press / la daily breeze

Coe of Redondo Beach cuts lumber in her garage workshop for a kitchen cabinet project. Tired of wating for home repairs to be completed, she trained herself to handle plumbing and lighting problems.

Coe has decorated her home with her own whimsical furniture creations that also can be found in galleries and stores.

Redondo Beach do-it-yourselfer Brooke Coe plays with her cat in a bedroom loaded with her inspiration and creations.

Los Angeles Daily Breeze

May 26, 2005

Mar 9, 2007

Do-it-Herselfers: Tool belts becoming a fashionable accessory for women

 

By Cerice A. Valenzuela
Photos by Brad Graverson
May 26, 2005

 

The stroll up the sloped driveway on Pullman Lane smells more like sawdust than spring blooms.

 

Two boys' bicycles, a candy apple red PT Cruiser and a big boy's baby blue Honda Shadow lost the war for space today - to another toy. The toothy blade of a table saw ravenous for wood whirrrrrs inside the Redondo Beach garage.

 

A neighbor's dining room chair sits to the side, as if waiting its turn. At the end of the driveway, a neighbor walking his dog blurts out, "I have a huge mirror I took off the wall. Could you use it for a project?"

 

The carpenter calls out, "Sure, bring it over."

 

Her manicured fingernails poke out from holes cut in the tips of tattered black gloves. She is wearing a weathered leather tool belt and high-heeled sneakers, and she drinks soda from a coffee cup.

 

That's right. Mr. Fixit is a Mrs.

 

Brooke Coe apprenticed as a girl, cutting wood and making furniture with her father. Now 34, she's a marketing professional on most days. But when the faucet breaks, the kitchen needs an update or neighbors need to borrow power tools, it's Brooke who goes into action.

 

She's renovated her kitchen, built a backyard deck and designed and built entertainment units, cabinets and coffee tables. Her funky furniture designs have been in galleries and stores, and they're posted on her Web site, www.huhdesigns.com.

 

She's the new face of do-it-yourself - female.

 

Yep. Amazon.com's hardware site sells nearly as many tools on Mother's Day as it does on Father's Day.

 

About 67 percent of women describe themselves as "do-it-yourselfers," and 30 percent of women are planning renovation or remodeling projects. Nearly 30 percent of female DIYers are confident in their ability to do home improvement work better and cheaper than a professional, according to The American Express Home Improvement Index.

 

Ok, the motorcycle belongs to Coe's husband, David, and the bikes belong to their sons, ages 3 and 5. But the big toys, the "boy" toys, they're hers. There's a bit of role reversal at this house. David loves to cook in the kitchen. Brooke prefers to work with power tools.

 

"My husband watches ESPN, and I watch the home shows. When I go to Home Depot I get the usual, 'What can I getcha honey?' I start telling them what I need, and you can see the shock on their faces before they say, 'Hey, you know what you're talking about.' "

 

Coe says most of the home improvements are her idea, but she gets tired of waiting for the repairs on the list to be completed. So she trained herself to tackle plumbing and lighting by reading and seeking advice.

 

The motivation might be never-ending honey-do lists, necessity or finances, but women are increasingly taking charge of home improvement projects.

 

Web sites such as www.be-jane.com are helping in that quest with how-to videos, animated tutorials and advice from other Janes - role models, like Coe, out there proving that women are capable of not only holding nail guns and drills, but using them the same way it's assumed that all men can.

 

Coe might not need advice on building her latest creation sketched on paper taped up in the garage, but when she needs advice on replacing the kitchen sink or adding a light fixture over the stove, she calls on resources, including the site.

 

Be Jane creators Eden Clark and Heidi Baker launched the Company in 2003 and the Web site in 2004, after their own personal trials.

 

Nearly five years ago, Baker bought a condo that needed work. "I figured, I'd ask my father. But then I remembered that my father's tool box contains the Yellow Pages."

 

Clark bought a house and enjoyed doing tiling and electrical work herself, but discovered few female-friendly resources along the way. Tools aren't ergonoimically built for a women's smaller hand and home improvement companies such as Home Depot and Lowe's host women-only workshops just once a year - thought their own figures show that about half of their purchases are made by female customers.

 

Ace Hardware says 42 percent of its customers are women - women who spend 30 to 40 percent more per visit than male customers do, according to The Motley Fool financial education company.

 

"So we set out to crate the most comprehensive site on line for women," Clark said. "Our goal is to become the resource for home improvement."

 

"It's a creative assumption that a woman is going to know what a compound miter saw is," Baker said. "We don't talk down to anyone, but we do offer information geared toward a woman."

 

The site offers home-buying advice and neighborhood comparisons, too.

 

Baker sold her condo to fund the business. Her Realtor said all her elbow grease made the place "a diamond in a cardboard box."

 

"There are 17 million homes owned by single women and by 2010 that number is expected to be 31 million. That's close to 28 percent of all households in the country," Baker said.

 

 

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