Home & Garden

‘Desperate Kitchens’ show works magic in Sacramento

The Moskats’ dining room boasts a new vintage-style ceiling and a custom-built beer tap. The whole remodel took four days.
The Moskats’ dining room boasts a new vintage-style ceiling and a custom-built beer tap. The whole remodel took four days. Getty Images

Blaire and David Moskat liked everything about their Orangevale home except for one room. That one flaw turned out to be pretty desperate.

“When we moved into our home a couple of years ago, we fell in love with it – except for the kitchen,” Blaire Moskat recalled. “It was an old lady’s kitchen – the original 1977 galley kitchen. The woman who had owned the house had kept the kitchen immaculate; it wasn’t her fault. Everything was original. It was all gold and mustard yellow, dark wood cabinets, white tile with dark grout, popcorn ceiling and nasty linoleum. Everything was clean but still looked dirty; it was just old.”

Sound familiar? The Moskats’ original kitchen fits the mold of thousands of Sacramento-area tract homes.

“Kitchen remodels are so expensive,” Blaire added. “We figured we’d have to wait and wait and wait and save and save and save, then someday we’d be able to afford to do something else.”

Out of desperation, the Moskats submitted a 90-second video of their “old lady kitchen” to HGTV remodeling gurus John Colaneri and Anthony Carrino, who were developing a new show. The Moskats pleaded for help.

Then they got a knock on the door.

In four days, they had a brand-new kitchen and entertainment area that surpassed their dreams. And all they had to do was get out of the way.

The Orangevale couple was chosen by cousins Colaneri and Carrino for their new HGTV show, “America’s Most Desperate Kitchens.” Their house is one of three Sacramento-area homes featured in the new series, including two episodes on back-to-back broadcastsWednesday. The Moskats’ new kitchen makes its national debut that night.

Kitchen desperation hits a chord with HGTV viewers, Carrino said.

“Absolutely, just by the number of submissions we got – tens of thousands of videos,” he added. “And with this show, we can go anywhere. There’s a possibility we can show up in your town and help you.”

The videos had common themes beyond basic desperation.

“Overall, (the kitchens) look old, dilapidated with outdated appliances,” Carrino said. “They have very poor floor plans; a lot of galley kitchens. They look very closed. Everybody now wants an open concept. That’s the challenge: Finding a way to open up the space.”

Are Sacramento’s kitchens really that desperate?

Oh yeah, say the cousins. “I saw things I’ve never seen before,” Carrino said. “It must be some regional thing.”

“You guys definitely have some ’70s kitchens – very, very desperate,” Colaneri said. “People update the rest of the house, but they leave the kitchen alone like it’s in some time capsule. You see a beautiful house, but the kitchen always is exactly the same.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” he added. “The kitchen is the most expensive (room) to change, but it also has the biggest impact.”

Besides being a rich source of inspirational material, Sacramento also is the home of the production company Big Table Media, which develops and films home and garden TV shows.

“Big Table Media is based in Sacramento,” said Carrino, who works and lives in New Jersey. “When you’re launching a new show, it’s better to stay close to the mother ship for the first few episodes to work out the kinks. After Sacramento, we went cross country. We did shows in Austin (Texas), Nashville (Tenn.); all over.”

Sacramento made a positive impression on the contractors, veterans of four HGTV series.

“I love Sacramento,” Colaneri said. “It actually was my first time ever going there. Overall, it’s a beautiful city. I really love to walk around and look at places. I never realized how many trees there are in Sacramento.”

The chance to be surrounded by nature also is one of the things the Moskats like best about Sacramento. David Moskat is a state Fish and Game warden. Blaire is a school counselor at Christian Brothers High School. The young couple have a toddler, Lena, who is almost 2.

They wanted their home to feel more open to the outdoors, but the house’s original configuration cramped their outlook.

“The kitchen was very small, and there was a little room next to it – a den – that we never did anything with because it was so dark,” Blaire Moskat said.

In other words, it was just the kind of challenge Carrino and Colaneri wanted.

The Moskats were not totally blindsided by the cousins’ surprise visit in February with camera crew in tow. They had been contacted by Big Table Media and told they were a finalist. Designers and production assistants toured the kitchen and took copious notes about the couple’s likes and needs. (They learned David makes beer and Blaire loves a rustic look.) They snapped dozens of photos and measured everything twice. This process went on for several weeks.

“That’s how we’re able to do these makeovers so quickly – careful preparation,” Colaneri said. “We get all the measurements, work everything out in advance. Get all the permits. And when you do a project like this, it’s not just a kitchen but the adjoining rooms, too. They all get made over. But people don’t know we (the cousins and TV crew) are really coming – it’s a total surprise.”

Anxiety comes as part of the package.

“The whole time, we didn’t know if we made it,” Blaire said. “We knew we were competing, but didn’t know exactly what was going on. It was nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. We were told to be home for a two-hour window and then we would know. We were on pins and needles the whole time.”

When time was almost up, the knock came – and the Moskats had two hours to get out. They couldn’t come home for four days. No fair peeking.

“It was weird and surreal,” Blaire said.

Colaneri and Carrino attacked the house with a battalion of craftspeople.

“We’ll have 15 to 20 people on the construction crew and at least 10 people on the (TV) production team,” Carrino said. “That’s 30 people coming in and out of the home. It’s all high intensity.”

Cost for these four-day remodels would range $50,000 to $75,000 or more if homeowners tried to do it themselves, they estimated.

“It’s amazing how much you can get done in the time we have,” Colaneri added.

To get that extra space needed for an open floor plan at the Moskats’ house, they knocked out a wall and expanded the kitchen into the former den. Replacing the wall is a modern 20-foot island connected to a built-in four-tap system for David’s home-brewed beer. The cousins describe the result as a “hip pub-style” kitchen.

What had been unused dead space became a dining room with vintage-style patterned ceiling and cool chandelier. Adding to the open feel is a glass wall connecting the living room and dining room. Reclaimed wood from a 150-year-old water tower faces the island and walls. New cabinets, quartz counters, appliances and hardwood flooring complete the makeover.

The Moskats were overjoyed by the results.

“All these people did all these amazing things, and we didn’t have to do anything,” Blaire said. “They completely opened up the kitchen space and did exactly what we wanted to do – and more.

“The old kitchen made our home feel like an old lady’s house, dark and dank,” she added. “Anything new would have been an improvement, but this blows it all out of the park.”

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

America’s Most Desperate Kitchens

TV: 5 p.m. Wednesday; episodes repeat at midnight

Details: www.hgtv.com