“Bargain Mansions” Season 2 with DIY Network’s Host and Designer Tamara Day
When VintageKC first brought you into the behind-the-scenes world of “Bargain Mansions” in our previous Fall issue, we didn’t know just how fabulous this Kansas City home would turn out. We knew the 1920’s framework spoke for itself when it came to its architecture, but when we returned for an exclusive look weeks before our Winter issue deadline, everyone was in awe of how this house even completely redone, fit together again like a familiar puzzle and how thoughtfully preserving its past made its future even brighter.
VintageKC: What was your inspiration to change the basic floor design on the main level? (Removing a wall to open up the front bedroom to create a dining room and moving the kitchen upstairs to the main level.)
Tamara Day(TD): Basically, it was just an awkward layout to begin with. Something had to change. I feel like the kitchen is the heart of the home and that big, beautiful fireplace room just screams kitchen to me and was the obvious placement for it. It turned out beautiful.
VKC: We noticed the amazing copper hanging light fixture in the dining room and other light fixtures throughout the house don’t match. Most homes feature a maker’s collection of lights that all have similar color, finish and a common likeness. Why do you stray from that mainstream design with your lighting?
TD: I think that my personal style has evolved over the years in my own home and what makes a house feel like a home, is that it doesn’t match and that we didn’t buy an entire room out of a box. We make it feel like somebody has lived here for a really long time and that the house has evolved as the people living there evolve. Each room is like its own space. I don’t think there are rules anymore of what you have to do design-wise. I think that’s what makes our homes more personal and more lived-in is that every piece is specifically thought out and specifically for that room and that not everything has to match. I like the eclectic feeling of collected and curated instead of “we just went out and bought it all.”
TD: That fireplace surround is not wood, it was concrete that had been faux painted to look like wood and it was really poorly done. When you looked at it from a distance, it looked like it possibly could have been a wood carving but once you got closer you could see that it was concrete, and it was just a bad 80’s faux finish.
VKC: The home’s designer and builder seem to have taken great care when planning the home’s design into the hillside, many design details were well thought out in the early stages of building the home back in the turn of the 20th century. The new kitchen is close to tree top level, with easy access to the large flowing concrete patio through the beautiful original double doors. We see why you moved the kitchen from the lower level to the main level. Let’s talk about the kitchen. It’s big, it’s beautiful and the view is so inspiring! You envisioned a huge center island in the kitchen almost from day one. What lead to the design of the island?
TD: It is a massive island with three slabs of Calcutta quartz with a waterfall edge. I love that island and I felt like everything in the kitchen needed to have some sort of symmetry. When you walk into the room, to the left you have a big fireplace and to the right you have the beautiful French doors and windows, both ends are just stunning. They balance each other well because of their size and scale, even though they are completely different things. I felt like the rest of the kitchen needed that same balance. From the stove, everything is symmetrical from left to right. I thought the island needed to have a clean line so that even though it’s so massive and so big, it’s actually very simple. It’s also super functional with drawers on the seated side. It’s so big you could fit four to six bar stools depending on the size of the bar stools and still have that drawer space and the cabinets below. It’s the hangout spot of the kitchen – it needed to be massive.
TD: The whole kitchen accent color is black, and you’ve got the beautiful walnut woodwork, the Calcutta quartz with black as the anchoring piece to the whole dynamic. When we bought the house, those beams in the kitchen were painted white and they just kind of disappeared into the ceiling but I wasn’t going to do a faux finish and I didn’t want take them down so the obvious choice was to paint them a darker color to make them stand out so we went with black and tied that in with the black on the fireplace. The black accents on the windows were also a big inspiration and the sink is really the one thing on the island that is the accent point. They’re touches of black throughout that make it not so heavy.
VKC: When we were on location and behind-the-scenes a few months ago, you had discovered an old wine cellar in what is now the kitchen in which you decided to build a banquette in that nook. Why build the nook in that area?
TD: Budget always plays a part in everything we do, unfortunately, I wish that it didn’t. The room that we found down below, that we named the old wine cellar, would make an awesome wine cellar and it’s something that I think could be done later on very easily. But there wasn’t space to really access it well from the kitchen. Not knowing who was going to live in this house, I wanted to make sure there was a seated space in the kitchen where they could eat a meal. I felt like the use of the space was much better suited for the banquette. I love banquettes. I think that they’re very charming and cozy, and much more cost-effective which adds value to the house.
TD: The barreled-ceiling was already there, we didn’t want to touch that plaster ceiling. We wanted to leave the texture and keep it original the best we could, but it also needed lighting, so we were able to wire in the one ceiling fixture that we have. I love that light fixture, I think it’s fantastic and makes it cozy and warm for the room. It is such a large room with so much great light pouring in that it could handle the darker wall and with that barreled-ceiling, being white and grey with the chandelier, it wouldn’t make it too closed in to make the walls so dark. It’s a little bit more masculine than I usually do but at the same time, the colors, the colors in the art work, the bedding and the pillows give it that feminine touch that I love so much.
TD: Taking the kitchen out, it felt like the obvious place for a bar because you already have two living spaces downstairs and added bedrooms. A bar felt like it would be the future homeowners’ social space and then flow out onto that awesome backyard. Having it really be the heart of the basement and having fun with the tile, we wanted to make it feel more interesting, usable and accessible but not too stuffy.
VKC: In the lower level, you have removed the dark middle-century wall paneling. It brightens up the entire space. What is your favorite thing about the lower level space?
TD: The fireplace room and the fireplace itself. The coziness and the warmth of that room in general is awesome. The wallpaper adds so much dimension with a navy undertone that has a little bit of a silver, metallic feel as well. I think that adds to the warmth of the space but keeps it glamorous and even though it’s a little darker and moodier, it’s still glamorous in my opinion.
TD: Those windows are original to the house and honestly, they just don’t make windows like that anymore, at all. They’re all steel and leaded glass and they were in rough shape, but we were able to clean them up and salvage every window in the house. They inspired a lot of what we did with the dark, moody tone with the diamond pattern makes it a great compliment of both masculine and feminine. I feel like it really works well together, and that black element adds a touch of charm that the house needed.
VKC: We notice tiny round brass numbered plates attached to the window sills, very unique and interesting. What are those and their purpose?
TD: Those were original to the house some hundred years ago and every actual window has its own number in front of it and my guesstimate is that they were used to coincide with placement. Each window was probably numbered, and the installers would know where each window went. These were probably made at the factory and needed a system to keep them straight.
VKC: What is different design-wise in Season 1 of “Bargain Mansions” from Season 2?
TD: I think that more than anything, the influence of design comes from each house instead of each season. The houses themselves have their own flair and I feel like the houses in Season 2 have been more fantastic than last season. I’m kind of obsessed with several of these new houses. Last year’s houses were awesome but some of these new houses are just so over-the-top amazing. It’s a completely different ballgame. When I watch episodes from last season, the things that pop out to me are things like the artwork and how much that adds to the finish of the houses. I personally love artwork and, in another life, I will own an art gallery. I appreciate the creativeness that people put into their art and I have such an affinity for original art. In my personal home, we only have originals. With that said, it doesn’t mean they have to be expensive. There are tons of great artwork that’s affordable. I felt like the artwork is the thing that stands out. It makes it feel more colorful and alive versus some other architectural element. I also think plants make each house come alive, I use a lot of real-life plants instead of faux and I think it translates well.
VKC: Did you run into any issues in Season 1 that you were able to avoid with Season 2 homes?
TD: With everything in life, there are things that you learn and change. Last season we did two houses at a time throughout the year and in Season 2, the houses were just so much larger, and we couldn’t complete them as fast. We did all of the houses consecutively and the times that we completed two houses we did them really fast. Doing seven at a time has been good in a sense that we get more time with each house but we have seven at a time so it’s just a little bit of one versus the other, none is better or worse.
VKC: What is your favorite room on the first level and why?
TD: The kitchen, hands down. It’s one of my favorite kitchens I’ve ever done and how the house has such an old-world charm. I can’t compete with that historic feeling and so I went the opposite direction, I said we’re going to embrace this beautiful house and put some modern elements with it.
VKC: Specifically, what can viewers expect in Season 2 of “Bargain Mansions” that is different than Season 1?
TD: I would say bigger houses. I think that the Season 1 houses had awesome spaces and were great, old houses. In Season 2 we are more spread out across Kansas City than last season. That’s just a piece of finding the right house at the right time. I don’t stay in only one area. I have favorite areas that I like to work in but it’s about finding the right houses at the right time, right price and right place.
VKC: Will there be a Season 3?
TD: I hope so! Time will tell.
Photos by Bernadette Emerson