|The Straight-Up Story From Norm|
David: Master carpenter of This Old House since the series' 1979 premiere and host of The New Yankee Workshop for the past 17 seasons, Norm Abram has inspired millions of do-it-yourselfers to renovate and restore their homes. America’s ultimate home improvement guru—and quintessential nice guy—the man in the plaid shirt is the neighbor everybody wishes lived next door.
Admired for his down-to-earth manner and common-sense approach to renovation, Norm is both an uncompromising, old-world craftsman and contemporary pioneer, ever in search of new construction products and innovative approaches. Exposed to the trade by his carpenter father, he began honing his skills as a boy in Milford, Massachusetts, making wooden toys for his younger sister.
A lesser-known side of the carpenter-turned-celebrity is his membership in WGBH’s Ralph Lowell Society. Says Norm, I want to be associated with a group of people who share my commitment to WGBH’s mission to produce information that gives the public the straight-up story.”
Norm and his wife, potter Elise Hauenstein, live in a classic colonial home he built just outside Boston 11 years ago, where, he confesses, “there are still things to be done.” WGBH senior editor Diane Carasik Dion recently spoke with Norm while he was en route to tape an episode for The New Yankee Workshop’s upcoming 18th season, premiering in January.
Are you really as easygoing as your reputation would have it?
With the on-air personalities on This Old House and New Yankee, what you see is what you get. It’s who we are. When people say “You’re just like on TV,” I feel proud of that.
Did you grow up with public television?
We weren’t a big TV family. We occupied ourselves by being outdoors. WGBH became a part of my life when I began watching Sesame Street with my daughter, Lindsey (now 24), which was around the time I started working on This Old House.
What projects are you busy with in your old house?
Going from a plywood staircase to a finish staircase, installing baseboard, adding crown molding. We’ve been on a landscaping mission for five years.
What’s on the roster for the 2006 New Yankee season?
Interior plantation shutters; a roller stand, stock cart, and mobile tool stand to help woodworkers around the shop; a fireplace mantel; and something very hot right now: a poker table.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I’m fortunate in that I get to create things I love and keep them, like my pine nightstand, one of the very first projects we did on New Yankee.
What do you and Elise enjoy, just for fun?
Cooking, entertaining, looking at art. We’re serious boaters, and we love being on the water. We’re lucky to live in New England.
Why is your membership in the Ralph Lowell Society so important?
Elise and I pretty much know who we want to help. We want WGBH to continue. We believe in it. The quality of programming won’t come from anyplace else.
In today’s crowded media landscape, why does public broadcasting still matter?
Public broadcasting has the opportunity to be a leader, rather than a follower. All the hundreds of trendy channels popping up are highly influenced by advertising and product placement. With public television, you remove those temptations. It’s more about taking the time to do it right.
Click here to read the news letter and view pictures of Norm and his wife Elise.