With Old Man Winter holding much of this country in its sub-zero grip, you can’t help but wonder if Disaster Decks and Decked Out host Paul Lafrance pitched his latest show, Custom Built, to HGTV just so he could ensure he’d stay warm.
The truth is a lot simpler.
“The exterior world is a niche for me, but I’ve been doing interior renovations for the last 20 years,” he explains. “The backyard was a draw for me because it’s such an empty canvas, but I want to connect with more people and tell their stories.”
The man who goes through life with three loves—music, Lego and people—returns to HGTV with his latest creation, debuting Tuesday night. In it, Lafrance and his loyal team of Joey Fletcher, David Kenney and Kate Campbell head indoors to create mind-blowing designs for homeowners. The first episode introduces viewers to Jeff and Allyson, who want their tired 60s-era bathroom updated to match the rest of their gorgeous heritage home. It doesn’t take long for Lafrance’s creative juices to get going after a walk around the couple’s property uncovers barn beams. By the end of the storyline those beams have been transformed into a stunning bathroom counter and a previously hidden antique door and brick work become the focal point of the new shower.
The spiky-haired Tragically Hip fan is quick to mention his co-stars when discussing Custom Built. The word “family” is used several times to describe Fletcher, Kenney and Campbell and part of this new television project spotlights the trio. Each episode heads back to Lafrance’s Southern Ontario workshop where a one-of-a-kind smaller piece is created for a client.
“That’s just showing something that’s been going on for years,” he says. “There has always been a shop. That’s the headquarters, the club house. That’s where creative ideas are birthed and built and fabricated for the renos that we’re doing. Being able to show the mad skill that all three of them have and the individual talents each brings to the table … I love that. There isn’t some leader that has his minions around him. My favourite days are when they come up with something more creative than I did.”
The veteran of HGTV still can’t believe people tune in to watch him tear things down and build them back up again. After all, he’d be doing this job whether camera crews were around him or not. What will those cameras will be capturing over the next several months? More episodes of Custom Built, hopefully more seasons of Disaster Decks or Decked Out. And, perhaps, a series documenting Lafrance building a new home for his family.
“Viewers want to see the real people, not characters,” he says. “I want people to know that if they’re watching me on TV, that’s the real me. If they were seeing my wife and my girls, they’re seeing the same thing.”
Custom Built airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.
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