Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Original Back Door of The Country Victorian

I've/we've been working to finish The Country Victorian since filming wrapped in the spring of 2015.  It makes the most sense to do everything right the first time.  However, there are situations when that's not possible and in those circumstances you have to be up for the extra time, expense, and effort to go back to fix and finish things as necessary or required. 

On one hand, it really stinks because I just prefer to address all the issues in my normal sequence that comes with rehabbing an extremely run-down home.  However, getting to do one of my projects for TV is such a special opportunity, so much fun in a different way, I've been willing to set some things aside  to experience the adventure of renovating a Pig's Ear on television.

The original back door is a good example of how things were different from the start for the TV House.  We filmed the test reel in early Nov. 2013, before I actually owned the property.  This took a day and a half for a three minute clip (similar to a short movie trailer).  In December, the network producer from HGTV/DIY called me with the exciting news that our renovation would be a four episode series and that'd we'd start filming in January!  From there our four episode series grew to six!   ...before it just about got scrapped completely.  :( 

From almost nothing, we were simply thankful to be given the green light for the pilot and decided that the most practical thing to do on this episode was an exterior makeover.  The pilot was filmed in March and took two weeks.  We finished filming with a strong mixture of expectations and confident assurances for us resuming the filming/renovations in May or June.  April, May, June, and July came and went as I tried to keep busy renovating the detached garage.  Near the end of the summer with school about to start, I needed to stop waiting and get to work, but my communication with both the network or the production company was sparse.  This concerned me and made me feel I was wasting time waiting.  In addition, I'd been contacted by another network through a completely different production company in the spring so I'd been mulling that over as I waited.

After the kids went back to school in August, I was excited to get started with the demolition phase and relieved to be making progress.  Then DIY called with an air date for American Rehab Charleston and I was pleased, most notably because I was aware that a lot of my friends and family were skeptical of me actually being filmed for a television show  (... and who wouldn't be?)  There is a difference between excitement and simple relief.  From December to August I was equally aware that my optimistic enthusiasm about future TV work had cooled considerably.  I took news of the air date for what it was and just kept working on the house.  Then ARC rated well enough for the pick-up of the remaining five episodes and my producer at the network asked me to stop my demo work.  This was mid fall and we then started to plan for how we'd move forward with a third of the house gutted, not just to the studs, but to the dirt below the crawl space.  This get's me to the original back door, since during this time, I put it back up in the hallway where it had hung for over a hundred years.

I'm telling all of this history to explain how this back door story got overlooked for the filming.  In so many ways this twelve month process was overly nutty; from four episodes to six, to maybe nothing, then down to one, waiting, no communication, with interest from another network mixed in, I took the door down and put it back up several times so the producers could tell our renovation story in a way that would made sense to a viewer in three hours of television.  This served as good prep for filming the show because there's some inefficient use of time for the sake of TV and doing  the same things repeatedly is hardly efficient or practical, but when it turns out good for television, it feels worthwhile. 

My houses are bad and require so much work.  My approach makes them economically practical, but renovating them for a television show forces a lot of that practicality to be thrown out the window.  It's very expensive.  After three cumulative months of filming there was no money left to finish the back of the house, which included a bedroom, the hall bath, the mudroom, laundry, and a couple closets.  So after filming I started to finish the house, working my way out the back door as I progressed.  The door to the LR was one of the last things, but I had filmed my thoughts and plans somewhere in the middle of the chaos when my wife Diann and I were there with the kiddos. 


The Country Victorian
aka The TV House
Related Posts:

The pictures I took along the way help tell the rest of the story.

Ready for a new color.

View of the Mudroom/Laundry Room Door.

This is where the old door used to be.

This old wooden back door was too great to not incorporate in the rehab.  I'm really proud of how it got included into the renovation and to make this door even better it has crystal knobs that still function beautifully.  It's a cool part of the oldest part of the house, it's another way to allow more natural light into the mudroom, and you can check on the status of the laundry without opening the door.  I really enjoy the challenge of figuring how to wisely reuse something into the rehab and people seem to appreciate this effort.  Plus, it just feels right to me to do things like this.

The work on the Country Victorian is still ongoing.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Appleby House - Flat Balusters

When I bought the Appleby House (aka The Queen Anne Craftsman) in February, flat balusters were strewn throughout the old, condemned home.  There were a few on the front porch, a couple in the foyer, and some in the office that we would transform into the dining room.  In June, when we were demoing the old kitchen that had been added onto the porch, we discovered even more of the original balusters encased in the wall, excellently preserved for us to use in our renovation. This discovery ultimately became part of the show introduction for Restoring Charleston and more of this moment was shared in Episode 5, Appleby of My Eye.

This is Laura Ingalls Wilder on a porch with
balusters like those on The Appleby House
We had enough salvaged, original balusters to use on the side porch next to the master bedroom, but we needed dozens for the front, 'L' shaped porch.  These were replicated by Withers Industries (Summerville, SC) and also part of the fifth episode.

On Nov. 11th, a woman named Beverly posted a question on, The Seven Hour Marathon about the dimensions of these flat balusters.  The drawing took me a little longer than I had expected, but I now have something I can share in a post with the measurements.  Better late than never.  These are six inches wide and 30" tall.  The sketch below contains more specific dimensions.

View of front porch after.  Same view as above.

Original flat balusters in the future dining room.
Orig. balusters left behind in the foyer.

Thanks again for your question Beverly and for watching the show.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Restoring Charleston: Viewing Options

DIY Network

Wed., Nov. 16th, 

Thurs., Nov. 17th, 

Thurs., Nov. 17th, 

Hi Folks!

We worked really hard this summer and had a lot of fun while we rehabbed.  I'm glad this is coming through in the shows.  As you may have noticed, the airing of this series has had some stiff competition for viewership.  In our first week, we were up against the final Presidential Debate.  Week 2 had us on at the same time as Game 2 of the World Series.  The third week we were on with the Country Music Awards and epic Game 7 when the Cubs beat the Indians in extra innings.  And last week we were on opposite many programs sorting out the results of the historic election.     

We have a couple more chances for everyone to see what we did in St. George this summer.  All the episodes of Restoring Charleston will air again on the DIY Network tomorrow and Thursday.  Back- to-back for eight hours (8pm to 4am) means we'll be on prime time coast-to-coast, which is awesome. In addition, some have asked me if they can catch Restoring Charleston on-line and I have a couple options linked below plus there are likely others if you do some searching; Youtube and iTunes.

Thanks again for watching and for telling others about the series.


American Rehab Charleston on Youtube and iTunes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Seven Hour Marathon

American Rehab Charleston
4-7pm EST

Restoring Charleston

Dear Friends,

Three years ago, my family & I started a wild ride that culminates with a seven hour marathon of fourteen episodes on the DIY network tonight.  Wow!  It's still hard to believe all that has happened.

In some ways this traces back to people asking me curious questions as I worked; "How do you do what you do?  How do you fix up a home that's been condemned? or Where do you start when a house is so bad ?" Those questions lead to this blog five years ago because as much as I love taking on these houses we call 'Pig's Ears', I have also grown to really love writing.  Now, after this three years and two shows on TV, people keep asking my family, friends, & I this one question more than any other, "How did this happen?"  It's an amazing, unbelievable story and I told my wife I should write a book titled, "Dude!  How'd YOU get on TV?"       
For those still wondering, here's a brief time-line:  I started writing this blog in October 2011, with a post titled, What is a Pig's Ear?  In the fall of 2013, I received an unexpected email from a producer in New York that lead to a couple rough videos with our family, a three minute test reel with a production crew from California in November, and then the two week filming of a pilot episode in the spring of 2014 that premiered as American Rehab Charleston in August of that year.  This did well enough for us to have a chance to complete the six episode season from Dec. '14 - March '15 which was televised that fall. ARC rated well and we bought three houses in 2016 to rehab with DIY.  We filmed and renovated two of these homes this past summer that make up the eight episode season of Restoring Charleston that concludes tonight.

I'm not a TV guy.  And by that I mean I had no experience, family, or contacts in the television world. I've made a lot of friends in the business in the last three years, but when I started, I knew no one.  For me, this experience has been like walking around in a boarded up, condemned house alone without a flashlight; missteps, falls, bumping into stuff, and stepping on nasty things.  More than once in the last three years I've wished I could turn back time to make a small, but impactful adjustment.  There were countless anxious moments for myself and on behalf of my family, long periods of self-doubt, and all consuming exhaustion that isn't quite over just yet.  However, it's been a blast.  So much fun, it's challenging to convey in brevity.  However, like renovating a property that no one else wants, it's been an adventure and who doesn't love a good adventure.

After three years, I want to take a moment to thank my wife Diann for her encouragement and support.  She's done an amazing job of juggling her own work, the needs of our children, both our families, and the frequently shifting demands of the productions.  We've canceled/postponed a couple of vacations, so I owe her and our kids a big one, once the dust settles.  

Finally, thanks for your notes, texts, emails, calls, and messages of support.  And thank you for watching and for telling others about the shows.  

With love and appreciation,


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Queen Anne-Craftsman Master_Suite - Before

Restoring Charleston
DIY Network
Wed., Oct. 26, 2016
9-11pm EST

There's been a request for more before pictures of The Queen Anne-Craftsman that we're saving on Restoring Charleston.   (Links to before pics of the first two episodes are included below.)  Episode 3 (tonight @ 10pm) focuses on the Master Suite; the Master Bedroom, Master Bath, and Walk-In Closet.    

Master Bedroom

Master Bath

Old Bathroom

Future Walk-In Closet
Looks like a barn.

The Queen Anne-Craftsman Kitchen/Dining - Before - Oct. 18, 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Queen Anne-Craftsman Living_Room & Foyer Before

Restoring Charleston

DIY Network

10 - 11pm EST



Wall Damage in Living Room.
Door to Foyer.
Window to Front Porch.
Living Room Fire Place

Living Room
Living Room Fire Place

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Queen Anne-Craftsman Kitchen/Dining Before

The only window in the future kitchen, on the left,
behind the mattress and box springs.
Restoring Charleston
DIY Network
Wed., 10pm EST

The fire place on the right, with door to foyer center left.
An electrical wire with a light socket for a single light bulb is okay,
but in 2016 we can do better.  And we did.

Dining Room

Dining Room - Looking into Future Kitchen

The only traditional kitchen this home has ever had was added on to the porch.

... just lovley.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

TV Show(s) Update

The DIY Network
Wed., Oct. 19th

American Rehab Charleston

Restoring Charleston

We're on the schedule for this Wednesday, October 19th on the DIY Network from 7pm to 11pm.  The first 6 episodes are the re-airing of American Rehab Charleston.  This is the Country Victorian project (also known as The TV House) that originally premiered on August 28, 2014.

The two brand new episodes are premiering as Restoring Charleston.  The first five episodes of this season will be the transformation of The Queen Anne-Craftsman and the concluding three shows will show how we renovated The Newlyweds' Cottage.  

We started the search for these homes last November and worked on both projects this summer.  These were challenging projects, but the homes held so much potential and I'm excited to share what we did and how we did it for everyone starting Wednesday. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The House In The Woods - Inside Before

I'll do a much better drawing to start working from soon, but until then I have a rough sketch to show how The House in the Woods looks right now.  As I said in the first post (A House in the Woods - Outside Before) THitW was originally two houses that were connected with one room that I'm calling the breezeway.  You can see clearly the small house in the back that had it's own kitchen, bedroom, pantry, closet, and a small porch.  The bigger part of the home up front is nearly a thousand square feet with a large front porch where you could wait out a downpour and not feel a drop.  It's BIG! 

It's currently a three bedroom, two bath house with a challenging layout.  But I like that.  There's lots of potential and plenty of great details to work with; wood floors, wood planks on the walls, and wood ceilings.  My first job will be coming up with a more efficient plan.  As I said before, I intend to open things up  and may even juggle some of the rooms so the Living/Dining/Kitchen are closer together.  The bedrooms being spread out is great if you have a house full of snorers, but what parents want their children sleeping on the other side of the house?  All the sleeping quarters need to be closer together.   

I also need to eliminate some of the wasted space and improve the foot traffic, which is always in mind as I redesign a home.  That breezeway is like a big hall with too much wasted square footage.  I also need to add a bathroom to the back of the house.  Bedroom #1 has a door out onto the porch, which makes me wonder if they used to use this room as some type of home office.  This front bedroom isn't accessible from indoors without walking through the bathroom so there's an obvious opportunity to make that functionally more practical.  There are plenty of closets, but they're sort of jacked up.  Efficient, practical closet space is a big plus when it's time to sell.  It's not hard to work in if you're thinking about closets from the start and I always am.  I have to squeeze in a laundry room too... at least dedicated space for a washer and dryer. 

The shuttered bay windows in the front bedroom.

The main kitchen is ready to be modernized.
The back bedroom has some sweet trim.

Kitchen in the back.  Pantry on the right,
door to the porch on the left.

Windows in the breezeway is a clue that
this used to be the outside.

The panels on the high ceilings cover up wood.  Nice!

Living Room

This reminds me of the days when we only had three channels.

This house is really dark inside because
of all the overgrowth on the outside.

Although I'm ready to start... I'm not quite ready to start.  :)  I have some other projects to finish first.  However, everyone keeps asking me what's next and seems as excited about this one as I am.  I'm still trying to decide the best way for everyone to watch me dig into it, but I'm figuring that out and it's going to be a whole lot of fun! 

Stay tuned peoples.

A House in the Woods - Outside Before  (Sept. 23, 2016)

Friday, September 23, 2016

A House In The Woods - Outside Before

I've seen houses like this for decades, but until now I've never owned one.  Mother Nature is winning.  She hasn't won yet, but it looks like she's already victorious.  She's not.  This house had a great metal roof system installed decades ago, I'm not sure if it's original, but it's done an outstanding job for a long time and that has made the difference for this special place. 

I'm so excited to clean up the property and give the home a chance to breathe again.  It's engulfed by trees, vines, bushes, weeds, and natural debris.  However, getting choked by the invasive plants are some grand oaks, pines, and magnolias as well as grape vines and flowering bushes that need room to thrive and bloom again. 

This Pig's Ear is like many old homes in this part of the country in that it's actually two separate homes that were connected together to become one.  The small house in the back is close to four hundred square feet and the biggest home in the front is nearly 1,150.  The small section that connects the two buildings, perhaps a large breezeway that has since been enclosed, is a little shy of two hundred square feet. 

I've been inside and know the conditions on the interior.  I have a lot of work to do, but this house has tons of potential.  I'm going to open it up and transform it into something extraordinary.  It will be a smart, practical renovation that I'll do in a way that honors the home's history, while making this house feel modern and cool.  There are plenty of windows which will make it easy to let the natural light pour in from multiple directions. 

The original little house in the back.

This metal roof is made up of multiple, interlocking squares of metal.

These delicate corner details are in surprisingly good condition.

The azaleas blooming in the spring.

The pictures on the inside are next.