Thursday, July 31, 2014

PBS' Ask This Old House fixed my kitchen yesterday

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 12:04 PM

click to enlarge This Old House Staff, including host Kevin O'Connell, works to make my kitchen wondrous. - APRIL FLEMING
  • April Fleming
  • This Old House Staff, including host Kevin O'Connell, works to make my kitchen wondrous.

I am what you might call a hopeful Internet user. I enter contests and sweepstakes. I send my name to giveaways, seeking silly prizes.

Like most of us, I never win anything. I never had won anything, that is, until I made the ultimate score in the PBS lottery. In the span of a couple of weeks, I was awarded tickets to Antiques Roadshow in a random drawing and I was contacted by Ask This Old House (the companion show to the original This Old House) about a submission I'd made just a few days earlier. I ended up giving my Roadshow tickets to some friends (it was in Chicago), but I would never pass up the chance to invite PBS' long-running home-repair show into my house. Because, like all homeowners, my boyfriend, Ed, and I have no end of things that could use fixing. Particularly when someone else is doing most of the work.

When I was contacted by Heath Racela, Ask This Old House's producer, about what we would like fixed in the house, my first impulse was to think big. Rip up the asphalt in our backyard! Replace all the light fixtures! Put down new countertops in the kitchen! But after some back and forth and some e-mailed photos, Racela zeroed in on something himself. He pointed out that our kitchen backsplash was a bit unusual, not to mention awfully dark. He also asked whether we happened to have a leaky sink. Yes, I said. Yes, we do!

So after two more weeks of conversations, Racela and I set a backsplash date: July 30. He let us know that Kevin O'Connor, the towheaded longtime PBS host (alongside lifetime favorites Tom Silva and Norm Abrams) would be flying out for our kitchen segment. (Our leaky sink is slated for repair on Friday.) We were to take a Rustoleum product that supposedly would turn the offending backsplash into something more closely resembling porcelain. Our funky backsplash would wind up looking like oh-so-desirable subway tile! Seeing as I couldn't even really tell what the original backsplash was meant to resemble — faux brick? terra cotta? ceramic? — I took Racela on faith that such a transformation was possible.

click to enlarge The kitchen and its offending backsplash - APRIL FLEMING
  • April Fleming
  • The kitchen and its offending backsplash

I imagined that I would have the cleanest house on planet Earth when Racela and his crew, including O'Connor, arrived at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. Everything would gleam and smell amazing. However, our sweet, old dog, Molly, had undergone an unexpected and significant surgery the day before, to remove a benign but surprisingly large tumor, and our planned cleaning time had been given instead to cuddling our crying old dog. She's fine now, though there remains a rather Frankenstein-looking pair of stitched-up wounds on her side. Healthy dog, dirty house.

I also imagined that, if ever there were a day when I'd maybe doll myself up, it might be the one when I'd agreed to be recorded for television. But no — that would have required waking up even earlier than 6 a.m. Sloppy house, sloppy lady. (I might need a makeover show myself.) Any regrets I might have had about that evaporated when O'Connor, upon greeting me and walking into our house, went straight to our ailing, groggy pet.. I knew the day was going to be just fine.

click to enlarge McDonald's tile. - APRIL FLEMING
  • April Fleming
  • McDonald's tile.

After 90 minutes or so of prep, producer Racela mentioned something that I am grateful he hadn't said before: "Take no offense, but I just thought of something. Doesn't this tile [he gestured toward our backsplash] remind you of McDonald's?" Ah, right — our kitchen backsplash looked like the well-trodden floor of a McDLT-era McDonald's. Perfect.

So we bleached and we scrubbed and we limed-away, all to make the surface more amenable to the epoxy. And our gracious friends from Rustoleum, three of whom had flown from Chicago to help ensure that we were using their product properly, oversaw our painting. This stuff reeks (sorry, Rustoleum reps), but it works (thanks, Rustoleum reps). The McDonald's tile began to disappear. In its place: a surface that really did start to look like subway tile.

click to enlarge Future PBS superstar - ED GUERNSEY
  • Ed Guernsey
  • Future PBS superstar
click to enlarge APRIL FLEMING
  • April Fleming

Have I mentioned what a joy an improvement project is when you have a crew and the expertise of three product developers and two home-repair veterans? It is 10 million times better than doing it on your own. We applied two coats of the stinky but effective epoxy to our backsplash, in between taping, placing dropcloths, eating sandwiches, and moving lighting and camera equipment from corner to corner.

click to enlarge Reveal chat. - APRIL FLEMING
  • April Fleming
  • Reveal chat.

O'Connor, producer Racela and the rest of the crew were total pros. The taping for me, of course, felt supremely awkward. Maybe I should have had a bloody mary (or three) before they showed up. I really did try to be as enthusiastic on camera as they encouraged me to be - I swear, I really was excited inside - but I am clearly not destined for television, even when we're talking calm, quiet PBS. We finished our backsplash "story" in about seven hours, including two hours of epoxy drying time. O'Connor is already gone. (The show is taping another segment in Mission today, then helping with our leaky sink on Friday, both to be taped with plumbing expert Richard Tretheway.)

But even if I have to watch the finished episode through my fingers when it eventually airs, I had one of the most fun, weird days I've ever had in Kansas City. The Ask This Old House crew was lovely. And just look at my freaking kitchen!

click to enlarge photo.JPG

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