Printed from the Charlotte Observer -
Posted: Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008

Tool woman

By Mark Price
Published in: CCI test Ent

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In the family album is a picture of Kristin Wells, age 3, on a ladder and wearing a tool belt. Her path to a job on HGTV was being crafted even then, following in her dad's footsteps.

“He was a do-it-yourselfer. Anything that went wrong around the house he would fix. I'm cursed with same thing – even if I have the money to pay somebody, I'll try to do it myself. And sometimes it's a curse.”

Anyone who tackles intimidating household projects knows what she means, but in Wells' case, the curse has a magic side. The Charlotte resident is an up-and-coming celebrity in television's home-improvement world.

Her latest project is for HGTV, a series called “Smart Fix” that is expected to debut in January.

With a budget of $3,000, Wells transforms a room in a house through design, decorating and construction. All 13 episodes of the first season were shot in Charlotte, where homeowners offered rooms in need of magic.

Mindful of some wretched makeovers she's seen, Wells is careful to make sure her work appeals to the homeowners. One woman wept with joy when she got to see what Wells had done with her basement. “She told me, ‘I always wondered why people cry on these shows. I'm overwhelmed,'” Wells recalls.

A native of Greensboro, Wells, 38, is largely self-educated in makeovers. She once worked a year for free with a contractor to learn the business. She started out hauling debris to the trash bin and worked her way up through water heaters, framing and drywall.

She can pretty much do it all now – front steps to roof shingles – but she leaves plumbing and wiring to the pros.

Her TV career started while she was working for a Charlotte design company. She got a call – she was standing, appropriately enough, in the parking lot of Home Depot when it came in – asking if she'd like to audition for a home-improvement show for the now-defunct Turner South network. She got the part in “Homemakers,” which featured an all-woman cast and transformed a dilapidated 1905 home in NoDa.

About two years ago, HGTV called and asked if she'd be interested in a new show. She was, though her first pregnancy delayed the schedule. Her daughter is now 1, and seems to be following in mom's footsteps.

“She's already got a tool belt,” Wells says. “She's going to have the next show on HGTV.”

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