Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
For designer Trever Hill and contractor Ben Anderson of Benjamin Custom Homes, this was a remodel project they would never forget. Earlier this year, the two had spent months being interviewed by a production company that worked with HGTV. Finally, they were given the green light to take on a local remodel in the Horace home of Autumn and Steve Hareland. For 14 days this spring, a crew of cameramen followed their every move, documenting the remodel progress to create a sizzle reel and pilot episode that would be presented to HGTV executives. Although the pilot episode, which was given the name, Fargo Fabulous, would unfortunately not see its day on TV, the end result of the remodel was nothing short of fabulous.The Hareland’s home was built in 1999, and naturally, golden oak was a dominant feature throughout. The outdated floor plan left them longing for a more open and cohesive living space. The couple had initially recruited Trever Hill Design to redesign their main floor and kitchen; then as the major construction began, Ben Anderson of Benjamin Custom Homes entered, to help them overhaul the space.
“We did the entire main level, aside from the laundry room and the pantry,” said Anderson. “If you walk through the door you can see the stark difference between what it originally looked like.” Since the home had golden oak trim and doors from top to bottom, Anderson and Hill opted to install new painted oak trim in the remodel; this way the wood grain would still show through and tie in the new oak to the old oak. “It can be difficult because so much graining shows through, but Shawn Weyer of Weyer-for-Hire did a great job,” said Anderson. Inside the remodel, all of the floorings were replaced and the lighting was updated with new fixtures including pendants, sconces, chandeliers and square LED ceiling lights.
Typically, a project of this magnitude would take six weeks or more, but with a TV timeframe to work around, Hill, Anderson and a team of local talent completed the entire main floor remodel in 14 working days. This meant a lot of late nights and early mornings for every subcontractor involved. The house was constantly bustling with many of the subs and fabricators making it their top priority. Even city inspectors and engineers worked around their fast-paced schedule to keep the process running smoothly.
One of the biggest challenges of their remodel was redesigning the staircase. It’s a major focal point that’s front and center at the entrance and within the living room area. Removing walls to create an open floating staircase meant dealing with a few structural issues that required new engineering and a fabricated H beam.
Before the team could install the new staircase, they had to tear down the ceiling downstairs and create structural support that ran all the way down to the concrete flooring. “We wanted to make the beam tie into the design, so we had it powder coated by Powdercoat Specialists, then Grain Designs cut the post’s wood inlay. Hill and Anderson then worked with Bob’s Custom Hot Rods to fabricate the metal staircase which weighed in around 850 pounds and took a team of ten guys to install.
Beyond the showstopper staircase, Hill designed the gathering space so the eye would be drawn to the fireplace and custom floating shelves built by Grain Designs. This feature was designed with extra long, dry stack bricks from Hebron Brick to create a more contemporary finish. “The Harlands wanted ample seating in the living room, but because of the short time frame, we were not able to special order anything,” said Hill. “Despite the extra challenge, we managed to find this beautiful sectional at Gabbert’s.”
With a total overhaul in the kitchen, golden oak cabinetry was donated to Habitat ReStore and replaced with an Arbor glaze cherry cabinetry designed by Hill and Rebecca Knutson of Floor to Ceiling Carpet One. The perimeter received a new quartz countertop, while the island now displays the biggest slab of Glacier quartzite available. Hill and Anderson worked closely with Robby Wysuph of Northern Stone to install and illuminate the natural stone with backlighting, while Grain Designs created the stunning butcher block feature.
“This island is a natural stone; it came out of a quarry looking like this and it was just polished,” said Hill. “In order to backlight it, Robby at Northern Stone had to miter and drop down the edges; so if you feel underneath, there’s a big piece of steel metal where the LEDs are. This is there to provide a gap so the stone wouldn’t crush the LEDs.”
The custom features don’t stop at the island – Hill fused an oversized raw-edge subway tile seamlessly with handmade ceramic tiles by local artist, Tara Fermoyle of Fermie Studios. Hill visited her studio to personally handpick and lay out the pattern for these beautiful tiles.
“This is the art that I had envisioned for the dining space from the very beginning,” said Hill. “Color-wise, this piece by local artist, Jessica Wachter, was really the inspiration for the entire space, which trickled into the kitchen and living room.”
As a central location between the kitchen and living room, Hill wanted to do something extraordinary for the dining table chandelier. He came up with an idea that would require brainstorming with Anderson and a little extra help to fabricate. The room’s birch-log chandelier was sourced from Anderson’s father-in-law’s property in the lakes area and hand-picked for color and width; all while TV cameras trudged through the snow behind them. Red River Electric was on site late into the night helping the two assemble it and get the LED strips trimmed and routered into the logs.
Anchoring the space, a 600-pound custom concrete table, created by landscaper Mike Nicholson, took six men to haul into the dining room. The custom steel base added another 120 pounds, making it roughly the weight of a pool table. “The table itself is art, it’s another one-of-a-kind piece that makes the room special,” said Hill. “There are so many stories behind every custom piece in this home; the Harelands know all of these stories and I think that creates great conversations for family and friends that visit. ”
When the kitchen wall got bumped back into the den, Hill and Anderson reconfigured the den space to provide an intentional design and quiet space for guests. Calming elements like the wood bead chandelier and raffia wall covering, installed by Weyer-for-Hire, set the tone for the perfect transitional space that can easily double as an office.
Find the Finishes:
Design – Trever Hill Design
Contractor – Ben Anderson, Benjamin Custom Homes
Staircase wood fabrication – Grain Designs
Staircase metal fabrication – Bob’s Custom Hot Rods
Staircase powder coating – Powdercoat Specialists
Staircase engineering – Adam Adams, Liberty Structural Engineering
Interior wall & trim paint – Weyer-for-Hire
Fireplace – Cozy Heat, Hebron Brick
Kitchen butcher block – Grain Designs
Kitchen countertop install and lighting – Glacier Quartzite, Northern Stone
Quartzite supplier – Level 9 Quartzite, Stone Holdings
Kitchen cabinetry, flooring & tile – Rebecca Knutson, CID, Floor to Ceiling Carpet One
Handmade, ceramic tiles – Artist, Tara Fermoyle – Fermie Studios
Kitchen pendants & main floor sconces – Wayfair
Custom concrete dining table – Mike Nicholson, Custom Landscaping
Dining & living room art – Artist, Jessica Wachter
Dining room rug – Hom Furniture
Dining room captains chairs – recycled rag design, Hom Furniture
Living room sofa – Gabbert’s Design Studio & Fine Furniture
Den furnishings – Hom Furniture
Den wood bead chandelier – HomeGoods
Blinds – Budget Blinds
PART 2 OF 2
Trever Hill and Ben Anderson
[Behind-the-Scenes of their Journey to HGTV ]
When designer, Trever Hill of Trever Hill Design and Ben Anderson of Benjamin Custom Homes were confronted to create a pilot and sizzle reel for a potential HGTV show, Fargo Fabulous, these two could not have imagined the adventure they were in for. We sat down with them both to get the behind-the-scenes outtakes on their nearly one-year journey to TV and the excitement and challenges that followed.
Q: How did this project with the Harelands get started?
Hill: Autumn Hareland reached out regarding a bathroom remodel before the production company and I had even met. She didn’t feel like her space was functioning very well and after we talked, it made sense to invest in the main living area that’s primarily used by her family. Meanwhile, the producers were talking to me about doing a show; they had seen my work online, in magazines and the newspaper. I thought it was potentially a scam at first, but eventually, I could see they were serious about moving forward.
Q: What was the beginning process like and how did they choose a contractor?
Hill: They interviewed many people via Skype to potentially be part of the show, including my business partner in The Private Collection, Susan Hozak-Cardinal, and various contractors. Eventually, they decided on partnering me with Ben as the contractor; he’s amazing. After our Skype session, they decided to pitch us to HGTV to get the paid sizzle. We started at the end of June 2017, and then Ben started work with us in September.Anderson: We were contracted on October 5, 2017. They did a sizzle reel in December, right around Christmas. That was pitched on February 16th, and they filmed in April 2018.Q: Have you always had ambitions to be on TV?
Hill: I remember telling my friend, Jessica Wachter, that I wanted to design at a national level and she asked if I disliked living in Fargo. My response was, “No, I love Fargo; I want to stay here.” She said, “Then just stay in Fargo. It will come to you.” A couple months later, boom, they came to us.
Q: What was your favorite part of filming a TV pilot?
Anderson: Filming with a great crew felt very natural and fun! Also, what made this project exciting and unique, was the time frame it was completed in. The entire project was done in two weeks with one day of pre-filming, 12 days of construction and part of a day for staging. It was fun to see things happen so quickly; there were usually two or three subs around all the time.
Q: What was it like completing a six-week remodel in only two weeks?
Hill: Ben had it all laid out, hour-by-hour, of what was going to happen on a 24-hour schedule. There were many people who made it their top priority and worked around the clock to complete their part of the project. Some donated or discounted their product and many of them donated extra time to help us stay on schedule. Toward the end, Ben even pulled off a 37-hour shift to make sure the project got done.
Q: Did the homeowner or production company front the remodel costs?
Anderson: The Harelands had a significant investment in this remodel, but it definitely helped us to do more and stay within budget when the subcontractors donated material, volunteered extra time or offered additional discounts, with the idea that it was being taped for a potential show.
Q: Were there any unique challenges to filming while working?
Anderson: Definitely. We would have all these people working, and then the camera crew would need to start shooting, so everyone would have to leave. For two to three hours of a workday, you might have 15 people just standing outside waiting to go back to work.
A city building official came on a Saturday at 6:30 am to do an inspection and a structural engineer had to wait for over an hour during filming; that is not typically how construction goes. We had some structural things we had to overcome during construction, but Shawn Weyer came in with his crew and cut a day out of the schedule to get us back on track. I think that was one of the coolest things, to see how our community comes together when you need them.
Q: What was life like after shooting the pilot?
Anderson: It was weird when they left. It was like making the best friends in the world; you get to know these people really well, and then they vanish.
Hill: It’s almost like we went to camp, but professionally. For 14 days, you eat, practically sleep, work really long hours with them…and then poof, they’re gone. I think Ben said it best, “Did we just dream that?” It’s so strange and there’s so much energy. I went right back to meeting with my clients again, but couldn’t tell them what we had just been through. The network and production company asked that we not speak of the project, so we had to pretend like nothing happened.
Q: What did you think when you finally saw the pilot episode?
Anderson: They did a fantastic job on the sizzle reel which was about three-and-a-half minutes; it took them three days to film. When we finally got to see the sizzle reel, we were wowed – they did a great job and it had such a fun tone. Many of these elements were carried through to the pilot, but it was certainly disappointing to know that the cut we saw would not be aired.
Q: What was it like spending months preparing for a TV series, then finding out that it would not be aired?
Anderson: I think the whole experience was amazing and surreal, it didn’t feel like it was really happening. There was a period afterward where Trever and I were pretty bummed about the outcome. But then again, at the same time, we’re super grateful we had the opportunity.
Hill: There was never a 100% guarantee that the show would get picked up by HGTV, but the conversation around the project, from day one, was pretty much, “There’s no way they wouldn’t air this.” To hear the news that it wasn’t going to air was really disappointing to us, but the worst part was knowing how much everyone else had put into this project, then having to tell them that it wasn’t going to air.Cozy Heat, a division of Hebron Brick donated the fireplace, Grain Designs discounted the wood products and volunteered countless hours, especially with the staircase install. Robby Wysuph of Northern Stone donated money, product and time to the kitchen countertops, while Mike Nicholson of Custom Landscaping donated his time to create the concrete dining table. It was sad to see it not air, but it was still an amazing experience that we were so excited to be part of.Q: What was it like the day of the final reveal?
Anderson:We were four or five hours behind on the last day. While they were setting up cameras to do the final filming and reveal, we were vacuuming the steps and still in a scramble to make things look great. I would say we had it television worthy, but there were still a few things that needed to be done.
Hill: It was an intense experience. I don’t think people realize how much work goes into one episode. That night, after two weeks of shooting and three hours of sleep, you’d think I’d never want to do something like this again, but when I was driving away, I really loved the idea of this potentially being my new life. I loved all of the people, the process and the idea of working hard towards a goal.
Q: If you were approached to shoot for a network again, what would you do differently?
Hill: Ask a lot of questions. We’re hoping moving forward that we’re going to find a company that wants to show Fargo for what it really is. And I think it’s a special place with people who care about one another and that’s what we would want to portray.
Anderson: The process would change; from us being interviewed, to us doing the interviewing. Now that we’ve experienced the process, we know what to expect from the production company. In the end, I believe everything happens for a reason and I’m super grateful for the experience and relationships that came out of it.
Q: Is there a chance a TV series could still happen?
Anderson: There are some 80 hours of footage that were filmed. There’s always a possibility that the footage could be purchased and a new show could be completely remade. Our contract with the production company was up last month, so anything could happen.
Hill: When we flipped over the Jessica Wachter painting in the Hareland’s dining room and the title was, ‘You Can Always Come Back To This’, it definitely resonated with us. Maybe our journey in entertainment has just begun.