Hear Me Roar
Meet Four Atlanta Women Inspiring Us to Do-It-Yourself
For decades, the image of remodeling was dominated by half of the population. Men wore the hard hats, cut the wood and drove in the nails. But today, the face of remodeling looks different. Women aren’t pigeonholed to decor and parties, they’re strapping on their tool belts and headlining how-to shows. The result is the boost of confidence women everywhere use to plug in their own power tools and try their hand at home projects. Meet four local makers (how this community names themselves) sharing their results—they’re not pros, it’s not always perfect, but they inspire us to get to work.
When Jodi Bond moved into her 1986 house in Sugar Hill, she went into her would-be new bedroom and cried. The house was dirty, dingy and really ugly. It felt like going away to summer camp, and she couldn’t believe she’d have to sleep there, let alone raise her kids there. But moving into the most affordable house in the most sought-after school district was the sacrifice she had agreed to make to build the best future for her family, so after the tears (and a few nights sleeping at her sister’s house), Bond decided to try her hand at making it habitable.
What happened next was the evolution of House on a Sugar Hill, an online presence that started as a way to share what she did next with friends and family. That small fan base turned into a real following and before she knew it, big-name brands were reaching out to her to style their products in her creative spaces and create content for them. What she had was the makings of a business. It was also an answer to prayer. Around the same time, Bond and her husband were getting a divorce and the means to support her family were up in the air—well, here were the means.
Bond went from being afraid to use power tools and detail-distracted to building her own custom closet from scratch, to name just one of many projects she’s done to transform her fixer-upper into something suitable (and stylish) for her family. As a single mom, she’s in a position now wher
e she knows she’s got to figure things out for herself, and she’s having the most fun ever inspiring others to do the same.
Jodi Bond’s Favorite Project: A Custom Closet
Timeline: 2-3 weeks (if you’re focused!)
Xin Lu is a forager. She forages for nuts and flowers from her yard, feathers she sees on walks or shells from vacation. A former print maker, she forages for inspiration to create tangible art. She has a giant wall where she collects photographs, dried flowers, mementos and more. No scrap is trash, but is saved for its potential future. In fact, a 360-degree view of her foyer alone reveals that nothing goes untouched—or unappreciated—in Lu’s life.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that in the middle of a lockdown, she started foraging for something new. Her house was the only available canvas, so she started crafting in a bigger way, with bigger tools. She was getting positive feedback from her friends and family who were seeing what she was sharing online, and they encouraged her to go public. She did, stenciling her concrete patio for the world to see, winning a one-room challenge for her guest room reno and tackling more power tool intimidation while collecting new skills like those treasures from her backyard.
Her growing following loved it, and that empowered her to try something else …and something else. She installed custom trim in her primary bedroom, created an entertainment center out of IKEA shelves in her music room, made a faux tree out of a neighbor’s fallen branch, constructed bunk beds for her son and even shared ideas for composting and birding. Every room or post is the result of a new discovery and a new inspiring way to show off what she loves to collect. It’s infectious, and her following proves it.
“I’d be doing these projects anyway, but being able to share it with other people, and hear them say, ‘I love this project and it inspired me to do my own,’ that’s very rewarding,” she said. “Using the saw has been my favorite thing I’ve learned because it was something that scared me. If you look at me, I don’t have big muscles. I’m short. If I can do this, you can too.”
Xin Lu’s Favorite Project: Bunk Beds
Timeline: 8 weeks
Budget: $700 and a lot of scrap wood
Stephanie Leigh has been building stuff since she was a little kid, but it wasn’t until she bought her very first home that she realized she’d have to hone those skills to renovate the house she’d spent all her money on.
“Fixing things is just kind of my hobby,” she said. “Most of it is self-taught, see-it-on-YouTube-kind-of learned. But, if I wanted to learn how to do roofing, I would go to Habitat for Humanity and work with somebody who was doing roofing and learn from them.”
Leigh also learned by working for a female general contractor in North Carolina, spending a little bit of time in trade school, and today she learns a ton working at Wall Control, a steel pegboard and organization system company in Tucker. On a regular basis, she operates heavy machinery, power tools and can even get a little creative to appease her art major mindset. She’s also a cast member on The Outdoor Channel’s Renovation Hunters. Along the way and in between, she started Uncommon Outpost as a way to connect with others and show them that DIY doesn’t have to be curated to be cool.
“I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in the last few years, but finding people—especially other women—that had the same interests as me and wanted to learn to do stuff themselves, weren’t scared of power tools, were willing to get dirty and do what needs to happen, that was encouraging and made me feel like I’m not the only one trying to do this.”
On Uncommon Outpost, you’ll find tons of tips and tricks for all things from electrical and plumbing, to roofing and art—all in an effort to help readers avoid making the mistakes she already has. You’ll see her laughing, sweating, getting super dirty, yet always showing off what makes it worth it—the people and places she’s doing it all with.
Stephanie Leigh’s Favorite Project: Upcycled Workbench
Timeline: 6 weeks
•miter saw or circular saw
•Kreg pocket hole jig
Perk! These are her mom’s old cabinets!
Sarah Fogle started blogging as a way to keep her friends posted on the projects she was doing in her 1986 suburban abode. A “do-it-myself” attitude came naturally, but craftsman skills were something new she’d have to learn from scratch. She learned something else, too—that people appreciated watching someone try and fail and try again, and once she realized she was trending, it was motivation to pack a toolbox full of new trades.
“It was a lot of trial-and-error and hyperfocused, rabbit-hole research on YouTube, and that process is really what I love the most,” she said. “I love being able to give people the inside scoop of, ‘don’t do this.’ I can say to them, I’m a homeowner just like you, I’ve done a lot of research, I’m figuring it out, here’s what I think is going to happen and here are the results. It gives people the confidence to do things they never thought they could. It reminds them that it’s ok not to get it right on the first try.”
It also helped push her to completely transform her home, including rebuilding her deck, all on her own. As a result, she’s running a thriving business, enjoying a fun community of supporters and fellow makers and has the confidence to get out and do more. In fact, next up she’ll tackle a 100-year-old home in Virginia and has already started work to revive a 1946 Spartan Manor from the bones up.
She’s learned that her renovations aren’t simply about fixing something ugly. It’s a deep desire to save old things while respecting their age and the details of what made it unique, charming and relevant in the time period that it was built. And that’s a trend worth following.
Sarah Fogle’s Favorite Project: Faux-Tile Wall
Timeline: 1 week