Jenna Fischer gave her sister, Emily, an honestly amazing gift, but she had to tell a little white lie to make it work.
When Emily’s dishwasher broke down last year, Fischer offered to foot the bill for a replacement. Shortly after, though, the Office star was offered the opportunity to remodel a family member’s home by Houzz and had to come up with a quick and creative way to backtrack.
“Emily calls me from a hardware store and says, ‘We found a dishwasher should I get black or stainless steel? And I’m thinking, you might be getting a whole kitchen don’t buy any dishwasher!” Fischer tells PEOPLE. “So I had to come up with this big elaborate lie about how I may have found a new dishwasher-stove combo and talk her out of it.”
But her fictional kitchen appliance did the trick, holding Emily over until Fischer could tell her the good news: the actress was going to completely renovate the St. Louis home that Emily shares with her husband and their two children for the online series MyHouzz.
“My sister is such a sentimental and loving person, they would never sell this house or move, even if wasn’t suited to their family, because of the memories it holds for everyone else,” Fischer explains of her decision to help her sister with updating the charming property, which was built by their grandfather. “She is one of those people who is always giving to others and taking for herself last. To be able to give her this home makeover that in so may ways makes her life easier, that’s the gift I wanted to give to her.”
Once she got the green light from Houzz, Fischer told Emily the real truth about the dishwasher cover-up. The family then moved out of their home for two months so Fischer could transform the space from its dated design to a modern retreat. But Emily not being allowed to call the shots was a little stressful for Fischer — especially when it came to one highly contested quandary.
“My sister really wanted her television above her fireplace mantel,” Fischer says. “And the designer, Jenny, felt very strongly that it should go into a built-in cabinet next to the fireplace. And I was on the fence.”
After polling the Houzz community, the verdict fell in favor of interior designer Jenny Rausch.
“If my sister was upset, I have evidence to back up that my decision is correct,” Fischer laughs. “And by the way, she loved it.”
The makeover reveal had everyone in tears. And although Fischer’s grandfather has passed away, she says he’d be “thrilled” at the new look.
“I think it would make both him and my grandma so happy that my sister and her family are enjoying this house as much as they did,” she says. “He’d also probably be really freaked out.”