The new renovation HGTV show Farmhouse Fixer has multiple ties to Endicott College, though you may not realize it at first. The show, which follows restorations and renovations in New England farmhouses, is hosted by Jonathan Knight of New Kids on the Block fame. While Jonathan didn’t graduate from Endicott, his design partner on the show, Kristina Crestin ‘02, is a proud Gull. An Endicott intern, Katie Tomko’ 21, worked with Kristina when filming, and one of their featured clients also attended the College.
Kristina Crestin and Farmhouse Fixer
host Jonathan Knight on set.
(Photo credit: Kristina Crestin)
Crestin graduated from Endicott in 2002 with a bachelor's in Interior Design, and has been nonstop ever since. She started her design firm, Kristina Crestin Design, in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., in 2009, and has grown it into a six-person company offering full-service residential interior design.
Crestin wanted to pursue television work as a stepping stone toward product design. “You really need a definable brand to launch a product these days,” she says. “I’m looking for a brand collaboration as part of my design business, so TV was a very strategic decision. This Old House was my toe in the water to see if I liked it.”
Kristina worked on season 37 of This Old House a few years ago, and had been looking for another television opportunity since. She met Jonathan Knight while working for a local architecture firm he had hired to do renovations on his home. They hit it off right away and have been in contact ever since. “When he saw me on This Old House, he sent me a really supportive text and it was the nicest thing to wake up to!” Knight had been working for eight years to get his idea for a farmhouse show picked up on HGTV. When the green light came and he needed a partner, Crestin got the call. The executive producer on the show flew out from Colorado to tell Crestin and Knight the show had been picked up for a full season. “There was a lot of hugging and crying,” she says.
One thing they don’t tell you about designing for television, says Crestin, is that you’ll be going back to your DIY roots. “When you’re a high-end residential designer, nobody would pay you to do legwork because it would be too expensive,” she says. “On Farmhouse Fixer, I was doing all my own staging, down to the smallest detail. I found myself hand washing antique dishes, scrubbing dust away at bedtime the night before install, or spray painting a chair at 6 a.m. because it just needed to be a certain color.” Crestin did most of the design work on the pilot with one of her designers and one intern, because her staff had to keep working on other client projects.
Another lesson learned while working on Farmhouse Fixer is that things move really fast in television production, a distinct difference from the much slower pace of the traditional design business. “Only a few days after the show was picked up, a casting director told us to find five houses,” says Crestin. “You have to scout houses, meet homeowners, look at project specs, quote, create design plans and elevations…There is a lot to complete before the show can really start going.”
"This has been the most intense, overwhelming, and exciting few years of my life, and I love the idea of it being terrifying because it means I'm learning something new.”—Kristina Crestin ’02, owner Kristina Crestin Design
She continues, "This has been the most intense, overwhelming, and exciting few years of my life, and I love the idea of it being terrifying because it means I'm learning something new. I thought, what's the worst that could happen if it doesn't work out? If season one doesn't fly, I'll just go back to my normal job. Why not put yourself out there?"
As a business owner, Crestin has kept her Endicott roots—almost all of her interns are from Endicott’s interior architecture program. “One of my passions is residential design,” says Crestin, “and I want to offer a path to residential work where students can get boots-on-the-ground experience. What we do is so detailed and high-level, and we do it well, so it’s a great place to learn about residential design. It’s such an interesting field–you can tell when people find out it’s not what they thought–and I love to help educate and guide designers through that learning curve.” From spending time on construction sites to working on detailed drawings, Crestin offers many opportunities for students to interact with design that they might not get with a larger commercial firm.
Tomko joined the team as an intern for filming, helping to design and stage properties, and even painting about half of the art pieces to get around right-to-use challenges. “She got the crazy experience of being thrown into the deep end, doing design on-the-fly, visiting construction sites, and filling entire houses for staging,” says Crestin. “She really did an amazing job.”
Says Tomko of the experience, "I cannot express how grateful I am for the amazing opportunity working with Kristina during the production of the show. She has had such a busy year designing and filming a TV show during a global pandemic, yet still found the time to mentor me as an intern! She truly is an inspiration and I am so glad that Farmhouse Fixer showcased the amazing person and designer Kristina is.”
To bring things full circle, Tomko just accepted a full-time position with Kristina Crestin Design following her May graduation.
The first season of Farmhouse Fixer has six episodes, the last of which aired in mid-April. They are accessible on HGTV on-demand and on Discovery+. A second season has not yet been confirmed, but Crestin is hopeful.
"I cannot express how grateful I am for the amazing opportunity working with Kristina during the production of the show. She has had such a busy year designing and filming a TV show during a global pandemic, yet still found the time to mentor me as an intern!”—Katie Tomko ’21
See Crestin’s designs at kristinacrestindesign.com and @kristinacrestindesign on Instagram. You can also read behind-the-scenes stories about her work on This Old House on her blog.
Kristina Crestin poses with a few of her teammembers, (l-r) Stephanie Ferraro, Katie Tomko '21, Crestin, and Deb Bennet (Photo credit: Jared Kuzia Photography)