“Hideous Houses” Eric Stromer on How to Keep Your Home Beautiful

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The best part of any home renovation show is watching the carpenters at work.  It’s so amazing how they start with nothing but some pieces of wood, and end up with a one-of-a-kind armoire.  

They aren’t bad to look at either (no, seriously, do you have to be adorable to be a carpenter, or does being a carpenter make you adorable?  These are the philosophical questions that burden me).

One such adorable carpenter who is off to a running start with his very own home makeover show is Eric Stromer. This handyman – who has been named one of PEOPLE’s Sexiest Men Alive – previously made us swoon on Clean Sweep (and a few times on Trading Spaces).

Now on “Hideous Houses,” he’s hunting down the ugliest homes in America to beautify on a $20,000 budget.  We got the chance to pick Mr. Stromer’s brain on home improvement, and he was kind enough to make us laugh along with answering our questions.

Obviously, if your house looks like it’s been slapped with an ugly stick, you want to know about it. But some people seem to be blissfully unaware. So what are the red flags that you’re living in a hideous house?

Stromer: “Whenever I see a boat, bus, or old unassembled car in your driveway we’ve got a problem.  If your vehicles don’t run and they’re not in a garage really getting worked on, then you are a junk collector.  Also, if you have way too many pet piles on your lawn, you probably have more animals than you can take care of.  Either clean up the crap or find other homes for your zoo!”

On a similar note, what contributes stylistically to a hideous home?  Well, you know when you let your child dress himself for the first time, and he comes down with his swimsuit, a Buzz Lightyear costume top, and a cowboy hat?  It’s kind of like that.  

“If you have faux roman columns and a Spanish tile roof with a halfhearted attempt at an English garden you have a Hideous House!”

But there is hope:

“Try and unify design and make your roof color and paint colors work together in a cohesive way.  Also, just the simple act of cleaning up your front yard and getting rid of the clutter can do wonders for you and your neighbors.”

When facing a home improvement project, there is the obvious risk of making your home look worse than it did before.  You can prevent making some ugly mistakes, though.

 “Find images that appeal to your personal sense of what is beautiful.  Before taking on any project, find a cohesive design plan and always work toward that vision in every choice you make.  That is not to say that every choice must always be exactly the same as your pictures.  But if you have an inner sense of what you love, than you will always choose elements that are informed by your personal sense of style.”

Obviously, it’s hard to have a home that looks like it’s right out of the pages of Home and Garden unless you are rolling in the dough.  But there are some quick fixes you can make on a budget, though.  What’s one?

“Paint!  If you just take three hours on a weekend and paint one wall in your living room as an accent wall you will be amazed at what happens over the next few weeks.  Good taste and intention are like a virus that spreads rapidly.  Before you know it, your house will start to transition from sows ear to silk purse!”

Another big mistake is thinking you can do it all yourself (Thanks for the confidence, Pinterest!).  Sometimes you have to bring in the pros.  So when do you tell your hubby to put down the hacksaw and call in reinforcements?

“Anytime there are plumbing, structural or electrical issues you should probably at least get the opinions of professionals before you proceed.  From there, you can take on the work if you are informed.”

Hear that?  IF you are informed.  That translates to, don’t go poking in the wires because you Googled a solution and the pictures make it look easy.  Don’t be afraid to get someone else to do the dirty work, especially if it means fewer trips between the hardware store and the ER.

What about the holidays?  We all know the neighbors with 25,000 imported Italian  twinkle lights and Santa and the whole workshop on their lawn.  Where do you draw the line before you home is a Hideous Home: Holiday Edition?

“I’m not a fan of anything that blows up as a holiday decoration.  Also, have a time limit on how long your decorations entertain us.  If it’s March, you’ve stayed too long at the party.”

Now that we’ve picked on your house, let’s talk about what to do if you know a person with god-awful design taste.  How do you tell a friend that their house is downright hideous?  Well, Stromer agrees that it isn’t easy.

“It’s difficult, like asking if you look fat in your jeans.  Focus on elements like, ‘don’t you think it would be fun to have a garage sale and sell all of this stuff on your lawn that makes it hard for me to get to your front door?'”

Finally, since Eric is a dad and a do-it-yourselfer, we just had to get his take on dads building stuff with their kids.  He says,

“It’s everything!  Dads and kids don’t really even have to say anything to each other when they are working on a project together.  This amazing osmosis occurs and your kid starts to see who you really are just by how you do stuff.  Also, individual time with your kid breeds an ease and comfort around each other that doesn’t show up any other way.  My best memories of my Dad came through working on tasks together.  Try it!  You’ll get such a profound return on your investment that you might even clean out your garage!”

So there you go.  Get your hubby and your kids to clean out the garage.  They’ll be all bonded, and you’ll finally be able to pull your car in!  Win-win!  And to learn more about home improvement and preventing yourself from living in an ugly house, watch “Hideous Houses” with Eric Stromer on A&E on Saturday mornings.

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