Two weeks ago today, I wrapped up my very first round participating in the One Room Challenge (ORC) – an online home decor design challenge where bloggers from across the web commit to decorating an entire room from start to finish in the span of 6 weeks AND document it in “real time” on their blogs. The ORC is something I have seen and followed along with for many years, but never felt compelled to participate in myself. I decided to play along this time around for a variety of reasons, but primarily used the challenge to motivate myself to get the baby’s nursery not only started but completely finished. Now that the dust has settled and my energy has (mostly!) recouped, I thought I’d take a minute to share a few thoughts on the experience as a whole and weigh in on some of the pros and cons of decorating on a deadline!
First…how about a quick tale of two different rooms!
Years ago (about 3.5 to a be a bit more precise), I remember deciding (and declaring here on the blog) that I was going to makeover our North Carolina home office/craft room while my husband was away on a short-term deployment. I thought the hot summer combined with the clear deadline of his return would motivate me to finally put a design in place after waffling in the space for a good two years. At first, I was able to make some fantastic progress on the office side of the room with a few projects that were already at the top of my To-Do List. While I made fast progress on one half of the room, I stalled out big time with ideas and a solid creative direction for the craft side of the room. Instead of walking away and waiting for inspiration to strike, I forced more projects for the sake of progress and being able to call the room “done.” This ultimately resulted in re-doing certain aspects of the room (even several times over) throughout the following year; and I was actually unable to bring the room to a well-designed finish I was truly satisfied with before we had to move. At that time, I remember thinking to myself that I would never force a room design just to meet a “deadline” again…because it simply led to too much wasted time and money and a whole lot of frustration!
About a year later (when Henry was about 3), he was ready to transition out of his crib, and I was (more than) ready to finally move on from his owl-themed nursery decor. I picked some fabrics I loved and built a design plan around them. I certainly didn’t intend to do the room from start-to-finish and didn’t put a strict deadline in place. However, this room came together rather efficiently, probably in about a month or so. In this instance, I had a solid design in place and simply worked from one project to the next in a very linear fashion. To date, it’s still one of my all-time favorite spaces, and often I reflect on how easy of a room it was to design. However, it’s always stuck with me that I got some feedback from readers that they found it a bit boring to follow one space from week-to-week. By the time the room was done, so were my readers!
I share these two anecdotes to shed some light on my perspective coming into the ORC. While I have successfully designed rooms from start-to-finish on a condensed timeline; more often than not, my room transformations unfold more like the first story. I have learned over the years (and waaaaayyy too many re-done/un-done projects or replaced items) that I create better spaces when I pursue the projects and decisions that feel really right and walk away when I am stalled, frustrated, bored, or unsatisfied. Additionally, having watched several previous ORC participants share that it was not only a really stressful experience, but that they also regretted some of the decisions they made because of the strict deadlines and pressure to deliver…the experience never felt like a good fit for me, the blog, or my readers!
So Why Did I Participate?
For a few reasons, actually! Each time the ORC has rolled around in the past, we have either been getting ready to move, just moving in, or all our rooms were done. This time around, the timing was perfect. We were settled enough after our move that it didn’t feel disruptive, and I was super antsy to get working on some more creative projects (rather than just the tedious moving in stuff!). The other big reason was Baby! I know he won’t be in his room at the get go, but the timing of the ORC and my due date couldn’t have been more perfect. I was chomping at the bit to work on baby items, and the nudge of the challenge was just enough to get me started. As I’ve shared a few times here and there, I have also been feeling a bit directionless and hopeless about the state of this house, and thought a full-on room makeover would be the perfect thing to get my creative juices flowing again. Lastly, I was honestly curious about what all the blog “hype” was really about. I was interested to see what kind of traffic, new readers, and opportunities participating in the challenge would bring!
And Was It Worth It?
In some ways, yes…and in others, nope! The biggest perk is that we have a fully finished nursery that I am completely smitten with. I have a bunch of back-logged posts/projects that I am hoping to share once baby gets here to help ease the load of my posting schedule. And it feels so wonderful to have one room in this house that feels like me. The rest of the house may be a chaotic, undecorated mess. But this room…this room is how I like things to look, function, and feel.
Thankfully, the nursery room came together much like Henry’s big boy room did. I started with a solid plan (both design-wise and time management-wise) and executed the entire plan in a very linear fashion. From paint color and fabrics to art and storage, I had a very crystal clear plan of what I wanted to do, and the challenge was the perfect motivation to force me to execute it all. Participating in the challenge also encouraged me to make some decisions I would have potentially held back from (i.e., the wallpaper and the closet built-in), which in the end, turned out to be two of my favorite elements in the entire space.
However, there were some aspects I didn’t quite enjoy. For one, I try very hard (although it might not always appear that way) to vary my content from week to week. I realize some of you guys come here for decorating ideas or organizing ideas or military content, etc. Keeping the topics changing from week-to-week (hopefully!) keeps you guys from getting too bored or saturated with a specific topic. 6+ weeks of nursery content may have been boring if nursery decor isn’t something you’re “in to” right now. Also, posting in real time felt very unnatural for how I typically do things around here. I like to show you guys all the projects in a space across isolated posts and then do a final reveal post once everything is done. Even though the room is done and you all have seen it, there are some things I want to re-visit in more detail, and I hope it doesn’t feel too redundant for you. Lastly, even though I had a good plan in place (and I committed to myself that I wouldn’t do this), I too found myself doing some last-minute running all over town for the “perfect” finishing touches just to meet the reveal deadline. In all honestly, I am quite happy with every last basket, diaper pail, hamper, crate, and accessory, but I don’t think I really needed to stress myself out trying to find those things last minute just to meet a self-imposed deadline.
(Pssst – You can catch up on the One Room Challenge posts below:
WEEK 1: DESIGN PLANS | WEEK 2: PAINT AND BUILT-IN | WEEK 3: WALLPAPER| WEEK 4: FABRIC PROJECTS | WEEK 5: ORGANIZATION | Week 6: Final Reveal
Whether you’re a blogger/designer or not, I do think “designing on a deadline” has its time and place. If your faced with the need or desire to pull a space together quickly, consider these pros and cons before you get started!
- A Deadline Gets the Room Done! As I said above, the best part of participating in this specific design challenge was that the nursery is 100% done. It is decorated, stocked, organized and literally ready to go. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be saying that right now without the ORC deadline. If you are just so sick and tired of looking at a room in its current state, a deadline will indeed motivate you get it done!
- Motivation to Follow Through on Already-Made Decisions. In the few rooms I’ve worked on that have come together quickly and easily, I started out with very good and solid design plans. There was not a single element that I was waffling on or worrying over. From the wallpaper to the shelves and everything in between, I had all the large nursery elements planned out before the clock even started running. A good design plan combined with a deadline is a sure fire way to get yourself to actually take the plunge and follow through on specific ideas and products. I had been talking about painting the ceiling for weeks. Without the deadline, who knows how long it would have taken us to get it done (which had to be finished before we could do anything else in the room). If you know what you want to do in a space and just can’t find the motivation to start, set a deadline!
- Focus. While I prefer to work on projects across various spaces as inspiration strikes, that approach can admittedly lead to a serious lack of focus. I am very guilty of floating from room to room and project to project (or even having several projects going at once), which can make a house feel un-done and constantly messy. Focusing on the nursery and the nursery only allowed all of my creative energies to stay fixed in one spot (as well as the mess, the tools, etc.) There were indeed times when I didn’t really want to work on the nursery because I was suddenly feeling inspired to work on something else. The deadline forced me to keep my eye on the nursery and follow through until it was done.
- A Deadline Can Lead to Hasty or Poor Decisions. I think this is the biggest con and carries more weight than the others. When you have a deadline, real or self-imposed, it can cause you to make decisions you wouldn’t normally make just for the sake of calling a room “done.” Whether it’s choosing a rug you don’t love or agreeing to pay a price for something that you know will eventually go on sale, deadlines can force your hand when it’s just not necessary. If you find a deadline will help you get a room moving, commit to yourself that you won’t buy or pay for something you don’t truly love or can realistically afford.
- A Deadline Makes Things Stressful. There were definitely a few occasions when I didn’t have the time or energy to work on a certain aspect of the room; but because of the deadline, I had to keep rolling so that other projects wouldn’t get off track. We stayed home a few weekends in a row to accomplish projects I needed Greg’s help with, and I flat out wore myself out hanging that darn wallpaper by myself. Imposing a deadline can add another layer of stress on projects that may already be a bit stressful (ahem, the ceiling), and they can certainly steel some of the joy and fun of DIY (which are notorious for going wrong somewhere along the way anyway). If you have a lot of DIYs in the space you’re trying to complete, maybe a loose deadline is a better way to proceed in order to keep stress levels in check!
- A Deadline Doesn’t Guarantee a Room You’ll Love. I can speak from a lot of experience on this one. Setting a deadline, in hopes that it forces you to design a room and finally make some decisions, even if they aren’t the right ones, can lead to disappointment and a lot of wasted time and money. If I was told I could only participate in the ORC if I decorated our family room, I wouldn’t have participated. I currently have NO idea what I want to do in there. No direction, no inspiration, no concrete vision. Sure, a deadline for that room would force me to get thinking about it and start researching ideas more seriously. But the stress of a deadline could also result in design paralysis by over-analysis. A deadline might also cause me to settle on a design prematurely; I typically don’t start on a room until I know for sure what direction I’m going in. I think creating a from room start-to-finish on a deadline is best accomplished when you already have a clear vision of what you want, you just need to motivation to follow through.
I can’t say that I’ll never work on a room from start-to-finish again. As I said, I think self-imposed design deadlines have their place. Over the past 2 years, I’ve gotten SO in the habit of working on the house as a whole that it was actually a nice change of pace just to work and focus on one space at a time. While I do prefer to make decisions a little more organically, there is something so wonderful about having a completed room in such a short time span. Of course I can say that because I love how the room turned out!
I would really love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you like to work on a single room all at once, or make adjustments to your home whenever inspiration strikes? Can you think of any other pros or cons to design deadlines that I didn’t cover here? As a reader, did you enjoy the week-to-week updates or would you prefer makeover posts to be a little more spread out?