Q&A: HGTV Star John Gidding

The Curb Appeal host chats about the Philly Home Show and gives some helpful design tips.

John Gidding 1

Jon Gidding started his media career as a runway model and was featured in campaigns for Armani and Gucci. But don’t let that fool you: He’s more than just a handsome face. The star of HGTV’s Curb Appeal holds a B.A. from Yale in architecture and a Master’s Degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Gidding is also featured on the Logo Network’s Secret Guide to Fabulous along with coming up with some of his unique creations. The design know-it-all is headed to the City of Brotherly Love this February to make an appearance at the Philadelphia Home Show. We caught up with Gidding to chat design, and he gave us some practical tips that anyone can use to get more curb appeal.

How did you make the leap from the fashion runway to design work?
You know, I had gone in for a casting call for something that I thought was a print campaign, but it was actually for ABC Family, and they ended up picking me because I was going to architecture school and they were hammering into us the notion of talking the talk. On TV, you just open your mouth, and if what comes out sounds good, you have a career. And now, 15 years later, I still have the career! I also have the show on Logo, Secret Guide to Fabulous, and my co-hosts are great. Our boss is Kelli Ripa!

You’ll be here in Philly for the Home Show. Can you tell me a little bit more about what you’ll be presenting during your appearance?
I talk about curb appeal from the perspective of how to tackle your own projects. It resonates with people at a home show because they’re there looking to do their own renovations. I take them through my projects and that helps demystify their own work. I usually open the floor to the audience and take questions, so they end up shaping the session.

A lot of people know you from Curb Appeal. I know it’s February, but people are already looking forward to getting their landscaping and their gardens ready for the spring. What’s some basic advice you’d give people during the winter months to prepare for the next season?
Well, these months, it’s hard to do that much. People should focus on the the things that visitors will see from the sidewalk to the front door. Get a welcome mat, paint the door, and make sure that your house numbers aren’t stickers! It’s all about bringing color to the front door area to make it seem bright. Also, winter months are just fine for weeds because they seem to survive no matter what. If your planting beds are looking straggled, get mulch to keep things at bay. If there’s been a lot of leaf fall and debris, remove it during the winter.

Do you have any favorite places to shop for home products?
For planting products, we work with local nurseries on the show. They always offer a great service which is if you buy plants from them, they’ll send someone over to the property. That was such a huge benefit for me because I really didn’t know the microclimates that I’d be walking in to, and the nurseries loved it because they get to have all of this business. Our budget was so low that we’d end up building a redwood bench. I do love a bench. I love seating elements in the front yard. It gives some implication that you spend time there and spend time out in the neighborhood. It implies something about safety.

John with a Janus Arch.

Gidding with a JanusWall.

Speaking of limited budgets, a lot of people want to refresh things, but just don’t have a lot of cash. What are some basic things they can do?
The path to the front door concept is one that I’ve been harping on for a while. For a couple of hundred dollars, you can refresh the entire concept. It’s an arrow to the front door. If you’re able to create a path from the sidewalk to your door, you’ve improved your curb appeal measurably. If you put down the path, you can edge the path and then there’s a new opportunity for decorative planting. The house numbers and the door together are a one-two punch in creating the right first impression, Typically, front doors aren’t painted bright colors. This year it is all about berry tones, raspberry and blackberry and rich, saturated jewel tones. The first thing people see are your house numbers. Upgrade from those stickers! For 30 or 40 dollars, it makes such a huge difference. In cold times like these, seasonal wreaths are a great way to bring some plant flavor to the home. All it takes is hanging it on the front door.

I also tripped upon your JanusWalls concept, which I just love. Can you tell me a little bit more about how that idea came to you?
I am so glad you found that! I started advance form finding in grad school when you were able to create shape when there’s no restraints, and I love plywood as an honest and inexpensive material. I started doing these plywood stacks. I did the first one in Denver for a client who was a wine expert. The milling machines are everywhere, and all you really need to do is supply a file. I’m trying to take this idea to Savannah College of Art and Design to teach a class on it.

John Gidding will be featured at the Philadelphia Home Show on February 19 and 20. The show runs February 12-14 and 19-21. For tickets and more information, click here.