A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet Drew and Jonathan Scott in person as they promoted their new home furnishings site, Casaza. And I was even LUCKIER because I ended up winning the giveaway for a 30 minute design consultation with the brothers as well as a $1,000 credit to the Casaza site!

Because Drew and Jonathan are busy traveling and filming on location in Calgary, the consultation was online via Skype. I was SUPER nervous – seriously, these guys are world-renowned real estate/renovation/design GODS. Why wouldn’t I be nervous?! Despite the number of times Matt reminded me, they’re just people… but they can literally do everything and have made a hugely successful empire because of it. But, Matt was totally right – I had nothing to be nervous about. Drew and Jonathan were both so incredibly nice and made the whole experience really comfortable and engaging. And yes, Matt got to be a part of the consultation too!

Right off the bat, Jonathan asked me if I was a designer. I had sent over a floor plan and photos of my apartment ahead of time so that they could be better prepared for the conversation and make the best use of our time without them physically being there to see what I had done so far. I was SO flattered that he had assumed I was professionally in the field, but I explained to him that while I do love interior design, it really is more of a hobby and my career is based around graphic and web design.

Jonathan explained that he felt I had a really good eye and that they didn’t need to “retrain” me on the stuff I was already doing. He also shared with us that he started out his career as a graphic designer, too (which I may have already known from my research…).

Drew echoed Jonathan’s sentiment that they didn’t have a ton to critique design-wise about our apartment, and encouraged us to ask them whatever questions we had since we had the full half hour to chat. Of course it was an amazing thing to hear coming from such highly-esteemed designers. Personally I would have had plenty of things to critique about our apartment, but that’s just because I’m super nit-picky (and probably a little crazy).

As the conversation progressed, both Jonathan and Drew did have a bit more feedback to share about certain areas of the apartment. We all agreed that the bedroom needs a lot of work – it’s an area I have yet to focus on, hence why I don’t usually post photos of that space. Luckily, my plan is to use the $1,000 Casaza credit to transform the bedroom from a blank canvas into a tranquil retreat with a photo-worthy design.

The consultation was an awesome learning experience and I did take away a few key insights that I think will really affect how I approach design going forward:

1. Create a gender-neutral space by finding common ground.

One of the first questions I raised to Drew and Jonathan was about creating a space that both Matt and I can enjoy. This is the first time I’ve ever lived with someone of the opposite sex, and I don’t want the apartment to feel blatantly feminine. Not to say my taste is super “girly,” but I want Matt to feel like this is his space too, not just my space that he is living in.

Drew and Jonathan explained that there is a lot about their process that you don’t see in the Property Brothers show. They create inspiration boards for each homeowner, and there is a lot of back and forth that doesn’t make the final cut of the episode. Jonathan shared that he usually encourages his clients to go online (Google, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) and collect visuals of what they like, from fabrics to colors to textures to pieces of furniture. Then they come back together, whether it be with the roommate, spouse, or designer, to collaborate once they have a better sense of their style. His way to describe it: “Tinder for furniture.”

They did share that they thought I was already doing a good job bringing some masculinity into the space, using earth tones and grays in our decor pieces. A suggestion they gave was to avoid “glam” pieces, like rhinestones and crystals, which they joked that Matt would love. Matt did not agree.

2. It’s fun to continually improve your space, but it can get expensive.

The first step is admitting you have a problem – and I definitely have this problem. I LOVE finding new items to add to the space and swapping out pieces I feel need a refresh. After reading Joanna Gaines’s new book, Homebody, I was pleasantly surprised to learn she feels the same way (I finished the whole thing in one night, no biggie). But, I figured it couldn’t hurt to raise this question to Jonathan and Drew as well to get another perspective.

First, they asked me if it’s “the itch” that has me constantly wanting to change things up, or if it’s for a specific purpose. For me, it’s definitely the itch.

I think (and I wish I had thought to explain this in the moment… stage fright, I guess) it’s a way for me to channel not only my creativity, but also my desire to be designing homes. I have such a passion for creating beautiful, livable spaces, and the only time I get to feed that passion is when I’m working on my own apartment. It’s honestly a drive I can’t control, and I think it makes me borderline obsessive about our space. And the feeling I get when I walk into Target and see all the new home decor items available is one of my favorite feelings – it’s comparable to a high.

In any case, Jonathan and Drew did warn me that while it can be a lot of fun, there are potentially dangerous aspects of this type of behavior. Jonathan, who was also a financial advisor in a past life (what hasn’t this guy done?!), explained that a lot of smaller items will eventually add up, and that money spent on the little things like pillows, vases, etc. could have been used for a bigger ticket item.

Drew did mention, however, that once you have your own house it feels more like… well, like it’s your own, whereas when you are renting you feel like you are constantly trying to tweak someone else’s place. But he did also warn that constant tweaking and nit-picking can often get very annoying for the other person living with you (oops… sorry, Matt!).

3. Try and solve your “lifestyle problems” first when designing a space.

This one sort of goes hand-in-hand with the previous question. Although I do love to be constantly changing and updating our space, Jonathan and Drew shared that, first and foremost, your home should make your life easier.

Before you go out and start buying all of these little decor pieces that you think look really nice, understand what your frustrations are. Do you have a lack of storage in your home? If so, look for pieces that solve this problem. Look for chaise lounges with room for storage, or nesting tables that can be stacked one above the other when not in use. If you take this approach, make a list of the things you can and can’t live without, and try to solve your lifestyle problems first.

4. Random is okay.

This is definitely something I’ve struggled with – I naturally gravitate towards uniformity and organization. For me, “random” is a challenge. And by random, I mean a few different things. In the scope of my conversation with Drew and Jonathan, we touched upon “random” in terms of the nightstands in our bedroom and the gallery wall above our couch.

When it comes to the bedroom, I shared with Drew and Jonathan that the dimensions of the room (11’6″ x 11’6″) make it hard to do much with the space beyond simply having a bed, two side tables, and a dresser. They agreed that yes, it’s a very small space and there isn’t a lot that can be done. Jonathan explained, however, that he thinks we could do something more exciting with the nightstands. He doesn’t believe both nightstands have to be the same, and that we could potentially go for a more eclectic feel.

Personally, I am a big fan of symmetry; there’s just something so visually pleasing to me about having the same nightstand and same lamp on each side of the bed. It’s expected, it’s routine. But even saying that out loud (or, in writing rather) sounds super boring. So, thinking outside the box here and going out of my comfort zone to challenge myself to find two different nightstands that complement each other (while creating a more eclectic feel) is something that I never would have thought to do otherwise.

As we were discussing the gallery wall above the couch, I explained to Drew and Jonathan that I felt it was a bit undersized (and had been under the impression when I ordered the frame that the whole gallery would be a bit bigger).

They agreed that yes, it was probably too small for the area. But, beyond that, Jonathan explained that it was all a bit too uniform to him. He didn’t like the symmetry of it, and felt like a more random arrangement would look better in the space. He suggested that since I already had a bunch of smaller black frames from this gallery, to go out and buy some larger black frames and then place them all randomly on the wall to make a more visually exciting arrangement. They also suggested using construction paper and tape to plan out the gallery wall before mounting to avoid any additional accidental wall holes.

5. Start saving now for your future home.

This one seems so obvious, but hearing it from seasoned pros like these guys truly struck home. We explained to Drew and Jonathan that we are currently renting this apartment and have another year and a half on the lease. They asked when we were planning to buy a house – a question which had both of us a bit tongue tied.

They explained that the sooner you can get into home ownership the better because you can grow with the market, and that there are a lot of things you can do that not only add equity to the home but also function with your life better. We agreed that while this was likely true, it’s a difficult thing to think about when living so close to the city.

Jonathan shared that in terms of saving for a home, it can actually be easy and even fun. He explained that if you were making $60,000 a year, at the end of the year you’ve spent everything you have. Then, say you get a raise and make $65,000 a year. At the end of the year, do you have an extra $5,000 lying around? No, because we have the natural tendency to spend all of the money we have. So, he recommended you be diligent and start small, by putting away even $50 per month and then increasing it from there. He’s seen clients who put several hundred away per month and suddenly have this wealth of cash that they can then use towards a down payment on a house or a full renovation of their existing property.

Of course, after all this talk of buying our own house, I asked Drew and Jonathan if they would film Property Brothers in New Jersey in a year and a half to help us buy our first home – to which Drew answered, “Perfect, and we’ll have you join our design team.”

And then I think I died.

(He was clearly kidding, but a girl can dream!)

Thank you so much to Drew and Jonathan Scott for taking the time out of their incredibly busy schedules to speak with us, and to Casaza for making the whole experience possible. I’m so excited to transform our bedroom space with the $1,000 Casaza credit and can’t wait to share the finished product with you!

Make sure to check out Casaza.com and follow @Casaza on Instagram.