Thanks to the huge success of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” from 2003 to 2012, the exuberant host Ty Pennington will forever be tied to his signature megaphone and the crazy feats of fast-paced construction that elicited many feel-good moments on that show.
Since then the Atlanta native and Sprayberry High School graduate has dabbled in different shows but has never recaptured the “Extreme” frenzy back in the day. But in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he said he’s fine with that. Those nine years, he said, were rewarding but exhausting.
Now, eight years later, he is hosting a show for HGTV for the very first time with “Ty Breaker,” debuting Monday, Jan. 11 at 9 p.m. Shot in metro Atlanta last year, the program fits HGTV’s current mixture of shows perfectly: Pennington attempts to convince a local resident or family to stay in their existing home by doing particular renovations. He even lives with the client for a day or two to see why their current situation is problematic, be it a lack of closet space, a dated kitchen, a horrible bathroom or more.
“There’s a lot of reasons to stay put,” he said. “You’ve made friends. You’ve become part of a community. Your kids are connected to the school and sports. I hope I can alter a home and make it work so the family can stay in it longer.”
Pennington then brings in a guest HGTV personality in each episode to draw up a plan in a new — often larger and pricier — home that might be more appealing. It’s up to the person or persons to choose which option is better. In other words, it’s very much a twist on the “Love It or List It” concept.
“I love helping people make their home their dream home whether it means staying put or starting over,” said Pennington, who is now 56. “I really love to get into the situation up close and spend quality time with the families.”
Better yet, shooting “Ty Breaker” meant being home. “I had some type of geographical connection with every spot we shot,” he said. “We did one in Marietta that was one street over from where I grew up in the 1970s. It was nuts I could work on a house there.”
His very identity as a celebrity home designer means that fans over the years have assumed he was on HGTV when he wasn’t, he said.
And Pennington loves getting to interplay with different HGTV hosts such as Alison Victoria of “Windy City Rehab,” Grace Mitchell of “One of a Kind” and Sabrina Soto of “The High Low Project.”
“I just wanted real dialogue,” he said. “I don’t mind if someone tells me my idea sucks. I like the variety of personalities. I’m ADHD. I like things constantly changing. I am an idea guy, but it’s great to have someone else added to the thought process.”
For instance, during an episode screened by the AJC set in Grant Park and East Atlanta, Pennington on the fly comes up with a convertible countertop that could be pulled out when Morgan wants to entertain guests. And in the episode, he and a fellow designer, Victoria, fight over whether to keep a fireplace, but he ultimately relents because the client needs more kitchen space.
Pennington built a home in St. Augustine, Florida, a few years ago but has been spending a good amount of time in Atlanta lately. He helped purchase the historical Otis Building in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood, named for the elevator manufacture that once occupied the space. He has plans to create a mix of retail and residential there.
He wanted to keep the original exterior intact but the city of Atlanta said it wasn’t structurally sound, so he said they had to tear it down and rebuild it as it looked before. He hopes to have the building finished by the spring but probably more like the summer.
“Castleberry Hill is a fun community,” he said. “There is diversity of spirit. People really love and care about the neighborhood.”
HGTV gave “Ty Breaker” eight episodes for the first season. Pennington is naturally hoping to make more.
“I’ve seen a couple of episodes,” he said. “I’m happy with it. It’s very authentic. There were all these crazy, stupid, just hilarious things that happened that aren’t on the show because they are out of context. But that’s what the editors are for!”
WHERE TO WATCH
“Ty Breaker,” 9 p.m. Mondays on HGTV starting Jan. 11, 2021 and available the next day on the Discovery+ streaming service.