Monday, April 29, 2024

New article: Jonathan Knight helps historic New England homes find the right stuff on ‘Farmhouse Fixer’

MSN posted a new article that was originally posted in the Boston Globe last week about Jonathan and Farmhouse Fixer: 

When historic farmhouses around New England look a little rough, homeowners can turn to a boy-band-member-turned-renovation-expert to help them hang tough.

New Kids on the Block star Jonathan Knight and designer Kristina Crestin are back for season three of “Farmhouse Fixer,” which kicks off Tuesday night on HGTV. The series follows the duo as they work to restore centuries-old properties across Massachusetts and New England.

Avid Blockheads may already know that Knight has a passion for real estate and renovating old homes that dates back to his childhood. He even started a business flipping properties after NKOTB split in 1994 and has since renovated hundreds of homes.

“As a kid, we moved to Dorchester from Westwood,” Knight, now 55, told the Globe in a phone interview Friday. “There are old houses in Westwood, but we lived in a 1960s raised ranch, and to move to Dorchester into a 17-room Victorian. I think that’s really when my love of old houses started.”

Proving to be a chip off the old block, Knight’s family, who make cameos from time to time on “Farmhouse Fixer,” was also a big influence. The singer recalls Sunday drives around the Boston neighborhood with his mother, Marlene, who would call attention to different properties to teach him design lessons.

“She’s very knowledgeable about all that, so she would explain like, this is a Stick Style Victorian, this is a Queen Anne, and point out details,” Knight said.

Meanwhile, his father, Allan, worked as a contractor when Knight was a kid and often enlisted him to help on jobs, doing manual labor like carrying shingles to roofs.

“I hated it, because I was kind of his grunt boy,” Knight said. “It wasn’t until many years later that I really appreciated the craft of building.”

Although Knight found success after NKOTB “flipping newer houses that were in disrepair,” working on homes heavy with modern designs started to bore him.

“It got to a point where I was tired of vinyl siding and stock kitchens,” Knight admitted. “I continued my business, but focused more on buying older houses that needed some love.”

Knight’s “Farmhouse Fixer” co-star Crestin, who made her TV debut on PBS’s “This Old House” in 2016, grew up close to, “but not exactly,” the South Shore. She graduated Endicott College in 2002 with a degree in interior design and “fell in love with the North Shore” before falling in love with her now-husband, Kirby.

“So I was never moving away after that,” said Crestin. She opened her firm, Kristina Crestin Design, in Manchester-by-the-Sea in 2009 and still lives on the North Shore. “Jon and I live in the same town.”

Knight doesn’t just help others fix up their farmhouses, as he’s been working on a “rural Shangri-La” in Essex for him and his family. Although Knight’s plans for his property caused a bit of a stir with the Trustees of Reservations, they have since come to an “amicable resolution,” according to a joint statement sent to the Globe last March and have moved forward.

Knight revealed he plans to add to the four houses he already has on the street, but the next build is “still a ways away” due to the upcoming NKOTB tour coinciding with the band’s new album, “Still Kids,” out May 17. “Hopefully, this fall, we’ll get it started under construction,” he added.

For the new season of “Farmhouse Fixer,” Knight and Crestin teased a trip to a lighthouse off the coast of Salem that proved to be a fun but challenging renovation. While the idea “sounded so dreamy,” according to Knight, the reality of lugging camera equipment and building supplies by boat wasn’t easy for the cast and crew. And for Knight, neither was making the long walk up the lighthouse.

“We did get Jon to the top of the lighthouse, who has a slight fear of heights, which will play well in the episode, I think,” Crestin said.

“It was only for Kristina,” Knight jokingly added. “I almost passed out and fell off a 100-foot-tall lighthouse and crashed onto the rock.”

The hosts also had a few tips for fans who need help with their farmhouse fixer or other home renovation. Crestin suggested taking as much time as you need to go over every choice and purchase to find the right options for your home and budget.

“I think people don’t plan enough,” said Crestin. “Especially with an older home, there’s a level of thoughtfulness you need to have. Take the time, do the planning. It pays off in the end.”

Knight added that homeowners should “let the house speak to you,” rather than turning it into “something it’s not” by relying on the latest trends for design inspiration.

“You’re going to have to change everything down the line when design fads change,” Knight said. He suggested having fun with easy-to-replace items like furniture, paint, and wallpaper, but being cautious with permanent fixtures.

“Keep your house as authentic as it can be,” Knight said.

The new season of “Farmhouse Fixer” premieres April 23 at 9 p.m. on HGTV.

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