Not long ago, Heidi Kruse posted a photo on Facebook with the caption “The current state of our dining room.”
The scene is so normal for the Sioux Falls family, she wrote, “that the kids don’t even question the gigantic fireplace surround, air compressor, sanding paper on the dining room table and open paint cans.”
Juggling jobs is normal: “I will go home for lunch and put a grilled cheese in one hand and a paint brush in the other.”
Such is the lifestyle of a consummate do-it-yourselfer, or DIYer.
Kruse, 35, and her husband, Brent, 40, rarely lack for projects around the house.
On one recent weekend, he was building flower boxes while she painted them. She painted a mirror. They bought tile for the floor at the top of their staircase.
“That’s just how we are,” Kruse said. “If I don’t have a project I’m planning or working on, I go kind of stir crazy. I think that’s how we relax, which sounds backward to most people, but we’re not sit-around-and-watch-TV people. We’re not travel people because it’s too expensive. That’s our hobby.”
It also has gained them some widespread attention online.
They publish a blog, Kruse’s Workshop, and their projects have been picked up by major DIY websites.
The effort started a few years ago, when the family moved a one-stall garage from a neighbor’s yard to their backyard and turned it into a workshop.
Kruse documented the process with photos and posted them with explanations of how the workshop was created.
“DIY blogs were really starting to get popular, and I was seeing more and thought I should really be doing this because we have the perfect content and I think people would be interested to see what we’re doing,” she said.
The first project to attract attention was a kitchen renovation.
“It was a drastic change, and people latched onto that,” she said. “The kitchen remodel cost $200, but it looks like a brand-new kitchen.”
Then the Kruses made a patio table with built-in ice coolers for beverages in the middle.
“That’s one of the biggest projects that launched us farther,” Kruse said.
A blog called Remodelaholic ran an item on the project two years ago, “and it’s one of their most-viewed projects every year for the past two years,” Kruse said.
The most popular photo on the couple’s blog “is just this random photo of our basement staircase, which is super narrow … and we added some lights onto the wall to illuminate the stairs because it’s dark, and that has over 40,000 views on our blog.”
A dining room project involving photos hung from an iron pipe went big on a website called Home Talk.
“It’s been pinned on Pinterest 431,000 times,” Kruse said.
While the exposure is appreciated, the more rewarding part is getting feedback from readers, she said.
“When they see our project and are like, ‘Oh wow, that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thank you for the inspiration.’ I’m glad it’s helping other people get an idea.”
Kruse also finds plenty of her own ideas online, her husband said.
“I’m not the one on Pinterest. But it’s funny because she comes to me like, ‘Can you do this? Can you build that?’ I let her make the plans, and I more or less do it,” he said.
“I just like to see the transformations from rooms or projects or repairing things and getting them back to where they’re useful and look good. There’s a sense of pride.”
Heidi Kruse grew up around construction, learning from her father who works for a contractor. Brent Kruse also grew up “mechanically inclined” and learned from the family once he married Heidi and they remodeled their first house in Sioux Falls. They renovated another when they moved to Omaha and tackled their third residence when they returned to Sioux Falls in 2009 and bought a house built in 1939.
Brent Kruse has a full-time job in a custom cabinet department but also turned his aptitude for projects into a small business, Kruse Handyman Solutions.
“That just kind of evolved because, once you do things, people get to know you know how to do things,” he said. “I get a lot of referrals, people asking me to do things. I like just going in for a day or two to do a little repair or handyman project. It’s been nice to be able to turn it into a business and try to expand a little bit more.”
Businesses such as Nyberg’s Ace Hardware also are seeing a boost from the DIY movement, owner Kevin Nyberg said.
“DIY has always been a form of entertainment for people,” he said. “And there’s satisfaction in doing it for themselves.”
Chalk paint has been a big seller, he added.
“We’ve really embraced chalk painting. You talk about satisfaction in taking an old dresser and making it totally look brand new with a different style is incredible. We’re seeing a lot of that.”
In some cases, DIY might almost be mandated as homeowners struggle to hire plumbers or electricians because of worker shortages, Nyberg said. He also finds the typical DIY individual likes to shop local.
“They get that. And we see that,” he said. “Our image as ‘the helpful place’ is a tough image to uphold, but they know when they come here, more than likely, they’re going to have someone with some knowledge. They realize, to get the service they need, we can do a better job than the big-box stores.”
The Kruses, who pay cash for each project, are saving for their next big one: remodeling their second floor.
While raising two kids sometimes puts blogging on hold, Kruse regularly updates a Facebook page for Kruse’s Workshop and scours the Internet for her next idea.
“I think people are just realizing these things aren’t as difficult as you make it out in your brain to be,” she said. “Think about 20 years ago, if you wanted to build a flower box, you couldn’t just go to the Internet and search for a tutorial. Now, it’s so easy that if you don’t know how to do something, somebody has done that. That was part of our motivation to start a blog.”
Several years later, she said she has been glad to help teach others through her family’s experience.
“We don’t do everything perfectly, but somebody will learn something from what we’re doing,” she said. “If you have a skill, I just think it’s important to share that with other people and let them benefit from your gift.”