March 8th, 2021
Show These Boys How It’s Done
My 11-year-old daughter is a home design and renovations junkie. (My wife constantly reminds me how close the apple fell.) She started using 3D architecture and home design apps when she was just 10, and, if you let her, she will sit for hours designing homes from the ground up, mulling over every tiny detail. Some of her designs are pretty impressive.
Like a lot of home design enthusiasts, she’s a huge fan of HGTV’s Fixer Upper—and especially of Joanna Gaines. I like Gaines’ designs, but if you’ve ever watched the show then you might agree that, from a construction perspective at least, it isn’t exactly educational. There’s a lot that goes on between “demo day,” as her husband, Chip Gaines, refers to it, and Joanna’s final touches that no one ever sees—including things that a budding design enthusiast should know about. So, I set out to introduce her to shows that feature more of those details, including one of my personal favorites: This Old House.
One rainy Saturday, we watched a couple of episodes and, at first at least, she was very interested. We talked about how homes are constructed and how those details influence what you can do with interior spaces. But her interest quickly waned. And then it hit me: Sure, This Old House is one of the all-time greats, but it’s filled with men. For an 11-year-old girl, this was like going to a family reunion and sitting at the uncles’ table. But what could I show her instead?
Then I remembered.
About four to five years ago (I can’t remember exactly when), I received a phone call from a publicist. She said she worked for someone named Nicole Curtis, who had a show on HGTV called Rehab Addict. I was working as a home improvement editor for Consumers Digest at the time and her publicist said they were wondering if I’d be willing to fly up to New York in order to interview her for an article. While the show’s title rang a bell, I have to admit that I had no idea who she was. I also had no way to fit the interview into my list of assignments, so I declined, knowing that it wouldn’t be right to take them up on the offer without following through on something. That night, I found her show and watched a few episodes. I was blown away.
Ms. Curtis is 5-foot 3-inches tall and let me tell you—despite her stature, this woman will lift, hoist and work circles around anyone. And if you’re thinking, “Well … that’s just what they show you,” then you should reserve that thought until you’ve watched a few episodes. She’s in every minute, with tools in hand, working, running them like a true pro. And that is hard to fake. Meanwhile, I’ve been on the set for a couple of the other makeover shows and I can tell you—the “cast” was often nowhere to be found. When I did shake some of their hands, I’m not naming names, but some were smooth and uncalloused. On Rehab Addict, not only do you see Ms. Curtis in every scene, doing everything from demolition, to carpentry, to installing doors and windows, but she is also a walking encyclopedia and a steadfast preservationist. She does design work, but when it’s all said and done, she grabs her tools to make those designs happen. That is what I want my daughter to see: that she can work on all sides of the equation, just as well, if not better than, any man (regardless of her stature). She has since fallen in love with the show and learns something from every episode.
That brings me to this morning.
I’m not much of a social media person, but I’ll admit, one of the things I do enjoy includes logging into industry related user groups to see what everyone’s up to. One of the groups I frequent is for door and window installers and this morning I saw a video titled “The crispest of the crisp beads this side of the Mississippi.” I don’t care who you are, if you’ve installed any windows and/or trim in your lifetime or have otherwise done much in the way of caulking, you’re going to watch that video. And they backed it up—with one, perfectly clean and even bead, rounding a corner, doubling back at the end, all without getting a finger dirty. (That’s more than I can say.) It was a sight to behold.
I clicked on the post to see who was behind this perfect bead and found that it was a female installer. It sounds strange to even say (or write, rather) “female installer,” but I think it’s safe to say that women are still in the minority in this field. But they’re out there. The next photo showed her ripping out a window; others showed her hoisting and installing windows and cutting and installing exterior trim.
Meanwhile, this is National Women in Construction Week. And to that I say: Hannah Lombardozzi, if you’re out there, keep showing “the boys” how it’s done. No matter what she ends up doing, I know my daughter will.