Tuesday, March 31, 2015

DC Tropics on TV!

Photo:  Michael K. Wilkinson

[Re-posted from November 2013; the episode is re-airing on Thursday, April 2, at 7:30 am (Eastern) on HGTV; check your local listings.]

In 2007, Dan and I started planning a renovation project for our 1927 rowhouse in Washington, DC; construction was completed in late 2008.  Earlier this year, part of our project was featured on an episode of HGTV's "Bang For Your Buck".  In case you missed the episode, it will be airing again on Friday, November 15 at 10:00 am Thursday, April 2, at 7:30 am (Eastern) on HGTV (but check your local listings).

We found out about the show through our architects, Anne Crowley and Michael Hall of Studio CrowleyHall (who had won an earlier episode of Bang For Your Buck, and recommended us to the show's producers).  The basic format of the show is that 3 renovations that are similar in scope, in price, and in the same city are compared, discussed, and critiqued by a two-person team consisting of a professional designer and a local real estate agent.  The winning renovation is the one that would get the greatest return on the money spent, or "bang for your buck".  This particular episode was looking for modern master suite renovations in historic homes in Washington, DC and our renovation certainly fit their criteria! (In fact ours was the only house actually in the city of Washington, DC; the other two were in Chevy Chase, MD).    We were already familiar with the show, but one surprise was that the show's format had been modified a bit: the competing homeowners would get to meet, view and comment on each other's renovations, and the winner would receive a prize (although they were a bit dodgy about exactly what the prize was until the very end).

It was a lot of work!  To be considered for the show we had to provide the producers with a video "audition" along with a detailed breakdown of material and labor costs for every part of the renovation right down to bathroom hardware.  This wasn't easy because the master suite was only part of a major renovation that involved nearly the entire house.  Then we had to sign several releases, basically giving them the rights to use our images in perpetuity throughout the universe (and one of the releases really did specify "the universe").  Then we spent several weeks doing minor repairs, touching up paint, etc. and finally 3 days decluttering and cleaning; the house has never been so clean, before or since!  Since the film crew was arriving early in the morning we slept in the guest bedroom the night before, so we wouldn't mess anything up.

The episode was filmed over a 2 day period in September 2011 but didn't air until May 2013.  The producers were very nice and put us at ease, and the entire crew was fun to work with, and the makeup technician was a hoot (we discovered that if you're on camera, you have makeup).  The producers gamely snapped some photos for us with Dan's camera.  They also shared some amusing stories from previous shoots that we probably shouldn't repeat.  On the first day of filming, the crew took various shots around the house and interviewed us.  Later in the day, we had to leave while the "experts" (or as the crew called them, the "talent") came to critique our project.  The experts were designer and HGTV regular Vern Yip and real estate agent Sam Solovey.

Untitled  Untitled  Untitled
Everybody gets makeup

Homeowner interview on the front porch

For the second day of filming, they brought all 3 sets of homeowners together in a separate location where we got to view and comment on the critiques of each others' projects, at the end of which they announced the winners.  This took an entire day and we had a chance to talk, share stories and compare notes with the other homeowners who were on the episode (all of whom were very nice).   I think they expected us to make catty comments about each other's renovations, but the truth is that the other homeowners were very nice, and their renovations were very good (and I thought one of them was really, really cool).  The only really awkward part was when they announced the winners, especially since they filmed it 3 times!  On the first take our surprise was genuine, but then we had to do it twice more and we all had to act surprised.  (To our relief, when the show aired, they did use the first take.)  Adding to the awkwardness was that the money they showed us was fake (and they told us it was fake); we already knew the winner didn't actually receive the prize on the spot and would receive a check in the mail, because that's what one of the releases had told us if you read the fine print.

John and Dan with show host and design expert Vern Yip

I'm sorry to say that there is only a fleeting glimpse of my garden (although you do get to see some of my gesneriads).  Our interior renovation was the focus of the show, and it was raining the day the film crew was visiting so they did very little filming outdoors.  You do get a (brief) look at our rooftop deck, where I take many of the photos of my garden!

So who won??? You'll have to watch the episode to find out!

For a slide show of photos from before, during, and after the renovation, click here.

For a slide show of photos taken by our architect's photographer after the renovation was completed, click here.


  1. How fun John and well done to you both! We're into interiors too so very interested in your fab looking space. Hopefully we'll get to watch it somehow here too.

  2. What fun! (kitty make-up?) I wish we had cable so I could watch.

  3. palm update please

  4. Very exciting! Unfortunately, I saw your post too late to tune in. So tell us, who won the huge cash prize?