In the spring of 2020, Emily Shaw was a recent college graduate and, like many pandemic graduates, she was living at home with no job and nothing to do. So she decided to put her degree in interior architecture to use and fix up her parents’ house in New Hampshire, chronicling the process on TikTok.
Within a month, she had 1 million followers to her account, @emilyrayna, who watched her pull up carpets, replace countertops and restore old furniture. “It was pretty scary,” said Ms. Shaw, 23, who moved out of her parents’ house and now has a TikTok following of 5.2 million. “I was never someone who was into social media before that.”
Ms. Shaw had unexpectedly landed on an audience with an appetite for the drudgery of do-it-yourself home improvement, packaged in the itty-bitty nuggets that make TikTok so delectable. Her early videos, narrated in a soothing yet perky voice-over, focus on the grit of renovation. In one clip, she talks about the tools she uses to remove wallpaper. In another, she recommends the best tape for painting (spoiler alert, it’s not blue.)
Ms. Shaw is among a cadre of young influencers who offer an alternative to the glossy image of home makeover shows popularized by networks like HGTV. In this world of home improvement, there is no professional duo like Chip and Joanna Gaines to swoop in and hold a hapless homeowner’s hand as they tear down walls and slap up shiplap. Instead, these influencers on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube are luring a younger generation eager to figure out how to fix up their homes on their own, on an extremely tight budget.
Relying heavily on Dollar Store finds and Home Depot lumber, these influencers reject the idea that an Instagram-worthy living room requires a four-figure, or even a three-figure budget. Renters and homeowners can learn how to turn Ikea dressers or yard-sale lampshades into sassy centerpieces. Ms. Shaw renovated her parents’ living room, dining room, kitchen, patio and family room for a cool $1,000, showing that with enough elbow grease and sandpaper, almost anything can be worthy of a big reveal.
“I still get a lot of comments on all my videos of, ‘Oh, I could never afford this design,” Ms Shaw said. “I try to reassure people that it is something that they can do.” She pointed to color, lighting and furniture arrangement as three elements that can improve a space on a small budget. “There are so many things that don’t necessarily touch money,” she said.
To pay for the project at …….