Cass Smith in the closet that she designed and rebuilt from scratch, including shoe shelves and a mirror door in the back that opens to additional shelving and storage space. Courtesy of Cass Smith (HANDOUT)
Gloucester — Cass Smith once had to ask for help with basic tasks around the house, from hanging curtains to painting walls.
Today, she redesigns and renovates entire rooms on her own.
A former full-time stay-at-home mom, Smith has crafted a new career on social media by sharing her do-it-yourself adventures and room reveals. Since 2019, she has collected 230,000 followers on Instagram and 400,000 on TikTok under her “Cass Makes Home” moniker.
Mostly self-taught, Smith, 30, has built furniture and shelving, tiled floors and showers and tackled major painting, electrical and plumbing jobs. Her goal is to inspire women to pick up all sorts of tools and conquer their fears of failure.
“Mistakes are part of the process,” she said. “I still get intimidated sometimes, but if you’re a little scared — or a lot scared — the reward at the end is going to be even bigger.”
A bathroom redesigned by Cass Smith at her home in Gloucester. Courtesy of David & Tiffany Photography (HANDOUT)
Two of Smith’s proudest accomplishments are painting the entire front exterior of her 3,500-square-foot home and custom designing a closet. The closet involved building shoe shelves from scratch, adding trim and a light fixture, wallpapering the ceiling and installing a mirror door that opens to a cabinet with additional shelving.
“It looked so messy and unfinished along the way, but then it turned into something beautiful,” she said. “I love that I got to share that whole journey.”
Smith makes money largely by partnering with different companies on product placements and promotions. She recently had to hire a manager and a nanny to help her juggle an unexpectedly busy career with child care.
Born in Alabama, Smith spent most of her childhood in Gloucester. She graduated from Gloucester High School, where she met her husband, David Smith, who served in the U.S. Navy and is now a firefighter. The couple has two daughters, Rainie, 10, and Emery, 4.
Growing up, Cass Smith was inspired by her grandmother and mother’s passion for interior design. Her parents renovated the family’s 150-year-old farmhouse themselves, and she and her twin sister often went antique shopping with their mom on weekends.
Smith briefly worked as a personal trainer but soon focused on raising her children as a young mother. She began tackling small projects around the house out of necessity when her husband was on months-long military deployments, usually watching YouTube videos for guidance.
“At first, it was just painting small areas and hanging pictures,” she recalled. “I learned to use a drill, and guess it evolved from there. Next thing I know, I’m trying to use a saw to build a console table with tapered legs.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith needed an outlet to keep herself from going stir-crazy and decided to create content about her fledgling DIY efforts on Instagram. Followers quickly responded to her cheerful mood, trial-and-error philosophy and unusual design choices.
“I want people to step out of the box and do exactly what they love,” she said. “I go for those bold colors and so-called ‘crazy’ styles. My only intention at first was to share my passions, but then I saw how what I was doing was inspiring other women. I didn’t expect that.”
About 94% of Smith’s followers, in fact, are women. One of them is Catie Hodnefield of Williamsburg, a mother of two young kids who discovered Smith’s Instagram page about two years ago. Hodnefield, 31, particularly admires Smith’s woodworking skills, from chopping up lumber herself to carving a decorative wooden frame for a flat screen television.
“She’s so detail-oriented and inspiring,” Hodnefield said. “If she messes up, she’s not going to give up. She’ll figure out how to fix it, and that makes you feel like maybe you could do a big project, too. She’s just a person you can relate to.”
Smith said the only downside of her job is occasional cyberbullying: “You’re already vulnerable when you share your life and the things you love with a large group of people. I’ve had to develop a thick skin, but reading rude comments is never easy.”
A bedroom redesigned by Cass Smith at her home in Gloucester. Courtesy of Cass Smith (HANDOUT)
As for her daughters, Smith said she’s proud to be showing them that women can do whatever they set their minds on. They already seem to have DIY-tendencies of their own: Rainie has pitched in on smaller tasks and enjoys virtual redecorating games on her iPad, while Emery is often by her mom’s side as she works.
“They’re used to seeing me rolling up my sleeves and getting to work on all kinds of stuff,” she said. “Having a woman be in that role is going to be completely normal for them, which makes me really happy.”
And Smith’s next planned project? Re-landscaping her backyard, including constructing a pergola for her deck.
To view Cass Smith’s posts on Instagram and TikTok, search by @cassmakeshome. Smith also has a website, cassmakeshome.com.
Alison Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org