Mr. Kate's Joey And Kate On Inspiration, Spring Collections, And More - Exclusive Interview

Some of us would like to think that our interior design chops are unmatched, but Kate Albrecht and Joey Zehr of Mr. Kate can express the very sentiment and actually mean it. The genius minds behind the lifestyle and DIY blog by the same name, Albrecht and Zehr have been impacting interior design trends since 2011 and making a name for themselves on social media and YouTube as a result. From working with the biggest YouTube stars to launching their very own furniture line and collecting three million subscribers along the way, Albrecht and Zehr have kept fans inspired and entertained for more than a decade. So what's the secret to their success, and how have they achieved such impressive milestones? We were dying to know the answers, so what did we do? We asked them ourselves.

Albrecht and Zehr joined us from their self-described fixer upper in Hawaii, where they relocated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Los Angeles life had been good to the couple, who paved their way in interior design on YouTube, but the time had come to leave the City of Angels behind for the island life. While shipping isn't nearly as easy on the island as it is on the mainland, according to Albrecht, the couple's new house has inspired a better quality of life and interior design visions. What did Albrecht and Zehr have to say about their interior influences, their new spring collection, and their life as a married, working couple? Here's everything they told us and more in an exclusive sit-down interview.

How did the Mr. Kate blog come about?

Before we get into your spring collection and that project that you're working on, I'd love for you to take me all the way back to the early days of Mr. Kate, it started as a lifestyle blog. So what were those early days like, just engaging with readers and growing over time?

Kate Albrecht: Yeah, it started out as a passion project. Really, for me I like a DIY and all-around style, aesthetic enthusiast. It was really in the heyday of the blogging days, [with] the fashion bloggers and all that. I had a jewelry line that I'd been selling on Etsy, and then I started a website and basically the blog was chronicling my creative process.

A lot of my creative process was in my home and doing home projects and things like that. Because I had a history of going to film school, I thought, "Okay, well, I should make some videos about this and post them on YouTube." That blew up.

Joey Zehr: Well, it was before YouTube was a thing.

Albrecht: Yeah. I didn't even realize that was a community and so I was posting the videos on YouTube so that I could then embed them into my blog, but then, I'd go to YouTube and see all these comments on the actual YouTube platform. I was like, "Oh, people actually use this as a social thing in a way." That was really amazing because I got such active, real time feedback from people on the projects that they liked and that was really how we were able to ultimately refine this whole creative bubble that I had going on into the home sphere.

About what year was that when you started really engaging on YouTube, if you recall?

Albrecht: [It was probably around 2013] when we started really blowing up?

Zehr: A decade ago is when we started really taking it serious ... I was always behind the camera, and then when we did a fixer upper in LA, we decided to film the whole process. That's when we really started to dial in and we decided to only do interior design. That's when the audience blew up. That series probably started in –

Albrecht: That was 2013 [or] 2014.

Kate and Joey started their YouTube careers at the perfect time

[2014 was] right around the time that YouTubers started to come to fruition. It sounds like you got in maybe unintentionally at the right time to really take advantage of that wave.

Albrecht: Exactly.

Zehr: Yeah, and because we were doing that house series, we ... started getting bombarded with requests from other people. We noticed a lot of other YouTubers were asking us to help them, so we started helping other YouTubers. Our first show is called ["OMG We Bought a House"], and then we created another show called "OMG We're Coming Over," which was basically us going to other YouTubers' homes. We basically have done the biggest people on YouTube. We've gone into their [homes] and made over spaces with them. We usually do it with them. 

Albrecht: We start the project with them and then make them go away so that it can be a surprise.

Yeah, that kind of crossover project, I'm sure it really resonated with viewers as well.

Albrecht: That was also when YouTube collabs were the thing to do, and it was a great way for us to market ourselves while also doing what we were good at in our niche and it was cool. We work with all the big beauty YouTubers and all the people were in another category.

Now you're looking at this hugely successful, 500 million+ plus [channel]. Could you ever have predicted in those very early days that you'd amass this kind of following?

Albrecht: No way.

Zehr: I knew that Kate had that driving power. The sparks at the beginning of the business were around Kate being motivated, because the way our dynamic works is she's really the teacher and I'm the dude that's around doing stuff. I saw that in our personal lives ... We've been together for probably 14 years or something like that.

Albrecht: Something like that, what about it?

Zehr: We're married, but when [we] first started dating, the first thing I noticed when I walked into her house as a 22 year old –

Albrecht: No, you were 24. Oh my God.

Zehr: It was the first decorated apartment I'd ever stepped foot into, and I'm like, "Holy sh*t," you can decorate an apartment like this.

Albrecht: He was used to dudes' apartments in Boston. He would come to LA to visit.

Zehr: Then, [during] our first trip to meet my family in Indiana, we made over my dad's office. That was our first product together.

Albrecht: Shopping only at the Goodwill, because we literally had a $100 budget from his dad.

Don't underestimate the Goodwill though. They've got deals.

Albrecht: We have actually a whole series of videos where we only shop at their stores and it's like [an] under $300 room makeover. We love a thrift find.

What did the early days of Mr. Kate look like?

Joey Zehr: [As for] the relationship and the beginnings of Mr. Kate, I was behind the scenes basically championing Kate to everyone. As awkward as it is, we used to say that I was the manager, even though that's so cringey. I would basically talk to and explain to people how talented she was. It was also key to understanding — I'm sure she still doesn't fully grasp how talented she is, but [the] point is that I was all in.

Kate Albrecht: Thanks, Joey.

Zehr: On her skills. I'm not surprised.

Albrecht: I'm surprised because I didn't even really fathom that as a possibility.

Zehr: Well, that's why we're good together.

Albrecht: Also, not totally [knowing about] this really crucial time on YouTube where [one of] the most viewed videos [was] "Charlie Bit My Finger," [and they're] these random things. It wasn't about creators.

The notion of making a career out of YouTube and social media was still very new at that point.

Albrecht: Exactly. I had no idea of the possibilities, which is what is such a unique thing about being in a social media career in this more traditional space of interior design. In this Wild West of YouTube and social media, you're blending the two things and you don't necessarily know what is possible on the social side of things. It is bringing a new viewpoint to an old school thing.

I like that you stand out from the home design crowd because you don't promote a singular design style. You don't just do farmhouse. You don't just do, mid-century like, it's a cool eclectic mix. So what was your thought process behind having that approach rather than having a singular or look that you really went for?

Albrecht: I always have called myself a creative weirdo and it was a name that used to be used negatively about me when I was younger, like "You're weird for dressing or doing things differently," and I now wear it as a badge of honor.

Zehr: You've always [worn] it as a badge of honor.

Albrecht: I have and even now, moreso, it's a part of our brand to empower the weirdo creative side of people, that self expression, that you take your inner self and express it out into the world through your personal style or the way that you decorate your home and how there is that deeper meaning to it.

Who am I to judge how people want to express themselves? That's why I never try to imprint my personal style onto people because I'm all about trying to celebrate their personal style. I don't knock the designers. There are some amazing designers who have such a perspective and that's their specialty, but yeah, our specialty is empowering the creative voice in everyone and really helping guide them with the tips and tricks on how to express that fire inside.

How do Kate and Joey balance their working and personal lives?

Is there a project or a handful of projects that have really stood out to you after all this time?

Zehr: The project we're working on right now is very standout. We're doing a fixer upper in Hawaii, which is very intense and a lot of work with such an incredible experience, because we also have a two-year-old kid, which is our most recent development besides the house. Having him here for that whole process is also very magical, because between him helping us paint room [and] playing out in the tropical garden and picking fruits and stuff, it's incredible. It already is our most memorable project.

I was going to ask you a little later on, but one of the reasons why fans really love you guys is you're super relatable. You're married, you've got a two-year-old. I have neither of those things, but I have a two-year-old nephew. I'm in that wheelhouse of knowing how crazy they can be, but also so lovable and so into everything. What have been some of the highs and lows of balancing, working, living together, being parents, what has all of that been like for you guys?

Albrecht: We had so many [projects] we did around LA from all the big YouTubers and would drive to their various mansions to help pull their rooms together. We brought our kid along with us since he was born. Because we work together, we were like, "Let's bring him with us [with] him in a carrier." He's been around us being a working couple and seeing the streets.

Zehr: That actually reminds me of another memorable product we did. We bought an airstream ... but our main function of the airstream was so that we could bring our kid to all of our projects with us.

Albrecht: It was like his trailer.

Zehr: Because we would always bring him into these homes, and then he would be like... Not only did we do YouTubers, but we did a lot of viewers' rooms. We did some more give back rooms and there would be a lot of situations where we would end up in very dirty rooms. We felt bad, bringing our kid to play in there all day. We were like, "Let's make a magical bus so that he thinks this is all really fun and exciting and wherever we go, he can have this airstream with us." That was a really cool project.

Albrecht: Yeah. We made it very '60s retro with a mural inside and stuff. That was fun. We chose the makeovers I was seeing for the before and after potential, because we bought for the [toddler-friendly aspect].

Zehr: We've ended up in a lot of very interesting spaces.

Albrecht: Yeah. Working as a couple has been something that naturally snowballed for us. It wasn't this big sit down that we had where it was like, "Okay, we're going to work together." People have often asked us what our secret is. Because we have such very specific different skill sets that we both enjoy flourishing within, we can let the other one — Joey lets me run with the design, trust my decisions on that. I let him run with the behind the scenes business stuff.

You're not stepping on each other's toes.

Albrecht: Exactly. That's really been our secret, but it doesn't come without its challenges. Most entrepreneurs will say that the biggest thing is when to stop working, because if you're not working, then no one else is.

Kate and Joey dish about their new spring collection

Speaking of work, you're launching so many things, wallpaper, murals, bedding, tiles, so much more in retail stores. I'd love to know how it came about, [and] what you're hoping consumers will gain from purchasing your products is that must just sound so wild.

Albrecht: It's so crazy. It's such a "pinch-me" moment. I haven't gotten over [it]. I've got lots of pinch marks because yeah, it is so beyond crazy because I consume so much of that stuff already. I'm a shopper of all those [like Wells Sofas], and that's how we've ever pulled off any of our makeovers. Now, to have to come at it from the perspective of the designer, but also having all of the budget saving awareness and things that I've always maintained as a shopper, it's really helped inform our lines.

Zehr: Yeah. It's really a dream come true, because I think we've envisioned this for a long time and ... it was a matter of continuing to try to get people on board, but also continuing to perfect what we do. In life, things eventually happen when they're meant to happen, based on how much effort you put in.

We really had to grow this brand, to the point where it's happened so organically that even though we've been wanting to happen forever, it feels like it happened at the right time. Last year, we launched the beginning of that, which was our furniture line.

We started with beds and sofas and chairs, so all soft pieces. We recently launched hard case pieces, which are desks and tables and dressers and now it's like phase two of that or phase three. We're launching the other pieces right at home. It's this crazy [thing], taking what we created online into people's homes, which our goal has always been, to be helpful to people. That's one of the cornerstones of the product line, and now we can actually bring that helpfulness into people's homes.

It sounds like it came together really authentically, which is always a silver lining that people want, so that's great.

Albrecht: We definitely bring that same philosophy of, "There's no perfect style." When we speak about our wallpaper, for example, we have patterns that will literally sit with any aesthetic. Whether you're a lover of neutrals [or] more muted patterns, we've got those and then we've got the totally loud and crazy colorful, busy ones as well, and then everything in between. I'm really excited about that because I feel like we are very nondiscriminatory in that sense of a product offering.

Zehr: For us, we really want to be helpful to people. The idea that we're available for all aesthetics is really important, and also any way that we can help in the home. The fact that we are doing peel and stick wallpaper is super helpful for everyone, if you're an owner or a renter.

I was going to say, it should be rent friendly.

Zehr: Yes, and then also with our furniture, we try to keep in mind small spaces or convertibility. Everything we're doing for price points, we're trying to make sure that it's as helpful and as beautiful as possible, because that's at the core of our brand and at the core of who we are and ultimately who Kate is, which is a very helpful mama.

Why did Kate and Joey leave Los Angeles and settle in Hawaii?

We've chatted about the channel, how it came together, [and] this project coming up. I'd love to talk to you a little bit about your island life. Why Hawaii, why'd you take the plunge to leave LA? I'm in LA, we could have been neighbors. I could have been your upcoming project. I just moved, so I need furniture, but why Hawaii? And what has life on the island been like thus far?

Albrecht: [Like] a lot of people through the pandemic, it's a lot of examination of our life and lifestyle. We had been in our LA house for eight years and in LA working for over a decade and we were ready for a change. Especially when you have a kid, you really are aware of the day-to-day lifestyle of enjoying the outdoors and things like that. The smog of LA was getting a little intense, going to the park all the time with our kid. I guess it was a blessing we were all in masks.

We really wanted a big shift. Both Joey and I have always enjoyed challenging ourselves. This seemed like something wonderfully scary in a good way, because it was such an adventure. We purchased the house basically via a FaceTime tour with our real estate.

Albrecht: Yeah, it was this wild thing. It's a really exciting shift in content for us to get back into a project that's related to us and our lives now as a family. There's so many different things that come up through interior design that are a really fun exercise to do it here in a tropical setting. It's harder with shipping and all that on an island, but we're doing it.

Zehr: At the core, our annual trip was always to Hawaii. We've always talked about [how] we've done what everyone does when they're on vacation. What if we moved here? The thing that we've always done and what we're trying to help people do is even if it's as simple as what you're doing in your space, it's always about [taking] the plunge. Don't live in a world of "what ifs."

This is on a very large scale, but it was like, "Let's take the plunge, let's do it." It was the right time and the right place. We knew we wanted to be done with our house because we had a kid, like Kate said, so we took that plunge. It's insane. It's beautiful here but this house, it's already flooded once. There's so much going on in here. We're living in the project as we work on it.

Albrecht: For sure, a fixer up.

Zehr: It's kind of a thing for Moon to grow up in and yeah, it's been a very magical experience.

Albrecht: The change in setting also has really helped us with the product lines, too, having that much more inspiration around me and stuff like that. It's been really good because it's a reawakening, in a way.

What should fans expect to see next from Kate and Joey?

What can fans expect to see from you guys next? All these new inspirational pulls around you.

Zehr: We're going to continue this goal of trying to really bring the "Mr. Kate" aesthetic into the world and out of your screen. That's a big thing for us: How can we create more opportunities for people to get their hands on our tools that can help them make their homes and spaces representative of their inner cells? That's a huge goal for us. You're going to continue to see us doing that in every way possible. We have a new app that we're working on. [That's] another example of another tangible, helpful thing for people to use outside the YouTube thing.

In the content world, we're going to keep doing what we do because that's in our blood and we have some really cool projects lined up for this house. We're waiting on our permits. Right now, we're doing this house in two phases. Right now, we're in the decorating phase, which is showing people how to create a beautiful space without having to do a bunch of work, which is really helpful.

Albrecht: I call it the "lipstick on a pig" phase. These are the very run down houses, which, a lot of people are in this situation, whether or not it's a rental or whatever. It's those quick and easy budget-friendly ways to make your space around you beautiful and way more bearable. That's where we're at right now while we wait for the permits, and then come permits, it will be in full renovation mode. It's really cool because it's blending these two worlds — we started out being the DIY, budget-friendly, scrappy decorator. We're doing that right now and then we're going to go into the big girl/big boy world of demolition. 

We have this loyal audience of people that have been following us for so many years who are, in a way, experts themselves because they've watched us do all these projects now. Being able to offer them this range of products that they can interpret on their own [and sharing] the pictures, it becomes a whole extension of this community that we already have. That's so exciting.

Subscribe to the "Mr. Kate" YouTube channel to follow all of Kate and Joey's DIY and interior design projects. You can also check out the official "Mr. Kate" collection on their website.