Each week, Zillow Blog will talk to the eliminated contestant of NBC’s new home renovation show, American Dream Builders, hosted by celebrity designer Nate Berkus. Zillow is proud to be partnered with the show in its debut season.


In the final episode of “American Dream Builders,” the judges eliminated Chicago builder Jay Riordan. He is owner and president of Riordan Signature Homes, a family-owned and operated business founded by his father. His company prides itself on melding old-world craftsmanship with new-world innovation.

Zillow: Why did you enter the competition?
Riordan: I’ve been very successful in Chicago, so what drew me into it was the chance to see who else from across the United States of America was doing what I was doing and who was doing a better job than I was. I had a huge learning curve on the show. I like to say I got my MBA in design in 10 weeks. I even learned how to do things like make pillows — I’d never made a pillow. I actually learned to sew on the show.

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“I don’t see Jay the builder. I see Jay the designer — a triple threat,” judge Eddie George said.

Zillow: What makes your style unique compared to the other designers?
Riordan: I think what made my design style unique from the others was scale. When most designers walk into a room they see the trim is already there and it’s not something they think about. For me, I can’t live with trim that’s not properly scaled, so I’d go it and correct it and then layer on top of it. That was a lay-up for me.

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“This isn’t just restored, it’s pristine,” judge Nate Berkus said.

Zillow: What was the greatest challenge about being on American Dream Builders?
Riordan: I have 13-year-old triplets and 9-year-old twins — all boys — and I’d never been away from them for so long. I missed the triplets’ 13th birthday. I was gone for four months doing the show, and I’m a real family guy, so that was much harder on me than I ever imagined.

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“It’s beachy, it’s sophisticated. It’s also very comfortable,” said judge Monica Pedersen.

Zillow: What was your favorite part of being on the show?
Riordan: I loved meeting all the eclectic designers, decorators and production people, and I really enjoyed having the experience of being on a TV show. It was like going off to college, where you get a chance to become friends with people you might otherwise never meet.

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“We have ourselves a designer,” Pedersen said.

Zillow: What are your plans going forward?
Riordan: I have a very successful business, I’m working on 12 custom homes right now and we have another 8 or 9 on the schedule for this year. We’re a mid-size custom home company and I really don’t want to be gigantic. I want to keep producing quality homes, but I also want to get to go golfing a couple times a week and hang out with my family. I know a lot of the contestants hope this launches them to the next level, but I’m not that guy. I don’t have a publicist; heck, I just got on Twitter. I just want to keep doing what I do and doing it as well as I can.

Did you prefer Riordan’s beach house? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!


  • Mark Stephens

    Jay, we are a family with two boys and there is no way Lukas won the competition. That beach house with black paint is a public eye sore and will have to be repainted just for the HOA let alone resale value. That table in Lukas’s house looked like a torture rack from the Spanish Inquisition. I don’t know what NBC is thinking but nobody in their right mind wants that black beach house..

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