Q&A: Holly Baker of HGTV’s New Orleans Reno

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HGTV's Holly Baker.
  • HGTV's Holly Baker.

Five years ago, the extent of Holly Baker’s handiwork was hammering nails to hang pictures, and she never had touched a saw. Now she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, and viewers can watch her on new episodes of HGTV’s New Orleans Reno (formerly Big Easy Reno), in which she and her team will be tasked with renovating the homes of two local families. Baker takes her innate love for architecture, design and tight budgeting, and turns it into dream homes on a dime.

Do-it-yourself fans will have the opportunity to hear Baker’s tricks of the trade in person at the NOLA Home Show at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Jan. 27-29, where she’ll be presenting seminars all three days. Adult tickets can be purchased at the door for $13, or for $11 online. Military personnel and first responders are honored on Heroes’ Day, Friday, Jan. 27, with free admission, and Baton Rouge residents can attend all three days free of charge with ID.

Baker chatted with Gambit about home projects and to count the ways she loves New Orleans.

Baker's living room.
  • Baker's living room.

Gambit:
Tell us your origin story.

Baker: [My husband and I] bought a 1980s fixer upper and just started tackling things
one at a time. I realized I could do this! I decided to try my hand at other properties. I flipped a condo, then another, and then moved on to whole homes, and documented the whole thing on my blog. About a year ago I got an email from HGTV about hosting my own show, and things took off from there.

Why New Orleans?

When we started talking to HGTV about the show, I had to pick a city to move to – they didn’t want any more Canadian shows. Since I don’t like the cold, I picked New Orleans. There are old, beautiful homes, no real winter, and I’m a sucker for pretty colors. It was perfect for me – after being here for a day I realized I was at home.

How is it different working on New Orleans homes?

Things like termites and mold [caused by the humidity] are new challenges for me. On the other hand, because most of the homes here are raised, you have a lot more flexibility with moving things around without having to destroy wiring or plumbing. I also love how in New Orleans, people work to preserve details in older homes, like plaster medallions [on the ceilings]. It’s an investment, and it’s not as easy as just ripping things out, but it’s worthwhile. You can modernize, but still keep the character.

What inspires you in the city?

The boldness of using colors in unexpected ways is inspiring. The thought and the time put into the details of the homes – even the more modest ones – everyone knows that they deserve a beautiful home and makes it so.

Baker's renovation of the kitchen in her own home.
  • Baker's renovation of the kitchen in her own home.

Do you have a favorite type of New Orleans home?

I love the porches on the shotgun houses. And the iron work in the Quarter. And the front steps and the shutters on the Creole cottages. I love them all.

What are your design must-haves?

I tend to go with neutrals for long term finishes like baseboards and cabinetry. I think a statement lighting fixture adds drama and anchors a room. I also think a lot of people
overlook window coverings, but drapes add luxury and texture.

What do you plan to discuss in your seminars at the Home Show?

Renovating on a tight budget, for one. I’m going to talk about splurge versus save, with the end goal of a splurge look on a save budget. I’ll discuss using creativity in unexpected
ways … that involve thinking outside the box, whether starting from scratch or incorporating what you already have. I’m going to talk about the importance of communication and how to get the results you want from tradespeople, as well as from yourself.

holly_baker_-_window_treatments.jpg

What is a must-do at a home show for people considering renovations?

Talk to as many people as you can, especially people who are there because of passion and not big business. It’s easy to get distracted by all the new tech, but make a list of the basic things that you want to focus on in your renovation and start there. Also, stick around for the Q & A portion of a seminar – you’ll have to pay someone for that answer later!

What is a common problem area?

Expectations! Lots of people expect a contractor to do all the work, quickly and under budget. It’s important to manage your expectations to reduce stress. Be realistic with your budget and your time frame.

Any quick fix tips or budget advice for our readers?

Drapes from IKEA! They’re $19. Many New Orleans homes have high ceilings, and IKEA’s drapes are European length so they’re manufactured to be long, but look custom made. Also, keep all of the trim work in the house one color [because it makes touchups easier].
Lighter colors are easier to paint match.

Can you tell us a little bit about the show?

New Orleans Reno is airing new episodes on HGTV Jan. 28 at 11 a.m. We’re renovating two homes of local families in the Bywater and Uptown. Our goal for the show is to make New Orleans HGTV’s No. 1 star. [The city] is the host of the show — I just do the work.

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