An Army wife with an eye for design and a knack for decorating on a dime decided to put her talents to good use by starting a web series to help showcase how military families can make a temporary space feel like a forever home.
Maria Reed told ABC News that after five moves in 15 years with her husband Patrick Reed, who is an active duty E6-P (staff sargeant, promotable) in the Army, she has become a professional at packing up, moving and making a new space feel like their own.
"I realized I’ve got this insider knowledge so I said, 'let’s put this to use,'" Reed, who currently resides on base at Fort Hood, Texas, said. "I hate hearing military families say, 'they'll wait to do a home project until they get a forever home.' Whether it’s a year or however long that family will have memories in that place, so I want to make it as beautiful as possible for that time."
The computer science teacher and mother of two teens, 14-year-old Parker and 13-year-old Patrick, worked in television and film production for nearly 20 years before her husband enlisted in the military.
While binge-watching home makeover shows on Netflix, she said, she conceptualized a design series catering to local military families who often have to pick up and move every couple of years and are in need of design help. When she asked other military spouses what they thought of her concept, she said there was "a resounding 'yes, we need this.'"
"We all kind of have this like, this is our tribe mentality in a way," she said of fellow military families.
Reed said she gets "crafty" with design transformations.
"When you live in rental or military housing you can’t always make permanent changes like painting the walls, so one of my favorite hacks is using removable wallpaper to create accent walls," she said. "It’s so easy."
"A lot of times we will buy and refurbish stuff, it just depends what we're working on," she said.
"There are so many people in the community who want to help donate their time and materials when they can," she explained.
Now, Reed finds families through online submissions and nominations from the community to feature on her web series. After meeting with the family, she creates a design based on their lifestyle and gets to work.
"I get thousands of emails nominating families. I wish I could do it for everyone but I have to think of budget and logistics," she explained. "We hear about the families' stories and it's really difficult but we pick what we can do locally to make a difference right now."
She posts her design transformations on Facebook. The family is kept in the dark adding a "surprise element at the end is absolutely beautiful."
Reed was particularly proud of her most recent transformation for a military child's bedroom, which is an area she said can be easily forgotten about after a move.
Kimber Tremper, 27, met Reed through crafting when she first moved to Fort Hood and has helped Reed design materials for other home decor projects, but never got around to doing her own.
In one day, Reed transformed Tremper's 6-year-old daughter McKenzie's bedroom with neutral wallpaper, soft pastel accents and added simple functional storage and organization solutions.
"I love the simplicity of it all. It really made me take a step back to look at the rest of my house and it taught me to purge and get it on the level of my daughter's room," she said of Reed's influence on her home beyond the project. Tremper said her husband, who's currently deployed, was "blown away and incredibly grateful" after seeing the new space on FaceTime.
Tremper took away a key tip that she plans to utilize in this home and for any future moves. "Keeping things on a monochromatic scale with pops of pastel... white walls in the military is one of those dreaded things so Maria really made it embraceable," she said.
The reinvigorated crafty mother of one said McKenzie has never kept her room this clean, adding, "Every morning she makes her bed exactly the way Maria made it and this room has become her happy place. It's amazing."
Check out Reed's full list of top DIY tips for revamping a space.
-- Work with a neutral palette for paint and large furniture pieces.
-- Use removable wallpaper for an accent wall.
-- Add pops of color: throw pillows, small decorative accents.
-- Refurbish older furniture with chalk paint.
-- Add life and color with fresh or faux flowers.
-- Maximize storage with bins, baskets and decorative boxes.
-- Hang curtains almost to ceiling to raise your eye line.
-- Less is more, declutter, purge and organize.