HGTV's home renovation experts and partners Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas are back for a new season of Bargain Block. The show, which airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, features Bynum and Thomas buying multiple run-down and abandoned houses on a single block in the Detroit area, taking them down to the studs and creating affordable, stylish and fully furnished starter homes that are ideal for first-time homebuyers. It's one of the network's biggest successes, competing against its already popular home renovation shows in its lineup.
The couple, who have been together since 2013, recently chatted with PopCulture about their love of Detroit and why bringing its neighborhoods back to life is so important. They also discussed participating in the network's competition series and the key to success when working together as romantic partners. Watch the full interview above and read below.
PC: So congratulations on Season 2 of Bargain Block. There's nothing better for me than watching home renovation shows, especially HGTV. It really gets my mind going. I love that the show is set in Detroit. It's actually one of my favorite cities. It has so much rich history. At one point, it was booming, with General Motors and Motown. The city has faced a lot of challenges, obviously, in recent years, in terms of real estate. So why is the restoration of Detroit so important to you guys?
KB: I think it was one of those things where you get into working in a place, and you fall in love, and I think that's kind of what happened. We went through the first couple of houses in the city that we renovated, and we saw the challenges that we weren't aware of firsthand with what first-time home buyers in lower socioeconomic areas are facing. It's a very eye-opening experience when you see people that want a house and can really afford a house, but the struggle to get to first-time home ownership is a challenge. Detroit offers a lot of things that make it possible to do affordable first-time homes and kind of style them up. I think that's why we love working there so much.
Now, you guys are really up against some tough competition with shows like Married to Real Estate and Unsellable Houses and Fixer to Fabulous during your season. What do you feel like sets you guys apart from the rest, which some might consider an oversaturated market?
ET: Well, I don't really [think of it] as competing against them. I think our show offers a little bit different take in the fact that we oftentimes do multiple houses per episode. We focus on first-time home buyers. We keep things at a lower budget. I think the people who are fans of Bargain Block are fans because it seems attainable to them, and they can just relate to maybe not having a half-a-million dollars.
KB: I like the creative elements of it too. I think that has been really impressive to me to see how many people have responded to seeing the creative elements that go into the show and some of the behind-the-scenes things on the furniture and the art. It's just fun to share that with an audience.
What are some of your favorite types of home renovations that you do that really tug at your heart?
KB: I love finding historic elements in a house. Even some of the smaller houses, they were built back in the '20s and '30s, and Detroit really was at its peak at that time. Even the smaller houses have beautiful detail. There's a lot of coved ceilings, the trim work is nice. If you come across a fireplace, oftentimes they'll have beautiful original tile. So I get very emotionally connected to some of those elements of the houses that somebody, at some point, put a lot of love and a lot of time into whatever element it is, and I think it's good that we try to preserve that. I think it's worth the effort to kind of save it.
ET: Not all of the houses are able to save much because some of them are so dilapidated that you just kind of have to start from the ground up. So when we can find a historical element that we really like, and we're able to save, we always do.
And you guys were also on Rock the Block, which was a competition series. What was that experience like in comparison to working on you guys' show? What did you love, and what did you feel like you could have kept where it was?
ET: They are completely opposite shows. You have our show, which is kind of just Keith and I and our small group of contractors, just kind of chugging away for a long period of time on lots of houses. Then you have Rock the Block, which is hyper-focused. [It's] six weeks, one house, big budget, lots of crew. So it's a totally different experience. It was super fun for us. It was a nice break and just a change of pace to be able to have a really large budget and lots of help. And then, of course, to meet the HGTV host was super fun. We're friends with all of them now. So yeah, it was just totally different, but very fun.
One of the things that I'm really interested in talking to you guys about is that there's so much conversation going on right now regarding the home buying market in today's economy. Obviously, inflation is crazy. What are you guys' suggestions for potential home buyers and those who are embarking on major renovation projects? What tips do you have for keeping the costs down, as well as keeping the stress down?
KB: Keeping the costs and stress down are very tricky, but I will say there're things that you can do to kind of mitigate some of those things. I will say, from a contractor standpoint and labor standpoint, constant contact is going to keep you in much better shape. And on the budget side, it's really easy to find deep discounts at places like ReStore, which is Habitat for Humanity's thrift store. Every major metropolitan area has that. Tile is great.
There's a lot of things. If you hunt around a little bit, you can really cut down prices. Windows, doors, all the things that kind of go into a house, there's a lot of ways you can save in places like that. Thrifting is, obviously, very near and dear to my heart. So anytime we can layer that in, just as good.
ET: I would say maybe a third of the tile that we use for Bargain Block was thrifted tile. And usually, it's actually nicer tile than what we would've bought because we wouldn't have had the budget to buy as nice of a tile. So you can kind of luck out and find some really nice stuff for cheap.
KB: We just found this gorgeous pink marble. We paid like $28.
ET: It was from Italy, so if we were to actually buy that, I'm sure we'd be spending definitely a lot more than just a hundred bucks.
How are you guys balancing work and love, being as though you guys' work and relationship are so intertwined?
KB: It's amazing how many people ask that. I don't think about it a lot. We're always working and, amazingly, we have the same goal, at the end of the day, but we have very different paths to get there. I think the key to the success of working with your partner, I think, is finding balance and finding respect, and also, a little humor goes a long way. I think that's the key that we've found that works for us, is balance. Stay in your lane. I don't try to step on his toes a lot. He does always try to step on my toes in design, but that's OK.
ET: I pretty much let him do things. I might make suggestions, but …
KB: Strong suggestions. But that's what we found works for us.0comments
What other projects do you guys have that are currently in the works?
KB: We're still finishing up Season 2 of Bargain Block. We're almost finished, but we're working on a lot of fun and exciting projects that go back a little bit to the creative. We're going to have a bit of a break from TV, so we're pushing into the art. We've got some really exciting tiny house builds that we're doing. We just are really enjoying the creative elements at this point.