How Tamara Day Went From Refurbishing Furniture for Fun to Renovating Homes on Bargain Mansions
Tamara Day loves a challenge.
The home renovator is tackling big spaces (that most would steer clear of!) on her series Bargain Mansions. After a successful first season, which featured makeovers on everything from a 1897 bungalow to a 1926 English Tudor, the show is back with all-new episodes on HGTV and DIY Network. Day tells PEOPLE that season two is even bigger and better than the last.
“We’ve got some more extreme mansions this season,” says the Kansas City native. “There’s a lot of variety. The bigger the challenge, the uglier something is, the better the result is.”
It all started with what Day says was “one of the ugliest kitchens I’ve ever seen” in the premiere episode last Monday. Spoiler alert: the end result was magical. The star says she successfully maintained the houses’ character and charm while giving it a much-needed boost of elegance.
“It’s a dream house,” she tells PEOPLE. “The family that bought the house and lives there now has said how much they love the house. That’s just so rewarding.”
As for the rest of the season, Day says she steps out of her comfort zone with more modern design styles, but that fans can still expect to see the same downtown historic mansions from season one.
Although hosting Bargain Mansions is a relatively new career move for Day, home renovation is in her blood. Growing up, she says her parents always opted for fixing up unfinished homes in great neighborhoods. On the weekends, her whole family would pitch in.
“Dad would just buy the materials every week to keep going as much as he could afford,” she says of her father Ward Schraeder, who costars alongside her on Bargain Mansions.
Day carried on her parents’ tradition first with her college dorm room and eventually with the home she purchased with her husband in 2008.
“It was in wretched condition,” Day says. “I had this vision of what I wanted it to be but it was 2008—the world was crashing down around everyone. Luckily, I had that skill set already, so I just jumped in and started doing the work myself.”
From sweeping the floors to sanding the beams, Day did the whole renovation herself. The impressive undertaking caught the attention of her Kansas City friends and neighbors.
“I started buying furniture at estate sales, then refinishing that in the garage and in the driveway,” she says. “People started seeing what I was making and wanting to buy it.”
What started as a DIY project quickly escalated into a full-blown business involving home renovations in the Kansas City area and flipping rental properties.
And then HGTV entered through a strange twist of fate. Day’s brother, who also has a knack for home renovation, was at a hardware store when he was approached by a woman about starring in a DIY project TV show.
The two exchanged phone numbers but nothing ever came of it — until about five years later when he got a call from the same woman. He turned down the opportunity, but the show producers were eventually knocking on Day’s door instead. “And that was that,” she says. “It really was fate.”
Since signing on with HGTV, the mom of four says adding TV show host to her list of accomplishments has been “fantastic.” While living out a career dream she didn’t even think was possible, Day is enjoying the journey and taking it one day at a time.
“I don’t believe balance is possible,” she says. “There are days that I’m an awesome mom. There are days that I’m an awesome TV host. There are days that I’m an awesome renovator and designer. But there are also days that I suck at all of those things.”
Even on the worst days, the Bargain Mansions star knows she’s teaching her kids to shoot for the stars.
“I’m teaching my daughter what it looks like to be a strong, working woman,” Day says. “For my boys and my daughter, this has taught them that there is no dream too big.”
Bargain Mansions airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on HGTV.