‘Windy City Rehab’ heads to Evanston for new construction

Host and designer Alison Victoria helps a couple expecting their first child build their Evanston home from the ground up.

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Alison Victoria takes on new construction for her latest clients on “Windy City Rehab.”

Alison Victoria and her team take on new construction for her latest clients on “Windy City Rehab.”

HGTV/Screenshot from video

The sixth episode of “Windy City Rehab’s” third season once again takes viewers out of Chicago — but not very far.

When an expecting couple with a bad floor plan approaches Alison Victoria for help, she dives right in, ready to help them reimagine their space and put in those special touches.

Here’s what went down.

Spoilers ahead!

The house

Unlike most “Windy City Rehab” episodes, this one did not actually feature a renovation. This week’s couple, Sarah and Steve Schmitt, purchased a corner lot in Evanston for $375,000, and while crews have already broken ground at 2831 Hartzell St., the floor plan left the couple feeling uninspired.

That’s when they called Victoria. With a $1 million renovation budget, they hoped she could bring her signature looks to their home.

“You know we love a good black-and-white house,” Victoria said, of what’s become her signature style.

To clean up the main floor, Victoria planned to transform the full bathroom into a powder room and recenter the fireplace so it’s not in a corner. The Schmitts decided against a formal dining room, so Victoria added a banquet to the open-concept living room and kitchen. In the basement, Steve Schmitt requested a brewery room.

To elevate the exterior, the designer envisioned double brass doors to replace the single front door and combining cedarwood and beige stone with white siding and black window frames.

At some point during the 18 months of the project, Sarah Schmitt found out she was pregnant, adding an important deadline to the project’s timeline.

The rehab

Four months into the project, Victoria met with general contractor Gary to discuss floor plans now that the foundation, framing, windows and walls were in place. To give the home character, the designer wanted to find an old mantle and incorporate it into the built-in shelves that would surround the newly centered fireplace.

“Steve and Sarah want that mix of old and new. It’s a new construction home. They don’t want it to feel that way,” Victoria explained.

After finding the perfect mantle in a shop in Atlanta, Victoria brought in artisan Ari for a walkthrough to discuss projects. He agreed to build a custom banquet and to wrap wood around the sides of the kitchen island to give it a unique look. Upon seeing the mantle, Ari identified several accents that he would incorporate into the built-in cabinets and surrounding shelves.

Up at Ari’s Wisconsin farm, the two decided to match the finish on the mantle rather than paint it, but Ari’s mixing methods surprised Victoria. He added pool water to his stain concoction, and the result produced a seemingly matching finish with one fatal flaw: It turned purple over time.

“So much for my secret ingredient,” Ari laughed.

It took him several tries, but he finally found a stain that met Victoria’s standards.

Now 11 months into the project, Ari and his assistant Nelson arrived to install the island and mantle. But Victoria noticed the stain on the island appeared to be turning orange.

“Relax,” Ari told her. He and Nelson sanded down the finish and mixed some white into it to lighten it.

When he and Victoria finally show the Schmitts the front doors, they ask for the patina to be a darker shade, and they notice it bubbling when the sun hits the door (causing the air bubbles). Ari explained that the bubbles were unavoidable — something that was news to the Schmitts. The artisan agreed to come back on another sunny day and pop the bubbles. It would be one of the last few projects to be completed, along with the driveway and sidewalks.

Personal detour

On a very personal note, during this project, Victoria shared her experience of harvesting and freezing her eggs so she could relieve herself of the pressure to start a family before she and her partner were ready.

“I am trying to prepare for my future and going through all of this will hopefully be that insurance policy that I’ve worked so hard for,” she said.

After undergoing surgery, Dr. Jeelani told her they managed to harvest three eggs but only one was viable. The doctor then suggested she freeze 10 eggs to better her chances, and Victoria agreed.

Back on track — the end

A few months after the project wrapped up, Victoria arrived to see how the couple had settled in. Steve and a very pregnant Sarah gushed over the use of mixed materials on the exterior and the way the colors blended well together.

Inside, Victoria admired the way Ari took details from the mantle and incorporated them into his built-in cabinets and shelves. She also complimented the way his woodwork on the sides of the kitchen island made it look like a custom job.

“When I walk into a front door, I want to be wowed. And I am wowed,” Victoria said.

In the basement, Steve Schmitt set up his home brewing system and now he could pour with taps that Ari custom-made for him. The brewer even created a beer in Victoria’s honor.

Construction took nearly 18 months to complete, but the Schmitts only went over their renovation budget by 10%, meaning they spent $1.1 million.

“I know they don’t regret spending one extra dime from the original budget,” Victoria said.

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