Ever wish your home could undergo a makeover worthy of appearing on reality TV? Shea and Syd McGee, stars of the Netflix series “Dream Home Makeover,” say you can do it all on your own—no pro designer required.
Shea, after all, got her start designing her own home 11 years earlier, which has since led to not only their Netflix show (now in production on its third season), but also their own design company, McGee and Co., plus a decor line at Target called Threshold. Along with two kids (plus one on the way) and big plans to grow their brand, these two seem to be on their way to making a Magnolia-esque empire.
We spoke to Shea to find out how she found her signature style, mistakes they made along the way, and how we can all get our own dream home makeover without hiring a designer at all.
Shea, you started your career back in 2010 when you renovated your own home in Southern California. What made you want to do this project yourself?
I really wanted to start a design business, so I saw our first home as an opportunity to take on this design project myself and test my skills. That ultimately was the best way for me to make mistakes but also learn about my own personal style without having a client influence that. So I think that’s why that project helped put me on the map, because I was able to really express my own personal aesthetic.
It was at a time when we lived in Orange County, so everything was a Tuscan-style tract home—while I gravitated toward the more light and airy aesthetic. I converted a lot of the brown spaces, lightened them up, and incorporated my own spin. That really helped me stand out.
Did you make any memorable renovation or design mistakes early on that others can learn from?
I don’t have my degree in design, and I think that even if I did, you just have to learn on the job, through trial and error.
One of the things that I’ve learned really early on is to be specific with contractors. I’d say, like, “Oh, here, I would like it to look like this” and give them an inspiration picture, but contractors need everything down to the inch for them to fully understand your vision. And so I definitely learned the hard way to use very specific measurements and drawings, help everyone feel like there’s not as much guesswork involved.
Viewers love ‘Dream Home Makeover.’ Do you have any memorable moments from the set?
In the second season we were still finishing up a house as we were revealing it to clients. Everything was on such a tight deadline that we were just scrambling, and we had our team members hiding behind corners as they were still making the beds up for the clients to move in that night. So that was crazy.
Also, all of the interview scenes were actually filmed in our basement. So occasionally our kids would get home from school and we’d all have to stop because we’d hear so-and-so deciding to Rollerblade in the house, or whatever it may be.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has affected what we want in a home?
I feel like this last year has changed all of us. We’ve created lasting focus on our home. I think people are focusing more on how their home makes them feel. … Maybe they were so busy going out and about that they didn’t really think about it as much.
Looking back on that original house from 10 years back, do you feel your style has changed much since then?
The really cool things about design is that it evolves over time. You could experiment with new looks and new things, and I enjoy doing that, but I also feel like there are signature elements in how I design that I just don’t think I’ll ever get tired of. I’ll never get tired of mixing old and new. I love to incorporate vintage pieces and new pieces together. I love a light and airy aesthetic. I love light walls, but I also really love to incorporate a few moody rooms in homes, whether that’s an office or a powder room. I think the key word for me is “mixing.”
Will the third season of ‘Dream Home Makeover’ be coming out sometime soon?
It will be a while because we’ve got to design all of these projects and see them come to life … and I’ve got to have a baby! But we will be starting to film in probably a little over a month.
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