HGTV posted an article on their website in which they talk to Jonathan about Farmhouse Fixer!
Here's How Jonathan Knight Went From NKOTB Member to 'Farmhouse Fixer'
His love of homes began long before he became a teen heartthrob.
July 13, 2022
When most people hear the name Jonathan Knight, the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic ‘80s and ‘90s boy band, New Kids on the Block. Because of this — and especially for folks who didn’t know what one of Jon’s biggest passions was before he became a fawned-over heartthrob — his show, Farmhouse Fixer, may come as a bit of a surprise.
But here’s the kicker: Jonathan has been in love with construction and home design for longer than you might think. So long, in fact, that his love affair with all things home remodeling predates his time with New Kids. Farmhouse Fixer, shows Jon’s step-by-step process for restoring centuries-old New England farmhouses.
“My dad — he’s retired now — was a contractor,” Jonathan tells HGTV. “When I was a teenager, he dragged me to work with him … well, he dragged me in the beginning, and then I just loved doing it.”
His parents divorced when he was around 15 years old, and he became the handyman of the house. “It was even to the point where I went up on a three-story roof to patch a leak and ended up falling two stories,” he recalls, chuckling. “But it didn’t dissuade me. It just gave me more ambition to make sure it was really fixed.”
His dad wasn’t the only one involved in construction, though.
“My grandpa was also very handy,” he tells HGTV. “He built my family’s summer cottage in Canada and both of my uncles have always been into home repair, so it kind of runs in my blood.”
As much as he loved working alongside his dad when New Kids took off, construction and remodeling took a backseat.
“When we [the members of the band] were kids, we would perform at nursing homes and at a jail; we did birthday parties, and really our goal was just to make enough money to buy scooters. That was our biggest thing … So when we got on tour with Tiffany and things just started picking up, it just got crazy, so that took me away from the construction,” he admits.
The silver lining? While getting to travel the world with his band, he held his first love — of houses — near and dear, ogling all the different types of architecture from England to Japan.
“I was still mentally there with the love of houses, even while I was traveling [with NKOTB],” he recalls.
Thanks to his musical career, when Jonathan was 20 years old, he bought a 20-acre farm in his hometown, and then, just a few years later, in 1994, New Kids disbanded and he had to take a close look at his life.
“I was like, I peaked; I had this amazing career and now it’s over,” he recalls. “I kind of had to reinvent myself. I didn’t really know what I was going to do next and I felt the pressure of having to be as successful and make as much money as I did with New Kids.”
To kick things off, he set a goal of trying to make $100,000 a year and take it from there. He teamed up with his friend, a Boston police officer, to flip houses — something he didn't even fully understand at the time.
After joining forces, he and his friend worked together to renovate homes in their neighborhood. “People would walk by and they would thank us, [and say] ‘Thank you so much for fixing up this house. You’ve improved the neighborhood; it was such an eyesore.' That just got me feeling really good. Not only was it a passion, it was doing something for the community,” he shares.
Eventually, the pair's company made a transition from their neighborhood to creating condos in the city and subdivisions throughout New England.
“It got to a point where I was tired of doing all these brand-new construction houses; you know, there was really nothing special about them,” he admits, noting that the realization led him to disband the company.
Fortunately, in 2008 (coinciding with “New Kids 2.0”), he started working with another partner, only this time to renovate old houses. “We started working on stuff and then I got dragged away [with] New Kids,” he tells HGTV. “Luckily, we tour every other year, so I have a year off, I work a year, a year off. So, we’ve been able to make it work.”
And by “been able to make it work,” what he really means is that, while touring with his iconic band, he’s still been able to renovate more than 200 houses over the past few decades. To many it may seem like being overworked, but for Jonathan it’s the dream.
“As long as I’m working on something, I’m happy,” he says.
As for New Kids on the Block: “I’ve known these guys since kindergarten on the playground,” Jonathan tells HGTV. “It’s funny because we did a couple TV shows and there were like 12 seats in this room and we all piled on the couch together. The host of the show was like ‘I’ve never seen a group still close together after all these years’ — we have to be with each other. It’s really … It's a great family atmosphere. Back in our heyday we were teenagers and we all had egos and we all would fight and argue and it was a mess. Luckily, we were able to separate from each other for a long while and be able to grow up and come into our own. So coming back together has just been the best thing ever. All day long we have group texts — ‘What’re you doing and how’s this and that’ — and it’s really special.”
Good news! Season 2 of Farmhouse Fixer premieres on Wednesday, August 24th on HGTV, discovery+. In the meantime, follow Jonathan Knight on Instagram @jonathanrknight for more updates on what's coming in store.
Here's another interview from the website "Heavy" with Jonathan from March of 2021 that I had been saving for a possible "Better Late Than Never Series" post...
Catching Up with Jonathan Knight
You’ve followed him “Step by Step” over the years, but did you know that this “New Kid” was a master at home renovation? Jonathan Knight has teamed up with HGTV and has come out with an instant hit – the show Farmhouse Fixer. With the help of his friend, designer Kristina Crestin, Knight restores old farmhouses to their glory and beyond.
And, Knight is everything you’d hope he’d be … kind, caring, funny, talented, deep … just a great guy who likes the simple things in life.
HEAVY: So, I see you’ve been doing a lot of work in Massachusetts on Farmhouse Fixer?
Knight: Ha, yeah. New England is the best! I would never leave New England.
HEAVY: Well, what’s it like to be able to live out your passion of renovation on HGTV there?
Knight: It’s been amazing. It’s so funny. I think back to New Kids days and I never thought New Kids on the Block was going to be what we turned out to be. Six years ago when I was talking to producers about doing a show, I never thought it would even come on air … It’s still so surreal. I mean, the other night I went to bed at 7 in the morning because I just kept watching it over and over. Like, it’s not real, but it’s real!
HEAVY: It’s very real and the show is very awesome! How is it showing this side of yourself to fans since it’s so different from being onstage with NKOTB?
Knight: I just think that since Instagram came along, it’s been really cool that I’ve gotten to post pictures here and there, behind the scenes. But, to bring it to life on TV and for people to really go through the process, from meeting the clients, to the demo, to reconstructing it, to decorating it and having the clients come back in … It’s just so much more rewarding for people to see that.
I think a lot of people think I’m just a boy-bander and this is just some other type of celebrity show. In reality, in 1994, when the New Kids disbanded, this became my full-time job and then we got back together in 2008. So now, I’m able to juggle both of these passions and I’m just loving every minute of it.
HEAVY: So, one thing I really like about the show is you really champion to keep the integrity of the house and to bring it back to life. What’s the most exciting part for you?
Knight: Oh, goodness. Everything! Everything’s so exciting … just going and scouting houses and seeing them. When you walk up to a house, you just get this feeling in your heart, of love … There’s also a lot of times when people will come along and remodel a house and just do a crappy job. (He laughs.) We just bought a 1760s house and in the 1970s, they just made a mess of it. So, we’re just taking things out and putting back in historically appropriate design.
HEAVY: Now, what is it about the American farmhouse that just speaks to you personally, more than other styles?
Knight: I think it’s really just the way of life. You know, when I was 20 years old, I moved out of the city, up to the country and had the most ridiculous animals. I had this guy who would rent my field and he would bring in these longhorn Texas cattle to graze my field for a week … I had a zebra-donkey crossed animal. I had chickens and all of that stuff.
I think being in my twenties, in the hayday of the New Kids, just being able to get back home and not be worried about people peering in my windows and that kind of stuff … Just the whole relaxing element that comes with living on the land. You know, I see, especially with the pandemic, so many people are moving out of the city, to just get back to a slower-paced life … to just enjoy smelling grass, seeing birds and planting some tomatoes in their backyard.
HEAVY: Absolutely … I mean, so everyone has their thing, right? For one, I’m really into antique doors. And I’ve seen you’re really into the ends of staircase banisters. (Laughs.) What’s that about?
Knight: I think front doors and banisters in a front hall … It really sets the tone for what’s beyond those rooms.
HEAVY: So, does a love of houses and home renovation run in the family? I know your brother [Jordan Knight] and your mom are briefly on your show.
Knight: Well, it runs in my family but I think I’m the only one that got it in this generation. My dad was a contractor and when I was a kid, at 15, I’d go work with him on the weekends. My parents moved us from this really small commuter town outside of Boston. We moved to the city, into Dorchester, which is full of old Victorian houses. So, just growing up, we were in this mammoth of a house, with stained glass windows and our staircase was amazing. The fireplaces were all tiled with these brilliant, cool tiles.
My grandfather, he was also very into building. He built our family cottage. So, there’s always been construction in my blood. My mom is just a big history buff, but more so a big house lover as well. When I was a kid, I remember I would get in the car with my mother and we would just drive through neighborhoods and just look at houses, just look in awe.
HEAVY: Yeah! That’s actually what my husband and I have been doing in the pandemic with our toddler to keep sane. (Laughs.)
Knight: Yeah, exactly! (Chuckles.)
HEAVY: (Continues laughing.) One thing that really cracks me up actually on your show is how Kristina likes to work in some of your New Kids song lyrics into situations.
Knight: It’s so funny. (He laughs.) A lot of times, it happens so organically. On last night’s episode, the muralist goes, “Oh I’m just going step by step.” Kristina and I look at each other and the muralist was like 22 years old and she’s like, “What?! What’s so funny?” Then we had to explain to her that it was one of the big New Kids songs back in the day and then she started laughing. It was just a good moment.
HEAVY: Yeah, I think it just adds some personality to the show. So, with old houses, you don’t know what you’re going to get sometimes when you start to renovate. Have there ever been any crazy obstacles or issues you’ve had to deal with?
Knight: I mean, there’s always obstacles. But, there are houses that my partner and I have looked at, that have sat on the market for years because people walk in and they’re just horrified. But, there’s a fix for everything. There’s also a budget for everything too. So, I think that’s really the obstacle … It’s working with people and not knowing what’s behind the walls.
HEAVY: Right. Well, the show is awesome and it just started. Would you be open to doing more episodes?
Knight: Yes! We are plugging away. The ratings are good. It’s been a really well-received show. So, hopefully the ratings just keep getting better and better. Luckily this year, we are not touring with the New Kids. So, I have this whole summer to go renovate about 6 to 8 more houses.
HEAVY: Wow. That’s a packed summer!