That was a problem for Surmelis (pronounced sir-meh-LEASE), host of Home and Garden Television's "Rate My Space" and, until recently, owner of a very ugly kitchen. Surmelis recalls telling dinner guests who had crowded into his kitchen: "Get out. I've decorated other rooms. Go outside."
Although Surmelis' 1920s bungalow, half a block from Echo Park Lake, was once a run-down collection of no-personality rooms, he has transformed it into an eclectic charmer during his five years of ownership.
The house has sophisticated paint treatments, old-fashioned moldings, crystal chandeliers, framed artwork, modern and antique furnishings and French doors leading to luxuriously furnished decks.
But the kitchen -- a jumble of scruffy cupboards, wood paneling, a broken stove and grimy old linoleum -- had barely been touched.
"It was hideous," he said.
And, he added, it was embarrassing: "Here I am on TV, and I have a kitchen that looks like a homeless person lived here."
Finally, late last year, Surmelis reached the "absolutely sick of it" stage and decided to bring the 200-square-foot kitchen up to par with the rest of the house, which he did in three weeks for about $20,000.
Though other homeowners struggle to choose the materials and colors for a remodel, Surmelis has honed his capacity for making design decisions during a lifetime of practice.
At age 6, he began rearranging furniture in his family's Chicago apartment and by 10 was hanging wallpaper and installing chair rails. Plus, he has worked 15 years as a professional designer, five of those hosting home design shows.
"I like a fast pace," he said.
For Surmelis, the choices were clear: He wanted to move a couple of doorways to improve flow and relocate the washer and dryer out of sight and into an alcove. He wanted gray walls, white subway tile backsplashes, white IKEA cabinets, an antique hutch, Carrara marble counters and something "green" -- i.e. ecologically sensitive -- for the floor.
The one trouble spot was finding the right ceiling lights. The goal was to match the same vintage-yet-modern look he pulled off with his cabinets, which have Shaker-style doors, bubbly glass insets and modern European-style pulls.
Surmelis searched lighting stores, where he said he hated 90% of what he saw, and antique shops, where he found single lamps he liked but no matching pairs. He even considered having lamps fabricated, which would have been exorbitantly expensive.
He finally found just the right lamps -- each the size and shape of a short hatbox with an illuminated bottom and suspended about a foot from the ceiling -- at Liz's Antique Hardware on South La Brea Avenue.
Except for the overhead lights, at $400 each, most of the selections were budget-minded. All the IKEA items -- cabinets, garages for appliances, sink, faucet and stove hood -- cost a total of $4,100. The subway tiles cost $350, plus $600 for installation. The marble slabs for the counters were $850, plus $1,500 for fabrication and installation.
There was one splurge: a red Bertazzoni range that caught Surmelis' eye in a sea of stainless steel at an appliance store.
"The clouds parted," he said, when he saw the stove, which was painted at a Ferrari factory. "That's it."
It took a crew two days to gut the kitchen of flooring, paneling, drywall, cabinets, ceiling, plumbing and electrical. At the time, Surmelis figured on a two-month time frame for the entire project.