As a designer on the popular ABC hit show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Tracy Hutson has witnessed incredible transformations, not only in the homes she helps build, but the lives she helps change. When she is not designing under the gun and building new homes in a week on location, Tracy is at home in Los Angeles, constantly working on her designs and spending time with her actor husband, Barry Watson and their two young boys, Oliver and Felix. Her book, Feathering the Nest, recently hit stores across the country and is a beautiful and resource-laden guide to decorating kids rooms in an eco-friendly way. Tracy Hutson sat down with our contributor, Jeana Lee Tahnk to discuss her design philosophy, how the show has impacted her life and how all she wants on her day off is a pedicure.
Congratulations on your recent book release, Feathering the Nest. It’s beautiful and has some really fantastic advice for creating environmentally-sound living spaces for children. Why are you drawn to decorating children’s rooms and nurseries? Did that progress since you became a mom yourself or have you always had that in you?
Thank you! I really wanted to create the book because I noticed a lack of good resources out there for smart, eco-friendly design. When I would go to the decorating section at bookstores, I definitely noticed a void. And if there were any books, they were all outdated. When I was pregnant with Felix and taking some time off from the show, I decided to just write a proposal and see what happens. Plus, a lot of people around me were expecting so I just wanted to get all the information in one place to create a go-to book. Eco-friendly design is the smartest direction for me personally, and I hope it is so for others as well. It really took a life of its own and turned into a beautiful book that is packed full of information. I’m really proud of it.
What is your shooting schedule for Extreme Makeover? How do you manage the travel and do you ever take your kids with you?
Being on the show is such a passion of mine and I’m looking forward to a new season. They have always been wonderful working with me, so this season I’ll be shooting about 4-6 episodes. Since each episode requires me to be away for about 9-10 days with travel, I used to take the boys with me. But now that Oliver is in preschool three days a week, we’re going to try something different this year. The new plan is to leave them both at home with daddy. It’s gut-wrenching and it kills me, but they’re just better together. The boys are so close that when I would take Felix, Oliver would be like, ‘why did mommy leave and why did she take my brother?’ I’m not sure how this new plan will be, but we’ll see how it goes! I know I’m going to be counting down each day when I’m on the road and taking pictures of myself to send back home, but I think this will just be more comfortable for them.
It must be so fulfilling to be part of such a compassionate and generous show. Whenever I watch, I always get emotional when they “MOVE THAT BUS” and see the families’ sheer exaltation and their new beginnings. Is it hard to keep your composure when you see how much you’ve changed these families’ lives, especially the children’s?
Yes, there’s nothing like it. It’s amazing. First of all, what you see on the show is what is really happening. We build these houses in one week and when the family comes home and we’ve all been working so hard, it’s just overwhelming. They tend to cut to me all the time because I’m always the one crying! Providing this kind of joy and hope is addicting. We just want to keep doing it again and again.
You’ve helped so many families on Extreme Makeover and witnessed some very difficult living situations. How do these experiences impact you as a mom?
Gosh, I’m sure you can relate just having little ones yourself. I squeeze them a little tighter, give them a million kisses every day. On the last episode, we worked with a family where the mother lost two kids, one to domestic abuse and the other to drunk driving. They had me go to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) to spread the word and just talk to families who were in the same situation. I was a mess, sobbing the whole time and it’s hard not to be empathetic and put yourself in the same position. Seeing what I’ve seen on the show makes me certainly realize how fragile life is. But being a mom has heightened that a million times over. It really makes me appreciate life.