Twenty-five-year-old designer Emily Rayna first started posting her projects on TikTok in 2020.
Since then, she’s found immense success sharing videos of her colorful and unique home renovations with her millions of followers.
Tell us about yourself and your background:
I was born in Florida but grew up in New Hampshire, which is where I live today. I attended Endicott College in Beverly, Massachusetts, and graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in interior architecture. As a result of the pandemic, school abruptly came to a halt without any closure or graduation ceremony, and I lost my dream job at an architecture firm. All the chaos left me in a negative place mentally, so I needed an outlet for my creativity. That’s where TikTok came in.
You started posting TikToks of your parents’ home renovation during the pandemic. What made you decide to work on their house?
After college, I moved back in with my parents. One day, my dad asked me to paint the ceilings. This gave me the idea to renovate their house entirely—I was desperate for a creative project. So I asked my parents for their permission. They were hesitant because we had no money, but I assured them I would try my best to keep costs as low as possible by selling items, thrifting, and upcycling. Ultimately, they trusted me to do it; they even stayed with family during the monthlong renovation so it could be a surprise.
I decided to post clips of my journey on TikTok, mostly as a means of self-accountability but also to meet new online friends. I didn’t anticipate that I’d gain 100,000 followers overnight or three million within a month, and I never could have imagined that it would snowball into a life path for me.
How would you describe your design style? How has it changed over the years?
I’d say it’s unexpected and inviting. I take a lot of influence from midcentury modern, postmodern, and industrial design styles. My ultimate goal is to create my own style, separate from all predefined aesthetics, but every day is a learning experience. Over the years, I’ve become a lot more comfortable being experimental and exploring my biggest ideas thanks to my newfound confidence and financial security.
What advice do you have for people who want to renovate a room but maybe don’t yet know their style?
The only thing that matters in the design of a space is how you feel in it. Start with functionality first, making sure you have all the supplies you need to live your life comfortably. From there, you can take inspiration from the clothes you wear, the activities you’re interested in, and your personal mission. If you don’t feel like you fit a mainstream style, that is completely normal. Just pick pieces that personally make you excited, and the rest will follow.
You recently purchased your first home. How did you decide on it?
The actual process of finding and purchasing a house was very chaotic due to the nature of the housing market in late 2021. But I had outgrown my old space and was ready for a change. I was looking for a fixer-upper because I wanted to incorporate the charm and character that type of house often has into my designs; the one I ultimately chose had so many quirks that instantly gave me ideas for how I could bring the space back to life. I fell in love with it during my first visit, and that love has only grown through the renovations I’m doing.
What was the first project you tackled?
I revived some of the wood surfaces that were covered in a thick lacquer by sanding down and refinishing them. It was a messy process, so it had to come first! I love including natural wood in my designs, and my house has a lot of it—it just needed to be uncovered so it could shine.
Do you have an overall vision for your home renovations?
I want my home to be a place that feels warm and inviting. I plan to have my friends and family gather at my home often, which means it needs to easily facilitate guests. But even more than that, I have yet to live in a space that I am fully confident in and proud to show to others, so my goal is to create that sanctuary for myself now that I’m in a position where I can. I’ve surprised so many people with spaces that suit their needs, and I can’t wait to have that same excited feeling myself.
What has been the most exciting part about renovating your home?
I enjoy the freedom that I have. When I was renting, I had to limit my ideas to fit the owner’s guidelines. The main reason I bought a house is so I could fully explore my creativity and see how far I can transform a space not just with decor but also architecturally.
What advice do you have for other young people looking to purchase a home?
Personally, I believe that homes deserve love, so you shouldn’t buy one unless you feel love for it. I love my house so much that it doesn’t feel like a chore to fuss over every detail and nurse it back to health. Homeownership is a massive responsibility, especially if you’re young, and if you’re not in love, it has the potential to drain you both mentally and physically. Motivation is key, and you’ll only have the motivation if you’re passionate about it.