In 2017, Ashley Harrison, a stay-at-home mother with four children, turned her Instagram account, @ourvictorianitalianate, into a journal to keep in touch with friends and family after she and her husband, Nathan Harrison, who works in insurance, moved into an 1858 house in St. Louis and began restoring it.
It never occurred to her that complete strangers would be interested in photos of her house being fixed up. But soon she had 200 followers, most of whom she didn’t know. Now, with more than 35,000 followers, she is baffled by the attention.
“When it first started happening, I was like, ‘O.K., this is strange, who is this lady?’ Once I hit 500 followers, I was like, ‘This is just bizarre,’” said Ms. Harrison, 36. “It is a little bit unsettling to think that there are nearly 40,000 strangers who could come and knock on my door.”
Her account has documented the extensive renovation of her Victorian house, which was vacant before she and her husband bought it and expanded it to 6,800 square feet. They added a new kitchen, a mudroom, a three-car detached garage and a porte-cochere. They also turned an outbuilding into a pool house and added an in-ground pool this summer. “I think people like a comeback story,” she said of the account’s popularity.
Followers have asked for floor plans and for video tours of the upstairs bedrooms, which Ms. Harrison declined to share, concerned that strangers would know where her children slept. Like many with popular accounts, she has been asked to give private tours of her property. (She refused.) Others say fans have driven past their homes and greeted them in the supermarket or at restaurants.
Marketers have come knocking, too, offering Ms. Harrison opportunities to promote merchandise. While she accepts some opportunities, she has turned down many, reluctant to promote products she wouldn’t typically buy. “If this becomes something that’s not authentic, then I don’t think it’s going to be something that brings me joy,” she said. “Who can go and redo a room every month?”