Last winter, Peter Soderberg and his fiancée, Lauren Haverstock, went out for a long, leisurely dinner at Spill the Wine in Minneapolis.
When they returned and entered their Shakopee split-level, Haverstock was sure they were in the wrong house. “It was shocking and confusing to see a different kitchen and dining room,” she recalled.
The couple’s home had been raided and remodeled by an HGTV crew of contractors. Soderberg, wearing a big grin, was in on it. “Then I realized I was on TV,” said Haverstock. “He pranked me.”
At 8 p.m. Thursday, you can watch the Soderberg-Haverstock transformation and reaction on the entertaining new HGTV series “Renovation Raiders.”
All eight episodes were filmed in the Twin Cities by Magnetic Productions, a Minneapolis cable TV production company. For local viewers, it’s fun to see familiar suburban neighborhoods, green freeway signs with recognizable exit names and the Minneapolis skyline in the distance.
Like many cable home-improvement reality shows,“Renovation Raiders” has a gimmick to entice viewers. Homeowners leave for an extremely long dinner at a restaurant. Enter a crew of electricians, carpenters and plumbers, who execute a major makeover within a mind-blowing six hours. To accomplish this, the crew designs 3-D digital blueprints, builds all the components and does a practice run inside a warehouse space before loading up the truck for the next “raid.”
The show feels like a makeover “Mission: Impossible” with dramatic music and a segment labeled “Intel.” It identifies Soderberg as “The Accomplice” and Haverstock as “The Mark.” The couple’s friend Adam goes undercover as “The Spy,” even releasing air out of one of their car tires to gain time.
Amy Matthews of “Sweat Equity” fame is “The Boss,” wielding an iPad and constantly reminding her crew that they’re running out of time. Matthews, who grew up in Robbinsdale and lives in Afton with her family, plays up the faux intrigue.
“This show is more than painting and adding throw pillows,” she said. “It’s like ‘Ocean’s 11’ — we go to the warehouse and plan our heist.”
Matthews has studied music and theater and launched her home-improvement TV career as host of “Bathroom Renovations” in 2005. She became a licensed contractor so “ I could run my own jobs and have that credibility,” she said. Now Matthews has about a dozen shows for HGTV and DIY Network under her tool belt. “My adrenaline rushes when the homeowner leaves the house,” she said. “It’s fast and furious, and we’re filming in real time.”
How they became TV stars
Soderberg heard about a casting call for the show from Adam. “I just shot a video tour of our kitchen and dining room with my phone,” he said.
The couple bought the 1990s foreclosed home on a suburban cul-de-sac with plans to update and remodel it — eventually. Haverstock was a veterinary student, and the couple were planning an October 2013 wedding. “I explained how I wanted to surprise Lauren and why she deserved a new kitchen,” said Soderberg.
The couple were chosen for the series, and their kitchen and dining room went from “hideous” to “awesome,” said Haverstock. The “Renovation Raiders” removed a wall and replaced the outdated mismatched golden-oak cabinets with white cabinets accented with mod metal inserts. The crew put in new appliances and built a butcher-block-topped island that even has a mini doghouse for the couple’s pug, Toshiro. Warm wood floors tie together the kitchen and adjacent dining room, which boasts new window treatments, light fixtures and a table.
The crew tore out the old dining-room buffet and built a bar holding a keg refrigerator for beer brewed by Soderberg. The makeover was a bargain — the couple had to pay only the tax.
“It was a little stressful leading up to it — we don’t normally sit in a restaurant for four hours,” said Soderberg. “But it was fun keeping the secret from Lauren.”
Matthews is waiting to hear if “Renovation Raiders” will be renewed for a second season.
“It’s going to be harder to keep a secret,” she said. “Every time a couple goes out to dinner, one of them will wonder if someone is renovating their home when they’re gone.”