Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

How to do a One Room Challenge makeover

The fall 2019 One Room Challenge (6-week event where hundreds of designers and bloggers update a room) has just wrapped up, and we did one of our biggest projects ever: our main bathroom. It's so fun and inspiring to see all of the room makeovers, and I think it gets a lot of us energized for our next project!!

You don't have to be a professional or have a large following to join in the One Room Challenge fun. It's open to anyone with a blog or Instagram account. I've done it three times now, and followed along with several very talented seasoned ORC-ers, and I thought I'd share the tips I've gathered for how to be successful (have fun, be proud of your result, meet new friends, and [hopefully] finish on time)!
From this bathroom reno

How to Do a One Room Challenge

A. The basics

First, some One Room Challenge basics. The ORC runs for 6 weeks (really it's 5 weeks, but 6 posts bookending them), every April and November. It starts the first Wednesday of those months. Thursdays are the official release days each week, but the link-up opens around 10pm EST the Wednesday night before, and a lot of people always release their blog posts first thing in the morning, so you'll see bloggers sharing about their rooms on Wednesdays. The link-up closes on Sunday of each week, so really you have between 10pm EST Wednesday and (not sure exactly) Sunday to share your post each week.

The ORC used to be for bloggers only, but recently they've opened it up to Instagram-only participants as well. You can't share in both categories, but this means that if you don't have a blog you can still post weekly updates and join the link up, but you're just linking to your Instagram posts. (This is still a smaller category--this season there were 218 guest participants in the blog category, 58 in Instagram-only.) There were another 20 featured designers, and you must have a blog to be asked to join in that category.

The One Room Challenge is very flexible and welcoming of all design styles and rooms of all sizes and budgets. There aren't many rules, but once you sign up (sign-up opens up a month or so, I think, before each ORC starts) you'll get an email with a few rules and recommendations. Really the basics are, share a post each week about your progress on the room, and try to finish by the last week.

B. How to choose a room

You can do literally any room or space in (or outside) your home. I've done two bathrooms and a bedroom... the bathrooms were hard (so many steps!). Think outside the box... if you really want to do an ORC but don't have the budget or plans to do any rooms in your own home, offer to work with a friend for their project! As long as they understand the time commitment, it can be a great way for you to get blog content and stretch your design muscles and help a friend, while they get a new room and feel a little famous with their house on the internet. (Example: this bathroom I did last spring!)

C. Technical & pageview strategy

I say "strategy" because the ORC is also a great time to engage with the community of other bloggers/instagrammers in the home decor realm, and their followers. There's more opportunities for pageviews and Instagram shares (and good stories/posts that the Instagram algorithm favors) during the ORC. (If you're planning to redo a room some soon anyway, and you want to grow your blog/Instagram, definitely consider waiting till the ORC starts to do it (or at least to share about it)!)

The link-up looks like this each week (this is the reveal/last week). When the link tool is open, you can click "Add your blog post" and paste your URL. The tool will auto-populate your post name and the first photo. (You can edit both of those after adding.)

Some tips for having engaging, visited blog posts for your ORC:

  1. As you post your weekly post in the link-up on the ORC blog each week, take 30-60 minutes and click through all the other posts that sound interesting to you. Comment on others' blogs and commiserate/cheer them on/etc.!
  2. Include the name of your room and blog in the brief title. It doesn't have to be the same as your actual blog post; you can edit it in the InLinkz tool. For example, "Wallpaper! Week 2 powder bathroom, Jenn's House Blog" or whatever. I use the Ctrl + F to sort through all the rooms if I know I'm looking for a nursery or a specific blog name I've been following along with--it makes your posts easier to find.
  3. Share an interesting photo each week. Even if it's just progress, a wide angle showing the room partially done will be more interesting than a close-up from what you did that week, which might be the first photo in your post. (As with title, the InLinkz tool lets you edit/choose the photo that shows up as a thumbnail.)
  4. Within each post, tell readers what they've gotten into--i.e. "This is week 4 of the 6-week One Room Challenge! You can see all my posts about this here..." I put in a bullet list of posts and that have happened so far, and then at the end of the challenge update all my previous week posts so they all link to each other. Example: Week 1 and week 6.
  5. Add a One Room Challenge tab or page to your blog. This is a good way to look back later on, and help focus new readers. (Here are all my posts tagged ORC.) I actually do multiple new tags--one for each season's ORC, and one for One Room Challenge in general. Just in case I want to link to either group.
  6. Write different types of posts each week. To get into even more detail...

How to write a great Week 1 ORC post

Week 1 is an exciting one. I suggest including the "before" pictures, demo if you've gotten that far (it's a good idea to make some progress before Week 1, especially for larger projects), and definitely your design inspirations. I also suggest making a collage of the products you're considering. Here are some good example Week 1 posts: Master bedroom makeover: Before, inspiration and design and Main bathroom full gut makeover: Before, design, and demo.

This means you will need to have your design about 80% done at Week 1. So, it's a "6-week" challenge, but a lot of the work has to happen well before it starts. (If you're like me and it takes you MONTHS to design a bathroom :P.) Of course things will change from the first collage to the final room, but nail down the big items early on. (See tip 4--you will also need to order the big things before the ORC starts!)

If you use an affiliate network like RewardStyle, add all the products to your favorites in a folder for that room way back before Week 1 and link them in each post where you reference them.

How to rock the middle of the ORC

Share something interesting in each of your weekly posts. I've found that "progress this week" is a way less evergreen than something specific about what you did. For example, Emily at The Sweet Beast did this tutorial for her ORC post one week. It didn't reveal too much of the room, so it was still a good surprise at the end, and is a useful post for anyone looking for a grid gallery wall tutorial, so it will still bring readers to her blog for years to come.

I plan out my 6 posts before I start the ORC, so I can make sure I cover all the sponsored content and specific elements that I know will be valuable in the future. Like, week 3 of my spring 2019 ORC was this tile tutorial--it's still one of my more popular posts and has been repinned a lot! Way more than if I had just called it "Week 3: Tile is in" or something. I have ended up with some random posts covering a couple of elements in some of the weeks, but I really try to focus on one interesting thing each week. Another blogger who is great at this: Ashley at The Gold Hive shared How to install board and batten, a super valuable post for anyone to follow even outside the ORC.

As for your progress, I find I really need to have my room painted, big items installed, and most of my pieces here in the building by around Week 3. I've learned not to save art and styling as an afterthought, which means I need to have the bigger/harder elements wrapped up with plenty of time to spare.

How to write a great "reveal" Week 6 ORC post

Week 6 is the most fun!! Make your Week 6 post really shine with context, a good story about what you've been through the past 6 weeks, and beautiful photos. You can include some "befores" there too, but also link back to your Week 1 post.

I have a recent post with some interiors photography tips you can check out here. Consider hiring a professional photographer, trading services with a photographer friend, or borrowing a DSLR camera and taking some photography and editing courses if you are really not photography-inclined. You put so much work into your design... good photos can make it look as good online as it does in person!

D. Finishing on time

Doing an ORC is FUN, and that's basically the most important thing. It's really motivating to have that accountability of knowing you need to post once/week, and you need to keep working on your room on the weekends. It can be a lot of pressure, too, so make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew with a massive project at a time when you have a lot of social plans coming up or something.

It definitely doesn't time out perfectly sometimes and some people don't finish on time--if that's you, you will not be shunned. It happens!! But of course it is a great feeling to be DONE and have a room you are proud of on reveal day. Tips:

  1. It's never too early to start planning for the next ORC. Think way ahead when choosing a room and make sure it fits in well with your other commitments! I'm already thinking about which space we'll try to do for next spring's ORC...!
  2. Along with planning our your posts like I mentioned earlier, block off time on your calendar or step your to-do list and put tasks in the right order (like an actual construction schedule). Paint before installing your gallery wall, that sort of thing.
  3. Order as many products as possible before the ORC starts. This is especially key for something with a long lead time. Our vanity sat it in our garage for a couple months before we started the ORC this fall--much better than being anxiously waiting for it.
  4. And, choose a reasonable project to get done in 6 weeks! Start demo and a few other tasks early if you have to.

E. Meeting new friends

The community around the ORC is really what makes it so fun. Participate on Instagram with others tagging #oneroomchallenge, and definitely leave comments on blogs/IG posts about other designers' progress. I've found several great new friends on Instagram as we've done ORCs together!! Cheer each other on and commiserate.

After each ORC, round up your favorite rooms from that season in your Instagram stories, feed, and/or blog on a round-up post. (Here's mine from this season.) People love being mentioned!!

Okay, are you feeling like you can do this blogging part of it now?? I hope these tips have been encouraging!!

See all my ORC posts from all previous ORCs I've joined in here.

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