Ty Pennington, host of HGTV’s “Ty Breaker,” became a pop culture star in his hit TV shows TLC’s “Trading Spaces” and ABC’s “Extreme Makeover, Home Edition,” which won two Emmys. Pennington helped start America’s obsession with reality home improvement TV. The carpenter, craftsman and designer went on to do many other design shows, create his own line of products and write books.
His latest show on HGTV, “Ty Breaker,” helps conflicted homeowners decide whether to overhaul their home or find another property to renovate. He joined a recent Washington Post Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.
Q: Do you decorate your own homes in any particular style, or do you put a different spin on each one?
A: I’ve always been partial to modern design, mid-century modern and Scandinavian design. I recently bought a house in Savannah, Ga., that was built in 1853. It’s a departure from what I’m usually attracted to, but the house was so charming. I’m renovating now, but it’ll have more of a traditional style — a mix of old and new, with lots of antiques.
Q: I’m preparing to sell my home sometime in the summer. With not much of a budget for repairs and beautification, what are some reasonable and important items and spaces where we should focus?
A: I just went through this process myself. First, declutter and donate what you don’t need. Have a garage sale or sell items through online marketplaces, and store pieces you want to keep. Then do a fresh coat of paint in the main living areas. The kitchen is always a huge selling point. Refresh cabinets with a new coat of paint if you can’t afford to renovate. White is always great for staging, because it feels like a blank canvas for potential buyers. Also switch out old hardware and faucets. Curb appeal is very important; clean up the outside of the house as much as possible. Use a new color on the front door. Power-washing the sidewalks, pathways and entries is also essential. Remove weeds and dead or overgrown plants, even if you don’t have much of a green thumb. New hardware, such as house numbers and door knockers, and a fresh, seasonal wreath or new outdoor lights will also give the house a mini-facelift.
Q: I saw magnetic tile on your show. Could you use this on a kitchen counter?
A: This is a great product by Magnetic Building Solutions. It’s just a strip that you can put on any brand of tile. You could technically use it on a counter, but I wouldn’t recommend it, because it’s not grouted, so you have the potential for bacteria to grow between the tiles.
Q: I keep painting my cheap kitchen cabinets white until I can replace them. Is there something I can put on top, so the paint doesn’t chip? I’m thinking of clear poly, but I like a matte look.
A: This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but you need to scrape off the old paint, sand the cabinets down and use a really good primer. After that, paint the cabinets using paint with a matte finish. You don’t need a top coat. I just painted my cabinets with matte navy, and they look awesome.
Q: I’m interested in updating our family room, where we all hang out and watch TV. What color scheme do you suggest? Any thoughts on a must-have item or piece of furniture?
A: Color is such a personal thing. Look to your wardrobe for inspiration. What colors do you feel good in? Those are the colors you should use in your home. If you are lost for inspiration, try following paint companies on Instagram; they always have awesome ideas. I’m really loving Farrow & Ball’s account at the moment (instagram.com/farrowandball). For furniture, I would say a really great antique armoire. You can hide all the kids’ toys in it, but it still looks really beautiful.
Q: Do you have suggestions for renovating to add sound proofing? We need to reinsulate our interior walls because it’s so loud between the bedrooms, and we don’t have any privacy. I’d like to move to get away from this problem, but we love our neighborhood and property.
A: I just did this; my house is so old, it didn’t even have insulation. Unfortunately, in your case, the only way to fix this is to take down the drywall and reinsulate it. The best solution, if you can budget for it, is spray-foam insulation. Just be sure you can get out of the house for one to two days while it’s installed.
Q: My cousin was featured on one of the renovation shows, and it showed him searching for a home and “being surprised” to see the final result. However, he had already purchased the home and was involved in all the renovation decisions, and he was told to “act surprised.” Is this typical for your show, too?
A: I can’t speak for all the renovation shows, but on “Ty Breaker,” we did our best to keep everything a surprise. We want genuine reactions, which make the best TV. The tough part is they have the keys to the house. We ask them not to peek, but do they go over at night after we’ve left? Probably!