Tamara Day of HGTV’s ‘Bargain Mansions’ reveals how she finds homes and inspiration in KC

Kansas City-area home renovator Tamara Day hits it big with both her large-scale house makeovers and her popular HGTV show, “Bargain Mansions,” which recently concluded its second season.

Recently we talked to Day about her all-time favorite projects, how she finds inspiration and the story behind her own home, which she calls the first Bargain Mansion.

Where and how do you go to pick mansions for the show?

Everywhere from Louisburg to Hyde Park to Valentine — wherever the right house is and whatever speaks to me. Some of them are in really bad shape, but each has a special feeling. If there’s still character, I try to save the charm. Most of the systems need updating, but a lot of the work is cosmetic and aimed toward families. I’m a mom of four, so I have the added benefit of knowing how people live, but I also like beautiful things.

Not everything has to be perfect or precious. I’m about laid-back luxe where everything is beautiful and attainable. I love taking the worst house in the neighborhood that could be worth $1 million to $3, $4, or even $5 million and getting it for $550,000. A house with that stature is a huge bargain, and then I’m able to pour all my ideas into it.

Is your own home an old mansion?

You could say it was the first Bargain Mansion. It wasn’t on the show, though. It’s an ’80s house that was foreclosed on by two families. The previous owner had a subprime mortgage and let it run into disrepair. There were teenagers and animals in there, and it was in bad shape with lights ripped out and trash everywhere. It was 2008, and my husband was out of town, and I just bought it! But he loves it as well. We both have a lot of fun working on house projects. It’s a family hobby.

What attracts you to downtrodden properties?

The worse it looks at the beginning, the better it is at the end. I love a remarkable transformation! It leaves it up to my imagination to make something out of nothing. Finding pieces to save is one of my signature styles. I keep that one unique and special thing but get rid of everything dated and give it modern flow and space.

Do you have a favorite house?

The Cottage on Lee Boulevard. It’s on the small side, but man, it has so much charm, a huge lot, and the layout of the kitchen is my favorite. My family likes to stay in the houses after they’re staged and enjoy a little staycation before they sell. I loved waking up and making breakfast with the sunlight pouring in the windows!

Do you prefer the design process or the hands-on work?

I love it all but mostly envisioning the flow and how I can change it to be more livable for a modern family. A lot of the houses are choppy and small. I want to save that charm but give it new purpose. My favorite part is when we move a wall and you see how much more space we gain. And I love seeing it all come to life — the details, lighting, tile, furnishings.

What have you learned from the houses on the show?

How awesome Kansas City is. I get to go to all these awesome vendors making awesome things. Bronze Age Design and Complete Home Concepts were two of my favorite field trips. I loved seeing the process behind the scenes. KC just has a lot of fantastic people.

What’s next for you?

There always lots of fun things in the mix, but I can’t talk about those yet!

Follow Day’s work on Instagram by following @growing_days or the hashtag #bargainmansions.