HGTV | The Brian Boitano Project

HGTV | The Brian Boitano Project

House in Favale di Malvaro_Italy

In a tiny hamlet called Favale di Malvaro, on top of a mountain in Northern Italy, was a house where time stood still.  An abandoned stone house, crumbling and derelict, was still filled with the furniture and personal relics that had belonged to countless generations of one family – the Boitanos.

No one had lived there for at least thirty years.

House in Favale_Italy

House in Favale_Italy


House in Favale_Italy

House in Favale_Italy

Olympic gold medalist, Brian Boitano, visited several years ago, discovering that this was the town where every Boitano originated.  Everywhere he went there were Boitanos, and it wasn’t long before a cousin brought him to see the old family house…and suggested he renovate it for himself and bring the American Boitanos to Italy.

Brian Boitano_Favale_Italy

That’s exactly what Brian did. 

A construction crew was recruited to transform the house, and a television production crew would be there to film the whole process – for a show on HGTV called “The Brian Boitano Project.” (The show can now be seen on Netflix.)

The reason I know all this?  I was the art director for the show.

House in favale_Italy

Crew in favale_Italy

The house needed a LOT of work.  There were four small rooms on the ground floor, with a steep and narrow staircase that led to four small rooms upstairs.  Windows on two sides overlooked the glorious mountain valley, but the walled in space made the house seem dark and cramped.  Deteriorating plaster walls were unsalvageable in some places, but in others, the walls had an exquisitely dappled patina of blues, greens, and grays.  The wood floors were rotting, clumsily patched, and unstable. 

Favale house_Italy

Favale house_Italy

Favale house_Italy

Favale house_Italy

Favale house_Italy

Favale house_Italy

Favale house_Italy

Brian had specific ideas for the renovation of the house.  Contemporary design would be intermingled with the architecture and character of the house to create a 21st century environment in a 19th century structure.  He wanted the house to be cozy and comfortable for his big extended family when they came to visit from the United States.  A big kitchen was a necessity – he loves to cook, and he anticipated big family dinners with the American Boitanos and the Italian Boitanos around the table.

This was a job for a contractor who not only understood how to restore the dwelling so it was livable, but who would appreciate that Brian wanted to preserve as many of the original details as possible.  Brian got lucky when he found contractor, Enzo Pezzolo.  He was not only a genius with construction, he was good-natured and fun – and he’s become a life-long friend to Brian and the rest of us.



Brian and Enzo_Favale_Italy

Enzo and his crew knocked down walls to open the space on the main floor, laid new floors, replaced the roof and a lot of crumbling plaster, and brought new life to the old house.

FAvale house_Italy

Favale house_Italy

Favale house_Italy

As the art director of the show, I traveled back and forth to Italy for six months, meeting and making friends with an Italian construction crew and television crew and a gaggle of Boitanos, shopping at flea markets, eating tons of amazing local cuisine, and coming up with creative ways to style this house on a mountain – hands down, best job ever.

Me, Brian, Chris Bierlein_Genoa_Italy
Me, Brian, and cameraman, Chris Bierlein, at Ikea in Genoa, Italy


[See what it was like behind the scenes of The Brian Boitano Project.]

FAvale house_Italy

There are 64 comments for this article
  1. Ruth at 10:00 pm

    Just finished watching on Netflix.  Loved it!  Would enjoy more of these type shows and would love to see more of the Boitanos!!!!!

  2. Michael Hettrich at 4:24 pm

    Does anyone know the name of the fresh pasta shop he visited and the town in which it was located?

  3. loretta at 10:43 am

    just loved this show.  This weekend the final episode of series was repeated.  To find your roots and live such a great life is inspirational.  the food network should do more of these shows.
    i would love to know how much it cost for the final renovation.  Italy is pricey.  I love Italy, being Italian and my family is from Tuscany.  Love the area.  Love all of Italy.  Do more shows like this.

    • admin Author at 7:33 am

      Each episode showed the before, during, and after of the renovation of the kitchen, living and dining rooms, bathroom, bedrooms, and terrace – so I’m not sure what you feel is missing….?

  4. sue at 2:18 pm

    Love the show……what a dream, i lived in itay for 3 years, veneto region, vicenza, in an old renovated 4 story mom and pop family house, with old wood beams, views of the rooftops, in the city center pedestrian zone, where the markets are held, the people are so warm and welcoming, they have a great way of living simply off the land, la dolce vita, this show really captures the italian way of life, and i think its awesome that brian tries to find his family of origin and then captures it all in the show, awesome job!!!!!

  5. Kyle Warner at 1:39 pm

    I watched all 4 episodes last Sunday morning… just love what you did … sorry about your cousins actions… Congratulations on a job very well done… love how you saved old things and how you used the old bottles… love the light fixture…. really was a joy to watch this….thank you …

  6. Frances at 5:27 pm

    My husband and I happened upon the show Sunday morning.  We were on vacation yet we could not leave the room.  We were glued to the TV for 3 hours!  We felt as if we were in Italy actually participating with Brian.  Our project for next weekend is to cut some wine bottles and make candle holders!  Thank you for a GREAT series.

  7. Kathleen at 3:53 pm

    I love Brian’s house and the show, I’ve watched each episode several times. I would like the new house we are going to build in the hill country of Texas to have the same feel as Brian’s! Regarding the interior wall painting technique – could I use watered down latex paint layered on with a big brush to get the same effect? And does it need to be on top of “raw” drywall texturing compound, or can it be applied on top of a base coat of paint?
    I am not a cook but I will watch any shows that are in his Italian house.

    • admin Author at 4:24 pm

      Hi Kathleen,
      The walls in Italy were plaster, so, yes, try the technique on drywall texturing compound.  Do a test – I think you might be able to achieve a similar effect.  One note: We used just one color on the living room walls – the textured appearance came from the plaster and the brush strokes.  Please let me know how it works out!  And I’m happy to answer any more questions regarding the design!

  8. Kevin at 1:55 am

    Great project! I found about the show right after it last aired yesterday, Sunday 2/9 …. grrrr. Please post if/when it airs again–I’ll set my DVR for sure. Cheers!

  9. VIVIANA LEAL at 11:27 am

    Just watched the complete series on HGTV this weekend and I absolutely adored it! It was a lovely thing to see how his extended family embraced and welcomed him back the the ancestral village , except for the ladies that stole the furniture. Please, please convince Brian to purchase the other two Boitano properties and rehab them as well. Wishful thinking on my part, but I don’t want it to end.

  10. Lara at 10:34 am

    Hi! I absolutely loved the show. Can anyone tell me the make of the chairs that Brian disassembled and brought over from the US? I’d love to get a set. Thanks!

    • admin Author at 10:42 am

      The chairs are vintage mid-century Danish Modern – you can find them in antique stores and often on Ebay.  Good luck!

  11. susan edmonds at 7:56 am

    My husband and I spent 2 weeks traveling around Italy a couple of years ago and I absolutely fell in love with this gorgeous country!

  12. Paulette at 3:56 pm

    I thought the women who sold the furniture were cousins. not aunts?  Why didn’t Brian report it to the authorities or at least try to get back the furniture?  Is there a rift in the family since that happened?

    I also think that Enzo is a hottie!

    • admin Author at 4:33 pm

      Technically, they probably are cousins, but we called them “the aunts”.  It wasn’t worth trying to get the furniture back, and after they took it Brian realized he didn’t want it back anyway.  As you saw on the show, other relatives came forward with family pieces (the cheese cabinet, the kitchen table) that were even more precious.  There’s not really a “rift,” but the aunts / cousins were not invited to the family feast, and will not be invited to the house!  Their loss!

  13. Carolyn at 9:35 am

    I am sitting right now watching the re-run of the show!  It’s just awesome! I need to go to the bank but that can wait, lol.  I am smiling and laughing (great personalities on the show) but most of all the rooms/house is turning out beyond anything anyone would have imagine.  The contractor is such a warm, talented, an awesome person!  I pray God blesses him and his family with grand fortune!  He is so amazingly talented

    Love. From a Beautiful Black American girl living in USA – NJ

  14. Liz Morales at 4:10 pm

    I had been discussing with friends and family about buying an old building in Spain to remodel (about 6 months ago) and everyone told me I was crazy to think I could buy anything under $50,000 USD!!!  I have been dreaming this and searching online… saw tons of properties in the South of Spain and flipping through channels…I SCREAMED WHEN I SAW THE PREVIEWS!!!  MY DREAM COME TRUE AND BRIAN BOITANO!!!  I recorded the show and have shared it with my husband (1st person who said I was crazy…) and my friends. We are all in love with ENZO!!! This is without a doubt the best show on HGTV so far this year.  I have seen each show 4 times!!  This can’t possibly be the end, How can I kidnap Enzo and take him to Spain to remodel my Projecto Espanol? Let him know he has some Latinas in South Florida who want to steal him!!!  We work for a major airline and we can be there at a moment’s notice!!!  Please make more of these shows. Brian when we saw what those “so called” Aunts did to you with the furniture, we were so ready to jump on a plane and hunt them down!!  Can you think of a couple of “Gloria’s from Modern Family” going to get Brian’s furniture?? THAT WOULD BE ENTERTAINMENT!! Loved everyone involved!!! Except the Aunts…uughhh

  15. Liz Armijo at 9:47 pm

    I just loved this show! The rooms were beautiful and homey. I missed the bathroom makeover but plan to dvr it tonight. I hope HGTV invites Brian to do more!

    • admin Author at 9:47 am

      The show will be airing again on February 6 at 11 pm.  After that, there are no plans for a DVD, or for future air dates.

    • admin Author at 2:04 pm

      Hot off the press! HGTV will be running a marathon of The Brian Boitano Project on Friday from 4-6pm, EST, and then again over the weekend (time TBA.)

  16. Pam Willetts at 1:34 am

    Loved the series!  I want the dining room light, or at the very least, where in California I might be able to find the makings for it.  Have been looking for about 10 years for a dining room light that might work for me (40 year old, updated home headed for a beachy theme).  Any help appreciated!  Very clever!

    • admin Author at 11:16 am

      Ok here you go: The “Affare” shop on sells vintage Italian wine jugs (aka demijohns.) I would ask a glass company to cut the bottom off, as Enzo and Donatello did in the show. The light insert is the Häggås LED pendant from Ikea. (Remove the plastic covers on each LED light.) Corks, with holes drilled through them, are inserted in the neck of the glass jug, inside and out. Thread the wire from the pendant through the corks to hang, and hard wire to your ceiling wiring.  Finito!

  17. JMONEY at 5:50 am

    I’ve always been a fan of Brian. But I’ve pretty much seen the show because of Enzo. It ‘s wonderful! And insanely talented! Nothing is more attractive than a man who works hard! I really liked the transformation.

    Sono sempre stato un fan del Brian. Ma ho praticamente visto lo spettacolo a causa di Enzo. E ‘stupendo! E follemente di talento! Niente è più attraente di un uomo che lavora sodo! Mi è piaciuto molto la trasformazione.

  18. Rory Tira at 12:11 pm

    Bravo tutti!  We loved every minute of the show.  Ten years ago we spent our honeymoon in Chiavari and my husband’s family home is in Borzonasca.  This was the best television! So much beauty, creativity, trust and fun.  The rooms were incredible.  The visits to local shops, the Chiavari chair (my mother in law always talked about!).  Brian’s vision and design matched Enzo’s artistry and skills.  I will confess, I would watch an Enzo home show every week.  There might be more than one American “housewife” who has fallen for him!

  19. Pezzolo Enzo at 12:38 am

    Essendo che ho fatto parte di questa di questa bellissima avventura …..vorrei ringraziare di cuore Pam, Craig, Brian persone speciali, e tutti i ragazzi della produzione, spero vivamente che questo show abbia un immenso successo perchè se lo meritano . li ringrazio per la fiducia che mi è stata data senza esserci mai conosciuti prima, lavorare con loro è stata una esperienza fantastica, e riuscire a capire le loro idee non era facile ” e farmi capire me ancora meno…. non parlo inglese” ma capirsi solo con gli sguardi era fantastico….. e sono felice di aver tre nuovi e speciali amici…. ciao

    • admin Author at 8:28 am

      ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF ENZO’S COMMENT: “Being that I was part of this of this beautiful adventure ….. I would like to thank Pam, Craig, Brian special people, and all the guys in the production, I sincerely hope that this show has a huge success because they deserve it. I thank them for the trust that was given to me without being ever known before, working with them has been a fantastic experience, and being able to understand their ideas was not easy, “me and make me understand even less …. I do not speak English” understand each other but only with the looks was fantastic ….. and are happy to have three new and special friends ….”

  20. Kelly H. at 8:26 pm

    I found the show after it had already started…can you tell me the name of the store that he was in that they made they made the artisanal pasta? And what city is that in? Thanks so much!!!

  21. M Martone at 4:30 pm

    Everyone of the Boitanos were there at the feast?  Even the two elderly cousins who sold all the furniture out from under Brian?

  22. j carter at 8:14 pm

    Loved Loved Loved the shows ! Looking forward to Sunday night’s cooking show . As a Senior citizen , I have to ask …. Who was the idiot that scheduled the shows to come on at 11: 00 at night and good gosh , the show on 1/31 is scheduled for 2AM ! And this is a NEW show ! Lord help ! Replace Love It or List It . Everybody I know is sick of the same shows during the day . I realize Brian’s show is only for the four half hour shows but REALLY ! I can hear all you young people saying “tape it” but most of us Seniors have the equipment and don’t know how to use it ! You can stop laughing now and schedule it at a decent time !

  23. PJ Johnson at 5:04 pm

    Delightful.  Loved the plaster work, bringing the old out in the new.  The lighted green wine bottle chandelier was a stroke of genius, Brian was thoughtful about his choices and so much fun to watch.  Am I the only person with a mad crush on Enzo?  So appealing.  Great show.  Don’t let it slip.  I would watch it every time.  Redo the damn village….that would be good for enough episodes for 10 years!

  24. Carole Stringer at 4:09 pm

    I loved this program, so much I want to live there. I watched this show twice in a day and will watch it again I am sure. I have fell in love with Brian and Enzo. As someone who loves to restore and decorate it met the world to see what they did with this house. Hope there’s more to come from you guy’s.

  25. Faye Lavrakas at 3:19 pm

    Loved all episodes. Makes me want to go to Greece and do a project for my family.  Great job, Brian.  Look forward to your cooking episode.

  26. Eloise at 10:18 am

    Are there any clips that could be posted here since I don’t get HGTV at home and the website of HGTV has no clips or video at all? If you could post some clips especially ones that Pam are in, that would be awesome. Thanks.

  27. Pam Russell at 10:42 pm

    What(ever) *will* Brian Boitano Will Do*?* always turns out like this.  Perfection, great creativity, beauty, AND FUN!!

    This is so great – another GOLD MEDAL 😀

  28. Letti Sarro at 8:03 pm

    Hi Pam, I watched the first two shows and they were fabulous. What a major project. I have watched a lot of HGTV over the years, and I must say, it’s one of the best shows ever. Can’t wait to see the finished house!

  29. Angela at 5:27 pm

    I loved the show and can’t wait for the rest to air.  As an Italian American with family in southern Italy, I was hooked immediately.  First I love everything Brian does and second I love all things Italian.

  30. Orlene at 12:20 am

    So awesome Pam!  It was so much more personal than watching other HGTV shows….we felt like we were friends with Brian because you are!  He’s so funny!… When you watched his figure skating career, you didn’t see that humor very much.  I liked the way he worked with his two nieces.  : ) Loved the show and can’t wait for the next episode! 

  31. at 3:03 pm

    i saw the show last night and i was spellbound!  brian was charming – but so were the whole cast of characters!  it’s just magical to watch.  thanks so much for the insight to create this program and offer it up to us – the unknown public.  it so warm and personal and funny and charming!  it made me feel really good to get immersed in the back story in addition to watching the progression of the reno.  please don’t let this die with just this project – find a way to keep it going.  i am not a huge fan of tv programming and it seems like just when i really connect to something special, it goes away.  i am bummed there will only be 2 more episodes to experience after last night. 

    Grazie and Ciao!  marylou

  32. Dorothy Knoell at 1:35 pm

    This is amazing! The first episode was great, can’t wait for the next episode, and the cooking show, too. Thanks for an awesome job.

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