HGTV star Alison Victoria is best known for “Windy City Rehab,” a show that, in turn, is best known for having more than its fair share of drama.
Lawsuits involving a variety of issues—including faulty renovations, permit violations, fraud, and more—have ensnarled both Victoria and her former business partner and co-star, Donovan Eckhardt, for years. Nonetheless, seemingly against all odds, “Windy City Rehab” has returned for Season 3—with Victoria renovating homes in Chicago on her own.
Curious to learn what she’s been up to, we had a chat with Victoria about what she’s glad to leave in the rearview mirror, her hopes moving forward, plus some of her favorite things.
‘Windy City Rehab’ is finally back. What can we expect from Season 3?
I went through hell last season, and I’m really not through it yet, as you’ll see. It’s a lot of rebuilding. But this season, I’m doing more client projects and I’m doing some projects outside of Chicago. I did a beautiful loft with my brother in Atlanta that was my favorite.
The weather is finally warming up. Do you have any tips for sprucing up the home for spring?
Hardware is key: your doorknobs and kitchen cabinet hardware. I think about it the way I think about jewelry, like an accessory. You change out your rings and your watches and necklaces, and it just kind of makes the whole outfit look different. It’s the same with your house.
So if you have something like a brushed nickel, maybe change it to a black. I love matte black, and antique brass is always my favorite. Your front door hardware is a big one because that’s the first thing you see. I like using Schlage for door hardware.
I love a fresh coat of paint on a front door. Changing the color of your front door is something so easy to do that it will really help to complement your new door hardware.
And lighting is always something I think about, as well as your backsplash in the kitchen. Those types of things really change up the space in a substantial way without breaking the bank.
Do you have any tips for finding the right home furnishings?
I am such a sucker for antiques. My two favorite things in life are sleeping and antiquing, and I’m so good at both of them. I don’t like going online. I need to see it in person, touch it, feel it. I think it’s about coming up with a list of cool antiques stores in your area or finding antiques shows that are coming and looking for pieces that you can bring into the home.
It’s fine to find a cool coffee table or a cool bookshelf. But how can you make it part of the home and add to it, or manipulate it, to make it look like it has been in the house for years and years? So it’s just thinking about things differently versus just finding a piece of furniture.
So, like, when I find a mantel, I don’t just stick it right on the wall. I add to it. I bring in trim that looks like some of the trim in the actual piece, or I build it out to add bookshelves so it looks like it’s all one unit.
What’s the most memorable antique you’ve found?
The most beautiful is the antique fireplace that I got from my Atlanta loft. That has got to be part of the new season. It’s oversized, and the cool thing is, this time, I didn’t actually do it in a real fireplace. I brought in hundred-watt candles on a remote. This is in a loft, so you can’t have heat components, so bringing in the fireplace in a different way.
What are your best tips for renovating an older house?
The first thing you should be doing is call on a home inspector to come. Pay him 500 bucks just to find out what you’re dealing with before you get into it. Doing your homework is No. 1 because you start opening up these walls and they don’t just have stories—they could be nightmares. So make sure you know what you’re about to tackle before you do it. It could become a real bad domino effect if you don’t do it the right way.
Do you have a favorite home makeover?
My favorite was my very first house that I bought that was in Wicker Park here in Chicago. It was built in 1905. I lived in it through construction. I did each floor at a different time. It took years. It was my most special project to date, and it had the most beautiful, original staircase with built-in lights. There was an old fireplace and the old walk-in safe in the basement—I turned it into my shoe and my handbag closet. The original owner was a jeweler. So it’s just such a cool, special house.