Learn about the great stories and beautiful photography to be found in The Best Homes from This Old House, a book that shows readers a part of the program they don't get to see much of on TV: the finished product.
LESLIE: Well, each week, the cast members from This Old House join us with their tips and tricks for better home improvement. It’s part of a tradition that’s spanned more than three decades.
TOM: This Old House is America’s longest-running home improvement series, airing since 1979. And along the way, viewers have seen unbelievable transformations from the outside in.
Now, though, we can see those details of renovations we’ve never seen before, inside stories we’ve never heard before, because of our friend, host Kevin O’Connor’s new book, The Best Homes from This Old House. It takes us on a behind-the-scenes look at homes from the last decade. And Kevin joins us now with a peek into the pages.
KEVIN: Hi, guys. It’s great to be here.
TOM: Now, congratulations on this beautiful book. It’s not only well laid-out, it’s also got some great inside stories from the entire cast. Tell us about it.
KEVIN: Well, it was a ton of fun to make and it’s actually the first time – as you said, Tom, we’ve been on the air for over three decades. It’s the first time that we’ve ever done a book like this.
And so the idea is, over the course of a season we renovate these old homes, right? And they’re usually pretty beat-up and dilapidated when we get there. We sometimes strip them back a little further and then we put them back together. But it really isn’t until the last half of our last episode that we show our fans the finished homes. Because we’re mostly about process, about sawdust.
KEVIN: And I can remember a few years back when we actually purchased one of these homes. It was our 25th anniversary. All the guys were sitting around in the finished project. We hadn’t – we didn’t have any homeowners that we had to turn it over to. So we had our feet up on the furniture, we were spending a couple extra days in this home and I’m looking around and saying, “This place is beautiful and no one gets to see it.”
And so that’s the idea behind this book. Here is a way to – over the course of a day or a week, you can luxuriate in the finished spaces.
LESLIE: And I like that you’ve included four very distinct types of architecture in the photography and in the projects that you’re featuring, from a farmhouse to a bungalow, even to a Spanish revival and then, of course, an urban brownstone.
KEVIN: We do it on the television show, so we should do it in the book. We’ve got 10 of our favorite projects. As you say, Leslie, there’s different styles. We’ve even got a modern house that we did in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of the most modern projects we ever worked on. And they’re not just New England homes; these are homes from all over the country, so Los Angeles and Texas, from everywhere. So I think it’s a great cross-section and a great representation of what our guys do.
TOM: And your photographs are stunningly beautiful.
LESLIE: They’re beautiful.
TOM: You had a terrific photographer on this project: Mike Casey.
KEVIN: I did. And I’m fortunate that he’s a very good friend of mine. Mike and I went to college together and we literally would be sitting around drinking beers one night and we said, “Hey, wait. You’re the host of This Old House.” And I said, “Wait, you’re a photographer. Why don’t we …?” And the next thing you know, we have a book.
But he’s got a lot of talent; he’s got an experienced eye. And he took these beautiful spaces and he represented them, I think, very well.
TOM: I think the book’s all about possibilities, too, because you definitely – through the 30 years of taking these ugly ducklings of homes and just showing America what’s possible. And this book is a great representation of that.
KEVIN: We try to show off the homes. They’re a character in this book, sort of that inspiration and the transformation that happens, which is why it is almost all beauty. There are some photos there about what the homes look like originally but this is really a book about luxuriating in those spaces. We did spend a little bit of time profiling the people who build these houses and we tell some funny stories about not just our guys but some of the guest contractors that we’ve had on the show, as well as some of the people who make the television show. So there are some insights there that people have never heard before, as well.
LESLIE: Well and that’s really, having worked in reality TV and home makeover shows, that’s part of the excitement of the whole project that none of the audience ever gets to participate in. And that’s some of the best stories that you remember at the end of the project, so it’s so nice that you could share that.
KEVIN: Yeah, it’s great. I tell some funny stories about our cameraman, Steve D’Onofrio – we call him “Dino” – and he’s the unsung hero of the show, right? So everything we do, he actually does backwards with a camera on his shoulder. You know, it’s like dancing with Fred Astaire, right? And that’s sort of how we portray him.
TOM: Yeah, you’re walking forward on the roof; he’s walking backwards on the roof.
KEVIN: Backwards, right? And he’s got a 40-pound camera on his shoulder, he’s got a control booth in his ear and he’s trying to look in and out.
KEVIN: It’s amazing to do. And I can remember one day, he was filming on one of those roofs, it started to rain. So now the roof is slick as ice and the drops are starting to get on the camera. Dino reaches into his back pocket, he takes out a handkerchief and he actually wipes the lens while he’s walking backwards. Never misses the shot, the camera never shakes and the scene goes on.
KEVIN: So we tell stories like that.
TOM: Well, it’s a beautiful book, Kevin. Congratulations. The Best Homes from This Old House is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in creating their dream home or improving the existing home one room at a time.
Well done, sir.
KEVIN: Thank you, guys. It’s always a pleasure to be here.
LESLIE: Alright. The book is in bookstores now and you can catch Kevin in the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. Make sure you check out ThisOldHouse.com for listings.
TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.