There are two questions we get asked most when we tell someone that our home and our woodshop were featured on Magnolia Network's Bargain Mansions with designer Tamara Day:
1) What was it like to be on Bargain Mansions?
2) Did you have to pay for all of the stuff?
Now that the show has aired, I can share about our personal experience and answer these common questions!
WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING ON TV AND WORKING WITH TAMARA DAY?
You sometimes hear pretty awful horror stories of "reality TV" and what it's really like "behind the scenes." I'm sorry to disappoint you if you were hoping for some juicy drama here, but I'm extremely grateful to say that overall we had a truly wonderful experience!
The show focuses on Tamara, her design, and the construction work occurring at the house, but there were several times Josh and I needed to be mic'd up and "on set" for filming.
Because we are both somewhat more introverted, and in no way actors, we appreciated the direction from the production team, as well as Tamara herself, giving us tips, queues where to stand and when to walk in or out, and keeping the dialogue flowing when we were nervous and just froze up, smiling and nodding our heads, ha!
Other times, we were asked to answer direct questions looking just past the camera. Because we were not given the questions ahead of time, our natural first responses were recorded.
So in that way, it is "reality" TV; we did not memorize scripts. We were given a prompt of the "scene" and basically freely talked through a real situation or decision we actually did have to make about the design. The producers come with a shot to capture in mind, so if we don't reach that point ourselves, they would make recommendations for the next take to ensure the storyline makes sense.
And it was great working with Tamara. She was very kind and patient with us. She had a ton of houses to keep straight in her mind! But she still took care to come up with individual ideas for our house that were so inspiring! With a little longer lead time, we would have loved to incorporate a few more of them!
Even though Tamara is a local Kansas City designer, we had not met her before the show.
So how did we get connected with her to be featured on Bargain Mansions?
HOW TO APPLY TO BE ON BARGAIN MANSIONS
It really seemed like just "the right place at the right time" kind of a moment.
We had just moved early in 2022. While the house was beautiful -- built in 2005, artisan hand-scraped flooring, tile roof -- it was also very brown with a Tuscan motif carried throughout every... single... wall... in the ENTIRE house. It was way too much for us. So Josh and I already had plans to remodel the main level of our home.
I follow Tamara Day on Instagram because she's a local designer, and I love watching Bargain Mansions. She mixes high-glam and functionality in her beautiful designs, and restores older homes right here in Kansas City!
One day I saw she posted a casting call with a set of criteria for budget, timeline, and location. Knowing we were planning to remodel the main level anyway, we figured we'd shoot our shot!
The timeline to begin and complete the work was tight. Josh is handy, as we make wood floating shelves for our business, J Thomas Home, so in our pitch, we suggested that we could assist in some of the work that needed to be done to help complete the project on time.
We planned on incorporating our floating shelves in our kitchen design, as well as throughout the house. Bargain Mansions usually features a local Kansas City business or vendor for stone, window repair, etc. and we thought it would be incredible to have Tamara's help designing our space, and possibly feature the shelves or shop on the show!
I drafted my application one evening after work and must have read it 100 times before I finally pressed send at 8:42pm. And as soon as I did, I saw it.
I spelled Tamara's name wrong... "Tamera."
So I promptly sent a second, follow-up email at 8:43pm begging for forgiveness and to still please consider us for the show!
(Fun Fact: I submitted my application email 6/6/22 and the show aired 6/6/23!)
NEXT STEPS - THE HOUSE TOUR
Every day we waited felt like an eternity! I honestly thought that we had not been selected with my typo... and ALL of the applications I'm sure they received.
So I continued seeking out other interior design help until we received a message from the executive producer for the show, asking to stop by and tour the house and talk about next steps. We were nervous, but SO excited!
We showed the Executive Producer the property and at first glance, he thought it could work.
He was very candid with us about the "realities" of reality TV, and basically laid it out for us:
Yes, we have great contacts within the business, but be prepared to pay for everything. If you happen to get a good discount on something along the way, then lucky you! And the schedule must be adhered to with no exceptions. The show must go on.
With (what we thought) was a handle on what we were getting ourselves into, we agreed and moved forward with the process!
A SURPRISE GUEST!
Josh and I both attended the first meeting with Matt, but when we were asked if a few other folks from the show could come take a look at the house, I agreed to work from home that morning, and Josh headed in to the shop to keep the business on track.
When I opened the door, there were definitely a few other folks -- about 8 or 9 -- including Tamara! I was totally and completely shocked!
I tried to regain my composure and walked everyone around the house, highlighting the areas we needed Tamara's help with most to see if those rooms aligned with the makings of a great Bargain Mansions episode.
After developing a potential storyline based on the renovations we wished to make to the house, the team had to then pitch our episode to Magnolia Network for approval.
Because our timeline was limited to 10 weeks from the start of construction, there was no time to lose!
While we waited to hear from the network, we moved forward with Tamara on a few Zoom calls to discuss more detailed design aesthetics and desires for the space to help keep us on the tight deadline.
THE DESIGN PROCESS
Tamara and her design team asked us to fill out a questionnaire and send over any inspiration images from previous Bargain Mansions episodes or Pinterest that we'd gathered so far to gauge our style preferences so that we would love the space when it was complete.
We wanted simple, clean modern elements that included natural colors like rich blues, gorgeous greens, warm wheat tones, complemented by contrasting blacks, whites, and grays.
There were already wonderful walls of windows that we wanted to accentuate by opening up the space even more -- which meant removing a partial wall between the living room and family room -- which would become a large dining room to comfortably seat our entire family for holidays and celebrations to come.
That meant we wanted to tie in the backyard to the kitchen and dining area to really take advantage of all the space and enjoy an indoor/outdoor living lifestyle. Events we host could then easily extend to the back patio for playing games and grilling. So we asked to add outdoor seating and dining, a waterfall or fire element, as well as a great space for Josh to smoke meats or grill out in the summers, with plenty of green space for our kiddos to run around and have fun outside, too.
After a few more calls to confirm the direction of the design, we were off to the races alongside our contractor Shawn and his awesome team at Canes Construction.
THE RENOVATION PROCESS
Thankfully, we were only doing work (mostly!) on the main level. So the kids could still stay in their rooms like normal, and we moved upstairs with them, into the guest room.
We also had a basement with an extra room with a sink and TONS of storage, so we packed up the entire kitchen and moved everything downstairs, creating a make-shift kitchen to last us for the next 3 months.
The outside work started first -- cleaning up the front yard and then preparing the patio and grilling area for the back.
Then, the demo of the living room / family room dividing wall came down, and the oddly-shaped island was taken out of the kitchen.
Work then began in the main bedroom and bath as other projects continued on as well.
While towards the end I was very much ready to finish and start living in our beautiful space, all in all, it really wasn't that bad living in the construction zone. It certainly could have been much worse! There were only a few nights near the end of filming that the paint fumes were pretty strong, so we packed up and stayed with family nearby.
Surprisingly, the kids handled the construction tremendously! In fact, our two year old LOVED our construction crew, and was always right by our contractor Shawn's side until he left for the night. He wanted to see everything the crew was doing and learn all about every tool. He helped sweep up at the end of the day with the "big broom." But you had to keep a watchful eye, as he also had no fear and climbed every ladder he could get to before Mom could catch up!
All of the teams that came to the house -- Canes Constructions, RockTops, Huston Contracting, the Tamara Day Design team, plus everyone on the Film Crew -- were all extremely helpful, kind, respectful, and loved on our family like their own -- which was so special to us!
LOCAL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: J THOMAS HOME FLOATING SHELVES
Another really special part of being on the show was Tamara coming to check out our woodshop -- J Thomas Home! She helped us select the different woods for our vent hood and headboard, and also got her hands dirty processing the LED white oak lighted floating shelves for our kitchen with us!
It's not on the episode, but she actually went back to the metal shop with us and welded the heavy-duty steel bracket for the shelves, too!! She said the smell reminded her a lot of her Dad's shop back home!
Ward and the family has farmland in the small town I was born in, so I felt a special hometown connection to them both right away. I really enjoyed the times that Ward was able to pop in on the project, as well. He and Tamara definitely have a good time renovating these homes together!
TIMELINE AND DELAYS
As most any home renovation project, it didn't all quite go according to plan.
While we did get to pick out what options we liked for the design, if it wasn't ready to ship, you picked something else. So while yes, you are getting your "dream" house, you can only select from items that can be readily delivered and installed for the filming schedule. So you may not get your first (or second, or even third) choice if they are backordered.
This happened in our dining room. We LOVED these other chandeliers from Tamara's initial design, but unfortunately they were backordered and wouldn't arrive on time. So we picked out another style, and it was also backordered. The ones on the show were probably my 6th or 7th suggestion! And I actually wanted them in white but black was available, so black it is!
I also wished we'd finalized the design faster so our materials would have arrived sooner.
There was a week or two that the crews weren't even needed on-site because the materials required for the next stage in the process had yet to be delivered to the house.
Those slow 2-3 weeks cost us dearly at the end, as we were not truly 100% finished when the final filming day arrived. We couldn't take any punch-list action until the painting was completed, which was pushed later than we'd hoped.
MY BREAKING POINT
As dramatic as it sounds, that last week before filming the reveal, I (Emily) was truly at my breaking point.
From changes with our childcare availability that week, to staff out sick from the shop, plus no washer or dryer, it was hard to keep up with all the things as parents and small business owners that don't stop (like payroll) just because you're house is going to be on TV.
Josh and I had been working day and night at both the shop and the house with the crews for weeks trying to make sure everything came together perfectly.
But with some material delays, design changes, and things just taking longer than planned, with only days remaining until filming, there were a multitude of major items that were behind schedule, such as...
... finishing basically the entire floor.
... installing the vent hood (had to be filmed).
... exterior paint around the new door we installed.
... hanging EVERY light fixture still.
... cleaning and staging for the show!
Someday I may share the Marco Polo I sent to my friends the day before we were supposed to shoot the reveal. I was overwhelmed and literally trembling because I was afraid that were were going to get a huge fine for delaying the show if we couldn't pull this together in time, or just make our business look like a complete joke on national television.
We were absolutely exhausted the day we filmed the reveal!
We'd been up very late the night before finishing as many last-minute details as possible, and I went outside at 4am that crisp fall morning to paint around the new exterior door, while Josh and our teams installed all the lighting inside.
Despite even the City showing up to shut us down on the day we were filming the reveal because a neighbor complained (understandably... there were about 50 vehicles wrapping our entire street...), somehow these pros made it happen, thanks to a lot of prayer, a little thing called Movie Magic.
Since we lived in the home as it was being renovated, we were actually able to see the progress along the way. So you'll have to let me know how my "surprised" acting was :)
Even still, it truly was amazing to see it all finally come together on that last day of filming, staged by Tamara and her team -- after months of dust, demo and debris.
My favorite parts are having the wall gone so it's one big open space where we can easily entertain tons of friends and family together. I also LOVE how the kitchen turned out with the new layout, and am proud that the floating shelves we make in our very own woodshop down the street take center stage.
Josh would probably say his favorite part is the grilling station outside with the water fall and fire features! We wrapped the show in the winter months, so we are excited it's warming up now so that we can finally get out there and enjoy it! Plus, his cold plunge in the main bathroom! BRRR!!
Our daughter was a little sad that nothing is pink... But we told her we could call Tamara back to help us with her room soon, ha! But she loves putting on plays and chasing her little brother around the spacious living room.
LIFE AFTER THE SHOW
Most people want to know if we got to keep all of the stuff?
You sure can! If you want to pay for it all :)
And there were a few beautiful pieces that we did end up keeping -- like the four bar stools in the kitchen, and the wood-faced credenza in the dining room, plus a couple of chairs in the main bedroom.
But after a few extra days of the house staged so Tamara and her team can shoot extra footage and take styled photographs, Nebraska Furniture Mart came and hauled everything else away.
We weren't actually able to move upstairs and enjoy the new remodel very quickly. It was around the holidays, and while we loved the hand-scraped white oak floors, once we started the remodel, we decided we actually did want to lighten them up. So, right after the show wrapped, we went right back into demo mode and stayed downstairs even longer until the floors were refinished a couple months later.
Finally, about six months after we started construction, we packed up our make-shift basement kitchen and moved back upstairs!
We thought the show would air earlier in the Spring, but the season took a brief break, and resumed new episodes around Memorial Day, our home scheduled for June 6th. We've been posting teasers hinting at the show, but not giving anything away, so we are very excited to finally be able to share about our experience with all of you who have supported us during our journey!
There are SO many more details about each area of the remodel -- and the show only scratches the surface!
So stay tuned as we post more blogs over the next couple of weeks with more about our experience on the show and the design details room by room -- plus what we'd do again and what we'd wish we'd have done differently.
If you have any specific questions that you are curious about, like where to source a particular product you see on the show, or recommendations for remodeling you are doing in your home, or working with Tamara Day Designs and other great Kansas City companies, please comment below and I'll be sure to get back to you soon!
Would YOU ever consider being on a home renovation show?
If you HAVE been on a television show, what similarities or differences did you experience? Be sure to comment below!!