Jonathan Knight might be best known for New Kids on the Block, but long before he joined the band, he’d fallen in love with a humbler trade.
In his early teens, Knight was his contractor dad’s right-hand man. And once NKOTB disbanded, he went right back into construction, flipping old homes and building new.
But his true passion has always been restoring New England farmhouses—which explains his newest pursuit as the star of HGTV’s “Farmhouse Fixer,” which just premiered Season 2.
“I love a good old farmhouse,” he says. “To me, being on a farm is just a way of life. It’s the real deal. These are American treasures, but old farmhouses are disappearing off the landscapes so fast.”
Nowadays, he and his business partner Kristina Crestin help clients renovate old homes in New England.
“Kristina and I help bring out the best of the old and the new for our clients,” he says.
They only saw the property online, and outbid 20 other bidders, but were allowed no contingencies. So they purchased the place sight unseen, and trusted Knight and his team to make it livable.
Everyone can see the place is beautiful on the outside and bursting with potential. But it needs a lot of work on the inside, and Knight and his crew are just the ones to do it—on a budget of $225,000.
Even if your home isn’t a farmhouse, you’ll be fascinated by the tips and tricks handed out by this not-so-new-kid on the renovation block.
Expand the staircase
The stairs leading up to the second floor are so narrow you have to tiptoe up them, and they’re truly “treacherous,” according to Knight. “These stairs were built in the 1790s—there was a whole different way of life back then,” he says. “They’re not suitable for today’s living, and in some instances, they may not even pass code.”
Knight decides to relocate the staircase, which also helps with the bedroom/bathroom configuration upstairs.
Megan is relieved, pointing out as she ascends for the first time, “My whole foot fits on this tread.”
Forget the open floor plan
The Cooperages also note that the living room area is really small, and has a lower ceiling than they’re used to.
Knight tells them they can add a window or two to make it lighter and brighter, but it’s never going to have that wide open floor plan. Yet he points out this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for this type of house.
“So many people want open concept living now, and if you want that, go get a new house,” he says. “You cannot do that to a 1790s house. That is the charm. It’s having all these small rooms.”
Save the original hardwood flooring
Everyone appreciates the durability and character of the centuries-old wood plank flooring. They just don’t make it like the used to! But there’s one small problem.
“I do wish they were less yellow,” says Megan.
Knight knows what to do.
“We can sand this floor up a little and give it a richer stain,” he says, noting that it would be a shame—plus, expensive—to replace the flooring that has lasted so long.
Use dried flowers for rustic pops of color
Kristina takes the reins when it comes to color.
“Megan really wanted neutrals all over, but I think we need some color,” she says. “We can’t really give them something permanent, so I think this idea of dried flowers [around the fireplace] will work, because it’s creative, and she can change it over time if she wants.”
Kristina is quick to note that the fireplace isn’t working, so putting flammable objects around it is not a fire hazard.
Megan notices it first thing when she steps inside. “I’m really enjoying this whole foliage thing going on,” she says.
Make old beams match new beams
There’s been a major addition on the back of the house, with a large kitchen, dining area and pantry. The previous owners managed to save the beams and raise the ceiling, but it involved adding two additional new wood beams to the room.
There is no money in the budget to find matching antique beams, so Knight first tries to stain the new ones to match the old.
“I love the old beams, but they don’t match the new beams,” he says. “So it’s just a matter of trying to get that balance.”
It’s harder than it looks. He sands and tries to stain them to match, but it just doesn’t look right.
In the end, he decides to sand and stain the old beams as well. “I think that’s really our only solution to make this look good,” he notes.