Pittsburgh siblings await word on 2nd season of HGTV's 'Restored by the Fords'
When Steve Ford was growing up in Upper St. Clair, he was always building forts and treehouses in the woods.
"Then, I'd sneak into the fort in the woods and decorate it," says Leanne Ford, Steve's younger sister, who recalls covering them with flowers. "Oh, the irony."
Now, the siblings have their own show on HGTV, "Restored by the Fords," at 10 p.m. Tuesdays. They find unusual old Pittsburgh homes and turn them around with striking redesigns.
"There's a vibe that we appreciate," says Steve Ford. "It's the homeowners and the house. We're looking for a unique house where the character isn't used to its fullest — where we can come in and turn it up a notch."
Leanne spent almost 15 years as a stylist and a creative director in New York City and Los Angeles' fashion world. The scruffy, backwards-ballcap-wearing Steve seems to be her opposite in many respects — but his ability to translate her ideas into wood, stone and plaster is what makes the show work. It's all done with the loving, slightly crabby give-and-take of a brother and sister who know each other all too well.
"Every house we're working on is our favorite," Leanne says. "We're so emotionally involved in it. When you're dealing with old homes — you're dealing with a lot of difficulty with structural issues, plumbing, electrical. It goes on and on."
Of course, the simple joy of smashing through a wall with a sledgehammer is a big part of the show. But if there's a star besides the Fords, it's Pittsburgh's apparently inexhaustible supply of unique homes.
The show goes all over: Edgewood to Upper St. Clair, Regent Square to Rosslyn Farms, the North Hills to Washington County, farmhouses to mid-century modern. There's even a home in the Pittsburgh suburbs by a Frank Lloyd Wright disciple, with an unusual water feature and interior courtyard/atrium.
"Our favorite part about actually doing rehabs in Pittsburgh is that the architecture is so beautiful — so many styles, eras, genres. There's always a new style and design to work with. Pittsburgh people love history," Leanne says.
They do have their favorites, though.
"Steve and I are drawn to mid-century modern," Leanne says. "I think it's because our grandparents' house (in Whitehall) is mid-century modern. Every house has fun design challenges. There's nothing I don't like."
Of course, they've had to deal with "the Pittsburgh potty" — the rudimentary bathrooms found in the basement of many Pittsburgh homes.
"Honestly, I was hoping you'd ask about that!" Leanne says. "We talked about it on the show. This is a very important part of restoring Pittsburgh houses. We're dealing with such old houses; every house had one."
"We don't really do too much with basements so far," Steve adds. "I will say that it's nice to have a toilet in the basement when you're restoring a house, though."
When Steve isn't rehabbing houses you can find him surfing in the Monongahela River (seriously). He has a side business, Surf Pittsburgh, teaching people how to do wake-surfing, while towed behind a speedboat.
The Fords were approached by HGTV with the idea for the show. They'll find out if they've been renewed for a second season sometime this month.
"They cast the houses," Steve says. "HGTV sends us the ones they think we would like, and we basically get the final decision after we meet the homeowner."
"Our decision is based on what the project is, what the budget is," Leanne says. "Sometimes, there's amazing homeowners and houses and it's something we can't conquer. We find nothing but limitations. We try to power through them."
Mike Machosky is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.