Are you thinking of participating in the One Room Challenge?  The One Room Challenge or ORC was started back in 2011 by blogger Linda Weinstein, who was looking for motivation to finish one room in her own home. She came up with the idea to challenge a small group of online friends to support one another while they all finished one room in six weeks.

Today the ORC has grown into a twice a year (April and October) mega event with twenty featured designers and hundreds more guest participants.There are now big name sponsors and the media partner is Better Homes and Gardens. From it’s humble beginnings with a group of Linda’s blogging friends, it is now THE EVENT of the season for designers and design enthusiasts. According to the ORC website, more that 3,400 rooms have been transformed through the One Room Challenge. As a veteran of the ORC, I have been getting a lot of questions about participating in the One Room Challenge. Here are a few tips if you are thinking of participating in the One Room Challenge.

I have participated in the ORC four times. Twice as a featured designer, and twice as a guest participant. Not only is it a great way to get a room finished in your own home (accountability) but it is great exposure, especially if you are a new designer.

Fall 2015

My very first One Room Challenge was the Fall of 2015. I redid my family room as a guest designer in our previous home.

ORC family room gallery wall

ORC family room 2015

Spring 2018

The Spring of 2018 I was asked to be a featured designer. I was sponsored by the Boston Design center and I created a temporary Pied-a terre within an empty space in the building.

One Room Challenge loft space

Boston Design Center Pied-a-Terre ORC 2018

Fall 2018

Fall of 2018 I was once again fortunate enough to be asked to be a featured designer. This time I made over our master bedroom in our brand new condo.

ORC Fall 2018 master bedroom

Fall 2019

This Fall I participated once again as a guest participant and made over our small living/dining/kitchen area in our condo which I dubbed Project Fresh Start

green table in dining nook

All four makeovers were a lot of work, time and money but the end result made it all worth it. Our new condo now has a beautifully decorated master bedroom and living area. My pied-a-terre was sadly only temporary but it lives online forever and I have some great images for my portfolio.I learned a lot during the process, both as and featured designer and as a guest participant. Here are a few things you should know if you are thinking of participating in the One Room Challenge.

1. Time is not on your side: 

Six weeks sounds like a long time to get a room finished but let me tell you it goes by in the blink of an eye. PLUS, you really don’t have six weeks since you need to have your room photographed around week five in order to get the images ready for the week six reveal. Every season there are designers who end up working round the clock during the final count down because they ran into unexpected delays in the first few weeks. My advice is to work backwards from photography day (week five) and carefully plan out everything on a calendar.  Also, keep in mind that things almost always take longer than anticipated.

2. Always have a plan B

If you follow the ORC then you know there is always a point in the challenge where something (or several things) will not go as planned. In both ORC’s I participated in, I had things go wrong and had to switch to plan B. In Spring of 2018 I had a showroom renege on two key pieces of furniture on moving day. I will admit I had a momentary panic attack. Since there was no time to source other pieces, I pulled myself together and ended up flipping the floor plan to make it work without those lost pieces. In the end it actually worked out even better. This past challenge I had two deliveries get lost and one side table never showed up for the reveal.

3. There will be expenses

Whether you are a featured designer or a link up participant plan on spending money. Working with sponsors is going to help keep costs down but labor, photography, flowers and misc. expenses add up quickly. Linda shared with me that the most expensive Featured ORC was 75K and the least expensive around $1,500. Both received lots of press and organic exposure. When I transformed my family room in 2015, I spent a considerable amount of money. I replaced everything though from furniture to draperies to carpet. In the end it paid off because my room was featured in the Boston Globe and I booked a new client from the exposure. If money is a concern then DIY as much as you can. Keep in mind though that DIY projects often adds time to an already tight time line.

4. Line up sponsorship well in advance

Truth be told, I am terrible at asking for free stuff. In 2015 I only approached two vendors for discounts. Duralee gave me my drapery fabric at 60% off and Kravet gave me an additional 10% off my designer discount for my sofa. Both of these vendors know me well and know I spend a lot of money with them throughout the year. Everything else though I paid for out of pocket. Now that I have four ORC’s under my belt it is a little easier to find sponsors. I have “proved” myself so to speak and  this past challenge I had two vendors actually reach out to me about using their products in my room.

My advice is, if you are a working designer, reach out to your vendors and see if they are interested in partnering or at the very least offering a discount. The ORC is followed by millions and having their product featured is a huge deal. Another tip is to reach out to potential sponsors early in the process. There may be several others also asking and the vendor’s resources might be limited.

5. Get a head start on the challenge

I’m not suggesting to cheat and take eight or ten weeks to do your room because that’s not in the spirit of the challenge. What is helpful though is to get your ducks in a row ahead of time. Don’t wait until the start of the challenge to call your painter only to find out he or she is booked for the next eight weeks. Similarly, if you know your sofa is going to be ten weeks delivery, place the order ahead of time. I think the number one worry among participants is whether or not everything will arrive on time.

6. Take lot’s of before, during and after photos

Readers LOVE seeing the process. They want to know what is happening week by week and how the room is coming together. My advice is don’t stress too much about the quality of the “before” photos or the photos during the progress stage. Do the best you can with your cell phone or camera. The final photos for your reveal post however, should be stellar. This is where I recommend investing in a good interior photographer. You worked so hard on your room and bad photos will not do it justice.

7. Follow the rules

In other words, be a responsible participant. Don’t over reach and then have to drop out half way through. If you are a working designer you might want to give your clients a heads up that you will have limited availability over the six weeks. Also, whether you do the ORC as a guest participant or as one of the featured designers it’s important to follow the rules. Linda works really hard to keep this event running smoothly. There are designated posting times and links to share. If you are going to invest the time and money into doing this then do it right.

Interested in finding out even more? Check out this podcast

So let me hear from you….who’s in???

Linda Holt | Interior Designer & iPhone Coach

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