TV stars Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri home in on the perfect kitchen

Cousins Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri work well together on their TV show America's Most Desperate Kitchens

John Colaneri (left) and his cousin Anthony Carrino (right).
John Colaneri (left) and his cousin Anthony Carrino (right).ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG


For cousins Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, the biggest challenge of their home improvement shows is not having to totally revamp a kitchen in three days, like they do on their HGTV series, America's Most Desperate Kitchens.

Instead, it is convincing contractors whom they hire in each city that the job can be done in such a short time frame.

"And a lot of times, these guys aren't used to the time frame, so they get very nervous," says Carrino, 37. "So we have to give pep talks where we say, 'Look, we do this all the time, it can be done'."

The duo have become the faces of kitchen renovation on television, with shows such as Kitchen Cousins, Cousins On Call and Cousins Undercover. On America's Most Desperate Kitchens, they pay surprise visits to home owners across the United States and work wonders on their kitchens, turning disasters into home decor magazine-worthy spaces.

Colaneri, 35, chimes in: "It's pretty mind-blowing, the kind of time pressure we work under. But now, it's like brushing our teeth."

We're the real deal, we're real talent. We grew up on construction sites since high school.

JOHN COLANERI, on how doing a home renovation show is not so hard for him and his cousin Anthony Carrino

The New Jersey-based duo were speaking to The Straits Times at the start of their multi-city promotional tour that subsequently took them to Kuala Lumpur and Manila.

Colaneri is married with a young daughter, while Carrino is in a serious relationship.

Carrino estimates that they have done 75 to 80 episodes of television since they filmed their first series in 2011.

He has a background in entrepreneurship and information systems, while Colaneri majored in labour and industrial relations in college. But both of them grew up in and around the construction business, which made the jump to doing a home renovation show easier.

Colaneri says: "We're the real deal, we're real talent. We grew up on construction sites since high school. When you get to show the world your talents, that's the greatest compliment."

His cousin adds: "This is not something you fake. This is 35 years of friendship and family and knowing each other the way we do."

1 Since you are family, is it rough when you have disagreements?

Carrino: For whatever reason, we just really work well together. We get along well and our process is the same. It doesn't matter if it's his or my idea. If it's a bad idea, we'll say it to each other because it's not doing the client any favours. We didn't change anything just because we're on TV.

Colaneri: I think it comes down to a level of respect that Anthony and I have for each other. We don't need to express our ideas or views by yelling at each other.

2 But drama makes for good TV right?

Carrino: But so does positivity. We bust each other's chops all the time, but it's about the positive, not the negative. That's very important to us because there's a lot of drama and c*** and negativity on TV.

When this all started, we had a specific conversation about it. It's not who we are, but it's not what we wanted to do anyway. Being recognised for positive energy is nice.

3 How desperate does it get with the kitchens you've seen on the show?

Carrino: Every time I think I've seen it all, I see worse.

Colaneri: Every home that we walk into, everything is nice, but the kitchen is just so outdated. You get some bad architecture like green countertops, linoleum, lighting that came from another planet and other unique things you wouldn't expect in the 21st century. To get to go inside there and rip it up, go down to the studs and blow it out, then do something that is of today's design - that's the beauty of it.

4 Do you have a design philosphy?

Carrino: I don't think we have one particular design philosophy other than to make the kitchen function well. We don't have one design aesthetic that we perpetuate through every episode; the home owner dictates it. Tell us what you like, tell us what you don't like and we'll decipher that perfect kitchen for you.

Colaneri: As a viewer, you're never going to say, oh they did that in a house two episodes ago. For viewers in Asia, when we go to these cities across America, you'll see the culture and design of that area.

If we came to Singapore - yes, we have our style, but I would want to do what reflects the area that you're in.

5 What would you guys fix up in a kitchen in Singapore, especially since our cooking tends to involve a lot of oil, grease and wok frying?

Carrino: The biggest thing is the backsplash. You would want to make sure you have very few, if any, grout joints because that makes it a nightmare to clean. You would either want a slab of stone, a piece of glass or a panel of stainless steel - something that is very easy to clean.

I would also want to make sure the fan has a lot of suction, so you are getting the smoke and the grease up instead of out. Those are the two things of paramount importance.

6 What was your favourite transformation from Season 1?

Colaneri: There was a 1970s ranch home in Northern California. We opened it up and took down a wall between the kitchen and dining room and did a huge island with seating for five.

Carrino: The guy brewed his own beer, so we built him a custom beer tap with eight different taps on it. It was really, really cool.

7 In the HGTV family, there's another pair of brothers, The Property Brothers (twins Jonathan and Drew Scott). Who do you think is the hotter home design team?

Carrino: Well, you're talking to them!

Colaneri: We love having that competition, it's fun. It means we both push ourselves because everyone wants to have the better show and the better ratings. We're hoping we do a brothers against cousins show and we go head to head. Then we settle it once and for all.

Carrino: Yeah, give the people what they want.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

Carrino: For what we do for other people. I don't want to be remembered because I was on TV. The things that we give back to families is our favourite part of the job. Kicking people out of their kitchen is fun, but when they come home and we see the reaction on their faces, it's really incredible.

Colaneri: We say it all the time - a house, condo or apartment is just a building. But a home, that's where memories are really made. However long they live there, they're going to have this memory of these two guys who showed up one day and re-did their homes.

•America's Most Desperate Kitchens airs every Tuesday at 9pm on HGTV (StarHub TV Channel 437).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Homing in on the perfect kitchen'. Subscribe