Interior designer and Chicagoan Alison Victoria was getting sick of seeing ultra-modern glass condo buildings shoot up around her century-old Wicker Park home. So she called her business partner Donovan Eckhardt (pictured above), and the duo bought a couple of older homes to fix and flip, hired a cameraman and pitched the concept to HGTV.
The resulting show, “Windy City Flips,” premiered earlier this month — catch the debut episode again on July 29 — and gives the audience a glimpse at Victoria’s day-to-day duties during the residential renovations, from being hands-on at the construction site to dealing with difficult permits behind the scenes. Here, Victoria answers our questions.
Did you always want to flip houses in Chicago? No, my ultimate goal was always to be a designer, but there are so many different avenues that you can take the profession. My [own home] is an old brownstone from 1905, and I completely rehabbed it [five years ago]. People walk by and take pictures of it. It’s a decade of architecture this city is known for, and all of a sudden you see all this new construction going up, and it’s crap. I [thought], “I am going to start building houses here that look like they’ve been here 100 years, so people want to stop and take a picture.” That’s what got me going, walking the streets of my neighborhood.
How did that transition into a show? I was doing “Kitchen Crashers” for five and half years. While filming, I got myself into the development game, so I linked up with my business partner Donovan Eckhardt and we started buying up houses in Chicago, designing them, flipping them. And I was like I’m going to shoot this by myself, with my camera guy. I brought it to my production company and I asked them to edit it; we did a sizzle reel and pitched it to the network and they loved it. It took 8 months, but we made a pilot.
What are some of the big issues you face building in Chicago? There are a lot of twist and turns. It’s really hard to build in this city; the city isn’t always sweet to you. There are a lot of challenges, especially with the weather. It’s going to be a lot of fun, a lot of drama, but it’s real. And that’s what I love about it, this show is as real as reality [TV] gets.
What can viewers look forward to on the show? Every house has its own story. Some of them are going to be gut rehabbed, some of them are going to be from the ground up. The fun part about it is that I am taking architectural artifacts from old Chicago homes and reincorporating them, so it’s really about making something old new again.
What’s your dream project? I kind of am doing my dream job. To be able to do what I love, in the city I love, that’s the dream — and to have millions of people watching it, I am so lucky.
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