Model homes in new housing plans often come pre-decorated by an expert. That’s nothing new.
But in Mystic Ridge, a new neighborhood in Cranberry, competing interior designers will decorate the model homes with the winning look that the public chooses.
And it will all be filmed for TV.
The show, which is being filmed in cities across the country, pits two experts against each other in competition to design the best model home. Members of the community where the show is being filmed will act as judges and get to pick the winning look.
HGTV’s Leslie Appleyard, who is producing the Pittsburgh episode, said she has learned not to predict who will win the design faceoff. Different looks have been popular in different cities, she said.
“You just never know,” she said. “Some of them are landslides; some of them are within two votes.”
Cranberry residents will get their chance to play judge later this month.
Kevin Oakley, director of marketing for Heartland Homes, said the residences, which are located on Center Oak Drive and Castle Brook Drive off Garvin Road, will be open to the public from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 27. The first 150 people to tour the homes will get to be judges and give their opinions on air about which designer should be named the winner.
HGTV producer Grayson Brooke said Showhouse Showdown, which is based on a successful television show of the same name in Ireland, will premiere in September.
Former season four Bachelor Bob Guiney, affectionately known to fans as Bachelor Bob, will play host on the series.
Appleyard said the reality star, who also was host of TLC’s “Date My House” is something of a home-improvement expert, not to mention a ham on camera.
“He loves the crowds,” she said. “He really gets everyone into it.”
Oakley said the designers started work on the homes months ago. One designer is from Pittsburgh. The other is from Philadelphia. Oakley said the names of the experts will not be disclosed until filming has ended so the public will have no bias toward a particular designer when they enter the homes.
“We tried to find two of the top designers in the area,” Brooke added.
Besides paint color and furniture, the designers chose the flooring, appliances, countertops and more for five of the rooms in the homes. Oakley said this is something of a risk for Heartland because there are no guarantees the homes, which are priced at about $800,000 each, will sell after the designers add their custom touches.
“We pretty much have this much input,” Oakley said while squeezing his fingers close together.
The final looks of homes also will come as a surprise to Marty Gillespie, president of Heartland Homes. Oakley said Gillespie was barred from the buildings during construction. The cameras will capture Gillespie’s face as he walks into the homes for the first time on Aug. 27.
Oakley said to expect a big reaction.
“He’s not afraid to say what he thinks,” he said. “He knows nothing about what is in these homes.”
Oakley said each designer was given $130,000 to spend on their projects. While no cameras are allowed into the homes yet, Oakley revealed most of both design budgets was spent on flooring, including the luscious dark wood found inside the Center Oak home. One home will feature a vintage vanity shipped from Georgia.
“We’ve never used this floor before,” he said. “A lot of these things are a one of kind.”
Once filming in Cranberry ends, HGTV will shoot another episode of Showhouse Showdown in the new Edgewater neighborhood of Oakmont.
Oakley said the show originally was scheduled to film only in Cranberry, but producers decided on a second Pittsburgh episode after learning Edgewater was being built on the site of a former steel mill.
“It was a good story beyond just the houses,” Oakley said
As of Tuesday, contractors still were working to finish the interiors of the homes. Oakley said work should be completed in time for judging.
“The contractors are working on top of each to finish it up,” he said.
If you’re going:
The general public is invited to attend the free open house and block party from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 27 at 200 Center Oak Drive in Cranberry Township.
There will be entertainment, including a bounce castle, popcorn maker, snow cones and cornhole. Cathy’s Custom Cupcakeswill provide cupcakes, and there will be a free lunch. Heartland Homes will give away T-shirts, hats and other prizes.