An All-Denim Bedroom? TV’s Design Stars on Their Wackiest Childhood DIY Projects


DURING HIS decades-long career, Nate Berkus, the interiors expert and star of HGTV’s “The Nate & Jeremiah Home Project,” has wowed the not-easily-impressed Oprah Winfrey with his design skills and attracted celebrity clients like Ricky Martin. Meanwhile, “HGTV Design Star” winner Tiffany Brooks dreams up inventive ideas to transform so-so spaces with a five-figure budget on the network’s “$50K Three Ways.” But long before they had a public forum, these design pros experimented at home…with varying results. Here, Mr. Berkus, Ms. Brooks and stars of other renovation series share stories of their early, spirited DIY attempts.

The biggest stars of home-renovation series started honing their DIY chops at very early ages.


Sarah Sklash of ‘Motel Makeover’ (Netflix)

“I was a tween and Ralph Lauren had come out with a denim paint technique. My parents and I painted my bedroom walls blue and then another blue, and there were all these tools and stencils, including one for creating a denim ‘seam.’ It looked amazing, so I got denim curtains, denim bedding. Everything blended. I grew up in Windsor, Ontario, so we call denim on denim a Canadian tuxedo.”

More: Pair of Beverly Hills Homes Belonging to Late Comedy Great Carl Reiner Fetch $16.8 Million

Nate Berkus of ‘The Nate & Jeremiah Home Project’ (HGTV)

“My mother, who was an interior designer, said, ‘For your bar mitzvah, we’re going to build a bedroom and bathroom for you in the basement, and let you have a say in the design.’ For the color scheme, I landed on red, white and gray—the color of my favorite breakdancing outfit. I chose a charcoal gray carpet with black dots for the floor and gray Formica countertops in the bathroom. For most people, my choices were hardly groundbreaking. But as a 13-year-old gay kid in Minnesota who cared about antique boxes, it was a transformative moment.”

Sabrina Soto of ‘Secret Celebrity Renovation’ (CBS)

“When I was in high school in the ’90s, I loved the vibe with incense and the suns-and-moons décor. I spent $40 on paint, an X-ACTO knife and foam core, and I cut out shapes and spray painted them on my lawn. When they dried, it left stencils of suns and moons all over my yard. I didn’t have money to change anything else, so I had white wicker furniture, a paisley duvet and all these suns. It didn’t match.”

Hilary Farr of ‘Love It or List It’ (HGTV)

“When I was around 12, I was captivated by a Fabergé Flambeau perfume ad and decided to paint my London bedroom the deep red from the ad without consulting my mother—or older sister, with whom I shared the room. I got the paint with my own money, and I used a brush, not a roller. I vaguely remember ruining a school uniform. It was a mess, and it was fabulous…in my mind. My sister was furious at first, and my mother tried very hard to like it.”

Egypt Sherrod of ‘Married to RealEstate,’ (HGTV)

“My mom ordered living room furniture for our house in Silver Spring, Md. It came in huge boxes, so I said to my sister, ‘Let’s make a dollhouse!’ When you’re 8 and 9 years old, everything has to do with dolls. We cut out ‘doors’ and ‘windows’ and duct-taped the thing together in our basement. It was big enough for a person to go into! We took a rug from one of our bedrooms, and I had an Easy Bake Oven that I put in. It didn’t have a roof, though. We weren’t that advanced.”

Kevin O’Connor of ‘This Old House’ (PBS)

“I had brothers and buddies who liked swinging hammers. When I was 12 or 13, about 10 of us built a treehouse in a big oak in our neighbor’s yard in New Jersey. You climbed the trunk on chunks of two-by-fours and entered through a hatch. Every season it got bigger. If the tree went left, we built left. At some point, it looked like a four- or five-room house. My dad was all for it, but he looked the other way when we used power tools.”

Tiffany Brooks of ‘$50K Three Ways’ (HGTV)

“I inherited my older brother’s bedroom when he moved out, and it looked like a wood-paneled dungeon with a mustard-speckled carpet. My dad sent me $300 for my 15th birthday, so an ex-boyfriend and I went to Menards in Chicago and bought a pink carpet remnant, powder-pink-and-blue floral wallpaper on clearance and paint, and we transformed that room into a pink palace. My mom was like, ‘Can you take a look at my bedroom next?’”

More: Gwyneth Paltrow’s Childhood Home in Los Angeles Lists for $3.2 Million

Sana Garner of ‘Backyard Blowout’ (Peacock)

“As a kid, I was obsessed with the movie ‘The Secret Garden.’ My mom got this Jackson and Perkins catalog and I would circle flowers and make planting plans. I did this for years until finally, when I was 10, my dad dug a plot in the backyard of our home in California. We bought snapdragons, gladiolas, day lilies—colorful flowers that appeal to children. I got to put in my plants! That night, we let out my toy poodle, Rosie, to use the bathroom. She dug it up! We had to replant it all.”

—Edited from interviews by Eric Andersson


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