Alison Victoria answered a mass email producers of “House Crashers” sent to about 200 designers in Chicago. They were looking for a ghost designer — a person who works with the on-camera talent to do the design for a show.
It paid little money and she wouldn’t be seen, but it was a chance to get her foot in the door of the HGTV and DIY Network world.
That opportunity got producers to notice her. They wanted to develop a show for her, but every idea they pitched didn’t feel right for Victoria. She pitched them a different show: an extension of the Crashers brand that they were already doing in “House Crashers,” “Yard Crashers” and “Bath Crashers.”
She pitched to become the first female Crashers host and do “Kitchen Crashers.” And they bit.
She was born Alison Victoria Gramenos, but at a press junket with all the Crasher hosts before the launch of her show, producers shortened her name to her first and middle name. They were basing it on her design firm name, Alison Victoria Interiors, which she still operates in Las Vegas, where she went to the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Chicago, her hometown.
She’s now done 160 shows and will be at the Austin Home & Garden Show this weekend.
“The kitchen is the hub of the home,” she says. “I don’t care if you cook or don’t cook; the way the kitchen space has evolved, it’s a statement piece.”
She’s seen the kitchen go from being all about function to being about the look. All the utilitarian elements like appliances and pots and pans now get hidden.
She’s not a chef, nor does she play one on TV. She grew up with her Greek grandmother, her yia yia, cooking all the time and trying to teach her. Victoria says she has some signature dishes but hasn’t had the time to really learn.
Even though she’s designing for a TV show when she’s doing “Kitchen Crashers,” she still starts with how the homeowners will use the kitchen. Do they cook all the time and want a pot filler, or would that be wasted on them as the nonchefs that they are? She doesn’t worry about resale value at all.
“I listen to their wants and needs and what kind of fears they have,” she says. Still, “I have to make the network happy with color and creativity without scaring the (expletive) out of someone.”
So for the tattoo artists, she chose Kelly green kitchen cabinets, because she knew they could handle it and it would be cool, and a tattoo art backsplash.
She says she wants homeowners to love their space but also take a chance. They tend to come to her “very vanilla,” but she wants them to explore color and texture.
That does not mean that they settle for painting one wall an accent color. In fact, she’d like homeowners to stop doing that. “It’s so noncommittal,” she says. “It drives me crazy… they’re not using color the right way.”
There are so many different ways to bring color in, she says, including accessories, drapery, pillows. It doesn’t have to be as obvious as the Kelly green cabinets or the dreaded one accent wall.
She also wants people to stop putting in the farmhouse sink. It doesn’t really work unless you’re doing a farmhouse theme. “I’m not keen on the look, yet every homeowner wants one,” she says.
And when in doubt, skip the soffits and make your cabinetry go all the way up. Or add more cabinetry below and go with open shelving above. Her caveat to the open-shelving concept is that it takes the right kind of homeowner, one willing to see their dishes as part of the design and keep it neat.
An island is her must-have for the kitchen — even if it’s one that is rolled away out of site at times. She likes her islands to be furniture pieces that are multifunctional, with space for seating as well as for cooking or prep work. The new trend is to have elements that hide some of the more functional features, like the sink.
Victoria also loves to mix different metals, especially bronze and black nickel, with tile backsplashes and rose quartz counters.
Her favorite kitchen she’s designed so far is not one that she did for a show or for a client. It’s at the Kohler Design Center for Kohler in Kohler, Wisc. She calls it An American Designer in Paris, because it’s influenced by her favorite city. It features a bronze mirrored backsplash, gold cabinetry, a chandelier and old oak flooring in a chevron pattern.
She calls it her dream kitchen. “I had total freedom with my creativity,” she says.
Paris is also her dream place. It’s where she goes two to three times a year, where she can wander the streets with her eyes closed and never get lost. “It’s where I go to get inspired,” she says.
Right now she’s working on a new show, “Windy City Rehab,” of which she’s also the executive producer. She says it’s more similar to what she does as a designer. The show, which she hopes to launch in April, will follow her around as she redoes a property.
When she’s not working on “Kitchen Crashers” or “Windy City Rehab,” she’s designing new restaurants in Phoenix, hotels in Las Vegas or homes in Chicago, or meeting fans at home shows.
This weekend, she’ll give a presentation called “A Happy Home is a Healthy Home,” and she’ll take audience questions. Their first question is usually “When are you going to crash my kitchen?”
Well, because we don’t live in Las Vegas or Chicago, where the show shoots, we’ll have to crash our own kitchens.
The 19th Annual Austin Home & Garden Show
When: The show runs 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Alison Victoria talks 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Tickets: $9.50 adults, $8.50 seniors and free for ages 16 and younger and active duty military; $1 off tickets online or bring a donation of a canned good.