Dry Ridge woman takes up power tools, lands in magazine

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By Jamie Baker-Nantz

Heather Patterson can wield a mean whisk, but she’s also not afraid to grab a power tool and make something.

Patterson, a resident of Dry Ridge, didn’t let never having worked with power tools before stop her from asking a lot of questions and learning to use a belt sander and miter saw in her first attempt at remodeling her spacious home.
She was so successful in her kitchen remodel that her efforts landed her in the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens in their “I Did It” section, featuring homeowners who tackle their own projects.

Patterson transformed her standard oak kitchen/dining and family room from ho hum to modern and sleek with her own hands.
Despite being a blogger, she and her sister co-author a blog At the Picket Fence, so named because Patterson wants it to be a place where people meet and talk, she got her inspiration from other bloggers.

“Blogs are the new magazine and most are by people who do things themselves. I got inspired to take on my kitchen because I had seen, by following their blogs, other women  empowered to pick up a power tool. It’s not just a man’s world to use power tools,” she said.
Her first remodel project was a small half bath on the main floor. After successfully completing its re-do, she set her sights on the kitchen project, which began in March 2011. She finished it in April 2012.
“I learned that when you start a DIY (do it yourself) project, it just takes time,” said Patterson.

Patterson’s husband, Lee, was willing to work with her on the transformation as was her neighbor, Will Taylor, a contractor, but she wanted to do the work herself.  She did let her husband lift the bead board paneling into place as she attached to the walls. Taylor gave her advice.
“I just didn’t want them doing the project,” she said. “I wanted to do it.”
The cabinets were the most intense and time consuming part of the project.
She began by doing research, online and in stores.
She also wasn’t afraid to make mistakes.

“When someone decides on a DIY project, they need to start small and frame out a mirror and be OK with messing something up.  You have to be willing to make mistakes because a $10 piece of wood isn’t that big of a deal when you are talking about a kitchen remodel,” Patterson said.
Patterson combined old world feel with newer, more modern items like her sink and laminate countertops, which look like granite, from stores such as Ikea. When she found feet for her cabinets  that cost more than $20, she didn’t buy them. Instead she pondered what she could use and still get the same look without the same price.

After wandering around a home improvement store, she settled upon curtain finials, which cost her $1.25 each, but gave her a high end look.
“I got a custom look for not a lot of money,” she said. “By thinking out of the box, I was able to get something I wanted but something I could not have paid for if I hadn’t done it myself.”
As she went about the process, she blogged about her experiences. She also wrote a tutorial on how to do it and shared that online.

“I’ve had people who actually copied my design,” she said. “That’s exciting to know you’ve inspired someone to do something.”
When she wasn’t busy home schooling her son, Michael, 18, or her daughter, Mackenzie, 12, Patterson was in the kitchen cooking.
That’s how her first foray into blogging started when she blogged her way through a year of cooking gourmet meals for less. At that time she didn’t know much about blogs but had a goal of sharing her journey feeding her family on $10 meals for a year. By the end of the year, she had a vision.
Her sister had also started her own blog at that time. They began to explore the idea of combining their efforts so that the miles between Dry Ridge and Oregon wouldn’t keep them from working together on a project.  In January 2011, they launched At The Picket Fence, a place for two sisters with two homes to share one blog.

Their philosophy was to celebrate women and to share their success to inspire others on their virtual picket fence. They share responsibility for the blog and take turns on Sunday doing a faith-based posting.
“I’m not an interior designer. I’ve never taken a food class. I’m just a regular person who is self taught. I believe if you are passionate about something just do it, don’t let someone tell you that you can’t,” she said.
As more followers have been attracted to At The Picket Fence, Patterson and her sister have taken on new challenges and new projects. On Friday, they have a link party and more than 450 bloggers link to their blog and share their projects.
“These are women, just every day women, some work and some don’t, some are moms and some don’t have children, but they create amazing things and are willing to share it with others. We’re in awe of the talent that is out there,” she said.

 They have also had success in getting some of their works published in magazines, as well as obtaining sponsors for the blog.
This fall, Patterson was contacted by the Krylon Paint Company to do an art project for them using their products. She was paid for the project and also used it as subject matter on the blog. As more of these jobs are being available to her, she’s also honing her photography skills and wants to explore the possibility of becoming a food photographer.
Patterson’s sister, Vanessa, has started working with LG, who flew her to the New York Wine and Food Festival and was the guest of Bobby Flay, a Food Network star, while Heather was a speaker at a Southern Bloggers Conference in ?

The women have also been hired by hometalk.com, along with five other bloggers, to be the company’s ambassadors and to help home owners with how to questions.
“It’s been crazy, but we’re finally able to make some money at something we love to do. Becoming an ambassador for them has catapulted us into a different level,” she said.
Patterson also hosts a Twitter party once a month.
“All these things are happening and it all started because we wanted to express ourselves and connect with other women,” she said.

And word about the two women and their work is spreading. They have more than 7,000 fans on Facebook, 8,000 regular followers on the blog, 3,900 followers on Pinterest and 1,000 Twitter followers.
Part of their success may be their attitude about where a love of cooking, writing and projects has taken them.

“We chat, we share. It’s about our families or whatever is going on with us.,” she said.
The sisters continue to pick up work from various web sites and online businesses, as well as do their own design, graphics and photography for their blog.
Patterson grew up in California and moved to Grant County from Seattle. She’s called Dry Ridge home for the last eight years, the longest she’s ever lived in one location, but she’s preparing to move again, this time to Atlanta for her husband’s job with the federal government.

“The good thing about this career I’ve found myself in is that it can be done from anywhere and as long as I have a camera, a tripod, I’m good because everything is a story and there’ll always be something for me to blog about no matter where I am,” she said.