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Welcome to Downtown Shabby: A Q&A with Frank and Sherry Fontana

Frank and Sherry Fontana may be the new kids on the block, but on October 15 you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. With the premiere of Downtown Shabby, the renovation power couple is setting their sights on vintage homes, giving them foundation-to-finish home renewals that will make your head spin and your jaw drop.

We caught up with the house-revival heroes on the site of their latest project and asked them for a behind-the-scenes look at this season’s most anticipated home renovation show.

You’ve been together eight years and working together for just as long. How did you meet?

Sherry: It was by chance. We met in downtown Chicago while Frank was shooting a TV commercial.

Frank: Once she caught my eye, I had to know more about her. She played hard to get, but I got her anyway!

How did you start renovating homes together?

Sherry: My family and I were renovating and flipping houses as a hobby for years. From the moment Frank and I met, I knew we were destined to work together.

Frank: I had a budding design and build business for over a decade. After our first date, Sherry invited me over for a home-cooked Italian dinner to a house she was flipping. Through food (and good looks) she convinced me to lend my expertise to help finish the renovations of the home. She ended up selling the house in record time.

You’re experts in maintaining a home’s original character, even when things like weak foundations and dry rot threaten its very structure. What excites you about vintage houses?

Frank: The charm, the challenge and the history of these older homes. We live in a vintage, 100-year-old Victorian, and there’s never a dull moment.

Sherry: There’s always another fun project waiting around the corner of each room with a vintage home – and a few headaches along the way!

The projects we’ll see this season feature contemporary elements, like open floor plans and cutting edge technology, but their character is always intact. You’ve proven that you don’t have to sacrifice charm when upgrading a vintage home with modern comforts. How would you describe your design aesthetic?

Frank: It’s less about a style or genre of design and more about everything in a space telling a story. The pieces come together to write the novel that becomes the story of your home.

Sherry: Your design aesthetic should exude the essence of who you are. With that said, I do love reclaimed and refurbished pieces, eclectic finds and comfortable pieces that function for the entire family, especially because we have two small children running around.

What’s the division of labor like on a project? Who typically handles what?

Frank: I usually oversee the “big picture” vision and am the lead designer for projects. I’m a big thinker with lofty design dreams that sometimes need to be reeled in.

Sherry: I’ve got my hands on the operations and always make sure the home is harmonious with its design. I also manage the crews and get my hands dirty in the process. Don’t mess with a woman swinging a sledgehammer!

In three words, how would you describe your partner’s work style?

Frank: Fierce, dangerous and unstoppable.

Sherry: Frank is tenacious, creative and a problem-solver.

What’s something we’d be surprised to find out about your partner when the cameras stop rolling?

Frank: Truth be told, I don’t stop working when the cameras stop. Between our design firm, Frank Fontana Home Solutions, my radio show and all the rest of our endeavors, I’m always on.

Sherry: Being a mom is my top priority. No matter how busy, tired or stressed we get, I always put the kids first.

You two clearly have chemistry that carries over to your work. What’s the best thing about working together as a couple?

Sherry: I can witness my husband’s spirit, drive and creativity shine in the moment. Some wives only hear stories of their husband’s work achievements, but I get to see them firsthand.

Frank: The best things about working with my wife are sharing this insane ride we’re on and not having to explain how crazy my day was when I get home from work. She’s living it with me.

Not all couples could survive such intense collaborations (the deadlines! the disasters!), but you make it look easy. Surely there are some challenges?

Sherry: Trying to leave work at the site can be hard. It would be nice to put all of the emotions and challenges back into the toolbox with the rest of the tools after a long day of demo.

Frank: The tough part of working with your wife is that if you get upset with a situation at work, you’re dealing with your wife. Communication has to be a certain way unless you want to sleep outside in the doghouse. Happy wife, happy life!

Without giving away any spoilers, what should viewers look forward to seeing this season?

Sherry: The stories are real, so you’ll be witnessing everything unfold as we do. There are some gems being discovered behind walls, and there are also some not-so-fun disasters that need to be addressed ASAP.

Frank: You won’t be disappointed – the transformations are amazing!

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