HGTV hosts Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri already have two shows under their (tool) belts— “Cousins on Call” and “Kitchen Cousins”—so in their latest series they shine the spotlight on community heroes deserving of a little home improvement help. In “Cousins Undercover,” (premiered October 6 on HGTV) unsuspecting homeowners are sent packing as their friends and family conspire with the cousins to transform homes and change lives. Here, we talk to Anthony and John to learn more about the series, the power of a home renovation, and what keeps them building.
In the new series you are enlisting the help of entire neighborhoods to complete surprise home renovations for one favorite neighbor. How did these local homeowners get selected?
Anthony: These local heroes were nominated by family members, friends, or local community organizations. They were selected because of their dedication to outside organizations and their drive to always do for others.
What did you think of the efforts being put in by the community volunteers?
John: The volunteers were truly amazing in each in every episode. We would have on average 50-100 volunteers show up and stay with us for the entire build. They would take off of work and put in 10-hour work days getting down and dirty with us. The entire time they had smiles on their faces and they were so glad to give back to our local heroes.
You guys are obviously pros, but what were some surprising moments for you in watching these home improvement DIYers in action?
Anthony: Some of the volunteers that we had come out were very skilled and great with power tools. What surprised me the most was how many young children wanted to be involved in the construction process. They were so eager learn.
The new show captures some pretty strong reactions from the people who receive surprise renovations. Why do you think people respond so emotionally to changes with their homes?
John: A home is where the memories of your life are created. We are having a direct impact on each family's life for years to come.
Growing up Italian in New Jersey you likely had close ties to your community. If you could go back and choose a local favorite to bring this kind of surprise renovation to does anyone come to mind?
John: Growing up I had a pee wee football coach who was very inspirational to me. He really boosted my self-confidence on the football field. I had just moved to my local town and I was only 11 years old and did not have many friends yet. He took me under his wing and inspired me to play harder and showed me the true meaning of dedication. He has coached in our local pee wee football league for over 20 years and has impacted young children over many years. People like him are the heroes we want to find because they do not even know they are heroes. They inspire others around them to do things that they never thought were possible.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of contributing to a family's happiness in such a hands-on way?
Anthony: To see the faces of the family and to hear the kind words they have to say we know this is something they will never forget. To be able to change a family's house and turn it into a home is a very special moment for us. We know they are going to have so many great memories for years and years to come and will never forget the experience they had with our show.
While you guys are dynamic together, what does each one of you bring as an individual to "Cousins Undercover"?
John: My cousin is a true leader and the volunteers truly gravitate around him. When you are on builds that are so intense and have so many moving pieces you need a leader and my cousin Anthony is truly that. It is very rare to find a leader in today's world and when you have someone like this on your team you see the true impact they have.
How does "Cousins Undercover" set itself apart from other home improvement shows?
Anthony: “Cousins Undercover” is very different from any other home improvement show because we are designing and building the home around ideas and inspiration from family and friends. They are the ones telling us about the hero and what they have always wanted. The family and friends are with us every step of the process and have their hands in everything. So, long after we leave they can reminisce of the great stories and moments they had on the build.
What are some of the first things you do when approaching a space, or entire house, that needs renovation?
John: First thing we look at in a renovation is the overall layout of the space. Space planning is so key in designing and building your home. Too many people think the answer is to make your home bigger, but if you have proper space planning of the home you do not need increase the size at all. We do this in every home we go into.
You often use pops of color to add interest to a space. What is your advice for homeowners when incorporating color into the home and thinking outside of the box when it comes to design?
Anthony: We love color but it has to be planned the correct way. Do not use color just to use color. Incorporate it into your design by using it on a feature wall, backsplash, or even piece of furniture that is the centerpiece of the room.
Construction is a way of life for both of you. What is it about converting a space and building that has held your passion for so long?
John: Construction has been something the both of us have grown up around from a very young age. To see your ideas come to life is the most fulfilling type of work. Your imagination can run wild and nothing is impossible in the world of design and construction.
What is a hobby or interest of yours outside of home improvement that viewers might be surprised about?
John: I love fitness and I am a regular at the gym. I go at least 4 times a week. I also snowboard and love any winter games in the snow.
How do you both feel about the word "hunky" being included in the description of your series?
Anthony: We have been called hunks before and it is very flattering. But we hope people watch the show because it is entertaining and they are inspired by the heroes’ lives we are touching each week.
What is one lesson in construction and design a viewer should take away from the show?
John: One lesson to take away is that your design should be very personal and follow your own personal aesthetic. Do not try to make your home look like your neighbor’s. Stand out and do not follow trends. The more personal your design is, the greater the results.