NEW YORK — Ana White, who runs a popular website devoted to woodworking for women, came out with her first book this fall. The cover of "The Handbuilt Home" showcases a huge hammer and a fair amount of pink. Inside, close-up shots of well-crafted, brightly painted sideboards, console tables and play kitchens, look like they were taken from a Pottery Barn catalog, only White includes instructions on how to build them yourself. There are photos of smiling young women who've used White's carpentry plans, alongside their testimonials ("This great console table, with the matching hutch, really is a simple project") and tips ("It helps to use a shelving jig from a woodworking store").
White isn't the first to target an increasingly visible demographic of women who want to build their own furniture, but she's one of the savviest. Her website, ana-white.com, is an amalgam of the ideals of American womanhood, blending a pioneer woman's can-do spirit with the intimate tone of a mommy blogger. White, once a self-described Alaska "housewife" and stay-at-home mom, says she was "afraid" of power tools until a turning point in 2007. She and her husband were broke, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, and she realized that the only way they'd ever afford a well-made bed was if she made one herself. Five-foot-four and size 2, without the strength and heft one associates with home improvement gurus, White was also juggling the demands of a newborn baby when she designed and built that farmhouse bed. If I can do it, her message to other women goes, of course you can.
"I'm not a trained carpenter; I'm just a mom," White, 32, told me over the phone from Delta Junction, Alaska, which is so remote — seven hours from a Target — that she's had almost no choice but to embrace the DIY ethos for almost everything, from the paper banner for her daughter's birthday party to a tiny picnic table for her American Girl doll. "After I built my first piece of furniture, I realized it doesn't take an incredible amount of skill with the tools we have available today. It just takes a really good plan and someone telling you, 'Yes, you can do this.' "