Alison Gramenos aspired to be an interior designer from the get-go. “I’ve always known since I was little,” she says. “I started with designing my room and my friends’ rooms—ripping out carpets to get to the hardwood and painting furniture.”
Born and raised in Chicago, she received a degree in interior architecture from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and went on to become the youngest designer at high-end home builder Christopher Homes. Two years later, she launched her own consulting firm. “I didn’t want to work for anyone else, ever—I wanted to have my own business and call the shots. I’m a control freak,” she admits.
Since then, she’s designed the interiors of countless luxury residences and resorts and spearheaded the $160 million expansion of Sin City’s Silverton Casino Hotel. But these days, Gramenos—professionally known as Alison Victoria—is most famous for hosting DIY Network’s Kitchen Crashers. Now in its ninth season, the reality show—part of the channel’s hit Crashers series—follows the petite wonder as she scours home improvement stores for folks in need of a kitchen revamp. (Once Alison finds a client, she takes a month to design their dream space and order the necessary materials, then shoots the entire renovation in a span of three to four days.)
Here, the creative star dishes on how she became the first female Crasher, offers advice to DIYers, and reveals her favorite design project of all time.
Describe your personal aesthetic.
Vintage and modern—a total mix.
What was the greatest challenge in opening your own company?
I don’t think there really was one. Every mistake I’ve made, I’ve learned so much from—every failure, I’ve just gotten back up.
What’s your favorite room in your house?
The kitchen. It’s very timeless, layerable.
How did you become the host of Kitchen Crashers?
I just answered a random email sent to 300 different designers in Chicago asking if we were willing to do a design show on HGTV. I wrote them back—and here I am, nine seasons later. There was no vetting process, no auditioning—they were looking for someone to be a ghost designer for a show called “House Crashers,” and the production company really liked me. The network pitched me on a couple different shows, but I said no and pitched them back to do kitchens as the first female Crasher.
What does being the first female Crasher mean to you?
It means everything. It’s setting the bar a little higher—it’s showing everyone that I can do everything a man can do. It’s putting women on the map in the category.
For those looking to refresh their own kitchens, what’s the easiest DIY project they can undertake?
They can paint their own cabinets. Rent or buy a sprayer and do it the right way. Save time, save money, but make it look professional.
What’s the best advice you can give to beginner DIYers?
Know your limits. Don’t mess around with mechanical, electrical, or plumbing systems—hire an expert. Do your homework. Really understand what you can tackle versus what you need to hire someone to do.
What’s your favorite design project to date?
The Kohler Design Center kitchen—it’s called “American Designer in Paris.” I just finished that. It was a dream kitchen of mine—you can check it out online.
Name a fellow designer you deeply admire.
There are two I absolutely adore—Kelly Wearstler and Kara Mann. I used Kelly’s tiles in the Kohler kitchen—it’s all on my Instagram!
What are you currently working on?
I’ve got my development and design company, Chicago Reimagined—I’m a real estate developer in Chicago—and I’m doing a new TV show on HGTV called Windy City Rehab that will follow me around Chicago flipping houses. That’s going to premiere in May.
What’s one thing your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
Honestly, because of the reality TV show, people see everything, know everything—I’m an open book. I love to travel. I love animals. I love rap music. My grandmother is my best friend. It’s all on social media. I don’t think there’s anything that I’m secretive about.
What’s the best part about your job? The worst?
I love everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have amazing clients and opportunities, and I get to meet awesome people from all over. There are so many people in this world who don’t love what they do, and I’m not one of them!
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