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Orange County's boring 'burbs get HGTV makeovers

Orange County's boring 'burbs get HGTV makeovers
Roth tackles a forgettable fireplace. (HGTV)

Some Orange County suburbs are known for row after row of builder-basic homes — all seemingly covered in 50 shades of beige.

Enter Jasmine Roth, a kind of designer-doctor-builder who revives personality challenged O.C. cookie-cutter homes on HGTV’s “Hidden Potential.”

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“Builders came in, bought big plots of land and built 20, 30, 100 houses at a time, a kind of churn and burn,” Roth said of the county’s 1950s to 1980s tract homes that she renovates.

“Hidden Potential” premiered in May, and the season runs into August. We reached Roth at her home in Huntington Beach.

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Your show is all about lending definition and an edge to what’s vague and generic in neighborhoods.

It’s about giving space purpose and discovering how a very specific family would like to be living in that home. No two families are the same; why should their houses be?

Fireplaces in many of these homes seem to be especially forgettable.

Yes — dated, boring builder-grade fireplaces, and homeowners are so sick of them. We resurface them with tile, stone, stucco or a nice clean layer of plaster. For mantels, I use a lot of vintage beams, old railway ties from lumberyards.

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We love the copper tops you installed on the posts of a humdrum white picket fence.

I’m from the East Coast, where copper tops are used so the snow slides off — otherwise it rots the wood. Sometimes just one little thing can make a huge difference to making a space feel like it’s your own.

"No two families are the same," says Roth. "Why should their houses be?"
"No two families are the same," says Roth. "Why should their houses be?" (HGTV)

What’s an inexpensive way to inject character into a bland home’s exterior?

I use a lot of architectural stone and veneer products. My current favorite is one that looks like board-formed concrete, which is a really popular finish but quite expensive. It’s a great option for a modern look. And most people forget landscaping. It really softens the front of a home.

Your renovations challenge homeowners’ monochromatic palettes. Is it common that people sort of beige-out when choosing decor?

Totally common. It doesn’t clash, it’s not offensive and it’s safe, right? It’s also usually what’s the least expensive at big-box stores. People just get overwhelmed and tired. They don’t want to take the risk.

When creating a notable renovation on an otherwise dull block, isn’t there a danger of the home looking a bit aberrant?

I see that all the time, and my goal is never to be that house. Each design is custom for the family, and it’s also custom for the neighborhood. I literally sit out front on the curb and take in the surroundings, the way everything flows together. Just trying to make a house look different is never the answer.

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What’s the most boring home you’ve encountered?

Oh, man, my mother-in-law’s going to kill me! She bought a 1950s cottage here in Huntington Beach. Everything was gray and beige, just zero character.

How’d you update it?

We demoed the stucco off and added lap siding, a beautiful dark gray with white trim for contrast. We added a front porch, with a light-blue ceiling like they have in the South. It gave the house a lot of architectural charm.

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