Mar Jennings channels design skills for TV home makeovers
Take a historic 1908 Westport home called Green Isle in need of restoration and renovation, and pair it with the home-decorating talents of Mar Jennings, the Emmy-nominated Westport resident, and you've got all the right design elements for a new television reality program.
That's how "Life on Mar's: The Home Makeover Show" came to be.
"This is a complete top-to-bottom makeover project that began in June 2014 and every room is either being renovated and/or redesigned," Jennings said, adding he's "normally in and out" of any makeover project. But this time it was truly hands-on, with Jennings actually picking up a sledge hammer on occasion and putting it to work.
The nine-part series will capture everything from demolition and construction to design and decor at the Kings Highway North home, he said, adding there will be plenty of behind-the-scene secrets and helpful "sMARt tips" -- advice from Jennings on how viewers can apply what they see on the show to their own homes.
"As part of this makeover show, we are also addressing historical preservation while also carefully upgrading the house for energy efficiency and with modern conveniences," Jennings said. "Once we have completed the entire indoor room projects, we are gearing up to finish the outdoor entertaining spaces and curb appeal. The transformation has begun and the results prove to be incredible when you have the right team in place."
Jennings said he met the O'Kane family, the Westport homeowners, and "they, too, shared my love and passion for all things home-related -- not just the bricks and mortar, but the history and the legacy they would all leave behind."
He said one of his six core design principles is to reuse, repurpose and redesign. "So, I did just that with this 1908 historic home," he said. "And knowing that Westport is known for its many tear-downs, I knew that it was great to be working to get this house in even better condition -- a great subject for a makeover show."
He said it was "hard to know where the restoration ended and the new upgrades began as we focused on embracing the home's original charm as the foundation of the overall project."
The home is being renovated by Tiefenthaler, a Norwalk-based family business. "The series is packed with other Fairfield County resources, such as upholsterers, tile manufacturers and artisans," he said.
Jennings noted he designed the home with the O'Kanes' active family in mind.
"And along the way, the house clearly responded by offering glimpses of its past. Old family photos, a postcard from 1926, and a pay stub from 1951 were discovered as if the house was telling a story," he said. "As a result, we encouraged the family to insert their own memories during construction as time capsules for future generations to find."
Jennings said this show is different from other home makeover shows.
"First and foremost, this is not a standard reality format show," he said. "Everything that is taking place is not forced for the camera; there is no created drama. And although there is plenty of excitement, the house is truly the star of the show."
He added that, as a Westport resident, it was also "very exciting to be filming a television show of this magnitude and caliber right here in Fairfield County."
Jennings said his favorite part of the project was just doing what he loves to do.
"My philosophy has always been that whenever possible, something old should become something new," he added. "Truth be told, if I can help spread that word, then I have done justice here on planet Earth. `Life on Mar's: The Home Makeover Show' is about being resourceful and creative and giving. I redesign, repurpose and donate. This show has it all."
Twin Bridge Media will be responsible for the television distribution of the show after its ABC debut. "Mar Jennings offers a one-of-a-kind home makeover series that breaks the mold in entertainment," said Andy Weir, Twin Bridge Media's president. "As a producer, host, designer and high-end Realtor, Mar's unique talents make him an authority in the field. And with many successful HGTV guest spots and national notoriety to his credit, it's time the world discovers what `Life on Mar's' is truly all about."
Jennings is also a best-selling author of "Life On Mar's: A Four Season Garden" and "Life On Mar's: Creating Casual Luxury." He is a regular contributor to television programs and magazines on lifestyle topics.