Behind The Scenes of Bargain Mansions Season 2 with DIY Network host and designer Tamara Day
With just one click of a scene marker, we were transformed into Tamara Day’s world, filled with camera crews and a genuine passion for what she does – turning Kansas City’s most historic and discarded homes into one-of-a-kind gems.
On and off-camera, she is exchanging in playful banter with her father, Ward Schraeder, who is beaming with pride.
These days, Kansas City native and DIY Network host and designer Tamara Day is everywhere. From humble roots in Salina, Kansas to starring in her own Bargain Mansions television series, this mother of four does it all with a down-to-earth spirit and smile on her face. Her smile is contagious and she makes everyone around her laugh while talking about her children, family and work.
VintageKC magazine went behind the scenes of Season 2 of DIY Network’s “Bargain Mansions” and chatted with Tamara about Kansas City, her inspirations, and hopes for the future.
For now, she’s making every day count with an eye for design and a heart for home as her Growing Days brand states.
Q: First of all, congratulations on Season 2! Very exciting! What can viewers expect in Season 2 of Bargain Mansions?
A: Really fantastic, big old houses. We have seven really amazing houses that I’m excited about. Last year we had six, now we have seven houses to renovate with the exact same timeline.
Q: What did you want to be career-wise when you were younger?
A: I always wanted to be a mom and I have my four kids which is awesome. I grew up in Salina, Kansas and I had never met someone who was a designer or decorator. I certainly had never met a woman that was renovating houses, so it was never on my radar that was a career path that I could consider. I never even thought about pursuing it. When my husband and I got married in 2001, he was into rental houses and as we bought houses for ourselves to renovate, I just kind of fell in love with it. Looking back, I’ve always loved houses and decorating, I just didn’t know that was something that I could have chosen to do in college.
Q: Looking back, what advice would you give your college-aged self?
A: Go get a design degree (laughs)! My communications degree is coming in handy but I wish I had that background and knowledge-base but I’ve made it this far figuring it out.
Q: Yes you have! Can you explain the meaning behind your brand “Growing Days” and what those words mean to you?
A: When I started my business we had three little boys and my last name is Day so I thought “well what am I doing?” I am growing days, literally. (Growing Days is Tamara’s interior design, furniture, décor and lifestyle business.)
Q: Can you give us a timeline of what your normal work day consists of?
A: Seven days a week, I’m usually up at 6 a.m. and in the office by 8 a.m. or here at one of the houses between 8-8:30 a.m. A run to Starbucks is usually included and then we’re usually working until 6-7 p.m. Then I come home, take care of the kids, hangout a little bit, get everybody to bed then work a little bit more. Occasionally, I get a weekend off.
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
A: I would definitely say balancing being a mom and working is probably the biggest challenge and also making sure that I give enough time to the kids and getting to do a lot of fun things with them. Balancing the fact that I love what I do but making sure I don’t spend all my time working is challenging.
Q: What is your favorite thing that you’ve ever done in one of your homes on “Bargain Mansions” and why?
A: Last season, one of my favorite details was probably the island where we did the dovetail feature with the side being wood and the top being quartz. When it was dovetailed together it was really beautiful. It’s all those little bitty details that I love so much. The Locust house, the big blue one with the pink front door, was my favorite project overall.
Q: What makes Kansas City so unique as a place to live?
A: Kansas City is the best city. We’ve got all of the culture you could possibly want, plus historic museums, restaurants, entertainment, amazing houses and great areas to live. We have fantastic people and the cost of living is great. We are in the center of it all so you can easily travel to either coast or anywhere you want to go.
Q: Why is being a strong, female leader in the Kansas City community important?
A: I guess I don’t think of myself as a strong leader in the community but I think that it is important that other women see women doing exciting things all over the city because there are so many of us. That’s been one of my favorite things about doing the show is meeting so many women all over the city doing so many cool things. I don’t think Kansas City has had the spotlight shown on it enough to show how many awesome people are truly here.
Q: What do you want people to remember most about you as a designer?
A: I think something that’s really important to me is that no house looks the same. Every house that we do has a character and a personality to it. As soon as we walk in, I can look at it and say “this house feels like this to me” and that it’s never just the same thing over and over again so that viewers never really know what to expect from one house to the next. It always has that happy vibe about it that I think that Growing Days has. That color and that brightness, is important to me.
Q: Who are your biggest inspirations in the design industry?
A: Locally, we have some really great designers – Sarah Noble, Mark Sudermann, Carrie Frasier. There are lots of great designers here in Kansas City. On a national level, I’m a social media hound. I am constantly on social media looking at different designers all over the place. Those I really like include Studio McGee, Becki Owens, Emily Henderson and Amber Interiors. I’m constantly inspired by them.
Q: How do your children inspire you?
A: They are hysterical. (laughs), They are really fun. My daughter, Nora, has picked up on what I do and I will bring her to a house and she will say “I think the kitchen should go right here Mom and you should put a sink there.” She’s always thinking with a design mindset so we always talk about someday she’s going to get to work with me. One of my boys loves building so I think one day he will be an architect or contractor of some sort. He puts money into an envelope and I match it so someday we can have our own business together.
Q: What is a vintage accessory that you wish would come back into more modern homes?
A: Wallpaper! I use at least two to three wallpapers in every project I do, I love wallpaper. I was installing wallpaper this morning actually in one of the houses and I love it. It’s one of my favorite accessories. I think it’s making a huge comeback and you can definitely make it modern and fun.
Q: What do you believe should be a staple in every home?
A: Children (laughs). Big houses need lots of children running around in them.
Q: What is the most personal piece in your home and why?
A: Our kitchen island is the most personal because when we built our home in 2008 I had this big, fancy island designed with a copper sink planned and all these fabulous things but it was
insanely expensive so we decided to do that a little bit later. In the meantime, I was like “I’ll just find a piece of furniture and use it for the countertop and storage space”. We never got around to replacing it because what I found was a piece from an old hardware store and it finished the kitchen completely. It makes it feel more homey and comfortable and my kids have grown up climbing on it.
Q: What is in store for you and your show? Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
A: I hope that everybody loves Season 2 of Bargain Mansions and that we get to do ten more seasons just like it. I feel like this season’s houses are bigger and better than last seasons and I hope that keeps happening and that we find more killer homes here in Kansas City and that people love it.
Q: If you could have a dream scenario of having a day off anywhere in the world where would you be and what would you be doing?
A: I’d be in New York City eating at Dominque Ansel Bakery for breakfast, wandering around Chelsea Market in the afternoon and then eat dinner at ABC Kitchen.
Words: Ellen Leinwetter | Photos: Ellen Leinwetter, Margaret Mellott, Travis Putnam & Beth Grimm