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 May 8, 2012
The Essex House

David: If you?re a homeowner looking for tips on renovations, a contractor searching for new ideas on home improvement, or someone just flipping through the TV channels to find something to watch, chances are you?ve probably come across ?This Old House,? America?s ?most trusted home improvement? show. This winter, Cape Ann residents can now look forward to seeing one of their own houses featured on the show when it premiers in January. Julie and John Corcoran?s 1935 English cottage in Essex was one of the lucky projects chosen for renovation this season, with a few very innovative ideas.

This Old House started airing locally in 1979, 34 seasons ago, and nationally in 1980, 33 seasons ago. That makes a total of 29 years of teaching people the basics and the nuances of home improvement. It started when television producer Russell Morash was ?in the midst of remodeling his 1851 farmhouse,? and conceived of the idea to have a TV show that could ?be more than a working model of rehab hints for homeowners and do-it yourselfers?[it could] expand viewer?s perceptions of what a home can be.?

Since that big idea was created into a reality, This Old House has received 16 Emmy Awards, and 79 nominations, and according to their website, ?still has audiences turning to America?s favorite team of experts?for a trusted and formidable source of expertise, along with wit, humor, and a great sense of camaraderie.?

The process of choosing projects begins with a proposal from a homeowner, either online and/or by word of mouth, and then sorted for review by the producers. Though ?This Old House? does arrange for product discounts and donations where possible, the show does not pay for the project. Rather, the homeowner pays and hires local architects and contractors to work with those on the TV show.

The show stars master carpenter Norm Abram, general contractor Tom Silva, and host Kevin O?Connor, among others. Most of the cast and crew have been long time fans of ?This Old House,? and are primarily tradesmen, not movie stars.

Producer Deborah Hood, from Central Connecticut, grew up watching the show with her dad. She knew she wanted to work in the television world, and ended up in New York for a while. She applied to This Old House, and when she received an email from them a year later, she interviewed and got the job.

?There are not too many great TV jobs in New England and I certainly have one of them. It?s not like any other job, and not like any other job in TV,? said Hood. ?The show is a platform for the guys to teach about their homes and de-mystify what goes on in their homes. They are TV stars second to everything else. We take real world tradespeople and put them on TV.?

Hood and her team at ?This Old House? are ?thrilled? by the fact that people still find the show compelling. Techniques for home renovation are always changing, allowing for content to be new every year, and the project in Essex is not an exception.

Hood says that the mission for the show is not necessarily to inspire people to do everything on the show themselves: ?This Old House? is there to empower people in the world of home renovation so that they?ll know more about it and the ?right questions to ask.?

Contractor Tom Silva echoed her sentiments. He and his father were asked to do the first show of ?This Old House back? in 1979, but they turned it down. Five years later they were asked again to go on board. He told them he would give it a year; 27 years later, he?s still there. ?It?s great. I don?t think of it as a TV show, just a camera watching what I do,? said Silva.

Silva has done work for the Corcorans before, and says that it?s going to be a fun project. According to Silva, a good project is remaking an old house, and not just tearing it down, and that?s exactly what the Corcorans intend. They are taking their English-style cottage, set on a hill in a beautiful, wooded area of Essex farmland, and turning it into a handicap-accessible home for his in-laws so that they have a comfortable place to stay when they visit. ?It would be an ideal property for them given any health issues,? said John Corcoran.

The Corcorans came to Essex about 10 years ago. ?I think you have to live here a hundred years to be considered a resident, but it?s a true hidden gem,? commented John Corcoran. They came to Essex from Metro-West Boston because they liked the ?quiet, charm and rural quality,? as well as the ?mix of wood and ocean.? John Corcoran had known Silva from Silva Brothers, and brought Silva?s nephew over to the cottage to see if it was a fixer-upper or if they should just tear it down. When the former was decided, Silva brought the project to the attention of the producers and they evaluated the home under the guidelines of all applicants. ?We think it?s a perfect house, and a great opportunity to showcase Cape Ann and Essex as well,? said Corcoran.

Hood is also pleased with town for being so welcoming. ?The town of Essex has been incredibly warm and welcoming from the Town Manager, to the Police Chief. They?re helping to make a great story of Essex.?

The idea for the house, though it does have two floors, is to include an easy entryway and to put everything on the first floor ? bedroom, living space, kitchen and bathroom ? to make it completely accessible. The upstairs can be used for additional bedrooms to accommodate guests.

Architect Sally DeGan of SpaceCraft Architecture, INC., will ?bring the rooflines of the house into harmony, while adding a small addition for a new kitchen, a four-season porch, and master bathroom and bedroom on the first floor, all connected by an open floor plan ... the new design will allow residents to live entirely on the first floor.?

Silva?s job is to ?keep the look and feel of this woodland cottage by using cedar shingles, casement windows, and a metal roof for aesthetics and durability. The natural stone from the property will be used to create a veneer for the foundation. There is quite a bit of overgrowth around the cottage, which means a path in and out of the house will have to be created along with an enlarged parking court. Outdated plumbing and heating systems will get a much-needed upgrade as well.?

Corcoran and his wife are ?excited by being on the show. We really love living here and being able to tell a little about Essex and Cape Ann. Showcasing [the area] is a fairly important part of doing this project.?

Photobucket
This Old House general contractor Tom Silva pulls the roof off a model of the newest project house in Essex Thursday April 12. The cottage behind him will be completely transformed.
(Wicked Local Photo by Kirk R. Williamson)


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This Old House host Kevin O'Connor, left, looks over the living room of the Essex project house with general contractor Tom Silva in Essex Thursday April 12.
(Wicked Local Photo by Kirk R. Williamson)

Source: wickedlocal.com