HGTV | The Brian Boitano Project | Behind the Scenes | 25 January 2014

The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

By now you’ll have seen the television show, and, as promised, here is my personal chronicle of Brian Boitano’s transformation of a 19th century stone house in the village of Favale di Malvaro, Italy.

He started by knocking down some walls.

Brian Boitano_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

The ground floor consisted of four small rooms, and Brian wanted to open it up to bring in light, take advantage of the mountain view, and create a space where family and friends could gather and socialize.

Main floor_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Main floor_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

This was not only a huge renovation, it had to be done in four months.  The only man for the job was Enzo Pezzolo.  Even with the hard work, there was a lot of fun and laughter.

Brian and Enzo_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Shooting the whole thing for a television show added another layer of activity . . . I can’t tell you how many times I turned a corner and walked right into the lens of a camera. (Not complaining – best job ever!)

Favale house_Italy

The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Crew_Favale_Italy

While Enzo and his crew were replacing stairs and floors and a roof, we went shopping.  The flea market in Chiavari, the town where we were staying during the construction, was a gold mine for furnishing the house.

Chiavari flea market_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_ Italy

Chiavari flea market_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Also in Chiavari, by some strange stroke of kismet, there was a skating rink. 

Chiavari skating rink_The Brian Boitano show_Favale_ Italy

The local skating club was thrilled to get some tips from an Olympic gold medalist.

bb and skaters

Back at the ranch…

The kitchen of the old house became the living room in the renovation.

LIving room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

LIving room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Enzo built this fireplace in a day, using an old roof beam as a mantle shelf.

LIving room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

fireplace_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Brian brought chairs from home (dismantled and packed into a suitcase), found a sectional sofa at Ikea in Genoa, and accessorized with relics found on the property and flea market finds in Italy.

LIving room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

LIving room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

LIving room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

LIving room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy
Chris Bierlein photo

Adjacent to the living room, was the dining room.  Another wall was removed to open the space to the kitchen.

Dining room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Dining room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Dining room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

A wine jug from the basement was turned into a pendant light for the dining room—with the help of Enzo and Donatello.

Wine jugs_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Dining room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Brian and his nieces, Krista and Aubrey, looked on as the bottom of the wine jug was cut off.

Dining room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Bellissimo!

Pendant light_The Brian Boitano Project_ HGTV_Favale_Italy

Brian’s cousin, Luciano Boitano, owns an auto body shop which came in handy a few times – but not for car repair.  Brian called on him when he wanted to paint the unfinished dining room chairs.

BB and Luciano

BB chairs
Chris Bierlein photos

The finished dining room: A table from Cambi Auction House in Genoa, hand-painted Italian ceramic plates and linen napkins from the flea market, glasses from Ikea, and, of course, the chairs painted a perfect shade of green, at the Boitano officina e carrozzeria.

Dining room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_ Italy

Dining Room_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

In the kitchen, the plaster was removed (noisily) and then replaced.

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Notice that the baseboards all over the house are painted, replicating what was there originally.

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Burgundy lacquered kitchen cabinets from Italian company, Snaidero, and a stove from Bertazzoni were installed. 

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

The contemporary cabinets looked amazing juxtaposed with the old house.

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy
Chris Bierlein photo

The alcove next to the kitchen became a cozy banquette area where guests can hang out while Brian is cooking. 

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

The table, in the Boitano family for generations, is from 83 year old Giovanni Boitano, who lived down the lane.

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Giovanni Boitano_Favale_Italy

Boitano table_Favale_Italy

Cousin Luciano gave Brian his grandmother’s cheese cabinet – nieces, Krista and Aubrey, cleaned it up and converted it to a bar cabinet. 

Kitchen_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

While we’re on the subject of kitchens, let’s just talk about food for a moment.  This region of Italy is particularly renowned for pesto and fish – and we ate a lot of both.

We had this pasta with pesto at a local ristorante one day – served family style, wide strips of hand-made pasta were tossed with the freshest pesto you’ve ever tasted.

Pesto pasta_Favale_Italy

Branzino baked in salt was another local specialty.  They would fillet it at the table, and then serve with potatoes and olives.

Branzino baked in salt_portofino_Italy

Branzino baked in salt_Portofino_Italy

One of the highlights of the whole project was when we were invited to the Favale town feast.  It was held on the side of a mountain, where long tables were set up among the trees, and many course of food were served to all. 

(See my post,“The Great Big Italian Feast,” for more about the day.)

Favale feast_Italy

Turns out Enzo is multi-talented – he was the head chef for the day.  Here he is making testaroli, which is like an Italian crepe.  They were spread with pesto at the beginning of the meal, and with Nutella for dessert.

Enzo_Favale feast_Italy

We got to meet his lovely wife, Michaela, and their three happy children.

Pezzolo family

On location shoots, the whole crew would sit down for lunch together.  One of the best things about living in Italy is a big midday lunch.  (All the stores close until 3 or 4 so everyone can go home for lunch.)

Crew lunch_Chiavari_Italy

Field trips were great, but it was always exciting to drive back up the mountain and see what was happening at the house.

Favale di Malvaro_Italy

The upstairs of the house didn’t need walls removed, but there were some challenges.

A charred room that had been used for roasting chestnuts became the bathroom – once Enzo worked his magic. Obviously, the room needed new walls, floor, and ceiling – but Brian wanted to keep as much of the stone exposed as possible. 

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

When we were back in the states, Enzo sent Brian a photo of a bathtub he found, and another showing how it would fit into the bathroom.

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale_Italy

When we got back to Italy Brian went to see the tub.

Bathtub_Favale_Italy

It looked great in the finished bathroom, and a chair with a broken leg (and a lot of character) was used to hold towels.  (Brian calls it the “Charlie Brown chair.”)

IMG_7201 2

This antique table was left in the basement and Brian and Enzo figured out how it could be repurposed as the vanity.  The sinks are composite cement, and were purchased nearby.  The mirrors and towel hook were flea market finds.

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

An old ladder, also found in the basement, was cleaned up and became a towel rack.

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

There was a space at the end of the hallway that was perfect for a water closet.  (Brian wanted the toilet separate from the bathroom – helpful when the house is filled with guests.)

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Bathroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

The bedrooms were in various stages of disrepair, but the plaster walls in the master bedroom were a beautiful turquoise patina.

MBR_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

MBR_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Enzo saved the walls, and exposed the beam above the window.  Brian furnished the room with a custom made bed, nightstands found in the basement (the aunt’s didn’t get everything), lamps from the flea market, paintings from a friend, and linens from home.

MBR_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

MBR_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Brian found a chandelier and chest of drawers at the Cambi Auction House in Genoa, and a Chiavari chair from the Levaggi Chair Factory in Chiavari.

MBR_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

MBR_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Across the hall is the first guest room. 

Guest bedroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Guest bedroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Guest bedroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Guest bedroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

The chandelier is also from the auction house, the nightstands were painted at Luciano’s body shop, and the round gold mirror on the wall was purchased by Brian’s nieces at the flea market.  Brian bought the bed and the lamps at Ikea.

Guest bedroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

The trip to Ikea in Genoa was a group activity.

Ikea_Genoa_italy

ikea_genoa_italy

One of my favorite things at Ikea was the gelato machine – pop in a coin and it dispenses gelato into a cone!

gelato machine_ikea_genoa_italy

The third bedroom needed new plaster walls, but Enzo matched the original paint color, and was able to leave some of that gorgeous stone exposed.

Guest bedroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Guest bedroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Guest bedroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Guest bedroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

One of the house’s old window frames was hung on the wall, with family photos propped up in it.

Guest room_The Brian Boitano Project

During construction, the workers used the niches in the walls for storage…

Wall niche_Favale house_Italy

IMG_1350

FAvale house

Once the house was finished, worker stuff was replaced with Brian stuff.

MBR_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Guest bedroom_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Twin guest room_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

The transformation of the outside of the house was just as stunning.

Exterior_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Exterior_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Check out the shutter holders – they are shaped like little men.

Exterior_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Last but not least, a terrace was created in front of the house for al fresco dining.

Exterior_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Exterior_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

What better way to celebrate the finished renovation than with a big Boitano family feast? 

SALUTÉ!

THE BRIAN BOITANO PROJECT CAN NOW BE SEEN ON NETFLIX.

Exterior_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Exterior_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

Exterior_The Brian Boitano Project_Favale_Italy

CAST AND CREW:

Brian Boitano_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Brian Boitano

Aubrey and Krista Kolegraff_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Krista and Aubrey Kolegraff

Enzo Pezzolo__The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Enzo Pezzolo (with his son, Leonardo)

Luciano Boitano_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Luciano Boitano

Marcello Boitano_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Marcello Boitano

Giovanni Boitano_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Giovanni Boitano

Chris and Alessandro_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Chris Bierlein, director of photography (from USA), and Alessandro Orlando, aka, AlesSOUNDro because he’s the audio guy (from Italy)

Kevin Granahan_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Kevin Granahan, cameraman (American, living in Italy)

Alessia_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Clara Stasi, production assistant, and Alessia Bagni, production coordinator (Italy)

Alessandro_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Alessandro Marti, camera assistant (Italy)

Paolo
Paolo Centoni, gaffer . . . and furniture hauler (Italy)

Lolly
Lorendana Caldarola (aka Lolly) make-up artist, and Boris, security (Italy)

Tim Macklin_The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale__Italy
Tim Macklin, cooking show producer, and Stephano Galligani, Brian’s Italian friend and very helpful translator

Craig Anderson_Pam Peterson__The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
Craig Anderson, executive producer, and me, art director

group photo__The Brian Boitano Project_HGTV_Favale di Malvaro_Italy
The cast and crew, on the last night of shooting

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31 Responses to “HGTV | The Brian Boitano Project | Behind the Scenes”

  1. Nancy Says:

    I don’t know where to begin about how amazing this all looks!!! How lucky you are to have had such a terrific experience. I’m in awe.  One of the things I loved the most are the walls….the colors, the exposed stone….oh I just can’t say enough.

  2. hollie Says:

    What an accomplishment! A beautiful project. Congrats ten fold.

  3. Marci Says:

    I just loved watching the show!  What an incredible transformation and attention to keeping the original integrity and style of the home.  I love how simply and the cleanly the house is decorated.  The wood, the stone, the plaster (washed walls) – to die for!  Congratulations!!!

  4. Ann Says:

    What a beautiful and fabulous odyssey! Thank you for sharing….cheers!

  5. Rory Tira Says:

    Thank you for behind the scenes shots and details – so many details to love. The tiny men guarding the shutters! I’d give anything to pull up a chair at Favale feast.  Interesting – my husband’s family in Northern California has 4 generations of summer Italian tradition, gathering in the mountains. Each July we share a dinner outdoors with many other Genovese families – the men start cooking early in the day.  Long tables under the stars, accordions after dinner, wine bottles, antipasti, American babies with Italian names, the old people speaking in Genovese…. it is one of my favorite nights of every year. Enzo and MIchaela and the kids would fit right in!  You are all invited!  Thanks for the show, can’t wait to see more adventures.

  6. Eloise Says:

    I am amazed at the ‘beginning house’ and the ‘after house’. It’s almost inconceivable it’s the same house. Restoration is a good thing instead of just knocking something over and building a nouveau maison that isn’t authentic. Really love the pics. My favorite thing was that gelato machine. I wish the USA could put those in some malls here. I would go to it. Maybe like a photo booth/gelato machine type thing.

  7. WendyH Says:

    Can you list or link to instructions for how the demijohn chandelier in the dining room was made? Please can you share a resource for the spider like light fixture that was inside the cut demijohn? Thank you.

  8. admin Says:

    I will post a how-to on the blog this week – you are not the only person who has asked!

  9. Patty Says:

    Can you tell me who the artist is who gifted Brian those lovely paintings?
    Thank you.

  10. Kim Says:

    Strangely, I found one of the most interesting parts of the show was the old Aunts stealing all the furniture when Brian returned to the States. I know he would have paid them more to be able to keep his family’s pieces, even though he had already bought and paid for them! You could tell he was nearly as excited with the furniture as the building. He let them off easy. I Could have watched a whole episode about his displeasure about it, confronting the Aunts, possibly ‘hunting’ down the pieces from the antique dealer, etc! LOVED the series, his wonderful taste, leaving lots of the old with the new…hated to see it come to an end!

  11. Nina Ostensen Says:

    Love, love, love this series.  Brian’s creativity and vision for the transformation is beyond words.  What a memorable adventure to share and experience for all those involved made even more significant, accomplished with the help and love of his family.  Magnifico!

    I want to run away and do the same.  I will look forward to your post of resources for this project.  Nina Ostensen – San Juan Capistrano, CA.

  12. julie Says:

    Just watched all the episodes last evening and LOVED them. Can’t remember the last time I watched something on HGTV this enjoyable. What an incredible experience to be involved with this project. The town, the home and the show’s characters were so charming – makes one want to run off to Italy to find their own villa to restore. A delight to watch from beginning to end!

  13. Tina Says:

    Shows like this is what HGTV needs to do more often, instead of all the fake, scripted, phony drama garbage, (I’m talking to you, Love It Or List It), that is on there now. @Kim – Yes!  The outing of the thieving aunts was my favorite! What did Brian say…apparently the lira is thicker than blood? How do you say touche in Italian?

  14. Lucia Says:

    I had to write and say how wonderful it was to watch this transformation unfold.  My parents are from the Campania region of Italy and I often wonder what it would be like to restore my ancestors home. It was horribly damaged in the 1980 earthquake but it still has beautiful bones. I would only hope to find someone like Enzo in my parents neck of the woods to help us restore it.  What Brian, Enzo and the talented craftsman did to create new history was beautiful.  I love the old and new and I have to say Brian said it best when he commented about how he didnt want the furniture that was stolen from him because it held bad memories, now he looks at what he decorated with and has his own stories and memories behind everything. Unfortunately I have heard this many times of Italian families doing this, so it is no surprise to me, just shameful.  So I very much liked that he forgot about it and moved on from that experience. Oh and Brian’s warm smile and laugh was contagious.  I only hope he buys the the other homes in the family that are desperately need of repair and restores them because I would love to see what he does to them.  Best of luck to Brian and his family!  Auguri!

  15. admin Says:

    Hi Patty – I will ask Brian if it’s okay to pass on the artists’ name as soon as he returns from Sochi.

  16. Emily Young Says:

    Brian: This home is such a tribute to your heritage. You have managed to create a perfect balance between old and new.  I especially appreciated your creativity with repurposing furnishings and materials to create such a warm welcoming environment inside and out. Best of all, the efforts of Enzo and family to help you realize your vision is priceless.  I hope this home remains in the Boitano family for centuries to come.  ….. How this was accomplished so quickly is amazing.  I am rehabilitating a 100 year old house in Historic Saratoga Springs NY and it is taking years!…..My Dream Vacation is to learn to cook local cuisine and tour the sites in Tuscany. Perhaps you could consider hosting something like that now that you apparently will be spending time close by. Emily

  17. Susan Says:

    I loved this show. Watching the craftsman do their magic was wonderful. Brian’s design vision and appreciation for the heritage of the home was so great. I wish HGTV could have more real life hours restoration stories. I will watch every rerun I can find!

  18. Diana Says:

    Brian your home is molto bella! I would love to purchase the chiavara chairs from the Levaggi factory any info on how would be appreciated.

  19. admin Says:

    The Levaggi website is http://www.levaggisedie.it Be sure to tell Paolo that you saw him on the show!

  20. admin Says:

    The artist is Franc D’Ambrosio, and you can buy his work through the gallery ArtHaus, in San Francisco.  Here is their website:

    http://www.arthaus-sf.com/artists/franc_dambrosio

  21. admin Says:

    You can see more of Franc D’Ambrosio’s work on his website: francdambrosioartist.weebly.com

  22. Lisa rose Says:

    I was also fascinated by the awful aunts!  How awful for Brian, I can’t believe they would do that to him.  I noticed they weren’t at the family gathering!  Enzo is a genius an incredible craftsman!  A true master.  He could have his own show with the transformations he completed.

  23. Martha H. Says:

    So sorry we missed “The Brian Boitano Project”! Just caught Brian on “The Kitchen”.  We’re such fans.
    Will the first season be rerun? If so, when? Please consider rerunning it. When is the second season set to begin? Thanks!

  24. admin Says:

    Check HGTV and Cooking Channel websites for future air dates of the shows. Hopefully we will be shooting a second season, but there are no plans to do so yet!  Cross fingers!

  25. Karen Says:

    Was disappointed only because there were so few episodes! I wanted it to go on and on and on and………………..

  26. Eileen Says:

    Wow!  An incredible show!  My husband and I loved all of the episodes!  We particularly enjoyed the last episode — celebrating the finished renovation with a Boitano family feast!

    I really loved the saw-horse tables too!  Maybe he should reproduce these tables and sell them!

  27. Nancy Says:

    I have not been able to dvr your show….I tried Brian Boitano and am not able to pull it up…I tried The Brian Boitano…I have HGTV…I had seen your program advertised way before it was even on but am having no luck…what am I doing wrong?  Nancy

  28. admin Says:

    Unfortunately the show has already aired and there are no plans for HGTV to air it again.

  29. JT Says:

    I missed all the broadcasts.  Can they be seen online?  Or on DVD or from Netflix?  When visiting that area, I’ve often driven through Favale on the way up the mountain to Piano della Chiesa where my Cavagnaro ancestors were born.  I’d very much like to see both the transformation of the house and the local scenery.

  30. admin Says:

    Unfortunately the show has already aired and there are no plans for HGTV to air it again.

  31. Kathy from CT Says:

    Loved loved loved this show.  Can’t remember the last time I truly enjoyed an HGTV show as much.  Admire him for his reaction to the aunts’ stealing the furniture.  When I get annoyed about something, I remember his gracious reaction and it tempers my own annoyance.  If he did a show fixing other European family homes, I would definitely watch.  Enzo and his crew are true masters.

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