In conversation with Tamara Day, host of HGTV’s Bargain Mansions

It’s been a busy few months for Tamara Day.

Just before Christmas last year, the Leawood-based designer opened Growing Days Home, her vibrant home furnishings store in Prairie Village. Now, the third season of her ever-popular show, Bargain Mansionsis premiering on HGTV and shifting from half-hour episodes to an hour long each.

The designer shared some highlights from this season, which premieres on Tuesday, April 14, along with a few simple tips to give your home a facelift.

What was the most memorable moment from this season?
The episodes are longer, so there’s more time to get to know me and my family, and they’ve gotten to be a lot more involved. There have also been several moments with my baby girl in particular because she loves the camera and loves to help. My boys are more like, “Meh. How fast can we do this?” Anyway, I picked her up from school one day and we were filming at my shop. They filmed us walking into the store holding hands, and then I said to her, “Hey, we need to pick some tile. These are the ones I’m picking from.” Production added a little name banner for her that says Nora with title, “Junior Home Renovator.” I died.

Do you have a favorite home from this season?
Oh gosh. I have favorite pieces of each home. There was one kitchen that was a favorite. It has everything you could ever want in a kitchen, including a ten-foot island; a huge, beautiful forty-eight-inch range and hood; bright quartz countertops and beautiful green cabinetry and a huge built-in pantry. It’s a very symmetrical space, and on either side of the stove is a doorway. On the right side, you walk into what’s almost a bonus kitchen, where there’s a wine refrigerator, microwave, more pantry storage, tons of prep space and a window view that looks out on three and a half acres where you can just see forever. The left door leads into one of the most cheerful laundry and mudroom spaces I’ve ever seen. It is so bright and huge with tons of cubbies and storage and bright yellow cabinetry, soapstone countertops and a beautiful pebble floor. And then there’s this wallpaper that’ll just blow your mind.

Are there any specific neighborhoods in Kansas City you’re particularly drawn to when finding bargain homes to flip?
Hyde Park is always my go-to. Like, if I have a choice in the matter, I’m going to Hyde Park. Old Leawood is always really fun for me as well. Sunset Hill would be another top-notch one that I love. It’s hard to find a bargain there, though. Those are probably my three favorite pockets of the city to work in, but it’s really just when the right project finds me.

You’ve worked on quite a few shirtwaist homes, which are fairly prominent in KC. How do you change it up when there are so many homes of the same type?
I feel like the shirtwaist house is like a classic time period home. Every city has something similar to it and their own style of it. It’s such a common style, and Kansas City’s is the beautiful Midwest limestone on the first floor of the home exterior. The thing that I think is really interesting is you can look at one hundred shirtwaist-style homes in Kansas City, and ninety-nine of them are going to have the limestone. We might see brick sometimes, but that’s pretty unusual. But the limestone is often laid in unique ways. Some of them have awesome patterns—we did one where the whole front porch was wrapped in limestone in a sort of checkerboard effect with holes.
They’re always a fun project because I know shirtwaists really well at this point. I never want to do the same house twice—I always want to keep it fresh and unique and to feel like I tried instead of just churning it out. So finding new ways to reinvent a shirtwaist is a really fun challenge for me.

When working on a home, what’s one thing that can make the biggest difference in the interior and on the exterior?
Inside, a light fixture is inexpensive to hang. You can find awesome fixtures for really reasonable prices and it transforms the room very quickly. But I always love a good wallpaper inside, too.
For exterior, a fresh coat of paint is the biggest bang for your buck. If you’re looking for something smaller scale but still want a refreshed look, paint your shutters. People tend to not care about their shutters. There’s a house we drive by regularly and they did a gorgeous job on the exterior paint, but they don’t have shutters. I drive past it every day and I feel like knocking on their door and saying, “Can I just help you with some shutters?”

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