It was mid January when we found out that our house was going to be remodeled for A&E’s long-running hit series, “Sell This House: Extreme.”
If you’ve never watched the show, host Tanya Memme and construction expert Charlie Frattini with new designer Daniel Kucan help desperate homeowners prepare their difficult-to-sell spaces for today’s tough real estate market.
For six weeks after we received word that we would be on the show, we were pretty much kept in the dark except for a few things.
1. We would begin filming at the end of February for four days.
2. They would put us up in a hotel during the filming.
3. We were sworn to secrecy.
Intermittently, I would get e-mails from the producer asking if I was available for the flooring guy or the cabinet owner to visit the house to “take measurements.” They were always very friendly . . . but were on strict orders to not let us see what they were measuring.
Since the A&E network was paying for everything, we wanted to respect their process. Besides it was kind of exciting not knowing. We would endlessly chat about what they might do but we really didn’t have a clue as to what would happen.
Besides, my mind was busy working on my own story.
“I’m going to call Kim (the producer) and talk about having King & Bunnies provide the appliances,” I told Paul casually one day. “Wouldn’t it be cool to showcase local Renton businesses on the show!”
I’ve watched enough reality television to see the footage reel in my head.
My beloved real estate agent Mary Lou Gustine-Nelson would have her Renton Realty sign outside our house. McLendon’s friendly employees carrying in their quality materials ready to offer their amazing customer service. The familiar plum-colored Bistro Box food truck pulling up to our house to offer their suite of tasty goodness. A coffee run to local Cedar River Coffee drive thru and, of course, I would be wearing my favorite I love Renton T-shirt.
“Carolyn, I hate to break it to you but you’re a part of the show . . . not producing it. You don’t get to control what happens.”
I understood what Paul was saying, but I was too steeped in my fairy-tale fantasy of our house being redone after stressing about it for so long and sharing that success with the city I love so much.
The night before, we had spent all day clearing out all the kitchen cabinets and trying to clean as much as possible.
At about midnight we happily escaped to the hotel. Our only itinerary for the next four days was to arrive back at our house at 8 a.m. the next morning.
We live on a one-way road surrounded by trees and the kind of quiet neighborhood that allows you to hear the crickets and see the stars at night. It was 8:10 a.m. when we turned the bend and saw 15 trucks and cars of varying sizes sidelined in front of our house and an industrial-sized dumpster.
We knocked on our own front door and an entire film crew was in our living room waiting for us – I finally understood what Paul had been talking about. This wasn’t a piece of writing where I was in charge of the beginning, middle and end.
“Carolyn,” the executive producer waived me over to a corner.
“Hi!” I said.
“Would you mind changing your shirt?” she whispered.
“No problem,” I said.
I scurried through tangled electrical cords and film equipment to our room like a puppy whose nose has just been swatted. That’s when I ran into Charlie Frattini.
“Hi!” Charlie said.
He had a thick New York accent.
We exchanged pleasantries about New York . . . my dad was born and raised in Staten Island and Charlie reminded me of a younger version of my dad.
“By the end of the show we’re going to be great friends,” Charlie said.
I smiled at the thought as I walked toward our bedroom to change my t-shirt. Hoping but not really quite sure I believed Charlie.
The first day of filming was a “Day in the Ossorio life.” Followed by an open house where prospective buyers came in and completely annihilated our space which we had to watch on tape back with Tanya and Daniel. Trust me it was almost as bad as being naked on national television.
Afterward, Charlie came up to me and handed me a sledge hammer and said, “Follow me, Carolyn. This’ll make you feel better.”
I followed Charlie into the kitchen. It is amazing what wielding a sledge hammer fueled by wounded pride can accomplish. In less than 10 minutes I had completely “wacked” my hideous kitchen.
The feeling was incredible.
Every night Paul and I would go back to the hotel scratched, bruised, bone tired and battle weary from painting, wielding chainsaws, ripping out flooring, grouting tile, and whatever unskilled labor we could perform.
For many DIY’ers these tasks may sound common place but Paul and I were babes in the woods when it came to construction.
That is what was so exciting about coming back to our house each morning watching the transformation of a total kitchen, dining room, living room and master bedroom remodel.
Everyone pitched in.
Over the course of four days all of us working side-by-side . . . from Tanya cheering for Paul when he was using a chain saw for the first time to the new designer Daniel painstakingly removed more than nails to create a one-of-a-kind custom bed for the master bedroom out of the original logs (think Depression-era) that came out of one of the walls Charlie, Paul and I chain sawed out.
Charlie was right . . .we had all bonded.
And what they did for our house in only four days was masterful. A new kitchen with marble countertops, top-of-the line appliances, quality cabinetry, beautiful cork flooring, the perfect color scheme, three French doors leading out to our waterfront, simple but elegant light fixtures, real fabric curtains and staging that told a story in each room.
“We need to just ride the tide,” Paul had encouraged that first day. Boy what an incredible ride.
We are putting our house on the market this week as a For Sale by Owner and crossing our fingers.
If you know of people or places in Renton that surprise, delight and inspire the community, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow Carolyn on her blog, www.pippimamma.com.
WHEN SHOW AIRS
Sell This House: Extreme
Saturday, July 7, 11 a.m.
Paul and Carolyn bought their dream log cabin on the lake for $500,000. They wanted to give their three kids a picturesque upbringing. Fast forward two years and a fourth kid later–their dream cabin is turning into a nightmare! The family of six is quickly outgrowing the small space. But to move, Paul and Carolyn must sell the home for at least the $400,000 they still owe on it. New designer Daniel Kucan has a plan to completely change the space. And builder Charlie Frattini has to use a chain saw to do it. It is a log cabin after all. The team quickly finds out that doing major construction on a log cabin is no easy task. The stability of walls comes into question more than once and puts the build way behind schedule. This whole place might come crashing down before Tanya Memme even has a chance to put a speck of paint on the walls.