Many years before DIY Network, Home and Garden Television or Bravo began tackling home improvement television, Bob Vila laid the groundwork with his hugely popular show, “This Old House.” Vila’s personable, folksy style educated homeowners about the way to redo a bedroom, tile a kitchen backsplash or handle a leaking toilet. U.S. homeowners were empowered and the do-it-yourself mentality took off like a shot.
Some thirty years later, Vila is still one of the most recognizable experts in home improvement. His website BobVila.com is filled with advice, forums and helpful videos about tackling home projects. Today, Zillow is excited to announce that Vila will also be the newest contributor to Zillow Blog.
Zillow: How did you get started in the home improvement field?
Bob Vila: I have a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and an associates degree in architecture. My love of architecture and building was my passion in life, but I found myself being counseled into the school of journalism. After graduating I found myself going through two years of the Peace Corps and two years of traveling. I came back to architecture when I moved to Boston and joined the Boston Center of Architecture. Then the career joining architecture and television can only be described as serendipity.
Zillow: You were a big pioneer of DIY and home improvement. Do you think there’s a bigger embrace of do-it-yourself and home improvement today?
Bob Vila: Without a doubt, there’s been a steady increase, especially if you look at the bottom line of the home improvement industry. It’s not just because of circumstance and economic needs, but a real kind of affinity in and delight in home improvement and home renovation. It’s part of the American pioneer spirit and it will never go away.
Zillow: What are the basic home improvement skills that every home owner should have?
Bob Vila: Homeowners should be able to troubleshoot the mechanics of the house. They should be able to determine why the coffee maker isn’t turning on this morning and what is a circuit breaker and whether there’s something wrong with it. They don’t have to be a master craftsman that can create a paneled library, but they should be aware of how a house works, how to decipher its problems and figure out solutions.
Zillow: What’s your favorite home improvement that you’ve done?
Bob Vila: It would be in the area of carpentry as opposed to plastering or painting or plumbing. Solving storage solutions is always challenging and fun.
Zillow: And of course, we have to mention architecture. What’s your favorite style of home?
Bob Vila: I have had the good fortune of living in several places. I grew up in Florida and lived in a home that was built in 1944 and much of the design sensibilities are mid-century. I have a home in Massachusetts that is actually two homes, and the one I live in is a 10-year-old Cape Cod-style house and the one my kids come stay in is a 200-year-old antique. I’ve lived in Victorians and one of them was subject to hours of programming. But I’m partial to a Cape Cod-style house.