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Advice from Nicole Curtis for HGTV's "Rehab Addict"

Sitting Pretty

Nicole Curtis is the Queen of House Renovation for HGTV's "Rehab Addict" and shares her sage advice when renovating a home.

How did you discover your passion for renovation projects?

Nicole: I have vision and see things that most people don’t. I walk into any project and think how do I work with what I have versus let’s just rip it out. I would never be able to afford to bring my designs to fruition if I worked like that. My spaces are unique and beautiful, never new, easy or stock.

What are some of the most difficult projects you have worked on?

Nicole: Every project I do is difficult. New construction is as easy as it comes. Renovation? It’s a whole different game. It’s basically putting humpty dumpty back together again—water and fire oftentimes play a part in the damage of the homes we work on…and neither are forgiving.

Is every house salvageable?

Nicole: No, oftentimes when something can be mass produced, the quality goes down. The majority of houses built after 1960 were done with very low quality materials and were not built to stand the test of time.

What is the first thing a homeowner needs to do when beginning a project?

Nicole: Write a list and prioritize projects. Most of the time, homeowners jump in without planning and end up running out of money and energy before the finish. I always say celebrate small successes. Think of it as a 3rd grade math test—get all the problems you know how to solve done first—then come back to the major ones.

How do you go about setting a budget?

Nicole: I look at needs, wants, and wishes. My “need” budget is obviously what I have to spend, my want budget is what I get if I am under budget and the wish budget is for when something came in amazingly inexpensive …then I add some fun from my wish list. I get at least 5-10 bids for every area of my budget—plumbing, electrical, carpentry.

Where should a homeowner focus on when choosing where to start a project?

You have to look at the needs first, fix what is broken and then move on to fix what you just don’t like—and always keep in mind your skill level.

What are your top tips for kitchen renovation?

Kitchens are tricky and most people spend way too much money on a kitchen. Keep in mind the market value of your home. If you have a vintage kitchen, don’t just gut it but rather work with what you have and simply add modern amenities that blend in. Century old cabinets are 100 percent wood—it’s rare to find cabinets like that today unless you have them custom built and even then it can cost a pretty penny.

What are some benefits of having a house with natural gas for cooking, heating and hot water?

I’ve never installed an electric stove and never will—overall, gas is what professional chefs cook on and although I am far from a chef, it always gives my kitchens a feeling of luxury to have a gas stove.

What are some sustainable choices homeowners can make today?

If you purchase real wood versus engineered— it will last a lifetime. The same goes with natural stone counters—if it was made by the Earth, you can’t go wrong.

When working on a fixer upper, what are the top rehab projects that you need to consider?

The mechanics are always the projects that aren’t pretty, but they really make or break your house. No sense in spending huge money in a kitchen remodel when your water doesn’t flow because your pipes are old.

Do you have a favorite project?

No, that’s like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. Each one of my projects is unique and beloved—some cost me more wrinkles than others, but all hold a special place for me.

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