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    Qolture Blog

    Ori Founder Hasier Larrea is Revolutionizing Urban Design—One Square Foot At a Time

    Ori Founder Hasier Larrea is Revolutionizing Urban Design—One Square Foot At a Time

    What if you could transform one room a hundred different ways—with little to no effort? Ori—a smart new architectural innovation inspired by origami, the art of Japanese paper folding—is designed to help you do just that.

    Conceived by MIT wunderkind Hasier Larrea in collaboration with Swiss designer Yves Béhar, the revolutionary system combines furniture and robotics to create a clever and compact space capable of morphing from a living room into a bedroom, living room, dining room, closet or office in mere seconds—all with just the touch of a finger, a wave of a hand, or a simple voice command.

    “We're proving that every square foot is not created equal. A 300-square-foot apartment with Ori’s technology can have the functionality of a 500- or 600-square-foot apartment,” Hasier says. “That’s how you change the paradigm of space.”

    Made out of poplar plywood—which is more lightweight and durable compared to similar materials, such as MDF or particle board—Ori comes in two configurations: Full and Queen, each available in a light or dark finish. Both feature retractable beds and desks and enough room to house a 48-inch TV—not to mention ample storage space (though the Queen boasts extra shelving and a larger closet).

    Manufactured in the United States, each smart system comes with an on-device console with presets to control the unit’s movement, along with an app that allows users to reconfigure its settings from anywhere in the world and access additional functionalities through Google Home or Alexa. The installation, which glides back and forth on a linear track fixed to an uncarpeted floor, requires a standard 15/20A circuit and consumes about a tenth of the electricity a hairdryer needs. To boot, it features a 120W AC/DC internal power supply and three outlets to power electronics. (In case of an electrical outage, the unit automatically switches to manual mode, and users can continue to use it simply by pushing or pulling.)

    Down the line, “designers will be able to customize all of the furniture in the system and create hundreds, if not thousands of possible configurations,” Larrea notes. Eventually, the company plans to expand into single products, such as connected beds, toilets, and tables. “We’re also thinking about other kinds of spaces, like hotels, offices and dorms, and how we can make small spaces more efficient and livable with our robotic technology.”

    The company’s first production run of 1,200 systems can be pre-ordered exclusively by real estate developers for roughly $10,000 apiece, though individual units will later be marketed to the public for an undetermined price. So far, the systems have been integrated into a slew of large-scale developments throughout the U.S. and Canada—among them, The Vintage in Washington, D.C., Watermark Seaport in Boston, The Eugene in New York, and Monarc at Met3 in Miami.

    Here, Larea offers insight into Ori’s pioneering technology, discusses the unit’s requirements, and details the system’s security features.

    What are the unit’s chief components?

    Any Ori system has four layers: the muscle to drive the system; the skeleton with the mechanics and electronics to enable transformation; the brain to interact and connect to other smart devices; and the skin or furniture that allows the customization of the experience. Thousands of engineering hours have gone into creating the product. That includes mechanics that make the system energy efficient and require little power to move.

    How long did the concept take to develop? When did you debut the prototype?

    We developed many Ori prototypes while at MIT—we called them "furniture with superpowers." This video shows one of our very first prototypes.


    How much space is necessary for the system to fully function?

    It depends on the system configuration, the size of the bed, etc.


    What are the unit’s dimensions?

    Queen Standard: 98” x 151” x 94”

    Queen Reversed: 98” x “127” x 94”

    Full Standard: 92” x 139” x 94”

    Full Reversed: 92” x 115” x 94”

    (The “reversed” models open to the living room instead of the private area.)


    What are the dimensions of the boxes the unit ships in?

    The largest package for the queen system is a 96” x 40” x 10” box, and the largest package for the full system is a 90” x 40” x 10” box.


    How long does it take to install a single unit?

    We're targeting one-day installation with two certified installers. The system comes flat-packed in a group of packages, allowing for easy transport.


    Do you employ any sustainable methods or incorporate any eco-friendly materials into their construction?

    Not at this time, but we are continuing to explore new materials that would further optimize the design and build of the unit.


    How safe and intuitive is Ori? When on auto mode, is there any chance the unit could suddenly move or shift without being made to?

    The system is incredibly safe and user-friendly. It is is designed to automatically stop when it encounters any type of resistance, very much like a garage door opener. The unit is also very slow moving, which gives it time to react to unexpected objects in its path. We're working to obtain the required safety certificates before launching our production units.


    Are there any programmable security measures that can prevent kids from accessing the interface or remote control?

    We positioned the control interface at a height that does not allow children to access the buttons or operate the system.


    All smart systems connected to Wi-Fi/Bluetooth have the potential to be accessed by unauthorized users. Have you implemented any fail-safes guarding against hackers?

    We take this matter very seriously and are working with secure, third-party platforms such as Amazon AWS and Particle. Another benefit of the system is that it does not need to be connected—or “online”—in order to operate.


    Do you have an Ori system in your own home?

    Not yet, but hopefully soon. I would love to live in a smaller apartment with an Ori system if I had the chance.


    About The Author




    HGTV's Listed Sisters Lex and Alana LeBlanc Reveal the Secret to Their Success

    HGTV's Listed Sisters Lex and Alana LeBlanc Reveal the Secret to Their Success

    Identical twin sisters Lex and Alana LeBlanc have always been incredibly close—and unsurprisingly, have plenty in common: “We’re both competitive, extremely driven, vegetarian—and we can’t stand people who chew food loudly,” the two, best known as the hosts of HGTV’s Listed Sisters, confess.

    Born in Los Angeles and raised in Las Vegas, the 35-year-old duo now live in Nashville, where the series, now in its second season, is filmed. The show follows the sisters as they help local families remodel and sell their old houses—and ultimately, find their dream homes. (Similar to Property Brothers’ Jonathan and Drew Scott, each sibling specializes in one half of the home-owning process: NYSID graduate Lex is an expert in construction and interior design, while Alana, a RE/MAX Elite broker, is a pro at buying and selling.)

    According to the pair, every renovation takes between four to six weeks, and they often work on multiple homes at a time. As for their favorite: “We will always love our first-ever renovation of Listed Sisters,” Lex says. “The home turned out beautifully and we still remain friends with the family to this day.”


    Listed Sisters Lex and Alana LeBlanc


    The sisters are also business partners off-screen, jointly managing Lex’s company—LAVA Home Design—which launched in 2014. The firm provides an array of interior decor, remodeling, and handyman services, along with a line of home accents and furnishings Lex curates herself. (“I love finding things at flea markets,” she enthuses.)

    Below, the twins reveal the best part about their jobs, discuss their favorite pastimes, and discuss most important move home shoppers should make before purchasing a fixer upper.

    What brought you both to Tennessee?

    Lex: Alana was living in Nashville working as a realtor in new construction and I was in New York when we realized we should join forces. Real estate and interior design go hand in hand, so I made the move, and the rest is history! We are so lucky to be able to work together everyday and help people create their forever homes.

    What’s the best part about your job?

    Lex: The best thing about being a designer is that I get to choose the design style for each space on a case-by-case basis. I always figure out our clients’ “design personality” and make sure the space functions for their needs and represents their lifestyle.

    Alana: Being able to guide people through what most likely will be the biggest most emotional purchase of their lives.

    How would you describe your own home?

    Lex: I am currently renovating—almost done! I would describe the style as classic worldly with a modern twist.


    Listed Sisters Lex and Alana LeBlanc


    What’s your advice for home shoppers looking to purchase a fixer upper? (How can they tell if a property is a real steal or a bad deal?)

    Lex: The most important thing to do when buying a fixer is to have a thorough inspection. Bring your contractor to the home to get his opinion and estimate of the scope of work before you seal the deal.

    What’s your favorite HGTV show (apart from “Listed Sisters”)?

    We love any show with the Scott Brothers. Could be the twin thing, or that they are two genuine people.

    How long do you see yourselves living in Nashville?

    We both love our city and don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.

    What’s your favorite place to hangout in the city?

    We love live music, and downtown has plenty of it!

    Name a few things you like to do in your spare time.

    Lex: I love to practice yoga, watch Netflix and chill!

    Alana: Hiking, being out in nature and photography.

    What’s the greatest thing about being identical twins?

    The best part is that we were literally born best friends. We know everything about each other and can always trust one another.

    If you weren’t in your current professions, what would you be doing instead?

    Lex: I would be living on a beautiful island teaching yoga everyday, and Alana would be a world-class chef because she loves cooking!

    About The Author



    Meet HGTV’s Newest Star Couple, Ken and Anita Corsini

    Meet HGTV’s Newest Star Couple, Ken and Anita Corsini

    Two years ago, Ken Corsini received a phone call from a casting director looking to schedule an interview with him and his wife, Anita, for a new television series. (The couple, who share three kids, are the cofounders of Red Barn Homes, a real estate company based in Atlanta.) Anita laughed when she heard: “I told Ken, ‘Nobody is going to put us on TV!’” So when the two sat down to chat with the production company folks on Skype, “We just had fun with it,” she recalls.

    Little did they know their happy-go-lucky approach would land them the spot on the small screen. That summer they filmed the pilot of Flipping the South, which showcased their knack for buying, renovating, and reselling properties in and around Atlanta. “We never took ourselves too seriously and enjoyed our time on camera together,” Anita says. “We had a wonderful crew that put us at ease, and they captured our real-life interactions and decision-making process.”

    The show eventually evolved into Flip or Flop: Atlanta, the latest addition to the network’s hit franchise. The spinoff, which premiered two weeks ago, is structured much like the original Flip or Flop : “It takes you through the process of identifying and purchasing the property, walking through the house in its original state—my favorite part!—renovations, and selling the home,” Anita explains.

    Each project can take six to ten weeks to complete, depending on how big the remodel is. “We buy houses under $100,000 up to about $500,000. However, most of our properties fall between $200,000 and $300,000, with sale prices in the $200,000 to $300,000 range,” Ken notes. “We try to acquire properties and budget renovations at 75% of the finished value—basically targeting a 25% gross profit margin.”

    In the first episode of Flip or Flop: Atlanta, the pair take on a split-level fixer-upper in Buckhead, turning the 1970s eyesore into a sight for sore eyes. This Thursday, in episode three, they work to transform a trashed rental house into a rustic masterpiece. As for Anita’s favorite project of the season, “If I had to choose one, I would say the little farmhouse,” she says. “If you could see how far that home came, you would want to give it an Olympic medal!”

    Here, the duo offer other entrepreneurial couples advice on starting their own business, share the biggest mistake many house flippers make, and provide a behind-the-scenes peek at their new series.

    What makes a property a good candidate for a flip? Does every fixer-upper have potential?

    Anita: I look at dilapidated homes and can see potential in any of them. With enough vision, any house can turn around. It doesn’t always make financial sense to flip each one, but honestly, every home has potential.

    Interestingly, we had a house under contract today that we had to cancel. It was a very distressed property that needed a lot of work. In many cases, it’s these very houses that have the most profit potential. However, in this instance, the house simply needed too much work and was actually likely a tear down. While a dilapidated house can sometimes be quite profitable, it can also become a money pit if you’re not careful in your renovation estimate.

    Ken: [A property is unfit to flip] when the structure of the house is compromised to the point that it no longer makes sense to salvage it and tearing it down actually becomes the only option. However, if the purchase price of the house is less than or equal to the land value, there are times when we will scrap a house and build a new one in its place.

    What’s the biggest mistake house flippers often make?

    Anita: I think house flippers can “over-renovate” a house if they aren’t careful. Also, I often see flippers change a house, but it doesn’t fit the neighborhood. In both cases, you make the property harder to market and sell. If it is over-renovated, you may end up with an asking price that is well above the rest of the neighborhood. When this happens, the home could sit on the market for a really long time.

    What’s the story behind your own home?

    Anita: We actually live in a house a stone’s throw from the house we built when we were in our 20’s. The previous owner knew we were interested in the property and let us know that it was going to be at the courthouse steps. So we made an offer and many months later, the short sale went through. We practice what we preach, and found a total steal for our place. When we bought this house, we had four-year-old and one-year-old twins. I have been busy with them over the past several years, so much like the shoemaker's kids without shoes, the house still needs an overhaul. I look forward to making it into a home that screams “Corsini” in the near future!

    Ken: While we both agree there is a lot yet to be done to our house, we’ve actually been working on it for six years straight. We’ve really turned the property into a fun place for our kids to grow up. We have a barn with goats, pigs, dogs, and cats. We have a pool, 10 acres of four-wheeling trails, a lake, a warehouse with indoor basketball, and a pretty nice treehouse for the kids (and yes, I’ve spent the night out there with them). Honestly, so many fun things that will make this a memorable place for our kids to grow up.

    Describe your signature aesthetic. What type of vibe do the interiors you design evoke?

    Anita: This is always a tricky question to answer for me. When flipping a house you really want the house to have a complete, cohesive design. It’s really hard to put a finger on it, but when buyers walk through a house and everything from the exterior to the interior flows well, they can feel it. I always pay attention to the neighborhood and make sure the house will fit the overall aesthetic. Most of my interiors have a warm, cozy feel, but I’ve been told I don’t have a specific “style” that fits into any mold. This always makes me laugh because that’s been me all my life—you could never really put me in a box.

    I have not had any formal design training other than the school of hard knocks. I have made my share of mistakes over the years, and learned what works and what doesn’t. I’m not afraid to ask for help if I need it, and enjoy the creative process a lot. I don’t mind pushing boundaries or taking risks. I can mix things up that haven’t always gone together and make them work.

    Talk about how you launched Red Barn Homes. How did business fare in the wake of the housing market crash?

    Anita: We were young—really young—and super ambitious. We started the business with open eyes and hearts not knowing what was ahead. I had full trust in Ken and I knew we would be alright. To me, it was way more important for us to go for it. He had my full support and did a fabulous job navigating a new business.

    Ken: Honestly, we were lucky when we first started out that we didn’t go and buy a bunch of properties. The first two years we were in business, we took fewer risks and used a strategy where we assigned contracts to other investors. It was in our third year that everything came crashing down in the real estate market, and we were lucky enough to get through it without losing our shirts. I think it actually worked to our advantage that we didn’t know as much as we do now, nor had the confidence or wherewithal to have over-leveraged ourselves before the crash.

    What’s the best part about being married to your business partner? What’s your advice for other couples thinking about starting a company together?

    Anita: Working together is great—it builds a different aspect of your marriage. For me, when I step back and really think about it, my best advice would be to respect your spouse and his or her gifts and talents. We have a lot of mutual respect for one another. We understand that we are both built differently, and celebrate the gifts we each bring to the table.

    How would you describe your on-air dynamic?

    We are ourselves. House flipping can evoke a lot of different emotions and you see all of it—but mostly, we just have a blast together, and I think the camera captures that.

    What’s the best part about your job? The worst?

    Anita: There are lots of great things about our jobs—I love the flexibility it offers and the creative opportunities the most. The worst part would be having to manage budgets and time—man, those things always get in the way.

    Ken: We absolutely love the freedom and flexibility that comes with running your own business. I would say the worst part is all of the unknowns that you encounter along the way. From unforeseen repairs that need to be made, to buyers canceling contracts because their financing fell through—everyday we are faced with problems and challenges that couldn’t have been predicted.

    Name a fun, “behind-the-scenes” fact about the making of Flip or Flop: Atlanta.

    Ken: In the farmhouse episode we shot, there were a number of animals mounted to the wall that made the initial walkthrough quite interesting. Those animals are now hanging in our warehouse!

    Anita: I kept saying, “This house needs a pop-of-wow,” meaning it just needed a splash of something—it could refer to the landscaping, tile, whatever. Ken and the crew would laugh every time I said it and gave me a bad time! We had a ton of fun.

    Do you enjoy watching other house-flipping shows?

    We love watching HGTV, especially with our kids. Watching flipping shows is always fun, but requires more of an emotional investment because we can relate to all their problems. It feels like a punch to the gut every time they find an issue with a house, because we just plain understand. Our kids love the Property Brothers—they think those two are so funny. I truly enjoy the Listed Sisters—they have such a great dynamic together and create some gorgeous homes.

    What else do you like to do in your spare time?

    Anita: We spend a lot of time together as a family, taking various trips and playing around the house. In the summer you can find us in our pool a lot! For me, I love taking classes at my local gym, spending time with friends and family, cooking, sewing, reading, watching Jimmy Fallon.

    Ken: What spare time? Just kidding...(kind of.) At this stage in life, having young kids basically is your spare time. That said, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love coaching my kids’ soccer and basketball teams, and they love coming to my softball games. We love taking the kids four-wheeling and camping. Honestly, most weekends are spent around the house with the kids in the bounce-house, riding four-wheelers, fishing in our lake, swimming in the pool—or playing sports.

    Name one thing every home should have.

    Every house should have a place that you absolutely love, whether it is the kitchen, home office, or closet. The homeowner should have a place that makes it their “home” and not just a house!

    What do you hope viewers take away from your show?

    Ken: I’m hopeful that people come away from the show with a greater appreciation for what it takes to flip a house—the good, the bad and the ugly. At the same time, I really hope people are entertained! I think our before-and-after transformations are really good and I’m hopeful people enjoy watching Anita and me work together.

    Anita: I really hope the audience learns something about this business and realizes all that goes into flipping a home. Our business is just one model for flipping, so I hope everyone can sit back and enjoy watching the process. They have the best seat in the house—they get to watch and take part and have no risk!


    About The Author



    Nicole Curtis Talks Season 8 of ‘Rehab Addict,’ Her Two Favorite Charitable Causes, and the Secret to a Happy Home

    Nicole Curtis Talks Season 8 of ‘Rehab Addict,’ Her Two Favorite Charitable Causes, and the Secret to a Happy Home

    You probably know Nicole Curtis as host of the DIY Network’s Rehab Addict, which follows the Detroit native as she brings historic houses in Michigan and Minnesota back to their former glory. Instead of tearing down the oft-dilapidated structures and replacing them with modern builds, Curtis painstakingly restores each one, paying homage to the decade in which it was originally constructed and filling it with refurbished fixtures and antique furnishings. In short, “I find and buy the houses, make the plans, stage the homes, and then sell them,” she notes. (And to ensure the newly restored homes live on for another hundred years, each comes with deed restrictions preventing its new owners from chopping up or tearing it down.)

    The self-taught and hands-on real estate investor has bought, flipped, and sold more properties than she can count, averaging three or four per year (not including the scores she’s consulted on). Rehab Addict premiered in 2010, but she began building her real estate empire long before, when she purchased her first home at 18. “That house was an absolute mess, but I loved it,” she recalls. “I’d go in right now and destroy everything in that house because it was so horrible!” she laughs. “What took me years and years and years to redo then, I could do now in about a week or two.”

    Currently in the works, the eighth season of her hit show is slated to air in the fall—though its exact premiere date has yet to be set. “There is no production schedule...I produce the project and we only have one camera guy,” she admits. “I woke up this morning and my son’s dad is in town, so I said, ‘Okay, we’re shooting today—everyone go to work!'”

    Aside from her thriving career behind the hammer and on the small screen, the 40-year-old dynamo is the author of Better than New—a New York Times bestseller that chronicles her life’s struggles and triumphs—and a tireless advocate for infant mental health and pediatric cancer research. (Her philanthropic open houses, which allow fans to preview a home that she’s remodeling in exchange for a small donation, have raised thousands for families in need.) “Saving houses is such a minimal part of what I do,” she asserts.

    Her proudest role, however, centers around her number one priority: her kids. “The houses are going to go, but if my children turn out bad, there’s no success that can make up for that,” says the mother of two boys, Ethan, 19, and Harper, who is almost two. “But if they turn out great, everything else can go to hell in a handbasket and it’s fine.”

    Here the Rehab Addict talks her favorite real estate project of all time, shares a nifty renovation trick involving Crock-Pots, and reveals the secret to creating a happy home.

    Did you grow up wanting to build houses? Have you always been an avid DYIer?

    I don’t think I wanted to build houses—I wanted to live in big houses and be successful. I didn’t have a trust fund; I didn’t have any money sitting around. So for everything I needed, I just took the scraps that no one else wanted and made them my own. My family was in the garbage business, and people throw out great stuff!

    Describe your personal style and design philosophy.

    My houses look like designer homes, but they’re comfortable. People love to stay at our houses when they’re in town because they know that they’re real. There are down comforters and featherbeds, everything. Even when I was broke, I found a way to design my homes so that they were comfortable and elegant—and most of all, with kids, washable. There’s nothing in my house that can’t go into a washer and be cleaned.

    I joke that I should have trademarked edison bulbs, barn sides, and subway tiles, because they’re everywhere now. I used to have to special order those bulbs and make my own light fixtures, and go to every farm store you can imagine to get barn sides to make barn doors, but these days you can probably go to your local drugstore and get both. And I remember the network executives saying, “Nicole, you have to design a bathroom that doesn’t have subway tiles—you can’t use them in every bathroom!” But now everyone does. I’m burnt out on my own design look!

    What’s your top go-to hunting ground for discarded treasures?

    Craigslist. I think it’s a great outlet. But if I get on there, I’m sucked in, and all of a sudden every antique that is available ends up in my garage. I don’t go to estate sales as much because I have garages full of stuff. People drop stuff off all the time, like we’re the orphanage for antique furniture.

    What’s the story behind how you got your own show?

    It was a freak thing—right time, right place. My real estate photo was online and a production assistant was scrolling through websites trying to find a real estate agent to go on another show, and they found me. They called and I went in, and of course, instead of just shutting my mouth and saying, “Oh yeah, I can say whatever you want,” I didn’t. I didn’t like what they were doing to a house, and I said something. And from there, it just went. They had never heard of an investor restoring historical homes and not doing open floor plans. I was this anomaly.

    Name your favorite project to date.

    I would say that the one that still gives me goosebumps is my Campbell Street house in Detroit, the burned duplex. That’s the one where I had no idea what I was doing and I really put everything on the line. It’s phenomenal. Every house that I have is still staged like you saw it on TV, because it’s all my furniture. So when you walk in there it’s like you step back through time.

    What can fans expect to see in season 8?

    We’re featuring multiple houses this season. This time we’re going to have a couple of houses thrown in there—just some fun little ones that I found. But it’s still me being stupid and telling people how to do something, not just going in and showing them the before and after. They actually take something from the series and learn it, which is always surprising to me. I’m still this random, silly person from Detroit who swears on TV and hits herself with a hammer—not on purpose, by accident—and makes it work!

    How’s filming coming along?

    For the first time in a long time, I’m excited—I’m having a lot of fun. I was off camera for almost two years; I had to take a break—I was burnt out. The politics of saving old houses and filming a TV show and everything that goes with it is a lot. It’s not a fake production set—there are no home owners allowing us to use their house for a week. It took its toll, doing that for seven years straight. Sometimes I think, “Oh my gosh, we’re never going to finish this house—and then I see the “before” pictures and realize how far we’ve come. And then I’m motivated again and we get back to work.

    Despite your love for restoring old homes and furnishings, is there ever an instance when saying “out with the old—in with the new” rings true?

    Most definitely! I am all about safety, and with old houses there’s still a lot of lead hazards, and people don’t realize it. You need to do take necessary precautions to abate dangerous materials. For instance, we resurface every closet tub, because when you put a bath in a tub and the finish has gone away, the lead is exposed. So essentially, you’re taking a hot lead bath. I warn people about that all the time. And there’s never a need for asbestos in a house. Everything that we keep is natural, like a solid wood floor, stone or porcelain tile.

    Name a cool trick every home builder or DIYer should know.

    Using Crock-Pots to strip paint off hardware! For years, I would scrub and sand and torch hardware to get paint off. And then somebody said, “Nicole, you just have to throw it in a Crock-Pot with boiling water and it gets the paint off in two hours.” This was stuff that I would be soaking for weeks and spent hours and hours scrubbing. I thought, “Son of a bitch, I wish I would’ve learned that a long time ago!” Now there are Crock-Pots all over my sites all the time. I’m not sure why no one’s asked me to sponsor Crock-Pot yet...

    What’s to your secret to creating a happy home?

    A house has to be lived in. I always live in the houses that I redo eventually. I work such random hours—I worked up until four days before I delivered my second baby—so it’s not strange to find me sleeping in one of the houses. I’ve slept in every single one we’ve ever redone, with the exception of the Minnehaha House. We move from house to house, because when you have a little one and you have a tiny dog you can do that. I’ve never lived in a house that I didn’t rebuild. They’ve all had my personal touch. I couldn’t imagine just going and buying a house and not doing anything to it. My problem here in Detroit lately is that the homes are so fabulous and I feel such good energy in them, that I can’t bring myself to sell them!

    Design your homes so that your kids are happy—they feel safe and secure, like it’s a sanctuary. I have the most beautiful formal dining room, but there’s paint all over my hardwood floors because we sit down on the floor and finger paint. So many homes I walk into are sterile, and I think that’s ugly. There have to be family photos. I’ve never bought a piece of artwork to go on a wall—I’ve either made it or it’s one of my kid’s photos. When people are in my house, they spend the most time in one of my hallways because it has all of our pictures throughout the years, and they love it.

    Talk about your advocacy work on infant mental health and pediatric cancer research. Why have you have chosen to champion those particular causes?

    I have the chance to speak for these kids who don’t have anyone speaking for them. Even though we’re not in a recession anymore and everything is going great, our kids are not flourishing. Our education standards are getting lower and our kids are struggling even more. The depression and suicide rate in teens is not decreasing. As far as pediatric cancer, Bobby’s daughter has been battling stage four neuroblastoma for three years, and that’s really opened my eyes. When your child has cancer, your whole world stops. People lose their homes. It’s
    heart-wrenching. So that’s where we’ve stepped in. When we do our fundraisers, we’re not paying medical bills—we’re helping people pay their mortgages and keep their electricity on. We do a t-shirt sale every Christmas and raise so much money—every dime that goes into my foundation goes right back out to help families.

    What advice would you offer moms struggling to balance a career and parenting?

    There is no balance—that’s some BS that somebody told you to make you feel bad. I think women are always scared that if they don’t seize their careers right at that moment, it’s not going to be there for them later on. That’s why I tell them that there’s time for your career, but your babies are only going to be babies for a couple of years. So if you don’t have to work or you can work part-time, that’s what I would do. I have always budgeted whatever I could to stay at home as much as possible. I’ve never driven a brand-new car or carried a Chanel purse. If I have money to spend on that stuff, then I can work fewer hours and I can be home with my kids. I really don’t know of any mom who is going to look back in 20 years and say, “I’m so glad I pushed for that and worked 80 hours that week instead of being home.”

    Women think they’re not doing something right because they aren’t able to get this balance that everyone talks about. They never give themselves enough credit. (There’s a reason the film Bad Moms was such a big hit last year!) But all that matters is that your kids are happy. It’s okay to have a dirty house. I played with my kids today instead of cleaning. My life is not balanced at all. It’s more out of whack than most people would assume!

    Name a few other truths about yourself many of your fans might be surprised to hear.

    People see me as this strong woman; they assume that I’m career-driven. But those who really know me would say otherwise. I’m still a small-town girl. I can get up and speak in front of thousands of people, but I’ve suffered from anxiety my entire life. I still have those insecurities. And when I say, “Oh my gosh, I was in the middle of a panic attack,” people think I’m kidding. It’s always surprising to people that there are moments when I bite the inside of my teeth just to get through it. Sometimes I don’t feel confident walking in and working a room.

    Also, I’ve never been one of those people who can toot their own horn. It would take you almost breaking my arm off if you didn’t know I was on TV to find out that I am. I’ve never ever introduced myself that way—it’s something I hate to lead with. When people ask what I do, I say I have a small construction business.

    What’s next?

    I’m content with where I’m at right now. If this is where my career ended and I had to figure out how to budget for the rest of my life, I think I could. That’s the part that makes me so happy and so satisfied with what I’ve chosen to do. I went exactly the opposite way that any normal real estate investor would’ve gone, and somehow I made it work!


    About The Author

    Alison Victoria on Hosting Kitchen Crashers, DIY Do’s and Don’ts, and the Best (and Worst) Part About Her Job

    Alison Victoria on Hosting Kitchen Crashers, DIY Do’s and Don’ts, and the Best (and Worst) Part About Her Job

    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 K​itchen 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!

    About The Author