This 32-year-old leveraged 3.7 million Pinterest followers to remodel and furnish her tiny house

Key Points
  • Blogger Joanna Hawley, who has 3.7 million followers on Pinterest and a home decor blog called Jojotastic, is remodeling her 640-square foot house with hard work and sponsorships.
  • The home decor market is shifting to cater to millennials, who love small spaces and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects.
  • Thanks to social media, they're also looking to online influencers to help curate their picture-perfect homes.
Joanna Hawley of Jojotastic at home in Seattle, Washington.
Meghan Klein

Joanna Hawley is living a millennial's "tiny home" dream, thanks to her Pinterest board.

Last year, the 32-year-old home and fashion social media influencer bought her first home in Seattle. The 640-square foot millworker's bungalow, built in 1908, came with rustic charm.

It also had hundreds of dead rats in the crawlspace, 19 layers of wallpaper in the bedroom, and a "lumpy ceiling situation," among other pressing issues.

In other words, the house needed work.

"I wanted to live within my means," she said. "I still wanted to live in a city, but it meant budget-wise I had to choose a smaller home. It meant I had to renovate it myself."

As soon as she began looking for a home, Hawley let companies she was about to take on a home décor and renovation project. She also let them know she had more than 3.7 million followers on Pinterest.

And they ended up paying for a huge part of her remodel and outfitting.

Hawley was able to get her living room and dining room partially sponsored by interior design and architecture blog Decoist. Sherwin Williams covered some of her paint, while Rejuvination provided lighting. The Mine, CB2, All Modern, Pottery Barn aided with furniture. Drapery and linens came courtesy of Parachute Home and Barn and Willow.

Millennials and small spaces

As the home decor industry tries to cater to young homeowners, it's having to adopt two major trends: decorating small spaces and DIY home projects. With everyone wanting a photo-worthy living space thanks to social media, bloggers and influencers are becoming in-demand tastemakers.

Online furniture sales are poised to hit $32 billion next year with millennials fueling purchases, according to Fung Business Intelligence Center. A 2017 study from Houzz & Home found 25-to-34-year-old age group spent an average $26,200 in 2016 on home upgrades, something Home Depot said has increased its same-store sales during its latest earnings report.

Millennials know how to compare prices and find different retailers online making them smarter shoppers, said home décor magazine Domino editor-in-chief Jessica Romm Perez. Minimalism has become huge thanks to books like Mary Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" and sky-high rents in urban cities like San Francisco and New York forcing people to live in smaller spaces.

Companies like Target and West Elm are noticing, launching sleek modern product lines made for smaller spaces.

"Absolutely (small space furniture), it's a marketing tool that larger brands are using," said Romm Perez. "The spending power of millennials is something every big brand is focused on, and millennials don't want to have to move out of cities to look for something larger."

Perhaps most of all, social media has made millennials more conscious about having a picture perfect home. They're not just looking at magazines, but going online to look at what their peers are doing. Hawley's blog Jojotastic is up for a Domino Magazine Design Blog Award.

"People are more informed about design, where thing are coming from and where things are made… they are making more informed and curated decisions of where they are living – I truly believe it's thanks to social media," said Romm Perez.

How Hawley did it

Hawley studied industrial design and photography at Carnegie Mellon. While she was working in textile design for Nordstrom and Anthropologie, she was invited to join Pinterest before it was open to everyone. Posting came naturally to her since cataloging items was part of her day job.

In 2012, Hawley decided to start a blog called Jojotastic to leverage the popularity of her Pinterest. She found companies were interested in working with her but didn't have a way to message her on the platform nor could they find her email. She landed her first sponsorship deal within three months of starting her blog.

A few years later, her grandfather passed away and left her money with a request she use it to set up permanent roots. Three weeks later, she found the Smillworker's house. Though she has sponsorship help from companies, her boyfriend and she do a lot of the work themselves. That includes light electrical work, installing closets and curtains, and restoring the original shiplap which took three months.

"Independence plays a big roll into this for first time DIYers," she said, referring to the do-it-yourself (DIY) trend among consumers.

"We're the generation that grew up with the Internet. I know my first instinct if I need to figure out how to do something is Google it or look up a YouTube video," Hawley said. "It's easier, faster and more affordable than trying to find a contractor, especially here in Seattle where there's this housing crisis. You can't get a contractor until six months from now."

Hawley took a woodworking class in college and some furniture design courses. But despite having some experience with building, there are some projects for which Hawley does hire professionals. She had a contractor re-do her roof, and she outsourced the drywall. She would have painted the exterior herself, but she broke her leg rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park in California.

She'll also hire people to help with projects if she's in a time crunch and there are sponsors involved.

And Hawley is the first to admit her home isn't always in immaculate condition. Photos are highly styled. She's completed three major renovations, but still has yet to touch her kitchen and bathroom. In a recent post she gave a "No Make Up Home Tour," admitting some plants had died, the real state of her "mustard yellow" kitchen, and the fact her floor on her bathroom isn't finished.

"I've been living with subflooring for two years, but it means I can go vacation next month," she said.