Viewers who click on HGTV at 10 p.m. July 9 for “Stay or Sell” may recognize some of the places and faces.
The setting for this new home-makeover show is a bungalow-style house in St. Louis Park. The action revolves around its remodeling.
Look for cameos by Twin Cities contractors and artisans — plus a visit to Minneapolis’ Hewing Hotel. And in the starring role — an Edina husband and wife who help homeowners transform dated fixer-uppers into cool, like-new dream homes.
Brad and Heather Fox, both 36, are real-life Realtors, renovators and partners in Fox Homes, a team of 20 agents and designers. The Foxes shot a pilot for “Stay or Sell” last fall and winter, and will be seeing it for the first time, along with everyone else watching, on July 9. “The network wants nothing revealed until the air date,” said Heather. “It will be weird to see it in the middle of summer,” she added.
“There was some winter drama — pushing trucks out of snowbanks,” Brad recalled.
The Foxes’ TV adventure began about two years ago. They were busy running their business and raising their two young sons when they were approached by three different independent production companies, which pitch shows to networks like HGTV and DIY.
“Someone had put out a call that they were looking for talent here,” said Heather. While HGTV’s lineup is full of shows set in other parts of the country, there’s little featuring the Midwest.
Industry scouts, looking for the next HGTV star, had apparently spotted the telegenic couple’s blog and Instagram account, featuring “before” and “after” photos of their projects, and reached out to gauge their interest in a show.
The Foxes thought it was a joke. Even when they were finally persuaded that the production companies were serious, they weren’t sure if it was something they wanted to pursue.
“A lot of people want a TV show — it’s what they’re working toward,” said Heather. “But we had to think about it. This wasn’t our trajectory. We didn’t want to disrupt our lives too much.”
Still, they decided to give it a try. Working with Warm Springs Productions, the Foxes recorded a “sizzle reel” to pique network interest, then a four-month shoot focused on the home renovation of Fox clients Liza and Brian Hill of St. Louis Park.
Like many of the Foxes’ clients, “they loved their neighborhood, but were outgrowing their home,” said Brad. “Do they stay? Or renovate?”
Brad, a broker, finds the houses. Heather oversees the design, then “we line them up with the right people” — contractors and subs, suppliers and artisans.
If that sounds like a lot of other shows currently on HGTV, you’re not mistaken. Brad and Heather have seen them all.
“They gave us homework — to watch all the shows,” Brad said. “Ours is most like ‘Fixer Upper,’ ” the hit show, starring Texans Chip and Joanna Gaines, that recently ceased production (repeat episodes still air).
“We were clear upfront that we did not want to be a flip show,” said Brad. “We’re working with clients, engaged more with the design.”
“Stay or Sell” is not scripted. “It’s all real,” said Brad. But it’s “real” repeated endlessly to capture the perfect camera angle and inflection. “They have you talk about something 14 different times in five different ways.”
‘No glam team’
Getting enough footage for just one episode tied up the couple’s time for months.
“The pilot took 25 days of filming, nine- to 10-hour days, for 42 minutes of TV — an hour with commercials,” Heather marveled. “There’s so much sitting around waiting for a crane to show up. Sitting and waiting.”
“A very strange world,” Brad agreed.
And much less glamorous than one might expect.
“There was no glam team, no hairstylists,” said Heather. “It was below zero, and we were using a Porta-Potty while the house was torn apart — and having lunch in the garage with a space heater.”
Their featured clients, the Hills, also had some reservations about appearing on TV.
“We’re fans of HGTV shows, so it was kind of exciting,” said Brian Hill. “But we didn’t know how we’d handle being on camera. Both of us, when we hear voice recordings, we think, ‘We sound like that?’ I think it’s going to be a weird experience watching, but pretty exciting. And it’s a great way to document the process.”
The two couples met not long before shooting began. The Hills, who were expecting their second child, were trying to decide whether to expand their longtime home or find another nearby. Mutual friends recommended the Foxes.
The Hills, who recently welcomed their second child, love their improved home, said Brian, and also had a great time working with the Foxes.
“They’re so much fun,” he said. “Brad has a great sense of real estate, and Heather has an amazing eye for design. She asked us, ‘What are your favorite places?’ and we mentioned the Hewing Hotel. We just love the decor there.”
The North Loop hot spot’s rustic-yet-stylish Nordic aesthetic inspired the design for the Hills’ home.
The Foxes have faced the “Stay or Sell” dilemma themselves. They and their sons, Graham, now 6, and Wesley, 4, were living in Minnetonka when Heather found a rundown 1950s rambler in Edina.
“It was a time capsule. Every wall was wallpapered,” she said.
But it had a great location, within walking distance of the city water park. Brad was on the road with his band, Farewell Milwaukee, so Heather bought it without him seeing it, other than photos online.
“There were five offers,” she said, so she knew she couldn’t wait.
Originally, the Foxes thought they would renovate the rambler for a client. But they ended up remodeling it for themselves. They kept the foundation and three exterior walls, but added a second story, bumped out the back and gutted the interior to create a like-new home with an open floor plan, a modern staircase and a designer kitchen with Cambria quartz countertops and brushed-brass hardware.
“I have a more modern aesthetic, but I like things to be comfortable,” Heather said. “I like to mix.” The kitchen cabinets, for example, are a combination of white Shaker-style and flat-panel walnut.
At 4,200 square feet, their revamped house is almost twice its original size — with a secret playroom in the lower level for the boys.
If the show attracts an audience, the Foxes have a contract to produce eight to 12 more episodes. All would be shot in the Twin Cities, said Brad, featuring local projects, homeowners and contractors.
“We hope it gets picked up,” said Heather. “It was really fun to do. And it would boost our business.”
The boys, who were on-site during some of the shooting, are eager to see Mom and Dad — and maybe themselves — on TV.
“Our 6-year-old loves ‘Fixer Upper,’ ” said Heather. “If they get to choose a show, that’s his request. The younger one has no interest in construction, but he loves the attention.”
When the pilot airs, they’ll be watching. “They’re excited for their friends to see it,” said Heather. “They’re more pumped than we are.”