Nailed It? Not Exactly... My Life in DIY Pinterest Fails

by Jen Selk

IMages via  Pixabay ,  iflok/Flickr ; Modified by Maximum Middle Age

IMages via Pixabay, iflok/Flickr; Modified by Maximum Middle Age

When it comes to decorating, homemaking, and the domestic arts, I make a lot of mistakes. This is awkward because as a semi-hermit with moderate-to-severe social anxiety, where and how I live mean a lot to me. Even though I'm not especially fond of visitors and don't tend to welcome many, I care about how my place looks, about how it's decorated, and about whether or not there is visible mildew on the caulking around my bathtub. (Just checked. Bad news, self: there is.) I care about my home and — to an uncomfortable, embarrassing, oft-kept-secret degree — I care about impressing people with my aesthetic and domestic achievements. 

I've been subscribing to shelter magazines in print for well over a decade, and following (and writing) design blogs for nearly as long. (Remember the early days of Design*Sponge? I do. RIP old D*S. Blogging has changed since 2004.) So when Pinterest launched in early 2010, I thought it was right up my alley — the perfect way to catalog and organize all of the shelter mag-inspired projects I would surely undertake. None of the plans looked particularly difficult. I imagined myself taking on as many as one project a week, easily.

Now, I am an imperfect person with many failings, both moral and otherwise. My father regularly referred to me as a "ragamuffin" when I was a kid, and he wasn't wrong. My hair is still inevitably uncombed, my clothing disheveled. I can't wear a white dress without dripping mustard on it. My personal grooming game is... not on point. But I think it's normal to feel that while we may never achieve in some areas, there are others in which we excel. The domestic is my zone. It is where I feel comfortable, confident. The home is my thing. And I thought Pinterest would be as well.

Alas, it was not to be. 

Inspired by this: 


A photo posted by MyRecipes (@myrecipes) on


I have produced this:

IMAGE: JEN SELK /   I have a peep and a bird's nest too. They're totally the same.

IMAGE: JEN SELK / I have a peep and a bird's nest too. They're totally the same.

Inspired by this:

I have produced this:

IMAGE: JEN SELK /   What? There are birds. On a cage. There are even sticks. How is this not the same?

IMAGE: JEN SELK / What? There are birds. On a cage. There are even sticks. How is this not the same?

Inspired by this:


I have produced this:

IMAGE: JEN SELK /   Dinosaurs laid eggs too!

IMAGE: JEN SELK / Dinosaurs laid eggs too!

Nailed it? Not exactly. 

There are so many fails in my portfolio that at this point, I hesitate to admit it, but despite all that, my house (okay, apartment), is currently beautiful. I've managed several successful Ikea hacks, built my own furniture, and recovered a number of chairs with nothing more than an open heart and a staple gun. I can make a duvet cover in an hour, and I have a knack for displaying collections. I bake a mean pound cake. Sure I cannot photograph my boeuf bourguignon without it resembling either vomit or turds, but it tastes good and we all have room to grow. 

Ultimately, my home does impress. It's just not Pinterest-perfect and as a result, I'm never quite satisfied.

IMAGE: JEN SELK /   Boom! That's a pound cake.

IMAGE: JEN SELK / Boom! That's a pound cake.

I want to blame the scene. I want to blame false advertising and declare myself done with Pinterest, and Martha Stewart, and Design*Sponge and the rest of it — fuck it all, the liars — but the truth is that my dissatisfaction is my own fault. This has been a difficult, but ultimately healthy, realization. Yes, the shelter scene makes everything look beautiful and easy, but does it really misrepresent what is required? A website or an article can give you a series of instructions, and when things are laid out that way, they naturally look easy, but if you don't bring to the table the necessary skills or expertise to execute said instructions, is it really the project itself that's to blame?

Life is messy, and I know in my heart that the quest for perfection has always been a fool's errand.

Six years since it's appearance, I think Pinterest continues to have value. Yes, it yields many a fail (and has thus spawned the whole "Nailed It" meme, which provides endless laugh-until-you-cry enjoyment), but it also continually pushes many of us to try new things, to make attempts at beautification, to learn (if only through a series of unfortunate and egregious errors) new domestic skills. I have made a lot of mistakes, but that's okay. I've learned things. Pinterest spurs me on, perhaps not to greatness, but at least I'm trying.

*Not all my failures are bird-and-egg-themed, by the way. 

Jen Selk is a former journalist and current junk hunter. She is fighting a losing battle against mildew around her bathtub, but she continues to pursue The House Beautiful. You can find her on Twitter at @jenselk.