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Tamara Day: Style, Skill and Charisma Create a Rising Star

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A Kansas City woman is seeing her television star rise, and it’s hovering right over our fantastic city.

Meet Tamara Day, wife, mother, interior designer and a woman who loves a good hammer. Her sharp eyes can spot a diamond in the rough when it comes to old houses that no one wants. She’s also DIY Network’s latest star, adding to its roster of do-it-yourself experts. Tamara will soon host the network’s latest production, Bargain Mansions, set right here in Kansas City.

“The concept behind Bargain Mansions is that I renovate big, old houses that we find at bargain prices,” noted Tamara. “We respect the integrity and history of the houses but bring great modern design, function and style to them.”

Natural Talent
Tamara’s do-it-yourself skill set comes from her considerable experience in renovating homes. “My husband and I have renovated numerous homes, but then we slowed down to have babies,” she laughed. Dreaming up the design, painting interiors and yard-sale furniture finds, kicking through walls, refinishing floors and woodwork and just about anything else you can do with a hammer, saw and crowbar keep this hands-on gal plenty busy.

One of her greatest undertakings includes her fabulous home in Leawood, Kansas. The couple rescued it from foreclosure and neglect, and Tamara spent months lovingly restoring and redesigning it to meet the needs of her rambunctious family.  “We started the Leawood project in 2008 and then the economy tanked,” Tamara explained. “I had to do a lot of the physical renovation work myself. To stay on budget, I went to estate sales and renovated furniture to fit my style for the house.”

From this experience, a new brand was born. Growing Days, Tamara’s interior design, furniture, decor and lifestyle business, started with selling refurbished pieces out of Vintage Market in old Leawood. She also developed the bright idea of home-based sales, which included purchasing things right out of her house. Twice a year, Tamara hosted open houses, and customers would wander through the home and buy things right off her walls or the floors. Everything on the first floor was for sale. “I always wanted a retail store, and with kids, it wasn’t possible. So I just made my house my store. Then came requests from people who loved my furniture and decor to do design.”

Although she’s never formally studied interior design or construction, Tamara’s sense of style and eye for what works has elevated her to the status of a must-have KC designer; they’re the foundation of her Growing Days business and now a television career.

A Group Effort
Bargain Mansions will be a family affair for Tamara. Her husband, Bill, will be featured, and, to a lesser extent, their four children, three boys and a girl. But her father, Ward Schraeder, who lives in Salina, Kansas, and who is the principal owner of Medical Development Management in Wichita, will be in the spotlight with her. The concept calls for him appearing in about 40 percent of each finished show. He was discovered by the show producers as he happened to stop by and observe Tamara tape her demo shows.

“He came to watch me film and really got into the process. The producers loved him,” recalled Tamara. “He’s larger than life, somewhat like John Wayne. He’s very funny and charismatic. He claims he taught me a lot of what I know and he likes to take credit for it.”

The father-daughter duo will tape 12, 30-minute episodes airing in October. Six homes will be renovated during this first season of Bargain Mansions. The formula calls for two episodes spent on each mansion, and each show features the makeover of two rooms. Tamara will redo the kitchen, master bedroom and bath and two other rooms in each home. To kick off the series, she’ll take on a 1906 Hyde Park home, offering 4,000 feet of renovation opportunity.

“On Bargain Mansions, we’ll buy big, distressed homes that we consider a good investment,” revealed Tamara. “I’m partnering with general contractor Troy Paul, Next Generation of KC, to manage the projects. He’ll be in the show, too. Renovating six homes in nine months with four kids at home would be too much to handle for me alone.”

Risks and Surprises
When asked about the reality of these types of shows and claims of producers manufacturing drama to keep viewers interested, Tamara says none of that will happen for her. “Bargain Mansions is a documentary of what I’m doing and what is happening in the process,” she laughed. “With houses of this age and size, there’s no need to manufacture any drama or conflict. You get it every day.” In addition to dealing with the headaches of fixing up older houses with a potential budget-busting surprise behind each wall, Tamara and Bill are buying the six homes and investing in the flips from top to bottom. When complete, all homes will be for sale to the public.

Not only is the show based in Kansas City, using local labor, a portion of the video production work originates with another KC-based business, Reality Road, owned by Matt Antrim and Teri Rogers and located in the Crossroads. Antrim is an executive producer and creator of Bargain Mansions. Shooting began in February for this year’s 12 episodes. Conveyor Media, based in Los Angeles, sold the show to the DIY Network after partnering with Reality Road. This will be Conveyor Media and Reality Road’s second national cable series together.

But if you can’t wait for your Tamara Day fix, she’s also appearing in two segments of DIY Network’s Ultimate Retreat, which was known as Blog Cabin. Working alongside DIY star Jason Cameron, who leads the Desperate Landscapes, Man Caves and Sledgehammer series, Tamara will renovate the living room and kitchen of a Vermont house. The show should premier in late 2017.

“Shooting Ultimate Retreat was so fun; it was a great time and experience. It was interesting to see how another host does his job,” Tamara shared. “The cast and crew were incredibly welcoming and willing to share advice of how they’ve done things in the past and show me the ropes. Jason has such great energy and charisma, and he was very welcoming and inclusive to my thoughts and ideas.”

Unexpected Direction
Tamara wasn’t looking for a job as a television DIY host. Reality Road had been in discussions with her brother to star in a show, but he didn’t feel he was a good fit. So he suggested his sister. After a few meetings, some demo reels of Tamara in action and a long wait, she got the news that the network offered her the chance of taping two pilot programs. They aired over the summer and the feedback was super.

Tamara is on top of the world with the new opportunities awaiting her. The only negative would be working in the cold weather because these houses don’t have HVAC and no electric or plumbing. But she does have a solution. “AB May has offered to put a scratch-and-dent furnace in the houses while I’m filming. That’s wonderful. I don’t want to freeze to death,” she joked.

She has so many positives to look forward to in her new starring role. “I love the crew we work with. They’re quickly becoming like family,” Tamara shared. “My video editor in LA has started buying houses in KC, and when he’s in town, he uses one of our cars to manage his properties. It’s an amazing group of people I work with. I know their goal is to make everything look great. This isn’t a drama experience; it’s not a reality show. It’s a good group of people to work with.”

When asked about the future and the potential of becoming the next Chip and Joanna Gaines, the current darlings of the home renovation industry, Tamara laughs. However, she does harbor dreams of opening a retail space in KC filled with the treasures she spots that she hopes will become treasures for others. While the horizon is bright for this Midwest star, she has her roots firmly planted in her community.

“I want others to feel engaged in this as something that’s happening in KC, and I want them to follow along on how this goes,” she smiled. “I hope the city feels they’re a part of this. The episodes do feature what we have to offer in KC, and I hope they take pride in how it’s represented. This adventure is so much bigger than I am.” ■