hi, I’m Sarah
And welcome to the UDH family
I’m the creator, author, and voice of Ugly Duckling House™️. I started blogging in 2010 with a few crazy stories about what I found as I was renovating my home (the press-on fingernails I found in the fridge still give me chills). I went from your typical 9-6 software job to a full career that is never the same and reaches millions of people each year!
For many years, I was a single chick in the power tool aisle. Life kept going, and now I share my DIY adventures alongside my partner Kyle (who I often refer to as “K” on the site), our dogs Stella and Charlie (RIP), and our son Ellis in Atlanta, GA. I love the beach, Mexican food, and kicking back with a good craft beer.
I love taking my house apart… and putting it back together again!
Here’s how you get started with woodworking: make a really terrible box. Maybe it’s not quite square. Maybe it’s too big for the space you meant it for (although you swear you measured it a bunch of times). Figure out where you went wrong. Then build another. And another. Until eventually, you’re not that bad at building wooden boxes anymore.
A lot of DIY is like the above. We do just enough research to prepare for the specific project, and dive in. We make mistakes, but we learn. And the next time we’re faced with similar choices, experience pulls up a seat right next to us on the floor, covered in drywall dust, and reminds us that we got through that last thing just fine, and we’ll get through this one together.
here’s where you come in
As much as I’d love to be the expert in the room, sometimes I’m not. And even experts can make mistakes. My mistakes are things I can pass along to you so that you can avoid them, and your project winds up that much better. Feel free to try one of my projects and come back to the same post to tell me what you learned. My hope is that together, this site is a resource for every beginner who has ever (at least been tempted, if not literally, coughcough) thrown a hammer across a room in frustration. If I can do this, SO CAN YOU. And I’ll be here to cheer you on.
latest on instagram
“One room at a time is for suckers.”
I’ve said this a number of times over the years, and here’s why: whatever your intentions for starting and completing a DIY transformation, life gets in the way! I’m a proud member of the 90% finished club. I skip from project to project to help keep up my motivation. Sure, it means that projects sometimes take a while to get done. But that’s real, and that’s honest, and I think a lot of us fall into that group. So, you’re in great company! If you find yourself starting to lose steam toward the end of a project, don’t feel guilt about skipping around to things that inspire you. That’s why I say “one room at a time is for suckers”… I like poking fun at myself at how I never finish anything. Here’s to progress — not perfection!
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Alabama native Caroline is keen to shop and point out favorites for you to snag the best home decor.
Hi there! I’m Sarah.
I’m a thirty-something gal with a penchant for craft beer, dog snuggles, and rambling about my DIY renovation projects. I guess you could say that I like tearing my house apart and putting it back together again… enough to have done it for over a decade with no intention of stopping.
I began this blog — named the Ugly Duckling House™️ after the classic children’s tale — just a few short months after moving into a house in a northern suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. After I fell in love with its cottage-y charm, I got to work… not yet realizing what I was in for.
My house was stuck in time. Originally built in 1982, it was neglected for many years and needed a lot of help: ceilings that had yellowed to the point of turning orange; counters so dirty I had to use oven cleaner; press-on fingernails found in the fridge (ICK), and cats having an all-out war in my front yard at four in the morning. And after over 2,000 posts and countless projects big and small, there’s still more left to do. I also don’t have much of a budget to work with, so I do a lot of the work myself. Which means accumulating a significant amount of paint and sawdust in my hair, bruises on my shins, and caulk under my fingernails.
Thanks to the suggestion and support of friends, I’ve continued posting along the way to keep everyone updated about my DIY misadventures. When I first began, my then-boyfriend and I learned how to do saw underneath a stone fireplace, rip out carpet so old the padding had turned to dust, and ponder the absurdity of switches that did not turn on a single overhead light. When we broke up, he and his adorable dog moved out, and I began DIYing alone. I also picked up an insane rescue mutt to keep me company, and we pressed on together. Progress was slower, but I was learning more. And loving it.
With each new project (and a healthy amount of snark), I’ve been using this site to keep a running log of knowledge in the hopes that someday, this info will help someone else. Readers who have found this site and followed along are some of the most amazing people, and I love the way this blog has opened that door to connect with so many others on their own DIY journey. I’ve also gotten the opportunity to travel, participate in conferences to share my experience, and made a number of great friends who I never would have met without it!
One important thing to remember about this blog is that this is not the online journal of someone who thinks she’s the next Bob Vila (who I have spoken on the phone with once, which made me ridiculously giddy and kind of embarrassed). Like the average homeowner, I don’t have a degree in interior design or a contractor’s license; I just try to figure shit out and throw hammers when I don’t. Sometimes I’ll get it wrong, and there is still plenty of work to do when the sun goes down and rises again the next morning. I hate doing dishes and eat way too much sugar and pizza.
I guess the takeaway here is: thank God for coffee. And alcohol.
At best, I’m “semi-pro”. Photos get better, posts are often in-progress updates, and it’s about the journey from “ew” to “wow.” I think the most important part of any blog/blogger is authenticity, so even when I work with sponsors, what you see is the real story of my home, my life, and the fuzzy parts in between.
During the span of this blog, I’ve switched jobs, finished an MBA, started a new design business while working full time, quit my day job, and more. At times, it’s been awesome. But, it’s also been chaotic — especially when there’s only one functioning bathroom.
I’ve also started a YouTube channel to bring you even more glimpses into the chaos and fun projects.
I also started renovating a camper. And have a love life. And another dog. There are sad updates too sometimes; that’s life, and I think there’s beauty in the grit of everything and the connections that forges.
Looking back on these moments, no matter how frustrating they are at the time, teach me to be more grateful for what I get to do every day: follow a passion project that has turned into a fulfilling line of work.
The unexpected is a lot of fun, and figuring it out as I go has led to some pretty cool things — even a little “DIY TV” work! I do most of the DIY projects by myself, ask for help from family when I need it, Google how-tos like there’s no tomorrow, and cross my fingers that projects don’t take three times as long or cost three times as much as I originally intended. Embarrassing myself in front of my neighbors is a regular occurrence, but I try to have a sense of humor about it and am grateful for their patience (I’m pretty sure they still don’t know what to do about that chick who once nearly got her ass kicked by a squirrel, though).
With all that said, here’s what you’ll get out of this site: brutal honesty about home ownership and everything else along the way.
This is “remodeling” as told from someone who is just like you — busy, often feeling clueless, but determined.
Because if I can do it… hell, anyone can.
Stuff I Love
While most of this blog is about DIY, I also occasionally talk about life — everyday stresses, hobbies, TV shows I get hooked on… you name it! As a result, I also sometimes get asked for other tips on things like what skincare products I use, where I got my shoes, etc. Below is a simple collection of items that are used obsessively by yours truly. If it’s on this list, it’s been in my home, on my face, in my hair, or whatever (I think you get the gist, right?). I don’t consider myself a “fashion” or “lifestyle” influencer by any means… so take these as a personal endorsement by someone who probably forgot her makeup bag on her last trip out of town (but not the extra can of dry shampoo).
Hair & Skincare
And from me to you, especially if you read all the way to the bottom: thank you for reading. Really.