Before the longtime TV host arrives in Chantilly, we spoke with him about ‘This Old House,’ remodeling advice and what to expect at this year’s event.
The idea of a remodeled home seems pretty wonderful. You imagine a modern kitchen with updated appliances, a brand-new couch to hang out on every night after work and maybe even a surround-sound system for entertainment.
But in reality, the process of creating your ideal home can be long, complex and challenging—without the proper guidance, that is.
This month, you can find all the necessary inspiration, tools and advice for your next home project in one place, thanks to the annual Home + Remodeling Show taking place at the Dulles Expo Center, from Friday, Jan. 17 to Sunday, Jan. 19. It will include a marketplace full of home-related products, displays to motivate your impending renovations and a variety of lectures hosted by local and international home professionals.
Among the many experts taking the stage this year is Kevin O’Connor, longtime host of PBS’ Emmy-winning home improvement show This Old House, which has captivated thousands of viewers since its debut in 1979. Over several episodes, O’Connor and a team of tradesmen renovate an entire home, taking the mystery out of remodeling and carpentry tasks.
Before O’Connor arrives in Northern Virginia, he chatted with us about his 17 years on the job, life in Massachusetts and key advice to those planning a renovation in 2020.
You’ve been the host of This Old House since 2003. What keeps you coming back to work every day after all these years?
Definitely two things stand out. The first is the folks that I work with. I really enjoy the other guys (and now women) on the show. We are a tight-knit group, from the on-screen guys even to the production side. It’s the same group that has been doing this my entire career and before me. Norm and Richard, for example, have been on the show for 40 years. We’ve really become a tiny family and we are doing such a special thing. We’ve found our rhythm and we aren’t going anywhere.
Second, I get to see the coolest stuff. I am spoiled, this show is like the golden ticket for me. Whenever we call different property owners about projects to cover, people are like, “Absolutely, come visit.” The show has a tremendous amount of respect and because of that I get to see the most amazing things.
What is your favorite part about working in the Boston area?
Selfishly, it allows me to sometimes get home for dinner. I spend a lot of time on the road, flying back and forth to California, which is great and invigorating for me, but I miss a lot of weekend sports with my kids. It’s home.
On the unselfish part, it’s one of the greatest collections of old homes and beautiful architecture in the country. When we are outside of Boston and visit home shows, lots of people will show me photos of homes built in 1949 that they find historic, and I’m like, “That’s old?” Try 1790 or 1820. Given who we are, the area is a beautiful hunting ground for what we do.
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What are you looking forward to most about the Home + Remodeling Show?
I’ve done it a number of times and I always enjoy it, especially since I’ve become friends with the folks from Marketplace. I enjoy the Q&A session the most. I tell some stories but when I turn it over to people and ask about their own projects, it’s so much fun. It’s new and fresh every time and you never know what they are going to bring your way. People bring images of faucets that turn on in the middle of the night and I always get stumped. The game of trying to diagnose problems is a great time, and people are generally extremely gracious to hear my advice.
What’s the best piece of advice you can give someone who is remodeling in 2020?
It will take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expect. That’s a function of renovation. Because it is tricky, you can never know what is behind the walls until you open them up. A big part of the cost is labor too. If you just go into it with your eyes open and plan accordingly, you can mitigate a lot of the frustration.
For tickets to the Home + Remodeling Show, click here. // Dulles Expo Center: 4320 Chantilly Shopping Center, Chantilly; $3-$9