Jenna Pilant is Living in Color
How one homeowner brings her home to life—one room at a time—with all the shades of the rainbow and a can-do attitude
When Jenna Pilant and her husband Darrell closed escrow on their Pauma Valley home three and a half years ago—and moved in the very next day—they planned to make significant changes and upgrades. “I wanted to add lots of color to the mostly beige interiors,” says Jenna, whose nails are never without a rainbow-tipped manicure. “I live life colorfully.”
Ambitious—Jenna’s an upholsterer, design-and-style blogger and now the host and designer behind her self-produced Room Bloom renovation show on YouTube—she was eager to get started on her home makeover.
Cue the record scratch.
Not long after moving in, Jenna heard scurrying claws in the walls while she was working in her home office. Turns out the sound came from a rodent infestation that cost the new homeowners nearly $5,000. That, coupled with unexpected monthly electric bills topping $1,300, meant there wasn’t much moolah left for the cosmetic changes Jenna envisioned. “We were living in a money pit,” Jenna remembers. “As a creative who saw so much potential but wasn’t able to execute any of my plans, the situation was devastating.”
In December 2017, while on a morning walk with Cash, the couple’s rescue border collie bull staffy, Jenna hatched a plan. They’d design their dream home without it costing a fortune. “I thought, ‘What if I do our home renovations myself, get my contractor friend Steve Frost to consult and help me along the way, record it and put it on YouTube?’” she says. She already owned lots of power tools for her upholstery business, she’d been watching reruns of Fixer Upper, and she knew how to take compelling videos and edit them from the time she worked as the on-air personality/stylist/camerawoman/editor for a small Nebraska TV station.
She shared her big idea with Darrell who, while giving her the green light and being externally supportive, silently wondered if his wife was biting off more than she could chew.
Jenna decided she would renovate room by room and include an upholstery project in each space. She’d do everything herself—demo, installs (though she’d consult experts and get Steve to handle any rewiring), painting, designing, sourcing and styling.
In March 2018, Jenna took her first swing at the family-room fireplace with a sledgehammer. “It may have been a bit overzealous of me to start there,” she confesses. “What I thought wouldn’t take that long took months to complete.”
Jenna had whacked away at the stone for hours, but had made such little headway that, after the first two days of demoing the fireplace, Darrel says he thought “she was going to glue the few rocks that had fallen back in place.” And Jenna considered that idea for about a second. By day three, though, progress was being made and by day four, the fireplace—and mantel (oops!)—were gone. After clearing the rubble (with help), Jenna rebuilt the fireplace structure using noncombustible steel framing and hardibacker (a cement board to which tiles stick).
The tile that replaced the stone wasn’t easy to find. After searching locally and online, Jenna ended up driving to Costa Mesa to Mission Tile West, where she fell in love with the expensive 3-D hex concrete tile she knew would make the perfect statement on the family room’s giant focal point.
As a newbie to tiling, and not wanting to make mistakes, Jenna created a life-size template of her fireplace on the family-room floor to strategically map out where each tile would go and which direction it would face. Then she started the install—another project that took forever. Due to the sheer weight of the concrete tiles, Steve suggested Jenna not put more than two rows of tile up per day. This would give them time to adhere properly on the surface.
After more than a week of laying tile, Jenna was on her final row when one of the heavy hexes slipped from her hands and hit a dead-center tile farther down, noticeably chipping it. “I tried to pry the cracked tile out without damaging the tiles around it, and it wouldn’t budge,” Jenna laments. “I cried and walked away.” She ended up buying a masonry bit and drilling small holes in the nicked tile until it crumbled and she could remove it completely. Then she went to her leftover box and tried six-sided tiles until she found one that fit perfectly. It was the first of many situations Jenna would have to rethink and improvise.
Jenna worked on the six floating shelves flanking the fireplace next. She wanted them to be flush, which meant each shelf needed to be just over 13 inches deep—not a readily available lumber size. After finding steel brackets online, Jenna set out to find a woodworker she could consult for advice. What she found was the Pauma Valley Country Club woodworking group (to which she became the only female member) and member Don Brown, a retired pilot, who kindly agreed to help her build the unconventional-sized shelves. He enlisted fellow woodworking-pal (and member) Vern Larson, and together, the trio glued wood boards, bored holes in them and ended up filling the holes with expandable foam to prevent the boards from shifting on the brackets.
Jenna painted the shelves and the existing built-in cabinetry a bright blue. Then she painted all the walls white and each of the doors in the room a different saturated shade. “I took the multicolored rug [purchased for the family room] to Home Depot and played with swatches,” she says.
It was the first week of December 2018 and the family room was finally done. But Jenna knew she couldn’t take another nine months to complete one room; the house would take years and years to finish at that rate. Determined to save time and work more efficiently on the next areas of the home, she opted to undertake three spaces simultaneously. “It was crazy sauce,” she admits.
Multitasking, Jenna repainted the yellow built-in wall of cabinets in her office—a job she paid to have done when they first moved in but the work was botched and in dire need of a redo. In between sanding and painting in the office, she ripped up carpeting in the master bedroom that was replaced with a deep-plum carpet Darrell chose after being inspired by the rooms at Saguaro Palm Springs. She hung an oversized abstract peel-and-stick wallpaper opposite the bed (after practicing hanging wallpaper in the entryway coat closet).
Then she painted the other walls in the room white with orange and pink accents and worked with Steve to hang the TV and sconces. This room is also the only space to get two upholstery makeovers—so far, anyway. Jenna gave new life to an old chaise with a blue-checkered fabric and custom-made an upholstered headboard and footboard fashioned from individual wood planks that she cut and wrapped in batting and different shades of velvet and installed on a slant to match the pitch of the ceiling.
Oh, and at the same time, she started the One Room Challenge online as a guest participant, to transform her entryway in six weeks. As a nod to her parents and their DIYing skills, Jenna acid-washed the bricks in her foyer, then spent two days sealing them for a “wet look.” The treatment was something her mom had done after she laid the brick entry in the home where Jenna grew up. Next, Jenna primed and painted each of the three doors a different color and hung a 12-color rainbow chandelier.
Meanwhile, Jenna was searching for wallpaper for her office and loved a digitally produced pattern of dollar signs created from Andy Warhol’s painted and printed artworks. But it was way too much $$$ (literally). Instead, she purchased “Full Spectrum” based on Warhol’s flowers. “It makes perfect sense in here,” Jenna explains. “The name of the show is Room Bloom. Of course I should have Warhol’s multicolored poppies in it!”
This space is still a work in progress. Though Jenna finished repainting the yellow built-in cabinet behind her desk, she hasn’t yet hung the doors (but she has installed all new hardware). She and a friend created polka-dot magnets in the spectrum of colors to decorate the tanker-style metal desk she bought secondhand. On the wall opposite her work space, Jenna picked up a sleeper sofa (for free) off the Nextdoor app (you know, the private social network for your neighborhood). As an homage to a great aunt who wore lots of velvet and always had a long cigarette between her fingers, Jenna recovered the piece in cheetah-print velvet with fuchsia piping and a skirt fashioned from a vintage flapper dress. She still has doors to paint and cabinetry to hang. Then she’ll move on to an untouched space such as the atrium, dining room, or maybe even the kitchen.
Jenna—and especially Darrell—are still anxiously awaiting a time when their 4,000-plus-square-foot home doesn’t feel like a full-time construction zone. But they are thrilled with what’s been accomplished. Everywhere you look, different bright colors and shapes play off each other to make a bold, confident statement, a definite reflection of the woman who brought this place to life.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself,” Jenna says. “I know what I’m capable of. I know what my own roar sounds like now, and I know that I can do anything I set my mind to. This renovation project has really brought me into my own.”
And Darrell loves it too. “I have no doubt that when our home is done, it will be an amazing art installation and a testament to Jenna’s talent.”
To learn some tricks from Jenna Pilant on embracing color in your own spaces, get her tips here. Bright colors have been linked to boosting productivity, creativity and positivity, and who can say no to that?
Learn where and how Jenna Pilant gets her signature style. She took us around town to her favorite spots last October, and you can read the feature here.