As HGTV renews Pittsburgh’s ‘Restored by the Fords,’ here’s how to get your house on TV

The season finale airs Tuesday, with the second season starting to film in May.

Restored By The Fords
Heather Mull / Courtesy of HGTV
Rossilynne Culgan

If you’ve ever dreamed of HGTV transforming your home into a designer dream house, you’re going to get a second chance later this year as the network has renewed Pittsburgh-based “Restored by the Fords” for another season.

The show chronicles the home restorations of brother-and-sister duo Steve and Leanne Ford as they turn outdated Pittsburgh homes into showpieces.

The show debuted in January, and in season one, the Fords restored homes in a variety of neighborhoods including Upper Saint Clair, Edgewood, Sewickley, the North Side and the North Hills. The season finale will be this Tuesday, Feb. 20, but you can binge watch old episodes on YouTube.

“It’s all about Pittsburgh,” Leanne said. “The fun part of this project and this show is that we’ve really been able to see so many styles and architectures in Pittsburgh.”

For season two, they expect to restore homes within an hour of the city, specifically looking for houses that are structurally sound but in need of a remodel. Filming is anticipated to begin in May for the 14-episode season. (To apply, click here.)

They’re “ecstatic” for the second season, Steve said, as is their family who have a very active group text during the show.

“We feel very lucky to be doing this where family is,” Leanne said. “Pittsburgh loves its own. We’re proud to be part of it (and) hopefully make them proud.”

Restored By The Fords
Heather Mull / Courtesy of HGTV

How they landed on HGTV is a very Pittsburgh story: A friend of a friend was the key. The mutual friend’s contact worked at HGTV and was looking for new talent, so they connected, and several years later Restored by the Fords debuted.

The pair grew up in Upper Saint Clair and still live in the Pittsburgh area, with Leanne spending part of her time in California. Leanne spent 15 years in fashion, always fixing up her homes along the way.

“I’d fix up my rentals, I’d fix up my dorm room,” she said. “When I was a kid, I’d redecorate every day.”

Then in 2010, her restoration of an old schoolhouse caught the attention of Country Living magazine. After that, people began asking if she could help with their houses, and she jumped in to her new business, with older brother Steve’s help, and continues to run Leanne Ford Interiors to this day.

Steve runs Steven Michael Ford Construction, has worked on set design for stores like American Eagle and ModCloth and used to own a store called Decade in the South Side. He said he’s always worked construction “to subsidize my income after college.”

Steve also leads Surf Pittsburgh, a surf instruction program on Pittsburgh’s rivers.

So what’s it like working with your sibling every day in a stress-filled construction site?

“We get surprised at how well we get along. We’re normal siblings, there were definitely times when we drove each other crazy,” Leanne said. “We understand each other more than if we weren’t related. We get the same stuff — down to the same jokes and the same humor.”

In fact, Steve said, “The more projects we do together, the more in tune we get with one another.”

If you’re dreaming of a fixer upper, the Fords offer some wise words of caution: “Know that it’s going to take double the time you think and double the budget. Whatever you think the budget is, double it and that’s how it is,” Leanne said. “If you’re not a professional contractor, get something that’s more cosmetic.”

Even as professionals, it’s a tough job — one that takes a lot more than the 30-minute before-and-after you see on the show. Season one packed six months of work into eight weeks of 30-minute episodes.

When it comes to architectural style, Leanne is drawn to any style with character, while Steve loves mid-century, ranches and any home with lots of windows and light. But with each house, they work together to tailor the design to the homeowner’s style.

“I’m the designer. He’s the contractor. But at the end of the day, we leave. The client has to love it,” Leanne said.

Each design maintains Leanne’s influence, a style she describes as warm, easy and packed with character.

“It’s always kind of fairly simple. But there’s a lot of warmth through it, which we do through texture,” she said. “Even though these houses are light and airy, they have a lot of texture so they feel warm and lived in.”

She’s also drawn to white as an indispensable design color — and known to wear a T-shirt that says “Wear black. Paint white.”

“White is so important because it brightens things, it modernizes things. It makes a fresh canvas for you,” she said. “I like stuff and trinkets and pretty plates. When you put it all on a white backdrop it really keeps it so clean to your eye. It makes the whole room feel better. It’s always a win.”