Sweat the Details with Cassie Bustamante

Cassie Bustamante

Let’s Talk Interior Design – Installment 2

This week on Sweat the Details, Keith and Jim are joined by Nest’s Storyteller and Editor-in-Chief of NEST MagazineJasmine Bible, for a series of interior design-focused interviews. For this second installment, we speak with designer, writer, and longtime blogger, Cassie Bustamante. On her blog, Cassie Bustamante, she shares budget-friendly ideas to live happily, healthily, sustainably, and most importantly authentically. Bustamante resides in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she documents her design process on her popular Instagram Account, @Cassie_Bustamnate.

Cassie Bustamante

You can listen to the podcast here, and subscribe here.  

For a bit of context, here are a few images of her images of her colorful and vibrant home, as seen on her Instagram feed:

Cassie Bustamante

Cassie Bustamante

Cassie Bustamante

Cassie Bustamante

Cassie Bustamante

Cassie Bustamante

 


Transcript

Jim:
Hey everybody, its Jim Duncan with Nest Realty and Sweat the Details. We’re sitting here with Keith Davis, my partner in Nest, Jasmine Bible, who has a very long title, but she’s amazing and she’s the Creative Director and Editor in Chief at Nest Magazine, and we have Cassie Bustamante, who’s joining us. Cassie, if you don’t mind, just give us a quick rundown of who you are and what you do, and then we’ll start going from there.

Cassie:
Sure. Like you said, my name is Cassie Bustamante, and I commend you on the pronunciation there. Very good job. I am a mother of three. I have two teenagers and I have a toddler as well. It’s a little bit of mayhem around here, but we love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Cassie:
I have been blogging about home design and DIY for over 10 years now. I started in 2009 and so I’m somewhat of a dinosaur when it comes to that. I’ve also been on Instagram almost since its inception. I couldn’t even tell you what year that was. As you guys know, with social media, any time a new platform comes on, it looks like it’s going to be the next thing. You have to jump on, if your job is related to that.

Cassie:
Yeah, I’ve just been doing the DIY life for the last 10, 11 years. We moved to North Carolina last January. It was January of 2019, and we’ve slowly been working on making this house our home.

Jim:
[crosstalk 00:01:27].

Jasmine:
Exactly.

Cassie:
We’re in Greensboro, North Carolina. It’s actually not far. My husband and I went to college about 30 minutes away from here, and we had always hoped to get back to this area. When the opportunity came, we were really excited to take it.

Jim:
Very cool. As I was doing my research and prep for this, one of the notes on your blog that jumped out at me was, you said, “I believe that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to live a beautiful life and to be your best self. Here, you’ll find budget friendly ideas to live happily, healthily, sustainably, most important authentically.” I thought that was awesome.

Cassie:
Thank you.

Jim:
Has your mindset, has that been your mindset from 2009 when you started or how has that evolved over the years?

Cassie:
Yes, I will say that has honestly been my mindset from the start. Outside of what I do here, I have always been a big believer in taking care of yourself. I think a lot of that is tied up in your home, as well. I’ve actually over the years, then I’m a personal trainer. I’ve been a spin instructor and I’ve taught all sorts of other things. I really believe in wellness as a whole holistic thing. I think that what you create in your home affects who you are as a person so much. Yeah, I just believe also in being true to who you are. I don’t think that you have to live up to anybody else’s standards. I think that your home should express who you are and not express what is the trend, or what somebody else tells you your home should be. It’s a place where you’re going to be yourself 100% of the time, where you want your kids to feel comfortable being themselves, and you don’t want to put any stifling parameters on that.

Keith:
Cassie, can you speak to when you’re working with clients and trying to be who they are, right? How do you put yourself into that spot and how do you even begin that transformation of someone else’s space INto keeping it to be their space?

Cassie:
I actually don’t do design work. I have made the choice not to do that. I have been approached to do it before, but I generally turn it down. My sister-in-law, I did help her with one of her, actually a couple of her spaces. Her style is very different from mine, but I got to know her a little bit better through that process. Plus, I already knew her somewhat, although she’s much younger than I am. I took into account …

Cassie:
I think the most important thing is to take into account any space, and what I tell people who do message me and ask for my advice is, number one, you have to figure out what that space is being used for. That matters so much more than what it’s going to look like. You need to know. Like our living room upstairs in our house, one of the things that we needed in it was an office. That’s not ideal, but we had to figure out how we could make the office space work in there and how to make it look good as well.

Cassie:
If somebody else is asking for advice on, “well, here’s this room. What should I do with it?” That’s the number one thing I ask is, what do you need to do in that room? Who does it need to serve?

Jasmine:
Just to interject, the aim of Kathy’s blog on Instagram is to inspire others. She lets us have a glimpse into her life and follow along with her design process. We hopefully glean some inspiration and design tips from that. She’s not necessarily for hire as a designer, but she is full of inspiration and wonderful follow up.

Jim:
[crosstalk 00:04:51].

Cassie:
Yes, absolutely.

Jim:
One of the things that we were planning to talk about is designing a home on a budget. We’re seeing the people are spending. This is the era of COVID.

Cassie:
Right.

Jim:
We’re all spending a lot more time in our homes. How do you advise people to make their homes more homey if you will, on a budget?

Cassie:
Sure. I will say I started doing that in 2007, when we moved from Louisiana to Maryland. You guys know a lot about real estate, obviously. You know the price difference between Louisiana and Maryland, as you get close to DC. It was a huge difference. Suddenly, we moved into this house that was half the size. A lot of our furniture didn’t fit. We had used our entire budget just to buy the house.

Cassie:
I started working with what I had, which was not much and started going to garage sales and thrift shops. I would find things that I could make over and put in my own home. Right now, I still, I’ve stuck with that philosophy over the last 10 years. Even if there have been times where I can afford a little bit more, I feel like, why would you, when you can find things out there used, second hand? Not only is it going to save you money, but it’s also so much better for the environment, as well.

Cassie:
Yeah, I would just say, recommend starting looking in thrift shops. Of course, since it is a weird time with COVID, there’s Facebook Marketplace, which has been absolutely amazing in finding things and because you’re communicating directly with the seller, you can arrange for a curbside pickup, or you can talk to them in advance and say, “Hey, I can pick it up. If it’s a big piece of furniture, I can come outside and pick it up, but can you please wear a mask and gloves or something like that?” You have much more of that personal connection than you would say, purchasing something from some big box retailer.

Jasmine:
Not to put you on the spot. If you don’t have perfect answers for this, that’s fine. Do you have any tips, any Facebook Marketplace tips for when people are searching?

Cassie:
Yes. The number one thing that I ask every time, if it’s a piece of furniture, is your house. Does anybody there smoke? Yes, because my husband, I sent him. God bless him. I love him. He will run my errands for me. I sent him to pick up a dresser one time that was going to be for us, and he brought it home, and he said, “I noticed when it’s in the car, that it smelled like smoke.” It’s really my fault. I probably should have said to him, “Open the drawers and smell them before you take it home.” That’s what I do, and he didn’t do that. Lesson learned there, but yeah. Now every time I message, I ask if anybody there smokes.

Cassie:
Secondly, my husband is also allergic to cats, so I ask. We do have dogs, so pets are not an issue, but I ask if the people have cats, because I don’t want to bring any allergens in.

Cassie:
Other than that, I ask about structure, anything like that, that might affect its utilitarian side. Then, once I get there to pick something up, I give it a closer inspection. I usually don’t just go, “Okay, I’ll take it,” and run. You know, you have to. The sellers, I think, understand that. They give you a little bit of leeway. Let me have five minutes just to look at it. If I have any questions, I can ask you, or if I’m not sure about it, let me call my husband real quick and see what he thinks. Sometimes, if it’s not what it was listed as, but it’s still something you could work with, you can say, “Hey, I really do like it, but it’s got some work that needs to be done. I can offer you a little bit less.” Agreeing to meet up is not necessarily a full commitment. It’s like I’m agreeing [crosstalk 00:08:28]. You can still say no. Yeah.

Cassie:
Yeah, absolutely. It’s not a full commitment. I think that the seller has to understand that. I never expect anybody when I’m selling something to just show up and buy it. I want them to look at it, because I don’t want them to get home and then be disappointed with what they bought.

Jasmine:
Exactly. Another nice thing about Facebook Marketplace, as opposed to a Craigslist is that there are ratings. For those of you that may not have previously used Facebook Marketplace, you can vet the seller a little bit just from a safety perspective and a rating perspective, just to make sure that what they’re offering is actually what the product is.

Cassie:
Yeah. I’ve actually moved entirely over to Facebook Marketplace from using Craigslist to Look for things because you see the person’s name right there. You’re not going to get scammed. You can look at their profile too, and you can see, okay, do they look like they’re a decent person? Not that you can judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you can tell a little bit about the person or where they’re located and maybe feel a little bit safer about that transaction than it is, going to meet somebody off Craigslist. A lot of times too, if it’s something small, you can arrange a meet up in a grocery store parking lot or something like that.

Keith:
As someone who’s not a Facebook Marketplace shopper, how do they manage the geographic parameters for you and where you’re shopping on that?

Cassie:
Okay. They actually have a little tab where you can, I think it’s a slider tab where you can put in the miles that you want to work within, from your location. Yep. It’ll show you everything in that. Yeah. If it’s a little bit farther and you’ve already looked at everything that’s within your limit, it will show you things outside of your search range that are maybe not too far. Although I was looking for something the other day, and I was like, “Oh, this is perfect, and it’s just outside my range. Where is it?” It was four hours away. I was like, “Yeah, no. I am not going to get that. That’s a little too far. Eight hours of my time, total, is not worth it.”

Jasmine:
Right. Exactly. Exactly.

Cassie:
Yeah, exactly.

Jim:
For the segment of our audience who are realtors, we go into homes all the time and we have to give guidance to people. Sometimes, we hire stagers and sometimes we’re giving that baseline advice ourselves. Are there any consistent tips you can offer from a takeaway perspective? They listen to this podcast and they learn one thing that they can do consistently when they walk into a house. Other than tell them to stop smoking 20 years ago, what are some things that realtors can look at a house and say, “This will make me better able to serve my clients”?

Cassie:
I think that the number one thing is just less clutter. Put everything away when you’re trying to sell your house. When we moved here in 2019, we had sold our Maryland home and the market was good. It wasn’t as great as it is right now as a seller, but it was good. We put our house on the market in October of that year, on a Friday. By Monday, we had two full price offers in. I think that came from just clearing out the clutter, making the spaces look bigger. I think sometimes it’s taking out the pieces of furniture that are just too big for this space. Even if you love them, just put them in storage for a little while. I think personality, honestly. I know that they say, take some things out that are more personal and make it void of personality. I think sometimes those little small ,quirky touches can add so much, those vintage touches that you can’t get from new furniture.

Jasmine:
What’s your opinion on paint? What’s your opinion on paint?

Cassie:
Paint? I think times are changing so much right now, that people are so much more experimental with paint, that if you love it and you think it really compliments the space that you’ve created, and the cohesion in your house, keep it there. We went back and we did repaint some things in our house, but they were things that just needed touch up. We didn’t paint over anything, as far as colors go.

Jim:
Yeah. I’m finding more people are more, they’re more accepting of paint. A lot of people are also understanding that, yes, you might have a bold green wall in your room in your house, but they don’t need to keep that. They’re able to go through it and repaint for themselves, which is such a silly, low, low bar, but they are more accepting of that.

Cassie:
Yeah. I never quite understand the shows that you see where people are looking for houses and they walk in and they’re like, “I know I just couldn’t live with this color,” because it’s just paint. Go spend $50. get yourself a gallon of paint. In one weekend you can totally transform that room.

Jasmine:
Totally.

Jim:
Agreed.

Cassie:
Paint is actually my favorite tool in my toolbox when it comes to DIY. Yeah, I guess maybe I’m in the minority there, because it just doesn’t intimidate me to have to paint a room at all.

Jim:
No, I think that paint is always the best $500 you can spend to get the house ready for the market. Are there any colors that you, you would say people should avoid, like bring a broad brush and take your personalities out of it?

Cassie:
No. I think that any color can work in small doses. I personally am not a fan of purple, at all. I feel like it’s not a very popular color. When I do see it in a house, it’s a turnoff for me. I think that one might be, but honestly, I think as long as your main living areas are a little bit calmer, in other spaces like kids’ bedrooms and your bedrooms and your small spaces like mudrooms, washrooms, bathrooms, entries, you can be a little bit bolder, especially when you walk into a space like that and it’s smaller. If it’s a bold color, the person might think, “Well, it’s less work for me to paint this room. I can handle this.”

Jim:
Very cool. Keith?

Keith:
Yeah, no, I was going to say it was years ago. I was looking for buying a car and I found that dashboards had very real personalities too. It’s not just a question of whether a car is a European or a Japanese or an American car. Every brand has their own style and flair within the dash. I remember Googling and they basically, the idea was if you made the interior of a car really bold and crazy, it might only apply to 10% of the population, but the 10% who like it, absolutely love it. I think the same is said of as you said, depersonalizing and trying to strip down your house and make it void. I think Jim would agree with me that most realtors today agree that going all neutral isn’t very beneficial.

Keith:
You need to have something that connects with the buyer. You need some reason that they think this is the house that I would want to live in. There’s something about it that this room connects with me or this piece of art makes me feel at home. You’re not looking at a house. You’re looking at, are the people who live here, do they have the same vibe as I have, and is this somewhere where I’m going to feel comfortable?

Keith:
I think colors are a great way to do it. I think I will say just from the realtor side, when we see tons of wallpaper, it scares the hell out of our clients. Whether that’s grass wallpaper that has seven coats of paint on it, you can’t just cover it. Right. I do think, I think colors are easily changeable, but they also connect and they become something much more warm and something that’s inviting. From the yellow door, the front of the house, it’s not just the inside. It’s the entire approach.

Cassie:
Not only … Go ahead.

Jim:
A quick tangent on the connection aspect, a lot of my buyers will spend an inordinate amount of time looking at the books that a seller has.

Keith:
In Charlottesville, where everybody’s a UVA professor, absolutely.

Cassie:
That’s fascinating.

Jim:
Yeah. I had one client. I had a client years ago and he probably spent 15 to 20 minutes evaluating the book collection of this one seller, and at the end of it, he said, “Well, we can live here. There’s no doubt. If he could live here, I can live here.” I said, “Great, but you remember that there’s no internet access here?” He says, “Oh, well, nevermind then. I can’t live here.”

Jim:
People will spend time trying to visualize themselves in that home. It’s always the odd little things. I had one, many years ago, where we walked, all three of us walked out of the house and we all had a bit of an uneasy feeling. We couldn’t put our finger on it. About five minutes after, we’re standing in the front porch. One of them, I remember he snapped his fingers and he said, “Oh, there are no books in the house. That was really weird.” They ended up not buying that house, but it’s always fascinating the things that people will connect to. I think that if you have that buyer who walks in and they like that bold accent wall, or they like that color, or they like that piece of furniture, they can make that connection to really say, “Oh yeah, if these people live here, I can live here too.”

Keith:
I will say, just to finish Jim’s saying, is Charlottesville is an interesting place because of the university and the role that it plays here. Not that every resident is a university professor, but many, many, many of our homes have had professors who live in them. With that come built in bookshelves. The number of homes in Charlottesville with really big built in bookshelves is much higher than in a lot of other markets that I’ve seen. It’s one of those neat things that just develops over time in the personalities of our homes. I think Jim’s right. People do spend a lot of time looking at collections, not just books. What makes a seller tick? What brings that house to life?

Jasmine:
Going back to the wallpaper thing in Cassie’s home, if everyone wants to pop on over, we’ll give you the details at the end of this podcast. Her Instagram is just full of beautiful images of her home. Cassie, tell us about your approach to wallpapers and stenciling and paint.

Cassie:
Okay. When it comes to wallpaper, I am a big fan of temporary or removable wallpaper, which is very much the trend right now. We put it in my son’s room and we also put it in our dining room. All you have to do to remove it is just started a corner and peel it off. It comes right off.

Keith:
That’s awesome.

Cassie:
If you’ve prepped your wall properly, then it should just peel right off. If you did not, you might take some paint with you, which is what we did in our dining room, because I had finished that room on a rush project the first time around. I just removed it and I was having to sand a whole bunch of paint.

Cassie:
Then as far as paint and painted patterns on the wall, I say, go for it. Like I said, it’s just paint. It’s inexpensive. If it makes you happy, do it. We’ve done that. We’ve done a few patterns in our home and when I’ve had to remove them before, I’ve just taken my electric sander to it, just to sand down any of the edges. If I use tape and you can see lines, because when you paint over that, eventually you’re going to see the little bit of shadow from whatever you painted on the wall. If you want to just sand that, that works.

Jasmine:
Take a little sand.

Cassie:
Yeah.

Jasmine:
Then re-prime and repaint, whatever. Yeah. That’s a great idea.

Cassie:
If you stenciled it, generally, it might not show up, but if it’s something where you were putting a whole other layer of paint thickly over it, it will probably show up.

Keith:
So you you’ve been writing. Have you had CassieBustamante.com the entire time?

Cassie:
No. It actually was, I’m embarrassed by the old name, but it was primitiveandproper.com and it started out like that because I didn’t start off with the intention to get into home design. I started off with the intention to market the furniture that I was refinishing. It came from primitive more rustic finishes and proper, more proper, classic glossier finishes. That was where the idea from.

Jim:
This is not a design topic, but I’m biased. I’ve been writing a blog for 15 years, something like that. I’ve seen that traffic has picked up now. I don’t know if it’s necessarily tied to COVID, but I think it’s also, I think that people are looking for more in-depth information and you can, from a blog perspective, you can provide background and links and all that supporting evidence, if you will. How has your blog evolved? Are you seeing a similar type awareness, if you will?

Cassie:
Yes, definitely. Over the last, I would say few months, traffic has picked up a lot and I think that’s from people being home and having a little more time to devote to actually looking for things. I know that video and YouTube is also hugely popular. I’m a one man show, so the thought of making a video and putting it out there intimidates me. I don’t generally do that. I really prefer using the blog. I also prefer, as a reader, to read a blog. I think that there’s probably a small percentage of people for everyone who are passionately only video, only blogs. I will say, what I’ve noticed, especially as we head into fall … I’m sure since you have a blog, you probably have a Pinterest account. My Pinterest account … No? What?

Jim:
I like words. [crosstalk 00:00:22:14]. Words are enough for me. The pictures, I can’t swing that.

Cassie:
Well, I have to use Pinterest because of course, I want to pin my projects there so that I’ll drive more traffic back to my blog. I’ve noticed over the last month, especially, that it has gone steadily upwards of people. Some pins have just taken off. I think people, the spaces that have taken off are my kids’ bedrooms and my older kids. That’s the teenagers, not the toddler. Their rooms have taken off, and the desk that we added to our living room, because it’s all the people looking for what the heck to do with their kids who are home and how to make their rooms a little bit more functional now that they’re going to be spending more time in their rooms and all the people who are working from home or needing an at-home desk space for their kids or for their work.

Jim:
What aspects of the kids rooms are becoming more popular and more attuned to?

Cassie:
My daughter has a canopy bed and honestly, ever since we put it in there, and she has string lights hanging on it. People love that room. I don’t know. She, honestly, I will say, I cannot take credit for that. She designed that room herself and I just helped her implement it. That portion of it, which is really cozy and modern boho, is very popular.

Cassie:
Then also in her room last spring, we added this desk wall with lots of track shelving. We got that idea because in my older son’s room, we had actually done track shelving on either side of his bed to give him much more storage. The track shelving, it’s so inexpensive, but you can make it look so much higher class by just making it stylistically a little bit more appealing. Like in his room, we painted the shelves the same color as the wall, which is a really dark color. It’s called cyberspace by Sherwin Williams. It all blends in and has a little bit more of a built in look, even though it’s just cheap track shelving from the hardware store.

Cassie:
Then in my daughter’s room, we used just plain natural wood shelves with white brackets, but we did this really fun wallpaper on her wall. It has much more of a fun vibe to it than just looking like industrial shelving.

Jim:
Very cool. Well, I sit here and being mindful of the time and want to make sure that I get … I honestly, I could probably start talking about kids rooms and paint colors for a surprising amount of time.

Cassie:
Kid’s rooms are my favorite, so I could, too. I’m with you.

Jim:
We’re all spending so much time at home. That said, the title of the podcast is Sweat the Details. What is one detail that you wake up every day and that’s your detail that you sweat?

Cassie:
We actually have two that they have to be done every day. Number one is we are a family that makes our beds. Maybe not my kids, but my husband and I are both very OCD. The bed has to be made, first thing. It just starts the day right. You feel good. You feel like you’ve accomplished something.

Cassie:
Then the other thing comes at the end of the day. I have to make sure that all the dishes are washed. I cannot, cannot leave dirty dishes in the sink. Sometimes I’m the one who goes to bed earlier than my husband. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the morning and I’m going to throw him under the bus here. There’ll be his ice cream bowl from the night before sitting in there. It’s so frustrating. If there are dirty dishes in the sink, it just sets my mood for the morning. I need a nice clean slate.

Jasmine:
I love that. [crosstalk 00:25:51].

Cassie:
He makes the bed. I’ll take it. It’s a little bit of a trade off.

Jasmine:
Awesome.

Jim:
Well, very cool, Cassie. I really appreciate your making the time, and if you’ll give a shout out. You’re CassieBustamante.com and your Instagram.

Cassie:
It’s @Cassie_Bustamante.

Jim:
Very cool. Everybody, we’ll put links in the show notes and the blog post, as well.

Jasmine:
In the fall winter issue of Nest Magazine, we will have a feature from Cassie on how to create a cohesive nest. Keep your eyes out for that, as well.

Cassie:
Very excited about that. Thank you guys so much for having me today. I appreciate your time, as well.

Keith:
It’s been a pleasure.

Jasmine:
Thanks for joining us.

Jim:
Thanks, all.

Keith:
Thanks, Cassie.

Cassie:
Bye, guys.

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Posted in 501 Nest Realty, Asheville, Atlanta, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Greater Louisville, Greensboro, Jackson, Lake Norman, New River Valley, Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, Roanoke, Shenandoah Valley, Wilmington
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