In a televised experiment precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic, a San Diego couple will make their national TV debuts tonight on HGTV’s new self-filmed, socially distant home makeover series “Design at Your Door.”
North Park residents Tim and Amelia Benefiel are featured on one of two back-to-back premiere episodes beginning at 9 p.m. on HGTV television and on hgtv.com. The episode features the Benefiels undertaking a three-day re-decoration of a basement-level spare bedroom with help from afar.
The concept for “Design at Your Door” was developed in late March, just after the pandemic shut down production for all of HGTV’s spring home improvement shows. In early April, the network posted a notice on Facebook that it was looking for contestants to participate in the show. On the plus side, selected homeowners would get all of the top-level design advice and home improvement products for free, but they would also have to do all the filming and installation themselves.
“These families are brave enough to take on projects that traditionally would be accomplished by a full design team with a camera crew on-site, but their creativity and heart are exactly what makes ‘Design at Your Door’ such a fun show to watch,” said HGTV president Jane Latman, in a statement.
The Benefiels describe themselves as HGTV fanatics, who have the channel turned on in their home at all times, including during this phone interview. They’re also home renovation hobbyists who felt they could pull off the job themselves with the right advice.
HGTV design experts consulted with the Benefiels via Zoom, phone and email and shipped home decor items to their doorstep. The Benefiels also worked closely online with HGTV’s filming director and editors to set up all the cameras, lights and sound equipment to film the episode.
Tim Benefiel, who’s working from home this spring as senior accountant for Point Loma Nazarene University, said he was amazed at how much effort went into the roughly 12- to 15-minute segment.
“We have a newfound appreciation for film-making,” he said. “We had no idea the crazy amount of work it takes behind the scenes to make these shows happen.”
The Benefiels met in high school in Kansas City, Mo., and started dating 10 years later. By that time, Tim had moved back to San Diego, where he spent his early childhood, to attend college. When they decided to marry, Amelia moved here to join him. She now works as an emergency room nurse at a local hospital and they have a son, Luke, who will soon turn 1. Their Spanish-style North Park home, which they share with Amelia’s younger sister, Lydia, was built in 1928.
Tim said they have made a lot of improvements to the house over the years. But one room they struggled to make over was a guest bedroom, which was built in the 1960s from a former crawl space under the house in the sloped back yard. Although the room has a window, it gets little natural light, so Amelia described it as “a little dungeon-y” before the recent makeover.
For the episode, they worked with Grace Mitchell, a designer on HGTV’s “One of a Kind” series, and Tamara Day, host of HGTV’s “Bargain Mansions.” They were happy with the results.
“Oh, my goodness, we are stoked,” Tim said. “The theme our designer was going for was a European hotel room. I think she nailed it. It is so bright.”