The work of a man with local ties will be on display nationwide when the 2-hour season premiere of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is broadcast this Sunday evening.
Sam Utt-Grubb, owner of the Cary, N.C.-based Carolina Farmhouse, a business that designs and constructs farmhouse-style furniture, recently lent a hand by designing and helping to construct a wooden gate for the renovated home that will be showcased on Sunday’s episode.
Utt-Grubb’s mother and father were born and raised in Erwin. However, Utt-Grubb, a self-described “military brat,” said he grew in various places and didn’t move back to the area until his freshman year of high school. He graduated from Unicoi County High School in 1990, after which he followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the military himself.
Although he did not move back to Erwin following his service, Utt-Grubb’s father, Bruce Grubb, and brother David Grubb still live in the area.
Utt-Grubb said he learned "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" was seeking volunteers to help with the renovation of a home in the Fayetteville, N.C., area after seeing a news report. Utt-Grubb’s wife Kelly, who owns a creative media company, then made the pitch for her husband’s company to help on the show.
On "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," the homes of families facing hardships are vastly renovated, with these repairs and renovations coming through a community effort.
Utt-Grubb said he was a regular viewer of the show prior to being selected to participate.
“I’ve watched it for years,” he said. “I just think it’s very neat how everybody can come together and just help these people who have like a really bad personal problem or they’re helping people in turn. So they end up helping the helpers, so that’s pretty cool.”
Sunday’s episode will focus on a family that takes in homeless female veterans and provides them with a place to stay. Utt-Grubb said the renovated home now appears to be one house but, in fact, has two separate areas — one for the family and another for the homeless veterans who stay there.
Utt-Grubb said he was contacted by people with the show on a Tuesday night and was given until Thursday morning to complete the design and construction of a wooden gate for the home.
After his design was approved, Utt-Grubb and those helping him got to work. They worked onsite from July 19 to July 21.
“We just didn’t sleep until it was done,” he said. “There was immense pressure.”
Facing a tight deadline and summer temperatures in excess of 100 degrees with the heat index, Utt-Grubb said the crew was able to complete the construction of a 13-foot by 8-foot wooden gate that serves to cover the breezeway leading to the two buildings on the property. The work was also completed in time for the arrival of a special guest who, along with the show’s host Ty Pennington, has been photographed in front of the gate Utt-Grubb helped create.
“We made it happen,” Utt-Grubb said. “We got it together just in time for Michelle Obama to come down. That was pretty neat.”
Although he was selected to complete a project for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," Utt-Grubb is fairly new to furniture making as a profession, having started just within the past year. The former wireless engineer for Verizon said his interest in full-time furniture making peaking after he built a dining room table for his home.
“We just had so many compliments on it from people who would come by the house or people saying, ‘You really ought to sell these,’” Utt-Grubb said.
Utt-Grubb said he left Verizon in mid-April to focus on furniture making full-time. And his furniture business already appears to be doing quite well. Utt-Grubb said Carolina Farmhouse has had items sold on Craigslist and has several months of backlog orders. Utt-Grubb said he also recently delivered one of his tables to the 80th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan.
The experience with "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" has also inspired Utt-Grubb to help the needy through his business. This month, Carolina Farmhouse will begin its Farmhouse Families giveaway program in which a piece of furniture will be given to a family in need each month.
“We had been thinking about it anyway, and just being able to participate in 'Extreme Makeover' really made Sam feel like, ‘I love this stuff. We’ve got to do this in real life in a way that we can do it,’” Kelly said.