Posted by: Daryl & Wendy Ashby | December 28, 2010

Shhhhh: Ty Pennington is Speaking

You’ve seen him on TV, and he’s hard to miss: cute, quirky, creative, and definitely a softy who has energy to burn.

Ok all you women out there, stay focused on the subject. If not, I will drop all the photos from my future articles where such physicality could become distracting.

People first fell in love with Ty Pennington when he was the innovative, hunky carpenter on the ground-breaking Trading Spaces show on HGTV, one of the first makeover shows that demonstrated do-it-yourself remedies to make homes distinct and unique — although the feathers glued to the wall did go a bit far.

Nonetheless, Pennington made his name in the home-updating circuit and soon had his very own TV show that surpassed the others by a mile.

ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition has consistently rated among the top 20 of all TV shows, and has won two Emmys for Outstanding Reality Program and two People’s Choice Awards.

In addition, Pennington has launched a new show on W Network with Janette Ewen in Canada called Inside the Box, which is being filmed in Toronto. Pennington has been busy with other projects, as well — everything from home furnishings, to books, to a lifestyle magazine called Ty Pennington at Home. He is also involved in home shows across Canada and the U.S.

We talked to Pennington about his plans and asked him for some tips for anyone contemplating a home makeover.

Q: What are the prime areas to update/fix up/renovate for value? And why?

A: Most people will say kitchens and baths are the best place to put your cash. But before you go installing a bidet you’ll never use, take a step back and consider your lifestyle. It’s important to invest your time and money into the places you love most.

If you live your entire winter in the family room then, yeah, fix it up and make it the wonderful gathering place you want it to be.

Kitchens are definitely the hub of the home, and updating for resale advantage is a good idea, but keep in mind that, while you’re in the house, it’s yours — not the person who might buy it down the line, so make changes that make sense for you. Otherwise, you’re simply living in a model home, and that’s no fun … unless of course you’re a model.

Q: If a homeowner is contemplating a home renovation, big or small, where should she start? And why?

A: Start with a camera. Take pictures of the room from every angle at every part of the day, including nighttime. Then put those pics in the computer and create a photo collage you can print out.

Use the photo software to crop the photos so that each of your “before” photos are about the size of photos found in magazines.

Find a binder or a folder and start an idea book, using the photo collage of your “before” shots to compare things you see in books, magazines and online to what the room looks like now.

This is the best way to start, because you get a better sense of all you want to change and how different things work together.

You might think you simply want to paint a room, but after you look at the photos for a while, you might notice that the lighting and mouldings need to change, too. Or the opposite might occur. You might think you hate your sofa, but after looking at the pictures over and over, you realize it’s not the sofa you hate, it’s the throw pillows and the lamps!

This affects budget, so start with the “before” and problem-solve on paper before you start spending a dime.

Q: If money is tight, how does the homeowner plan the renovation budget and what should he expect from the renovator/contractor as far as expected payments? Any other tips on this?

A: The most important thing when working with a contractor is trust. And to gain that trust, you need to check references with both friends or colleagues who have used the contractor, the local home builder’s association, and the Better Business Bureau.

Most contractors are reliable, honest people, but there are those who aren’t.

Before you pass a single dime to a contractor, make sure you have thoroughly checked his or her credentials, licence, and references — and not just the ones she/he provides. Find independent references, too.

A hint: Ask at your local paint or builder’s supply store about contractors. Builders and contractors have to buy supplies, and it’s often the employees of the supply stores who have the best take on work ethic.

Q: What renovations/updates are least likely to add value to a home?

A: Value is subjective. If it’s something you love and will enjoy, there’s value in that. If you’re talking strictly about resale value and getting back what you put into it, that’s a different story.

Turning a swimming pool into a tomato garden is probably not going to add value. Turning a pond into a fire pit just might.

Doing something really crazy like painting your house polka dots or adding an addition that looks nothing like the rest of your house is going to give people pause when they consider buying your home.

Inside, if the changes you make are so outlandish that they can’t easily be adapted or undone, then that’s going to cause some problems, too.

If you need to divide a large room into smaller spaces, use temporary structures such as screens or bookshelves instead of framing in a wall.

Q: Can you give us a few of your favourite tricks to update the home economically?

A: We’ve all heard it before, but paint is the fastest and most economical way to change any room.

But where people get into trouble is when they decide they want to paint an entire room — and then find it’s too difficult to do on their own.

So why not choose one wall or one feature to paint? Live with it for a while and, if you decide to add the colour to the rest of the space, you can.

And paint doesn’t always have to go on a wall. You can paint furniture and accessories, too. I’m a big fan of looking at what you already have and finding ways to change or update it.

Another easy and economical way to change the entire look of a room is by changing out the accessories with the season. Keep your major pieces of furniture neutral, but have accessories that pop with colour.

Finally, if your kitchen needs updating but you can’t afford a complete change, then consider changing the cabinet finish and add new hardware.

Q: Any final advice on planning and implementing a successful renovation?

A: Budget always comes into play; only you can know how much you really have to spend. If you want to make a big change, but don’t have the cash to invest, consider implementing the changes in stages.

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