Erin Gerlach: Fearless DIYer

Erin Gerlach discovered a “passion for construction” when she and her husband, Justin, purchased their first home and found themselves dealing with the proverbial “champagne taste and beer budget” scenario where updating and furnishing the house were concerned. Erin elected to pick up a saw and hammer and tackle projects on her own. Now, the DIYer is a social media influencer, even receiving exposure in a national magazine. 

From a decorating perspective, fall is one of Erin’s favorite times of the year, as she fills indoor and outdoor spaces with pumpkins, gourds, mums and other colorful essentials. She shops the farmers markets and roadside stands in the Lampeter-Strasburg area to assemble her displays and create fall-themed containers.

No doubt, Erin’s talents are a genetic gift. Her mother, Carole Sheffield, is a master at interior design, decorating and gardening. Now a resident of Wilmington, North Carolina, Carole is a successful realtor and the owner of a condo (along the Cape Fear Riverwalk) she remodeled, furnished and decorated and markets through Vrbo. Erin’s father, Gary Greiner, is the service manager at Paradise Custom Kitchens. Of late, he has been helping her with the design/build of a combination laundry-mudroom-beverage nook. “I guess it’s in my blood,” Erin says of her creative talents. 

Nonetheless, her career path initially took a different (but creative) direction. “I was always interested in art, graphic design and videography,” Erin says of working for several different design firms before launching a freelance business she continues to operate. Fortunately, such skills aid her in creating content for her social media sites. 

The dining room demonstrates Erin’s DIY abilities. The china cabinet was inspired by one she spied in a store but was beyond her budget. So, she designed and built one, calling the six-month-long project “a learning experience.” The table was also inspired by a table that was out of her budget. She crafted her own design using white oak she purchased from a supplier. The chairs were purchased through Facebook Marketplace and refinished. The chandelier, from Generation Lighting, represents Erin’s ongoing efforts to swap out the original budget-conscious elements for more upscale designs.

Fifteen years ago, Erin married her high school (Manheim Central) sweetheart, Justin Gerlach. The two bought a small Cape Cod in the Hamilton Park area of Lancaster. “I loved that house. It’s where I discovered my passion for construction,” she says of the first projects she undertook in order to economically transform the house into a stylish home. YouTube and other tutorials helped her to achieve the desired results. “You can find how to do almost anything on YouTube,” she notes. “It’s a great resource, especially for people like me who tend to learn things visually.” More than a decade later, Erin still has fond memories of the house they called home for four years. “Sometimes I wish we could have hung onto that house,” she muses. “It would have made a great Airbnb.” 

Cement is one of Erin’s favorite creative mediums. Several years ago, she began experimenting with making pumpkins out of cement. Last year she experimented with adding color and liked the results.

Erin’s home in Hamilton Park also got her creative juices flowing in another way. “I started blogging there,” she explains. She called her site “Hamilton Park Home.” In view of the fact that Hamilton Park inspired new directions, Erin has continued to use the blog name for her social media sites. “I started posting consistently in 2020,” she recalls. In 2022, she further immersed herself in the home-related blogosphere by attending Haven, an annual conference that is held in Atlanta. “It was so nice to be around like-minded people,” she says of the experience. 

Her social media presence has also led to collaborations with home- and building-related companies. “That’s been a real experience,” Erin notes. “This is still a relatively new industry. I’m still learning,” she says of tasks such as setting rates, understanding legalities, etc.  She’s also learning to develop thick skin, as people will sometimes comment (negatively) on her techniques and the outcomes of projects. “I fully admit I’m not a pro,” she says of providing full disclosure on her sites. 

A fan of the look of natural wood – which is on trend – Erin tends not to paint vintage pieces of furniture. For this dresser that is in the foyer, she simply sanded it down and left it natural.

Still, Erin says she is having the time of her life. In fact, she traded her car for a truck that makes hauling materials and finds easier. “I’m at Lowe’s all the time,” she admits. And, when it comes to gift suggestions for birthdays, Mother’s Day or Christmas, tools are always at the top of her list. A cordless nail gun is currently high on her wish list. “Oh, I have lots of tools,” she says. “The garage has become my domain. I’m soon going to need to build a tool wall for myself!” 

The kitchen has been a major focus of upgrades, as Erin replaced the original lighting and hardware in order to introduce gold/brass hues to the space. She also installed lighting under the cabinetry, switched out the plumbing fixtures and painted the island a stone-gray color. Next, she plans to extend the cabinets to the ceiling by topping them with glass-fronted designs. The door next to the fridge leads to the laundry-mudroom-beverage center that is under construction.

The arrival of two sons prompted the Gerlachs to make a move to a larger home. “We found a vacant lot in the Lampeter-Strasburg School District and worked with Ironstone Builders to build a house,” she recalls. “We did what we could to stay within our budget,” she says of limiting the number of upgrades to the open-concept design of the two-story transitional-style house.

After moving in, Erin fully involved herself in DIY projects. “I began switching out the builder-grade elements, especially in the kitchen,” she says of replacing lighting, cabinetry hardware and plumbing fixtures. Next up is topping the existing cabinetry with glass-fronted designs, thus extending the cabinetry to the ceiling. 

Erin also began building her own furniture. The dining room holds a china cabinet whose design was inspired by an expensive piece she had seen in a store. Knowing the piece was beyond her budget, Erin went to work designing her own version. “It became a six-month project,” she says of a learning curve that required a great deal of patience. 

Comfortable was Erin’s gameplan in furnishing and decorating the living room. Again, it reflects her love of mixing styles and incorporating DIY projects. She built the coffee table and created the artwork on the wall, using fabric she purchased through Spoonflower. She even created the tree, using a fallen tree branch and silk leaves. The rugs seen here and in the dining room are from Loloi, a company she collaborated with to test the durability of their rugs. “At one point, I scrubbed one down in the driveway,” she says of putting it to the test. “Their rugs are awesome!”

A restored dining table that was beyond Erin’s budget also provided the inspiration for a DIY table she crafted from white oak. The chairs are a find from Facebook Marketplace. “I just refinished them,” she adds of the update she gave them. 

In the living room, the coffee table represents yet another DIY project. In all three areas, the mix of styling speaks of Erin’s aesthetics. “I like to mix things up. It makes for a more interesting room,” she says. On the agenda is finishing the laundry-mudroom-beverage nook and beyond that, redesigning her home office.  

Erin planned and designed the pergola that tops a stamped-concrete patio that was enlarged, but decided to leave the construction phase to a pro. The fence section on the wall (to the left of the pergola) is being used to grow and train wisteria to climb over the pergola. The TV (the framed “art” to the right of the sliding doors) was another project through which she created a canvas under which a waterproof box was installed to hold the TV.

She also transformed the outdoors by adding landscaping, designing a pergola over one patio (she left the construction phase to a pro), constructing a fire table, building an enclosure for the vegetable garden and designing/building a treehouse whose foundation came courtesy of an old playset she and Justin found. 

To transform the playset into a treehouse, Erin added a platform and what she calls “frou-frou.” It instantly became a favorite hangout for the neighborhood kids. It also landed her in the September 2021 issue of HGTV Magazine. “To this day, I don’t know how they found me,” she shares. “The contact just came out of nowhere. I suspect maybe it was through social media, maybe Pinterest. I know a lot of my blog traffic comes from it.” Erin keeps the treehouse in tip-tip condition. “One of these days, the boys will outgrow it. I’m thinking it would make a good wine bar or a ladies loft,” she says. 

The project that landed her on the pages of HGTV Magazine two years ago, entailed taking a discarded playset and using it as the basis for adding design elements such a covered platform and what she calls “frou-frou” to liven up the backyard. It’s been a favorite play area for Erin’s sons and their neighborhood friends.

Erin especially likes projects that entail cement. The fire table she built for the patio involved cement board and thin-set mortar. She outfitted the table with a firepit insert and a half-size propane tank. “We use it a lot,” she reports. “It throws a lot of heat.” That allows for the Gerlachs and their friends to watch football games on the outdoor television (another DIY project) well into the fall. 

The pumpkin Erin holds on the cover is one of her favorite concrete-related projects. To create the pumpkins, she mixes concrete and pours varying amounts into pantyhose in order to achieve a range of shapes and sizes. After tying off the legs and waist, she shapes the “pumpkins,” carves in ridges and lets them dry overnight. The next day, stems are attached to the faux pumpkins. “Last year I experimented with color by adding cement pigment to the mix,” she explains. “I really liked the results. I like that they look organic.” She uses them to decorate interior and exterior areas of the house. 

Erin also uses her artistic talents to transform mundane clay pots into works of art by applying paint and other finishes that provide the containers with an aged look. 

For fall decorating, Erin pays homage to the season with pumpkins, gourds and other autumnal elements. “Fall planters are my favorite,” she says. 

As for painting furniture, Erin practices restraint. “It really depends on the tone and graining whether I paint something. There’s just something about the look of natural wood that warms up a room,” she says. 

It seems that Erin’s fondness for natural wood is part of an emerging trend. Peruse the opinions and predictions of decorators and designers and they all agree that wood is staging a comeback. No, not the dark woods that defined the homes of our parents and grandparents, but rather lighter woods that are associated with Scandinavian design (the hygge effect). Lighter woods are versatile and complement vintage, mid-century, boho and modern styling. They also add a touch of earthiness to a home. 

Nate Berkus is an exception, telling domino.com that he is a  fan of dark wood – he refers to dark hues as “moody” – and shared that as of late, he likes to add a dark piece or two to each room. 

If the displays seen at the recent Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), which was held in Las Vegas, are any indication – especially those from European and Asian exhibitors – natural-look wood finishes are the next trend in kitchens. According to both offthemarkt.com and woodworkingnetwork.com, rift-sewn white oak is in high demand in those markets, as it provides a clean grain and with it, a look of luxury. 

That is music to Erin’s ears. “I just love the look of wood,” she says. 

To follow Erin and her projects (and to see how to make concrete pumpkins), go to @hamiltonparkhome on Instagram. 

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