Great Spaces: Renovation reality

Posted on 19 Apr 2012 at 5:00pm

Gay house flipper turned homebuilder Joel Greenwald scores with talent to find his way onto HGTV’s ‘Curb Appeal: The Block’

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Joel Greenwald, left, with show host John Gidding, takes a quick pause before hitting the Pace family’s renovations in Euless. The team, next page, assesses the situation before beginning on the wheelchair ramp for the family’s youngest son. (Photos courtesy Joel Greenwald)

By Steven Lindsey

You are just as likely to turn on the television these days and see your neighbor as a plaintiff on a TV court show or as a contestant on a reality competition for airbrush-tan technicians as you are to run into him watering petunias in his yard. With so many micro-niche cable networks with hours upon hours of programming to fill, almost anyone can end up on an episode of So You Think You Can “Blank,” America’s Next Top “This or That,” or Extreme Makeover: “Something” Edition.

On-The-Tube-2But when it comes to the world of home and garden television, there is one thing that those doing the making-over possess that can’t be faked: Talent. With a capital T. And local home renovator Joel Greenwald, owner of Grun-Built, recently experienced a brief taste of show business — something he probably didn’t expect in 2003 when he started his building career flipping houses after much of the information technology industry he worked in began being outsourced overseas.

“I went on to build spec homes and was fortunate enough to be selected to do a two-year renovation of the Hilton Garden Inn in Las Colinas by the owner of the hotel whose house I had previously renovated,” Greenwald says. “I now predominantly do renovations, new construction and additions for clients instead of spec homes.”

Greenwald also does some commercial work, so he recently rebranded his company Grun-Built to be more all-encompassing than GP Luxury Homes, the original name of the business.

His work around town and long list of satisfied clients caught the attention of HGTV producers for the Curb Appeal spin-off series Curb Appeal: The Block (hosted by out architect and former fashion model, John Gidding). The show focuses on one neighborhood block, providing small improvements to two houses and a more dramatic overhaul to one home’s exterior, which can include the house itself, landscaping or anything else that may be necessary for either aesthetic or practical reasons.

For the Pace family, there was a singular, major need that went far beyond the cosmetic.

“The project for the show was to build a usable outdoor space for the family in Euless. The husband is a policeman and the wife is a stay-at-home mom who home-schools their children. They were selected for the show because their youngest is a special needs child that cannot walk and is terminally ill,” Greenwald says. “The child is growing and their outdoor space was not handicap-accessible. They wanted a ramp to the front door but to not have it look like it was a wheelchair ramp.”

Greenwald and his team built a flagstone space that gradually sloped to the front door without looking like other drastically angled, utilitarian wheelchair ramps. They also built a swing in the front yard so the children can enjoy being outside while their mother doles out the school lessons for the day. The neighborhood kids don’t mind it so much either when they come over to play.

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The results of Greenwald’s team’s work included a wheelchair ramp with stylistic appeal and a porch swing.

One of the biggest challenges about being on a reality TV show like Curb Appeal: The Block is the shortened timeline. They had to pull all this off in a mere 10 days. The other would be the drastically low budget. Greenwald’s role on the show was to serve as the general contractor on the project while maintaining the budget, coordinating labor, scheduling and what he calls “a little bit of the nitty-gritty work.” In between all that, he relayed the daily progress to host Gidding. Those conditions easily amp up the pressure, but Greenwald surprised himself as it played out.

“To be truthful, I just blocked it out,” he admits. “I thought I would stress out. I took my architect out with me as a safety blanket. But overall, it was definitely an exhilarating rush for us.”

He wondered how doing such hard work be with a camera crew following his every move, but just the same, Greenwald went through the motions of work and soon found the crew less distracting and ultimately, he got the job done. The result was a $20,000 renovation that not only made the Pace family’s life easier, but enhanced it. Greenwald was equally moved by the entire experience.

“It was a tremendous honor for me to be selected to be on the show.  It was an affirmation on the quality of my work and I was able to make a significant contribution to the quality of life of a family coping with the daily rigors of taking care of a terminally ill child,” he says.
Something, to be sure, that’s appealing on a much greater level.

Visit HGTV.com/Curb-Appeal-The-Block for the episode’s air date this spring.Greenwald documented his experience day by day on his website at GrunBuilt.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 20, 2012.

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