Happy New Year!
I had the awesome opportunity to speak to the lovely Paige Rien to discuss a book she co-authored with Victoria Duerstock, Revived and Renovated. I am excited for you to get to read our conversation and thoughts on the home, spirituality, decor, addiction and wellness. I don’t think there is a better way to start off the year. There is something here for everyone. I hope you are richly blessed and get a copy! Thank you Ms. Rien and Icon Media Group for making this conversation possible.
Modern Witnesses (“MW”): What inspired your new book, Revived and Renovated?
Paige Rien (“PR”): I met Victoria Duerstock, who is my co-author, a few years ago, and someone had sent me her book called Heart & Home, which is a devotional where she takes a line of Scripture on every page and makes it relatable to creating a home, really specifically in decorating, design and contemplating renovation, etc.
I had never contemplated that you could apply Scripture that way. In a lot of ways, my faith life and my career had been kind of two silos, but around this time I started to be frankly a little disenfranchised with traditional interior design because it can be very superficial and very materialistic.
For many homeowners, it can be really damaging because it’s really judgy. There is this narrative that you got to do what is “now,” no matter what it costs, which is shifting sands because there really is no agreement on what is “now.” And what is “now” for someone who is 25 is different than for someone who is 55 than for someone who lives on the West Coast versus the East Coast, an apartment versus a home, so I had begun to feel a bit disenfranchised with this business and calling that I love. I am a beauty maker. I love making things beautiful whether it is a party or a home… Transforming space is my passion.
[As] my faith life deepened, I started to question my work. She (Victoria) had this book which was amazing, and we started to talk, and she was the first person to say to me, “I know you pick stuff off the side of the road sometimes, and you go to thrift stores,” and I love refinishing stuff and remaking stuff. For me, it’s as much about the process as it is about the project. I really enjoy that process. She said, “Isn’t it interesting how you pick up an old desk off the side of the road or a thrift store, and it needs work and you can totally remake it through some elbow grease and paint?” And that is a great metaphor for what God does with us. A lot of times, we come to God perhaps with a lot of layers, wounds, with hurts with heartache, which sometimes translate into bad habits or self-destructive behaviors, bad coping mechanisms or resentments, and God kind of has to give us a facelift. Sometimes, it might be going on a retreat or getting refreshed with a friend, and sometimes, it’s much deeper.
I love that metaphor, and that metaphor is really what launched the book. There are so many dovetails between the work we do in the home at any stage or life and what we do spiritually. The more you look, there are so many parallels. Victoria brings a lot of the Scriptural knowledge. It’s right there in the Bible that the home is sacred. It’s a sacred place where we care for ourselves and our families.
“A lot of times, we come to God perhaps with a lot of layers, wounds, with hurts with heartache, which sometimes translate into bad habits or self-destructive behaviors, bad coping mechanisms or resentments, and God kind of has to give us a facelift.”
MW: I like how you said you like to create beauty. When did that sort of click for you? When did you realize that was your thing?
PR: It’s really always been my thing. I joke around that I went to Girl Scout camp, and we went in the cabin, and I immediately rearranged the furniture. I was so excited because I brought one blue sheet, one pink sheet and a yellow pillow case, and I was so excited to see that bed made like that. The girl came knocking at the door and said, “It’s time to go for a hike,” and I was like, “I am just getting started here.” I had no interest in going hiking, and I still don’t. *we both laughed*
MW: You were like, “Please come back at a later time…”
PR: I am a total homebody. I have always loved taking what is available and making it beautiful. It’s a soothing process for me, too. Not perfectionizing but just putting a stamp on something and making something beautiful even in a really simple way.
“It’s right there in the Bible that the home is sacred. It’s a sacred place where we care for ourselves and our families.”
MW: Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on?
PR: I am such a project person, so it’s hard to think of a favorite project… I will answer two. One favorite project is we were given a bed for my son, and it’s a four-post bed, and it was red. It was time to buy my daughter a bed when she was ready for one, and she was like “I really don’t like red.” I was like, “I know, girl; I know you don’t like red.” My daughter is the girliest girly girl. She loves pinks and purples and sequins, and so she was like, “I don’t know mom.” And I told her, “I am going to paint it.” She helped me pick the color. We painted it periwinkle. It’s so pretty. Every time I look into her room—it’s just so feminine. I always say there are no masculine-feminine colors, and there aren’t, but this periwinkle bed in her space with all of the other things that delight her… it’s a very feminine room. It was not easy. My whole family was like, “That will never work,” “That is a boy’s bed,” “Just get her a new one.”
I am always seeking a cheaper way to do things. Victoria and I talked about this a lot. Part of that comes from budget constraints, but it comes from something else, too. There were times where I could have afforded something else, but I really just chose to do it in an inexpensive way. I didn’t see the sense in spending the money. One example is I have a foyer in my house, and I love wallpaper. It was just an unnecessary expenditure to use wallpaper, so I did a patterned roller. I love it when a project involves a new skill, and so this patterned roller it was a paint roller with a pattern, and I just rolled it on. Totally imperfect, blotchy, but because it’s everywhere, the effect is really beautiful people think it’s wallpaper. I come back to that. I have always had a lot of guts when it comes to projects, even when people around me are saying, “I think that is going to be terrible” or “That is going to be ugly.”
MW: I love that. Something that makes the book so unique is you have practical advice, ideas and hacks throughout the book for readers and their spaces. How did you decide to include these? I haven’t seen that in a book about spirituality/faith before. I like that emphasis that you have on the fact that it’s not all about consuming but that there is a way to create beauty and change things without having to break the bank.
PR: Victoria and I agreed from the beginning that our readers, which are probably mostly women, love all things home and are drawn to the faith life in some way. Some may be like Victoria who is more seasoned in her faith life, she knows Scripture well and does lots of Bible studies. Someone else might be really new but there is something that invites them. I believe our readers are bringing that hunger, desire and interest in all things the home and also, either interest or passion in faith and walk with God. It makes sense to make them one.
I believe we are called as women to be beauty makers. Some people do it well with food, some people do it well with decorating, some people do it with homeschooling or being of service in beautiful ways, some people make beautiful things with their hands or do it through music. I think we are called to that and part of what I have heard called the “feminine genius” that is in us, and I do think that comes from God.
To say that decorating has nothing to do with faith would be to say that being a woman has nothing to do with the home. You can’t separate them. Men can make a home and make a beautiful home—I think that’s 100% true, but I think there is something about women. I have three sons, and I have read a little about the male brain, and our brains are different. We are more wired for our immediate environment and the male brain is more wired to the outer environment. They are very linked. It honors our work. Sometimes, decorating can seem vapid and fluffy—and it certainly can be, but when we own it in an authentic way and it’s about us and we take pride in it, we are caring for ourselves or our spouse, then it just honors it. It’s God working through us in some ways. I have a passion for elevating the home beyond just paint colors.
MW: There are a lot of verses that point to making things new. My favorite was the one in Revelation. When you hear Revelation 21:5, “I am making all things new,” what comes to mind?
PR: Honestly, it makes me want to cry. It goes to my newness. It dovetails into a third realm of the book, which is my recovery. I turned and awoke to God’s presence late in life, and He did remake me. I don’t really understand why. There are people that go their whole lives and don’t hear Him, but I really was brought into a recovery and made new and the only thing and requirement was a total surrender. It wasn’t some high achievement or anything like that. It was a total vulnerability and surrender so when I hear that verse, “I make all things new,” not “Paige makes all things new,” but “I make all things new.” It’s really humbling in a beautiful way.
“There are people that go their whole lives and don’t hear Him, but I really was brought into a recovery and made new and the only thing and requirement was a total surrender.”
MW: Was there something that surprised you about God in that road to being made new and that recovery?
PR: The recovery journey is so shocking because it really is about surrendering and letting go and not being powerful. The seed of my faith was in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous, and at one point I was attending several different groups. I still participate in many, but the seed of faith in those programs, [where] you don’t have to identify as Christian—the requirement is you have to want to stop doing your thing. You can’t walk into an AA meeting being like, “I still want to drink!” You have to at least be willing to put down your thing. The seed of faith in those groups is that you come to believe that there is a power greater than yourself. So, it really is leaning more and more into this power greater than myself. I was raised to believe that I needed to be sophisticated, educated, achieved, successful in all these ways—in a very powerful way, and it was really humbling that I couldn’t stop eating or drinking or spending money or getting in horrible relationships, usually while eating and drinking. It was very humbling to turn to a power greater than myself. Having grown up without a lot of faith in my childhood, that was a revelation. I didn’t understand that it was about surrender to something bigger. God is bigger and not only is He bigger, but He really cares about me. And He cares about what I do with my time, energy and body.
MW: If someone feels stuck in life, how do you encourage someone begin the process of renewal? I feel like you have sort of answered it, as surrender is a big part of that. You can’t do much without that first step, but is there something else you would add?
PR: You can come to acceptance. You may not need a 12 step program, but acceptance is a beautiful place to be, first. There is another creed that is from the 12 steps that I love and use almost every single day because it’s just warranted in almost every day of my life which is “next right action.” When it’s 1/1/22, there is a tendency to want to lose 20 lbs, renovate the kitchen, start meditating, declutter, go gluten-free—
MW: There is a whole list!
PR: All the things. God gives us one moment at a time. There is a next right action. I think it’s about thinking, what is the next right action, and maybe it is to write all those things down. The way I was raised in my program is you got to edit it considerably and probably pick one or two. I think what happens is we have these huge goals and aspirations for the first five minutes of the year, and then, we are disappointed when January 2nd or 3rd comes around and we either lost the list, we forgot or we ate bread… it all falls apart.
PR: I think that pause helps us find gentleness, which I think is much more powerful than “I got to change everything.” “Everything is wrong.”
MW: That’s profound. Gentleness. We aren’t very gentle with ourselves. It’s not our default mode. You have a lot of “R” words throughout the book that mark each chapter, (renewal, renamed, restored, refurbished, reclaimed)—Is there one of these concepts you are focused on as we are entering a new season and year?
PR: I would say “recovery” is a day-to-day process for me, without a doubt. I wish I could say it’s the word of the year, but it’s the word of my life. I am thinking about “revival” in a way. I am reading more and more that the Christian life is a life of joy, and I think motherhood and being a professional and being someone in 2020-2021, I have felt very bogged down. And to be honest, fundamentally, I wouldn’t say I am an abundantly joyful person. I am a little more Eeyore, a total feeler, I am very moody—ask the people I live with, but I want to be more joyful.
There is going to be a lot of time in prayer asking God to do that for me. When you asked me, I thought the word “revival” because for me, joy is a little bit of that, finding more life inside me. That will probably be less of some things and more of others to get that. A lot of times we lose our joy when we are depleted or stretched—we need a change. I keep thinking, if you want to live as a true Christian, you have got to be in joy, it can’t be toil and martyrdom. I mean it is martyrdom for some, but even for martyrs, there was joy even in their martyrdom. [In an] absence of joy—I don’t think I am doing God’s will.
“I keep thinking, if you want to live as a true Christian, you have got to be in joy, it can’t be toil and martyrdom. I mean it is martyrdom for some, but even for martyrs, there was joy even in their martyrdom.”
MW: That’s profound. Joy is a profound and complex topic. I think one of the most mysterious verses in Scripture is the one that says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength,” (Neh. 8:10). I have sat with that verse a lot and thought, “What does this mean for me?”
PR: I love that. It is strength. We don’t have joy so we can go and hit the beach and have a cocktail. The joy is a kind of juice, and I think it’s joy no matter what the circumstances are. The people I admire the most complain the least and they just have the most fortitude for whatever their walk includes, and it’s their joy. Sometimes we reduce joy to the feeling of hearing happy news or watching some beautiful show. But part of it is a decision to do whatever I can to be joyful, and part of that includes saying no to some things, and also asking God to please give me this joy and fortitude. I don’t know that I have it figured out…
MW: None of us have it all figured out, but we are all trying and we are all in this same boat. This one is a random question– You mention Pinterest in the book; is there a place, magazine or platform that you use for inspiration and ideas?
PR: I spend way too much time on Instagram.
MW: There are some pretty accounts.
PR: I am constantly curating my online consumption, cutting it and tweaking it, and taking breaks from people, especially if our values don’t match up. That constant tweaking is good. I use Pinterest as a search engine, very specifically and selectively. In terms of the home, it’s best to use that, to find a specific project in a house like yours, in a region like yours, where you really hone in, rather than just looking at living rooms because that will bring up so much that doesn’t apply to you.
I am more and more drawn to beauty makers who are in tune with their walk with God. There aren’t a lot of interior design accounts I can deal with that don’t have a spiritual dimension, even if it’s just knowing that someone has a spiritual pulse.
There are some people who are doing really weird stuff, which I love, that I would never do. Taking chances; going this way and that way. Not saying, “This is how it’s done and everyone should copy it.” I am not interested in that. I get a lot of ideas from people who are really out there doing cool stuff. Younger people who are just taking chances and not treating their home as if they have to keep it in a certain condition to sell it. There is a certain freedom in being young and living in an apartment or whatever, and there’s taking chances. I think it’s so fun. I feel the same way about my house. I feel I can take chances here, and I am not afraid. It’s very joyful, and it’s a gift.
MW: There is a thread of courageousness with you, it sort of runs through everything you do, which I appreciate. You are very gutsy. How did you get that confidence?
PR: If you come to my house and you don’t like anything, it’s ok. I can survive that. I am just not doing it for you, you know what I mean? I am doing my house for my family and my own experience. And to be honest, I am also doing it for our spiritual journey, and that’s another thing. My career really shifted when I saw the house less as just beauty for beauty’s sake, and what do we need on our journey as a family and connection. Confidence comes, some with age and some with—I have never been a joiner.
MW: That’s a good thing!
PR: I have never been someone who says, “I want to do what she is doing,” or “I want to have what she has.” I have never been like that. Almost to the point where I really like something and someone else is doing it in the house, and then I am like, “Can’t do it.” I want to be outside of that. There is confidence in taking chances and going your own way, I think, is really underrated.
We think we have to be approved or affirmed widely to get confident but I think there is a lot of confidence in going your own way and taking risks.
“We think we have to be approved or affirmed widely to get confident but I think there is a lot of confidence in going your own way and taking risks.”
MW: I like that because it’s almost like a guarantee that whatever God put in you that no one else has, you are bringing that to the table and you are sharing that with the world because you are not copying anybody else. You are bringing you to that table, and we all need to be more like that.
PR: It bears a lot of fruit in the home because we all need to be more honest about who we really are. The problem with some of the décor stuff is that it’s somebody else’s life sometimes. It’s somebody else’s story and whole statement. At some stores, you can buy the whole room. And well, that’s not your life. There might be pieces of it that are but I feel like when I work with people I really encourage them to [think] “What is true to you?” It’s an invitation that what is true to you in your life, your history and your personality, and heritage and all that is worth using. All that trueness is worth using. It feels more comfortable. A lot of people want someone else’s story or someone else’s upbringing or someone else’s life or house but I think that is overrated. At some point, we need to stop yearning for that.
“A lot of people want someone else’s story or someone else’s upbringing or someone else’s life or house but I think that is overrated. At some point, we need to stop yearning for that.”
MW: You mentioned following people who decorate the home who have a “spiritual pulse”. That caught my attention. What do you feel a spiritual pulse adds to the home, generally?
PR: When I wrote my first book, one of the reasons I wrote the book was because I saw that in interior design there was rarely ever an expression of Christianity in any kind of magazine. You would never see that in a magazine. You would never see Scripture, a crucifix or any of it. You might see some eastern religions represented, but you wouldn’t see anything from the Judeo-Christian evidence in the home. It’s like there has been whiteout and a depersonalization.
I encourage people to have a home that has your whole self embedded in it. So, “What are my beliefs?” I am really drawn to the early Christians and especially drawn to Paul because I have a very big personality, and I really hated the church and religion. I thought it was all garbage and exclusive, and I really hated it. That everyone was perfect and while they were singing in the church, real people were outside doing real life. I had this whole attitude. But I was drawn to their strength, and I am drawn to Paul’s story. I wanted a piece of that in my house for my own journey [as a reminder in my struggles]. It’s using the house in a totally different way.
I have a wall of women in my bedroom. It started out with Audrey Hepburn, this really cool work with her. She was really cool, and she led me in thrift shops, antique shops and yard sales and by the side of the road to so many other women as subjects. They all have this commonality where I see myself in all of them. And there is one where, to me she is—it reminds me of a low point for me. She has a certain sense of being lost. She is just lost. It’s a wood block print. I saw her at a yard sale and I was like, “I have to have her.” She just looked lost. I think the guy was just like, “You can have it; this is so ugly.” I remember saying, “I think it’s amazing. I think it’s breathtaking.” Someone might say, “Why would you want that on your wall?” But they are all up there. Audrey is the pinnacle of glamour, we have the lost girl, and I’ve got Mary the mother of God—I’ve got everybody up there.
MW: That is so cool.
PR: I get a lot of strength from it.
MW: Is there a special tradition you and your family engage in or keep?
PR: One is that we don’t ever miss going to church together. I have in my phone, “Church every Sunday, without fail; with God all things are possible.” I felt like it didn’t feel possible for all of us to go to church; I had little boys. I want a culture of faith in my family, and to me that was the way to do it. To build in a non-optional church attendance. I can cry as I say this because it’s such a miracle—I was basically a pagan not that long ago, but I can’t remember the last time we missed going to church together as a family. We look at my phone and do what it says.
MW: That’s beautiful. I am very calendar oriented, so I get that. If it’s there, it’s happening. So this is our last question… If you had to define Christianity in a sentence, it would be:
PR: Joy and sacrifice. You have to have both. Life gives us both.
PR’s last comments:
If there is someone who is struggling with what they put in their body, whether they can’t stop eating junk food, and I am not talking about one or two times but I am talking about a real problem with eating food that are hurting their bodies. If someone is in this space—or alcohol and you cannot not drink or a drug or a behavior—If you are in that spot, I am called to share that connection is the cure. You may find a home in the 12 steps, you may not. You may find church to be healing you might not, but I guarantee you that connection is a part of any cure and that is connection with a human being. I pray a lot, and I felt like the prayers were unanswered, but I realized that God does not really plan for us to heal alone from some of these things—these things specifically. I think you can heal alone from other things but these specific things, God needs to speak to us through other people who understand. Connection is the cure. Reaching out, as hard as it is, letting someone know where you are—oh it’s so hard but it is literally like crawling out of a hole. Sharing with someone you trust where you are because what makes all of those behaviors hard is that they are a secret.
MW: This is so important. Thank you so much. This has been such an amazing time with you.
PR: I feel that my life was saved, and the least I can do is share it.
“I feel that my life was saved, and the least I can do is share it.”
For more Paige:
Get a copy of Revived and Renovated here.
About Paige Rien:
Paige Rien is an author, designer, and HGTV alum whose mission to help readers put their whole selves into their homes. After a career on HGTV’s “Hidden Potential” for five seasons, Paige created a homeowners guide to explore and encourage the creative journey that is home making in her first book, Love the House You’re In: 40 Ways to Improve Your Home & Change Your Life. Paige is passionate that work on the home is incredibly important—that our homes can be places of refuge, self-expression, and where we truly matter the most. Work on both her home and the homes of others has been part of Paige’s 20+ year recovery journey. When not watching her four active children play their respective sports, Paige guides and encourages homeowners to create their own personal aesthetic in private design consulting, through live courses and in speaking engagements.
Until next time, keep witnessing!