Remodeling tips and bloopers from the stars
Robin Leach is to be believed, being rich and famous means that you have a fabulous
home worthy of that lifestyle.
That fabulousness usually isn't ready made. After all, a star
wants to put a personal stamp on the home. So, many celebrities engage in remodeling
projects just like the average Joe, except of course that they have above-average
That doesn't necessarily translate into above-average taste. You
might not want to take remodeling tips from Elvis Presley (if you sight him
or his ghost at your local gas station) or Bob Dylan. The green shag kitsch
of the "jungle room" in the King's Graceland mansion is one of the
great interior car wrecks. The Kremlin-like onion dome that Bob Dylan ordered
for his Malibu residence back in the 1970s enjoys similar status for exterior
Some celebrities like Natalie Maines of the exceptionally hot
Dixie Chicks actually get their hands into it and do a good job. The country
singer lists remodeling her Austin, Texas, home as her hobby. She even picked
up paint roller and tools to help redo a room in her mom's house last year on
cable TV's hit, "Trading Spaces." ("Trading Spaces" is one
of the many descendants of PBS' "This Old House" series, the granddaddy
of remodeling shows that made Bob Vila a household name.)
Others have never tackled a remodeling project before but jump
in because, like many of the rest of us, they can see the house of their dreams
in a place that needs an overhaul.
Take the case of Khandi Alexander. Once Whitney Houston's choreographer,
Alexander has since been a star of "Newsradio" and "ER,"
and now plays coroner Alexx Wood on CBS's "CSI: Miami," broadcast
TV's hottest dramatic series.
Before she landed the "CSI" role, she had bought a house
in Los Angeles. "Believe it or not, this is my first home," she says.
"And it truly was a fixer-upper in every sense of the word."
Not knowing where to start, she sought advice.
"I talked to all my friends and everybody told me the secret
was finding a contractor you could talk to and trust." She found "just
the right guy" in custom builder Frank DeFelice, who has worked on enormous
houses in posh communities like Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Los Feliz. "Frank's
advice was, 'Try to have a clear concept of what you want done and we can get
Her trust in him and his advice on planning turned out to be extremely
important when she landed the "CSI: Miami" job, which would take her
out of town for location filming for weeks at a time.
"I'm going to be out of town while all this work is being
done," she says. "Can you believe it? We put together a plan because
there was so much to tackle."
The house needed a new roof and new bathrooms. In addition, because
she wanted "an open and clean look," the interior remodeling included
knocking out two bedroom walls and installing French doors to open up the rooms.
The work included finding a jackpot of hardwood floors under old carpeting and
then restoring their luster.
The grounds also needed work, she says. "I didn't like the
way the driveway worked."
So she added a carport and driveway gate. "We ripped out
all the overgrown shrubs and the lawn and started from scratch. I have pets,
so I wanted the backyard totally enclosed ... which we did."
To get all this done on her series schedule made careful planning
with her contractor and her ability to trust him crucial. And that's the moral
of the story for the rest of us: Taking the time to choose the right contractor
upfront saves time and grief on the project.
Bob Vila sits on the other end of the spectrum. He is a celebrity
because of his remodeling skill. The original host of "This Old House"
now has another remodeling show called "Home Again" and a Web site.
So who better to ask for some practical, inexpensive quick fixes to refresh
a tired house?
"The first thing is preventive maintenance [to help avoid
expensive repairs]," he says. "Before I left the house this morning,
I tightened screws on a hinge on the front gate to keep it from sagging. I also
straightened out the latch on the back gate because it wasn't latching."
If there's some little job you've been meaning to get around to,
Vila says to seize the moment. The time spent on tasks like "tightening
things, oiling things and picking things up out of harm's way ... cleaning
gutters, spring cleaning, battening down in the fall and keeping an eye on potential
problem areas, especially if you're in an old house" will keep the home
looking good and save plenty of time and money in the long run.
"Another favorite quick fix is the perennial paint job"
or sometimes just a little elbow grease to get rid of scuffs on the wall. "Any
time of the year is a fine time to do a little fix-up that involves a can of
paint and a paint brush," he says. That's why he always advises people
to take good care of left-over paint. "It will come in hand for touching
After paint, other quick fixes include changing light fixtures.
"You can replace an existing fixture with track lighting in a galley, replace
or add fixtures under wall cabinets to give better work light," he says.
Inexpensive peel-and-stick fixtures can do that job, too.
"Then, there's hardware," he says. Changing cabinet
pulls to a sleek, stainless steel pull or knob can help change the look of a
bathroom or kitchen.
"They're cosmetics that will make the whole room look
better," Vila says. "It's really just smoke and mirrors."
-- Posted: April 7, 2003