a virtual, one-stop shop to visualize how the final product will look.
"My head is kind of like a catalog for all these stores," she said with a smile, adding that it's easy enough for clients to take their time shopping and testing out the things she recommends. "Sometimes they need that validation."
Work in progress
Like most homes, Jackie's is still a work in progress. Teal & Lime readers are now anticipating more "after pictures" of Jackie's basement as the family works to finish it.
Just as they witnessed her transform a plain dining room into one with dimensional board and batten and a DIY crystal chandelier, they're waiting to see how she'll finish the pirate-themed playroom with custom art pieces and a wall mural.
Sometimes it takes trial and error to get what you want though, she said, but not for plumbing or drywall that they left to the professionals when they started working on the basement.
"I've definitely had project failures before," she said. "Sometimes you have to take a calculated risk if the price is right."
So why not re-upholster a couple of chairs with curtain panels you have laying around?
"They weren't very expensive chairs, the curtains weren't expensive, my kids are going to spill chocolate milk on them," Jackie said. "In a couple of years, I can just recover them again."
In addition to giving advice on what type of furniture to put into a room and how to pull colors, patterns and textures together, Jackie has one more tip.
"The best person to decorate your house is you," she said. "Some people need a little bit of a push or inspiration to feel like they can decorate their home."