This past February/March, my family and I received a free, $20,000 front-of-home makeover courtesy of HGTV’s “Curb Appeal the Block.” This past weekend, our episode aired, showing the transformation of a bland ranch home into a “Moroccan Materpiece” (their words). The day prior to our episode airing, I presented a slide show with a behind the scenes look at the whole made-for-TV construction project. People paid $10 and the funds went to Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Sand Francisco Bay Area. YES, people paid to watch a slide show!! And they heard some pretty good backstory, as well. [more on that event later]
We found out we'd been cast last year and were nothing but game for the entire experience. When our "Design Reveal Interview" was finally scheduled were were excited. Being girls, it became about WHAT to wear. This was a fun afternoon of being blown away by John Gidding's (host and designer) plan for our home, as well as being filmed for TV the first time. We had one goal for that initial interview: not to use the expression "Oh My God." We succeeded, but later John tried to complain that we weren't excited enough about the design. Sheesh. We really were just trying not to sound like idiots. How could we not be excited, especially when we got a design that reflected our actual desires, and John is even nicer and smarter than he is good looking.
Construction was set to begin in about 3 weeks. . .and during that time my partner Regan's beloved grandmother died. She had to leave town for the funeral but the show does go on so I got to hold down the fort for the first 3 days of filming. Wow. They showed up on time, jackhammer pounding, concrete saw screeching, sound guy reaching down my shirt, not to mention the puppy wimpering. . .I laugh to think I was initially planning on going to work that day. Lots of on-site time from John, Chip Wade, and Kimberly Lacy these first few days, and it was a drag to proceed without Regan (and why I show up on our episode so much). Hard for her to come home and jump into her new made-for-TV construction project with smiles ready, but she rallied like a champ. What follows are a selection of shots from my Habitat fundraiser slide show.
It was kind of unbelievable how quickly things came together, rain delays notwithstanding. The design called for extending the roof line of our existing, tiny porch and enlarging it altogether; adding a walkway (a must on CATB); and constructing built-in benches within a wall of shelves. New garage door, full landscaping (no, they don't gift an irrigation system :) and we'd be good to go.
Below is 1st day's progress.
They started the neighbor's "mini makeover" right away. This is typically Kimberly's domain and she is nothing but a pleasure to know. They chose the house across the street, as well as replacing a decrepit mailbox and a weathered, old neighborhood sign with a new one. Funny thing: the old "Strawberry" sign at the entrance to our neighborhood really was old and not looking good; and it was a 2-way sign, meaning you could read it when entering or exiting. A lovely, if slightly underwhelming, sign made of stencil-cut metal is read in only one direction, necessitating an on-site decision to bend the mounting bracket. The sign is now flush with the bushes, rather than sticking out perpendicularly to the street -- it is far less noticeable. Funny still is the absolute fracas a couple of neighbors made over the old sign being removed. Krystee Manifold, John's design assistant, had to field the flying emails on that one. The old sign, which has some local historic significance, is now proudly owned by the local Rec department.
We couldn't have been happier with the local companies hired to do our work. Harney Construction, out of San Rafael, is a family business in the best way. In the lower right corner in the above photo, you can see Kyle, grandson of owner Pat, helping out on the job. Bon Terra Landscapes from Corte Madera did our landscaping. Jonny, the owner, had his wife Lisa delivering his lunch on site, and when I told him I was the daughter of a florist he graciously allowed me to accompany him on plant-buying day. Harney's marketing director told me they are now using Bon Terra on a number of their jobs.
We also got a real kick out of the "Plaster Master," who looked as if he was beating egg whites rather than mixing plaster. He was an artist and a pleasure to watch, and went to work on the new posts and benches.
Above left is Charlie, Mr. Gidding, and the lovely Krystee Manifold. Krystee custom-made a whole mess of our pillows by treating some very cool, patterned paper with a waterproofing coating. Custom cushions were also made for the built-in benches, which are just out of view in the foreground above. Classic made-for-tv-moment: the cushions were made long enough, and kind-of deep enough. . .the only problem was they made 2 quite large cushions, rather than 4 medium sized. A mis-communication whereby the ledge in between the two benches wasn't accounted for. Double-wide. Krystee whipped out the trustee knife and sliced that foam up, cut the fabric to match, pinned it all closed in the back, and we were camera ready. Gotta love the can-do attitude of that girl. Of course the re-made cushions are in an even more attractive, higher-quality outdoor fabric, so that all worked out as it was supposed to.
In the photo above, the work is mostly DONE. . .all that was left was furniture placement and staging magic -- which CATB excels at!
Do you blame me? Crew had yet to add what were personally for me very exciting finishing touches: 2 olive trees at the top of the walkway, 2 lemon trees at the foot of the walkway. Both hold highly sentimental value for me growing up in Cali, and speak to some roots. I'm 1/4 Armenian and John is Turksih. . .we worked it out (!)
Close-up of shelf with pot cut-out detail. Nothing is blooming in March, so the crew grabbed some annuals to punch things up. Funny thing, the one edict Jonny and I shared when shopping for plants was NO PINK. Soo, these got replanted in a neighbor's yard after the shoot and the pots now hold succulents :)
Getting mic'd one last time. Clearly, I'm comfortable with the hand-down-the-front-of-my-blouse-routine at this point. Over my right shoulder is the lovely Cydney Fedric, mother of my partner Regan, visiting all the way from Jackson, MS, y'all. Yes, we had house guests for a portion of our made-for-TV construction project. Doesn't everybody?
Sorry for the date stamp in the photo, but this is a good shot of the other seating area. The couch area previously shown is to the left of the front door. AND we had to convince John Gidding to let us keep our Dutch door. We love it, and I kept opening only the top half each time he came to the house. He got the hint.
SO here's that before shot again
and A F T E R . . .
Note the lemon trees at the foot of the walkway, as well as the blue lattice work in the porch roof, which matches the paint color of the front door, naturally. You can also see the new garage door on the right, which does have a window in it. And which does hold the fit-cave, my surprisingly torturous, spin-bike/TRX/dumbbell/medicine ball/stability ball/mat-enabled space. Write me at Amyfitlanders@gmail.com to learn more about it.
We were given 5 empty frames the night before our big reveal and asked to fill them with our own photos. I've grown to love having these images on the wall (which range from the family dog to a favorite rock star). They add to the sense that this space is a part of the home. While we certainly received major Curb Appeal, what I tell all who comment is this: while that is true, the real sweetness comes when sitting in this amazing space, and viewing our street with a new perspective. The busy-ness feels farther away, without cutting us off from our neighbors. Our house is quite small and we are of modest means; I thanked John more than once for significantly enhancing the quality of life for me and my family. . .and our friends and neighbors, of course.
Definitely hectic once the ground was finally broken, I am nothing but grateful to HGTV, CATB, John, Kimberly, Chip, and all the local gang who worked on our project. We are thrilled with the results and would definitely recommend the experience to anyone. Most reality TV and makeover shows have casting information on their web sites. Visit HGTV.com for information on their shows.
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