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For nearly a decade, millions of viewers tuned into ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with host . Although the final episode aired in 2012, the show’s nine-season run cemented it as an iconic home makeover production (that you can currently seasons two through nine of on Hulu). With a popular , the show has capitalized on the ever-growing appeal of before-and-after home reveals. We tapped EMHE’s lead designer, Kim Lewis, to answer all of our lingering, burning questions about the show.
Lewis, who currently runs based in Austin, Texas, worked behind the scenes on EMHE for six years—creating more than 120 homes across 43 states. Her role involved working on both the architecture and interior design, drawing floor plans for local architects to draft up and managing a team to style the entire home. This often meant balancing acts: “A lot of time, we were building something for a family that had medical needs or a veteran, so we always made it really personal,” Lewis says. “My job was to make sure the house remained really personally designed for that family while maintaining the crazy requests of the producers because, after all, it was a television show and they wanted to make sure they were gonna have their ratings, that things were gonna be crazy enough for people to tune in.”
As you can imagine, it was a whirlwind thanks to the super tight timeline. “People never really believed that [the homes were] actually built in seven days, because that’s what we said on the show,” Lewis says. “But that was not true. They were actually being built in five days.”
Think of that in terms of a five-day workweek, but you never clock out. “We had a hotel room, but we never left the site once the house started getting built,” Lewis says. “I can’t even tell you how many times I would just like plop over and take a 20-minute power nap with a ream of copy paper as my pillow.”
Six to eight weeks of prep time were dedicated to each home (which sometimes included miscellaneous additions, like…a tiger sanctuary). In that short time span, everything for the house is planned, ordered, and corralled for the install. Of course, Lewis always begged for more time, but the quick pace was simply the nature of the show. Despite being exhausting, the show kept Lewis coming back because the projects were rewarding in terms of those who they were helping. Not to mention, there’s a certain instant gratification you get from executing a project so quickly.
Challenges certainly sprung up and leaning on the local communities became paramount. Lewis recalls one project in which the countertop vendor fell through close to the installation. Luckily, when she was explaining the dilemma to someone in a crowd outside, a stranger came to the rescue. “Someone next to me went, Oh, my brother, (I think it was his brother) owns a countertop company. Do you need help?”
These instances ignited Lewis’s passion for immersing herself in local communities and led her to coin a phrase for her company. “I called myself a global local,” she says. “Everywhere I would go, I would throw myself into that city and get to know everyone I possibly could. That network is how these projects were pulled off.”
Love knowing what your favorite stars are up to? Same. Let’s keep up with them together.
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