For all six years that HGTV’s “Curb Appeal” was a hit, designer and architect John Gidding worked his magic by transforming ordinary home exteriors into stunning façades.
This weekend, Gidding brings his talents to New Orleans when he appears at today’s NOLA Home Show at the New Orleans Convention Center. You can catch him on the Home Idea Stage at 4 p.m. and again at 6 p.m.
“I open up for questions right off the bat and let the audience direct the main talking points,” Gidding said. “I’ll have a PowerPoint on me. It’s basically a survey of favorite projects, and I’ll discuss them from a design perspective through completion. People often bring me photos of their projects for comment or help.”
A Yale- and Harvard-educated architect, Gidding has left “Curb Appeal” to devote his energy to his own practice (Gidding & Spencer) and “Secret Guide to Fabulous,” a new television project on LOGO TV produced by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos.
“There were six shows on LOGO last fall, testing the concept for the series,” Gidding said. “It’s basically four guys with specialties in fitness, fashion, entertaining and design, and it’s a talk show. LOGO announced last week that it’s been picked for a full season that will air in the fall of this year. We are thrilled for another season. I can’t wait to see where Kelly Ripa will send us next.”
In “Secret Guide,” Gidding appears along with Rob Younkers, fashion and style expert; Theodore Leaf, an entertainment guru; and Shaun T, a health and fitness authority. The experts work together to devise solutions to style challenges that anyone can relate to. As the network describes it, “it’s not about having it all but rather knowing what to do with what you have.” Or more succinctly, taking life “from drab to fab.”
You’ll also see Gidding on HGTV over the next couple of months, leading tours of the network’s 2015 “dream home” on Martha’s Vineyard. Even though the house is valued at more than $2 million, Gidding says it offers bountiful ideas for those with modest pocketbooks.
“There are some great cues from that house that are easily recreated, both interior and exterior,” he said. “If you look at the house, you’ll notice the façade is essentially humble. Nothing overly expensive or hard to find.”
Another idea, this one from interior furnishings, can be adapted to almost any budget.
“I also love how many of the pieces of indoor furniture are upholstered in outdoor fabrics. For a beach house with many guests and outdoor living, it just made so much sense to have extra-durable fabrics,” he explained.
New Orleanians know that a house doesn’t have to be on a beach to attract a lot of guests — think parade route! Who doesn’t want stylish fabrics that can shake off a spilled beer and emerge none the worse for wear?
Gidding has the breadth of experience to be able to provide his clients, as well as any audience, with imaginative answers to design questions. His forté is the ability to study the face that a house presents to the public and to devise a plan for accentuating its best features and de-emphasizing its problems.
The goal is to come up with easy or inexpensive ideas that increase the value of the house and the owner’s enjoyment of it.
“I start with what seems like the biggest problem and think of it as a clue to what the house will become,” Gidding said. “It could be that the fence is all wrong or that the paint colors don’t accentuate elements of the architecture. The visualization of how it can look comes piece by piece.”
On television, it’s common to see mobs of workers swarming a job site as they enact a makeover plan in a matter of days. But Gidding cautioned against expecting the same to unfold in real life.
And as for costs, he said that TV budgets don’t represent real expenses because of breaks on prices and donated materials and services.
He recommended that homeowners take a measured approach (rather than aim for a grand transformation), by touching up paint where needed, recoloring the front door, or changing the trim, shutter, or sash color to add appeal.
“Focusing on anything that’s in disrepair is a very effective way of improving your curb appeal by 100 percent. Seal and paint your cracked driveway and paths, straighten up your mailbox stake, and maybe even buy a new mailbox with fresh house numbers,” he said.
Now that Gidding has the time to invest in his architecture practice, he has taken on challenging projects that demand a full range of his talents.
“One of my favorite projects of all time involves adding a floor to one of San Francisco’s iconic Victorian homes. It’s turning out to be an exciting blend of traditional, contemporary and modern,” Gidding said. “The new addition will be distinct from the original, but compatible with it in a way that recognizes that the historic building is so valuable and so rare.”