Paint, wood and motherhood: Brainerd woman shares farmhouse home renovation with growing Instagram audience
When Emily Lothert decides to redecorate, 11,500 others are along for the journey.
The 28-year-old Brainerd High School graduate is the face behind @re.recreate, an Instragram page capturing the home renovations and modern farmhouse-style decor found in her and husband Reed's northeast Brainerd home. Now with 2.5-month-old son Max in tow, Lothert finds herself incorporating the adventures of new motherhood into the photos she shares with her growing fan base of online do it yourself decorating junkies.
Born Emily Main, the budding Instagram star grew up watching her mother, Amy Main, put a personal touch on the homes of her interior design clients, and she loved watching home remodeling shows on HGTV. Once on her own, however, Lothert said apartment living kept her from fully realizing the decorating visions dancing in her head.
Enter fellow Brainerd grad Reed Lothert—when he and Emily met, he mentioned a project that ended up bonding the couple right from the start.
"I met Reed and he said, 'Oh yeah, I'm flipping my house,'" Emily Lothert said. "And I was just like, 'I'm going to move in with you, can we just like get married?' ... When I came to his house for the first time, I said, 'I have a lot of really good ideas for you if you want them.' So, I think that's kind of how we clicked, too, back in the day."
Together, the couple have transformed the small 1950s-era house with dated interior fixtures, decor and paneling into a bright, inviting home echoing the style of Chip and Joanna Gaines, former stars of HGTV's "Fixer Upper" and the patron saints of all things modern farmhouse. Lothert credited the power couple as her inspiration, but said her husband's own style—what he called "pioneer farmhouse"—dovetailed well with her own taste.
"Reed actually kind of started it, too, because he had the big barn door (already). When he moved in, he built that," Lothert said. "He had a lot of other kind of 'farmhouse' elements, but they were more like, he had a lot of old tools on the wall and stuff. So I said, 'Can we just make it a little bit more homey?'"
Yard sale by yard sale, room by room—through late nights, early mornings and entire weekends—the Lotherts refurbished furniture, tore things down and built them back up again. Together, they made signs and other wall art from scratch. Reed Lothert incorporated his woodworking skills into the couple's redesigns, building most of the wooden touches in the home himself. This includes a faux fireplace in the living room, fashioned from wood and a secondhand mantle from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. As a hobby, he also builds furniture and restores pieces for resale.
Getting into Instagram
Throughout the process, the Lotherts documented the changes as they made them. But sharing it on Instagram wasn't a thought until Emily's mother mentioned how many people she saw sharing home renovations and DIY decorating on the social media site.
"My mom—she likes to surf Instagram—said, 'There is like a whole world of home decor on Instagram, you know that right?'" Lothert said. "A lot of people post pictures of homes and then they talk about products and they get free products. So I said, 'Free stuff? I'm in!'"
In January 2018, Lothert launched her account with some before, during and after photos of the couple's bathroom. It wasn't instant gratification, however—Lothert said to get more eyes on her posts, she needed to engage with others on Instagram. This meant posting lots of comments on others' posts, and reaching out to other users for advice and to collaborate on "follow trains." Follow trains, Lothert explained, allowed users to participate in an online home tour of sorts, encouraging them to visit a series of Instagram accounts and tour the home renovation photos their creators shared.
While the Lotherts were renovating their home together anyway, Instagram offered others the chance to be inspired by the couple's accomplishments and presented the opportunity for extra income. Once the account gained a large enough following, Lothert began using a third-party app called ShopYourLikes. The company bills itself as offering the highest payouts in the influencer industry, allowing social media users to monetize followers through partnerships with major retailers and brands.
Influencers are people with a social media presence who aim to influence the purchasing decisions of followers, often within a particular niche—and companies like Walmart, Wayfair and J.C. Penney are willing to pay for content with a more organic touch.
The number of followers on an account is important, although engagement tops the list of qualities sought in influencers. People can be considered influencers with as few as 1,000 to 2,000 followers, as long as those followers are actively engaged. "Swipe ups" to follow product links in users' Instagram stories and purchases earn the influencers cash. Lothert also collects free or discounted decor for her home, in exchange for posting photos of it as part of her interior design.
It certainly isn't enough income to support her family on its own, but Lothert said it's one of the ways she was able to extract herself from her 9-to-5 marketing job.
"I just hated the 9-to-5 grind," Lothert said. "There was just something about it, where I don't care for it, being in an office setting. I love marketing, I loved what I did, I loved the company. But I just hated waking up and having an obligation. I've always said that once I had kids I wanted to be able to stay home."
Baby on board
In June 2018, Emily and Reed learned a baby would join their family of three, including Shih Tzu Harvey. The expectant mother stepped up her efforts to become a stay-at-home working mom, as she calls it, in anticipation of the baby's arrival. A decision to become a representative for Plexus Worldwide, a multi-level marketing company offering health and wellness products, cemented her ability to stay home with baby Max when he arrived in February.
Lothert also operates an online shop on Etsy, a website focused on selling handmade and vintage items along with craft supplies. She collaborates with her mother by using the leftover wool felt from the handmade 3-D flowers sold on Amy's Etsy shop, producing wool felt die cuts with the help of a Cricut die-cutting machine. The die cuts of animals, shapes and more come in packs of several dozen. Lothert said teachers are frequent customers, purchasing sets as teaching tools in their classrooms.
Managing a Plexus business, Etsy shop and an increasingly demanding Instagram presence—on top of actually completing the projects shared on the latter—sounds like a challenge. Then, turn up the volume with a newborn to first-time parents, and life takes a new direction.
Lothert prepared herself for motherhood by listening to podcasts covering anything and everything baby-related, including birth stories and how-tos. She said she's thankful for how "easy" she's had it so far—a pleasant pregnancy and birth, a happy baby who sleeps through extended stretches of the night and a body that bounced back quickly.
But there are still things she wishes she would've known before becoming a caregiver for a tiny human, and challenges she worked to overcome.
"I struggled in the beginning for asking for help when needed," Lothert said. "Both my mom and mother-in-law are super awesome, just call if you need help. They're both in Brainerd. I struggled with that because I had this idea in my brain where I wanted to be able to do everything, like I felt that that was my duty, especially as a mom. This is what I was intended to do, I was supposed to do it all by myself. But it's not realistic."
Breastfeeding was difficult for Lothert and baby as well, along with sifting through the avalanche of parenting advice, particularly on that topic. Eventually, she settled on pumping and bottle feeding.
"A lot of people are like, 'Oh, you need to actually physically nurse him or you're not bonding with your baby anymore,'" she said. "Well he's still getting breast milk, and I'm bonding while I'm feeding him with the bottle. And this way Dad can bond with him, too.
"I feel like there's a lot of people out there that say this is the right way, but I feel like your way is the right way. Whatever you and your baby can work out, or you and your family can work out, that's the best you can do as long as the baby's happy and you're happy."
These days, time spent re-creating and decorating has taken a hit in favor of baby time, but each Friday morning, the Lotherts strap in Max and head out in search of yard sale signs as a family. They stop at almost all they find, just in case they'll run across the perfect piece. It's something they enjoy doing together, and it's helping with the goal to become a "big account" on Instagram—one that inspires others and could eventually serve as Lothert's only income.
"I would like to just be a page that people would be inspired by and can come to," Lothert said. "Even like the DIY projects we do, you don't have to spend thousands of dollars on a barn door when you can just make it yourself, and this is how we did it. Maybe making it more of a thrifty decor (account), where you can do it yourself."
She's well on her way. A recent like on one of Lothert's photos of her home tells her so—it's from Joanna Gaines herself.
Follow for inspiration
Who inspires Emily Lothert, besides Chip and Joanna, of course?
She subscribes to Country Living magazine, but mostly finds her inspiration in the world of Instagram, where she posts as @re.recreate. Here's a few of her favorite accounts to watch.
Visit BrainerdDispatch.com to take a video tour of Lothert's home.