Paige Rien was in hustle-mode. Her first book had finally been released, and the Catholic mom of four was determined to market it well.
“Love the House You’re In” was a labor of love, flowing from Paige’s experience as an HGTV on-air designer and bursting with the hard-won, heart-felt wisdom she wished she could personally tell each viewer.
It was time to secure some media coverage. Specifically, Paige had an international newspaper in mind. She couldn’t help but crave the “exterior validation” that would come with a feature in the prestigious paper.
She tried again and again to reach the home editor and finally discovered a connection who personally placed the book on her desk.
The response came quickly and enthusiastically. “I love the book!”
Soon Paige was inviting the editor to her Kensington, Maryland, home – and doing a million little things to prepare it. She painted the foyer. She powered through a few other projects. She hired a florist to make arrangements.
When the editor arrived, the two women enjoyed a two-hour visit, sitting in the living room and talking about the book, HGTV and Paige’s house. It was going wonderfully.
Then Paige gave her a tour.
“My goodness, you’re awfully religious,” the editor remarked, scanning icons and crucifixes.
It was obvious that this was not a compliment.
The story never ran.
“It was pretty clear that she really liked the book, but the execution of the book is my home, and we’ve got religious stuff everywhere,” said Paige, who is now 47.
Seven years later, she is grateful for the rejection. “It was the best news ever for her to pass on me,” she said. “I had a turning point. I decided I was no longer going to even try to obtain the affirmation or applause of the secular world. That’s a message for me: If you make your home authentically for who you are, there are many people who it won’t be for them. What you’ve done for your family should be very specific and reflect your values.”
This philosophy stands in stark contrast to industry trends, Paige realizes. “Everything in design has become completely homogenized,” she said.
She thinks of her parents, who glossed over their Greek and Italian heritage in lieu of the style of the day: early 1980s French Country. “Who they really are was stripped so we could have apple stencils,” she said. “That aesthetic had no connection to our family.”
Paige pours her energy into encouraging women who are pained by the gap between their homes and the immaculate images they see on social media.
“There’s a crisis of confidence in women now,” she said. “Women are acting as if the design police are coming on Tuesday and they will give them a fine if what they have isn’t acceptable.”
She offers them a permission slip.
“You don’t have to wow anyone this holiday season,” Paige wrote in one Instagram post. “Hospitality is sharing what we have, not showing what we have or a shiny version of ourselves or our children. … As women and hosts, we’re connectors, and we sacrifice this beautiful dimension of the feminine genius when we’re so busy trying to manage ‘the audience experience.’”
Paige’s message is an antidote to the perfectly curated, heavily edited Easter spreads Catholics will see in magazines and social media accounts.
“If you haven’t redone your house, maybe you’ve been busy,” she said. “The real work, your real vocation is the relationships, the formation of your children and your marriage and yourself.”
Your home should reflect that – not the fickle standards of influencers.
“You are the expert of your life! To have someone come in and design it all misses a huge piece: who you are and your story and how you really live.”
Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.