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After the After: Sarah 101 Baker's Kitchen

by - Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another season of Sarah 101 wraps up tonight (with Janice's nursery in one of the episodes!) Have you been watching the show? Even if I haven't loved all of the makeovers, I do love seeing how Sarah and Tommy push the envelope with their designs and how they challenge homeowners to go beyond their comfort zones.

Last week's episode featured a beautiful kitchen that just happened to belong to one of my readers, Amanda! You all seemed to enjoy the "After the After" interview I did with Geeta last season when Sarah & Tommy redid her dining room, so I hope you'll enjoy another behind the scenes look as Amanda tells us all about her experience on the show.

All photos via Design Maze
All images via Design Maze
1. How did you get on the show?

It was easy – did you not see our original kitchen?! In all honestly, it was a long process. I applied to the casting call and the questions were mostly about our style tastes and why we thought our kitchen would make for a good episode. I focused a lot on how much I like to entertain and bake, but how my current kitchen was just not working for me: we had a lack of storage, ancient appliances, and cracked walls. It also didn’t hurt that a co-worker knew a producer for HGTV.

After I submitted my application online, I emailed the producer a few photos of my kitchen (which they thought would make for a good before and after) but I was told not to get my hopes up since a Sarah Richardson show is the hardest to get onto. The producer forwarded the application to the producer for Sarah 101. The next day I was contacted by the show - they saw my application online and were interested in seeing my kitchen. She stated they had received over 1,800 applications and were going to visit 40 spaces, then narrow it down for the show.

A few days later the producer, Lindsay, and Tommy (!!!) showed up at my house. As soon as they entered, I kind of knew I had a good chance by the way they were talking about how the space would be perfect for the show and the baker’s angle would be something different for them. Tommy even remembered one of the pictures I had submitted, of me with a blowtorch finishing a meringue cake! I was contacted a few days later with news that I made it to the top 20. From the top 20, Sarah would then pick which spaces she wanted for the show, and the executives of the show would have final say. It was a few long, anxious weeks before I found out we had made it onto the show.

2. Did you have any input into the design?

Not really. The producer said that Sarah and Tommy would be using our application and what we said during our first shooting for direction. I emphasized how I would love a white kitchen, shaker door profile, industrial stainless steel appliances, lots of storage, and hardwood floors to match the rest of the downstairs of the house. I stressed how I like Sarah’s design for what she is known for, which includes light blues, greys, and creams.

The first time we knew what was going to be used in our kitchen was the midway mark – we were being filmed to see our reactions. They showed us the plain white door profile, a couple tin tiles for the ceiling, and samples of the floor tiles in the colours they would be using. I was not impressed at all. To be truthful, I laughed a lot about what they were showing me. I thought it was a joke to get my reaction, but it wasn’t. I even went as far as to say that what they had chosen looked cheap! I left thinking “What have I done giving away my money to a TV show for a renovation?” but I tried to remain calm since it was Sarah and Tommy and 95% of the time I loved their designs. (I was just hoping our kitchen wasn’t the other 5%!)

Since I had such a negative reaction, they called me back to do a session at the Sarah Richardson Design office with Tommy, where he explained what they were doing. He talked me down off the ledge a little, by showing me a picture of a kitchen they just finished (dream budget kitchen, which I loved) and saying how they would be painting the ceiling tiles white. He talked about how the flooring was not cheap and was used in professional kitchens and showed me that the cabinet doors being used in our kitchen were the same ones that are used in the Sarah Richard Design office. I left feeling a bit better – but just a bit.

3. Some reality shows have 'manufactured' drama - was there any of that on the show? It seemed you really disliked the flooring. Was that real or emphasized for TV?

Let’s say it was emphasized a little. I did dislike the flooring choice, especially the yellow and green colours. The producer asked me to come back and reshoot since they felt they needed a stronger reaction. The part where I say, “I hate it” – that was coached a bit; I’m expecting my nomination for an Oscar any day now.

4. Did you meet Sarah or Tommy?

Yes, but I only got to see Sarah once. I saw her when we went in for our first shooting; she was finishing her piece and we were next. It was very brief interaction – basically, I introduced myself and was star struck. I have been watching Sarah on TV since the beginning and now she was standing in front of me! I got to see Tommy many times throughout the process. And, yes, Tommy really is that funny in person.

5. Are you happy with the finished kitchen? Anything you would change?

I absolutely love the kitchen. It is really amazing and you can tell that a designer did it from the attention to detail. (And yes, I do love the flooring.) The flooring really brings interest to the room and makes our kitchen stand out. On TV the colors looks very bright, but in reality they are much more subdued. You really do need to see it in person to fully appreciate it.

Would I change anything? Honestly yes, there are a couple things that I would change. First off, I’m not a fan of the fridge style (I would rather have a French door) or where it sits in the kitchen. With the side-by-side style, I can’t place large platters or cookie sheets in the fridge and for someone who likes to entertain and bake, this is a must. Also, since the fridge is placed in between the wall and the peninsula, you can’t fully open the doors; you can only get the doors open a little past halfway. This makes cleaning the fridge almost impossible because you can’t fully remove the drawers; the fridge needs to be moved to do this. It’s such a pain!

Another thing that is annoying about the kitchen is that you can’t fully open the cabinet door over the peninsula; it can only open a quarter of the way and then it will hit the light. The funny thing about this is that my husband was telling me (when he came home the day they were doing the finishing touches) that Sarah was there and he asked her about it. He didn’t just say to her, “Oh thank you, famous designer, for doing our kitchen – it’s perfect!” Sarah said that we could change the cabinet door later with open shelving, or just remove the door if it was a problem.

Of course, both of these things are quite minor. All in all it was money very well spent. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Who knows? Maybe they will come back and do my bathroom, which is just as bad as my kitchen was! Pretty please?


Sounds like you had a great experience Amanda. It was interesting to hear how you met with Tommy after you weren't pleased with the finishes. I think that's pretty typical when you hire a designer (in real life or on TV!); many clients need a bit reassurance during the process and in no way is that a reflection that the designer isn't listening to the clients needs (which is a criticism I've heard of Sarah 101 in the past).

Despite some of the design shortcomings, I think your kitchen came together beautifully. I thought the white appliances were genius and the sleek cabinetry worked surprisingly well in your vintagey, homey kitchen. Thanks for sharing Amanda!

So what did you think? Did you watch the episode? What do you think of design shows in general? Are they still holding your interest or are you ready for something new?

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  1. lipstikevents12:35 PM

    Awesome interview. I loved all the details and info. The kitchen looks amazing! Off to watch Janice's nursery now :)

  2. guest1:05 PM

    I wouldn't exactly call a fridge that doesn't fully open a "small" thing.  What a design fail on their part!

    I could never give away that much money AND control, too.  I'd be in serious tears over the big stuff not going the way I wanted it (cabinets, appliances, etc...)

  3. ramblingrenovators1:15 PM

    Good question Michelle. I'll see if Amanda can chime in with some info.


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