Artwork from Crystal Jo Foto on HGTV

WooooHoo, Crystal Jo Foto is famous! We couldn’t be more honored to have our work featured on the show “Raise the Roof: The College Challenge” on the HGTV network on June 22 at 2PM. Our cute clients, Sydney and McKenzie enjoyed our lemonade stand and the photos from this session were the inspiration behind the makeover in the lower level of their home. Huge prints are displayed and they are the first thing you notice when you walk into the room.

Here’s an interview with Sydney and McKenzie’s mother, Melanie.

How did you get on the show?
I was working for the county Office on Aging, who partners with Rebuilding Together Central Ohio for a lot of home repair projects for seniors.  The director of home repair sent out an e-mail requesting nominations for families that met the criteria of the show.  Rebuilding Together Central Ohio was partnering with HGTV/DIY for Raise A Roof:  The College Challenge.  They wanted candidates that were home owners, needed some work done on the home, couldn’t necessarily do the work themselves or afford a contractor, and had a story to tell.   The goal of the show was to encourage college aged adults into volunteering in their communities and to highlight the impact that Rebuilding Together has on local neighborhoods.  I am a single parent of two girls, and my younger daughter has an autism diagnosis.

Did you ask for anything to NOT be in the room?  How did they involve you in the process of the remodel?
The only thing I mentioned about not wanting was pink walls.  Then I came home for the reveal and of course got pink walls, lol.  But they did such a great job that I didn’t mind.  I had done several walk throughs with Rebuilding Together and made lists of work that was needed, but the design process and the work process was all a surprise.

How long did it take?  How long were they in your house and how long was the process before?  Please tell us about the interview process.
I turned in a brief paragraph about our situation in early December.  After that, I went through 2 rounds of interviews.  The first interview was with 2 individuals from Rebuilding Together Central Ohio, they came to the house and we walked through all of the rooms and outside, making lists of repairs that needed done.  I was also videotaped answering some questions.  The second interview included 2 people from Rebuilding Together Central Ohio, the President of the National Rebuilding Together office, and a designer and a producer from HGTV.  They did more walk throughs, this time taking measurements and asking more specific questions, such as “Do you care if we tear that wall down”?  This is when the designer noticed the lemonade stand photograph that you had taken of the girls hanging in my living room.  By the end of January, I was told that I was selected for the show.  The bulk of the behind the scenes work started in March.  Rebuilding Together sent their employees, volunteers, and contractors on a nearly weekly basis.  They did work on the HVAC system, rewired and upgraded the electric, took out the carpet and put down the laminate floor.  They had delivered storage pods, I had to empty everything from the family room, laundry room and utility room into the pods.  We also did the “before” interviews with the camera crew in March.  The actual work weekend was two weekend days in April.

Were you surprised by the outcome of the room?  Did you cry?  Do you love it now?
I was very surprised by the outcome of the room.  I was nervous, not because I was afraid of the outcome, I just didn’t know what to expect.  My reaction was stunned silence.  I felt like it was boring for the cameras because it was so quiet, but the producer said it was all over my face.  There was just so much to look at and take in, my brain couldn’t focus on one thing to comment on it.  Everything in the room was brand new except for the TV.  I kept going back and forth between the enormous pictures of the girls and the really cool wallpaper.  I couldn’t figure out the wallpaper -was it wallpaper, stencils, was it velvet?  I love how the yellow pops out of the wallpaper and matches the walls.  Then I was thinking, “who on earth has a white leather couch with kids and a glass table, that’ll last a week”.  I love the cabinets in the playroom that hide the toys.  It was a challenge moving everything back in, but the paring down of belongings was sorely needed.  On it’s own, I am not in love with the raspberry color of the playroom, but I love it with the black and white accents, and it’s a perfect match for young girls.  The most  emotional part for me was just accepting the help and all the gratitude I have for Rebuilding Together and the students from Ohio State for their hard work and resources.  The aesthetic outcome is beautiful, but it’s the behind the scenes things like the HVAC, electrical work and fixing the privacy fence that have had the biggest functional impact on our day to day life.

Was the taping fun?  Did the neighbors come watch? I’m sure you were the hit of the neighborhood!
The taping was fun.  It was fascinating just watching the network crews set up their equipment, my back yard was tent city.  Wearing a microphone was a challenge, it picks up everything and I was always knocking it loose.  We had to take a zillion takes because of barking dogs or chirping birds.  My neighbors did come and watch, many of them were very pleased to see such a project being featured in our modest neighborhood versus the mini mansions you usually see on HGTV.  When they sent us off to the hotel, I didn’t really want to go, I felt like I was missing out.  The best part of taping was with the students during the reveal piece, they had a lot of energy and were fun and played with the kids.  Both hosts, Aneitra and Chris Grundy, were wonderful.  Grundy is just as hilarious off camera as he is on, he is personality plus.

Drumroll please….
And the play room…
McKenzie wrote her name on the old basement door.  The show tore down the old door but still kept this little memorabilia from the old room.

An interview with Crystal Jo (ahem, the artist, tee hee)..

How were you approached about this project?
In March, Melanie, Syd and McKenzie’s mother, sent me a message saying that HGTV saw a lemonade stand portrait hanging in her living room and were interested in possibly using the images for the makeover. Of course, I said, “YES, PLEASE! Give them all of my information!” I didn’t want to get my hopes up because it was such a possibility. The HGTV representative contacted me and asked for the digital rights and had me sign a few contracts and releases. That’s when it became REAL. I wasn’t sure how big the artwork would be or even what images they would use. I was just honored to have the slight chance my work would be featured on such a well-known network.

What were your thoughts when you saw the room for the first time?
It is BEAUTIFUL. The colors, the texture, the different patterns… oh, I love it. And the photos are HUGE. And they even put smaller portraits around the room. It truly is an honor to see my work displayed like this. I just love this family so much, it really couldn’t have happened to more deserving people. Xo!


Crystal Jo

Crystal Jo is an Ohio-based wedding and lifestyle photographer, dreamer, believer and lover of life.

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