If you're a diy enthusiast more comfortable with a hammer and nail gun than needle and glue gun, you've probably found your way to the terrific home improvement blog Charles & Hudson spearheaded by Timothy Dahl. He and his wife Laura recently welcomed their first child, Hunter, and, fittingly, have launched a blog, Built By Kids, to encourage and inspire parents and kids to built projects - and memories - together.
I had the pleasure of meeting Laura and Timothy this past spring and, separately and even more so together, they have the warmest and most vibrant energy you'll find. Between their new online venture and their new parenting (ad)venture, they happily took some time out to answer some of our questions. Let's get to know the Dahls!:
When did you start Charles & Hudson and what is it all about?
Timothy: I started Charles & Hudson in 2005, working on it nights and weekends while I maintained my day job at This Old House and later at ELLE DECOR/Metropolitan Home. At that point there weren't many blogs or independent websites covering home improvement and do-it-yourself, but I quickly found that there were plenty of readers and house bloggers who were willing to share their own projects. Charles & Hudson was conceived as a place for people to gather helpful tips about home improvement and share their DIY experiences.
Tell us about your new site, Built By Kids - how did it come about, what kind of content will we find there?
Timothy: Our goal with Built by Kids is to bring the focus back to the hands-on skills that previous generations learned from their parents or grandparents but seem to be lost on our modern-day children who are more likely to know how to operate an iPad than a cordless drill.
Laura: Our tagline is "The ABC's of DIY" and that's what you will find at Built by Kids, a safe and inspiring place for parents and children to learn fundamental DIY skills that stimulate the imagination. For us, the process is more important than the final product as we know that the memories of building a wagon with your grandfather will last long after the wagon itself is gone. To make the projects approachable, we categorize them by skill, age, and theme. You will also find insights into our favorite products, trend and design tips and special curated deals on vetted products, so there really is something for everyone. Rounding out our site is the Built by YOU section where readers can share their own projects, connect with other like-minded readers and enter competitions.
Besides just doing it for fun, are there any basic diy/home improvement/fix-it skills you think every child should learn?
Timothy: Some of the best skills kids should learn early on are those that will directly impact their adult life such as learning to use a tape measure, how to drive a nail with a hammer or changing drill bits.
Besides basic common sense, what are some safety things parents should think about when doing projects with their kids?
Timothy: Be sure you have the right tools for the job and you know how to use them. When possible, use tools made for small hands, and have all necessary materials organized at your workspace with step-by-step instructions easily available. And always, always remember to wear proper eye, ear, hand and foot protection.
What's a good beginner diy project for a parent to do with their child?
Laura: All children (well most) love to get their hands dirty, so gardening projects are a natural place to start. Finding creative ways to repurpose household items like cardboard boxes and paint cans is always fun, and never discount the power of including your children in projects you do. Their innate curiosity makes the process entertaining and fosters confidence through doing.
On Charles & Hudson we often see Timothy working with tools outside - any thoughts on getting urban kids who may live in apartments introduced to tools and diy?
Timothy: You shouldn't let being indoors or living in a small space hinder your enthusiasm for working with tools. Consider taking apart an old broken radio or set up an indoor gardening station. Both require only a tabletop and basic hand tools. Painting is also a great indoor do-it-yourself project but make sure your workspace is properly ventilated. Even basic woodworking such as building a dollhouse or whittling can be done inside.
Your first child was born last month, did you build anything or tackle any major projects in your home to prepare?
Laura: We converted a home office to a nursery by moving Timothy's workstation into my design studio. It was important to us that Hunter's room be filled with happy memories and objects of love, so we incorporated key pieces of furniture from my childhood room and our favorite stuffed animals and books (that we were ecstatic to find our parents had held onto). We filled the walls with special pieces of art done by friends and keepsakes from our travels. It truly is the perfect example of contemporary meets vintage, and we've pledged to keep that feel by adding only new toys and elements that are well-made and have a classic sensibility.
We also converted our dark and dingy utility/laundry room into a bright, happy and neatly organized baby bathroom complete with a farmer's sink and vanity that we use as a baby bathtub. Knowing that our pile of laundry would grow exponentially with the addition of our son and all his accoutrements including FuzziBunz cloth diapers, we added a new stackable Whirlpool washer and dryer which has blessed us with both space and sanity.
Laura: We feel like the luckiest people on earth to be able to work from home and to be able to work together. Hunter is our muse and our life's inspiration and we can't think of anything more rewarding than publishing a website that values family, learning and spending valuable time together. We only hope that the site will enrich our readers' lives as much as it has already enriched ours.
Where do you both go for inspiration?
Timothy: I tend to find more inspiration offline than on. I've always got my camera at my side when traveling, so I can capture moments and objects that draw my attention. Poking around mom and pop stores up the California central coast is always fun and we find plenty of inspiration for building and construction on our families ranch in Nevada.
Laura: As a fashion designer I'm drawn to anything that celebrates color, texture, creativity and innovation. That means I find myself reading anything from travel and culture sites to those specializing in photography and independent thought.
Thanks Laura and Timothy! And welcome Hunter! Readers, do you have a project to submit to Built By Kids? Find the submission info here.
(Images courtesy of Laura and Timothy Dahl)