DIY Network calls itself the "Dirtiest Network on Television." And if interior designer Matt Muenster is any measure, the execs there certainly don't coddle their talent. As the host of DIY's "BATHtastic" and "Bath Crashers," Muenster, who lives in Minneapolis, remodeled 91 bathrooms in 2010 and very nearly ran himself into the ground doing it. "I don't think there's a contractor in the world that would attempt 91 bathrooms," says Muenster. "It's insanity, really."
(The Guinness World Records people, for their part, say there is currently no record for bathroom renovations completed in a single year.)
Despite the intensity, Muenster describes his job as "awesome" and "a blast." His signature show, "Bath Crashers," takes the affable host into big-box home improvement stores, where he tries to convince suspicious shoppers that he will remodel their bathroom for free, in just three days. Over a much-deserved winter break during Season Two, Muenster sat down with the Star Tribune to talk about the show, his crisis of conscience, and why he stays in Minnesota.
Q How did you land this gig?
A I was working as an interior designer at Ramsey Engler two years ago and I got a phone call at my desk. A producer had Googled "interior designer Minneapolis" and found a profile picture of me, and I guess she thought I would look good on TV. The person on the phone literally said, "Is this Matt with the sideburns?"
Q You became the host of "Bath Crashers" on the DIY Network following the success of "Yard Crashers" and "House Crashers." Are there even more crashers on the way?
A Who knows? I think the network is doing so many crasher shows because the concept is so perfect, it's like another character in the show. First, there's the ambush in a home improvement store, which is real. And then we've got to completely finish the bathroom in three days, so there's the working-against-the-clock aspect. You've got contractors, and painters, and tradesmen, and two cameras, and a sound guy, and me, and the homeowners -- and everyone's trying to work together, but we've all been up all night. It just makes for great television. It's very rough-and-tumble.
Q The other crasher shows are out of California. Do you ever get pressured to move to the West Coast?
A All the time. But this is home, and I've got a 5-year-old. And it's impossible to know how long this dream is going to last. I'd hate to uproot my family and go to California, and then the show only goes for two more seasons. Plus, the show works great from Minnesota. If the show was suffering, I'd think about it. But it's not.
Q You know, most interior designers cringe about these quick-turn shows.
A Yeah, when I got offered the job, I had to sit down and really think about it. I wondered if I would be compromising my, you know, design principles. But then I decided, what's so annoying about these shows is not the shows themselves, but that a lot of them aren't even hosted by real builders or designers. The hosts are actors who are being fed lines, and a lot of times, it's not even the right lines. I decided that what I really had was an opportunity to do it right. So when we build on the show, it's done right. When I explain a concept, it's the correct terminology. I hope other designers watch my show and think, "Finally, one of these that lends us some credibility!"
Q Do you advertise when you're going to be doing a renovation ambush at a home improvement store?
A Never. No one's supposed to know except me, my camera guy and my producer.
Q But sometimes it seems like people show up at the store looking for you.
A Yeah, I blame the cashiers. I think they tip people off, or call their friends, or post on Facebook or something. And that's kind of tough, because we don't want people to act like they've just won the lottery.
Q So you're saying that if you want to get a free bathroom remodel, you've got to play it cool.
A Definitely. Basically, you've got to look at me like I'm crazy when I approach you, say "no" on camera, and then, only then, agree to let me check out your bathroom. And your bathroom has got to be ugly and HUGE. We've got to be able to fit two cameras and a carload of tradesmen in there at one time.
Q So how does your own bathroom look?
A Oh, my God, it's horrible. I need to crash my own bathroom. Sometimes my wife will be like, "Why don't we work on the bathroom this weekend?" And I'm like, "Sweetheart, I renovated 91 bathrooms this year. The last thing I want to do is remodel our bathroom."
"Bath Crashers" airs at 8 p.m. Mondays on the DIY Network. (Check your local listings.)
Alyssa Ford is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer.