Tonight my favourite home rennovation show finished. Back to Basics was the one show in a plethora of similars that stood out from the rest. It did so by being practical, interesting and normal.
The premise of rennovating a home is repeated over and over on our televisions these days. There are shows where you change rooms, change houses, rescue your DIYs or haemorrage money on the Kaipara Flats. The slap-dash of paint and MDF and PVA make for sloppy makeovers and fast-food television. Back to Basics was different. It didn't fit neatly into an hour-long slot - it needed an entire season. It needed 55 real days. It needed craftsmanship and hard yakker. It needed $100,000. It needed a project that included landscape gardening, building and interior design.
The three specialists were Mike, Steve and Kirsten, respectively. They gave hints, tips, direction invaluable to anyone embarking on such the huge venture of breathing life into an Auckland bungalow. The catch, and there was only one; was that they had to live in the house they were rennovating. Yes, just like YOU would have to if you were doing it. None of this going-home-to-a-warm-bed-at-the-end-of-the-day. When they turned the water off to plumb pipes, they went without water for as long as it took to finish that task. When they replaced the tired kitchen with the new modular units, they had to go 5 days with no cooking facilities. And don't even *get* Mike started on the fact that it rained for the first 33 days of the project and his garden ended up being more like a mudflat than an inviting outdoor space.
They had to live and breathe their plan for 55 days. And they didn't always get along - not in a JerrySpringer/AmericanShow kind of way; but in an uncomfortable/god-you're-annoying Kiwi kind of way. I'm not one who finds watching reality-tv confrontation entertaining. I'm not interested in being a fly-on-the-wall while two designers stand toe-to-toe hammer and tonging their way through a show.
The strength of the Back to Basics team was the melding of their common traits: project and deadline savvy, imagination and attention to detail. They each had enough common sense to not let perfection stand in the way of the project, at the same time they pushed the "perfect job" envelope as hard as they could given time and budget. While they were experts in their core specialities, they were all extremely versitile being able to cross into other tasks exceptionally well.
It was a pleasure to watch and their completed bungalow an absolute beauty. The colours were fresh and warm, the remodeling made the most of light and flow, the garden was incredibly beautiful and functional. I don't know or can't remember why they were rennovating this particular house - not for auction, not for sale - maybe as a commission. But in my opinion the show was a stunning success from Episode One til last night.
Thinking about it wondering if the show could be done again with new designers, in a new home, in a new city and maybe it could. This show stands on it's own, complete and interesting and doesn't need to be a franchise to be a success. I wouldn't be surprised if Kirsten becomes Wellington's most sort-after interior designer for the next few years; nor would I be surprised if Mike's landscaping business in New Plymouth sees him winning commissions throughout the country. Steve the builder was one of those increasingly rare craftsmen, and although his transition into the house/living arrangements was the most difficult, there is no denying his quality of work, and his big heart.
Back to Basics has such a strong tie with normality, realness and everyday-new-zealanders as much as other shows of this genre don't.