This Mother-Daughter Duo Bonds Over Building

The Herald-Times
Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.

WWR Article Summary (tl:dr) Mina Starsiak Hawk, the co-star of HGTV’s “Good Bones” (with her mother Karen) said her first foray into renovation came as a student at Indiana University.


The star of HGTV’s hit show “Good Bones” told a secret during Wednesday’s 10th annual Cook Institute for Entrepreneurship luncheon.

“I’m going to ruin all your lives now,” Mina Starsiak Hawk said. “TV is not real.”

But Hawk vowed the Indianapolis-based home renovation show she does with her mom, Karen Laine, would be as authentic as possible. Keeping in that spirit, the presentation Hawk gave to a crowd of about 280 people at Ivy Tech Community College’s Bloomington campus was anything but scripted.

The fundraising event for the Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship was supposed to feature Hawk and Laine. But Laine wasn’t there because her husband surprised her with a cruise just before the event. Laine picked the vacation and Hawk recruited her brother, Tad Starsiak, to join her on stage. Hawk also picked up her 15-month-old son, Jack, at one point during the talk.

Starsiak, who performs much of the demolition work on the show, admitted he isn’t much of an entrepreneur. He simply latched on to the coattails of his sister.

Hawk said her first foray into renovation came as a student at Indiana University. The house she was renting had a wall she wanted to tear down because it was blocking the view of beautiful staircase. Her landlord, who was in the audience Wednesday, let her do it.

After graduation, she bought her own house in Indianapolis and started renovating. Starsiak was in middle school at the time and one of his first jobs was to clean out the crawl space. It was dirty, hot and unpleasant work.

“He was the dead-animal fetcher out of the crawl space,” Hawk said.

The partnership continued as Hawk’s side gig grew into a business, Two Chicks and a Hammer Inc. Then one day, a talent scout from High Noon Entertainment called. The scout started asking personal questions about Hawk’s business and how she made money.

“I thought she was, I don’t know, trying to steal my identity,” Hawk said.

A little research and a phone call to her mom convinced her the offer was legitimate.

Working on her own show is how Hawk learned just how staged even so-called reality television can be. At one point, a cameraman from “House Hunters International” subbed in for “Good Bones.” The cameraman explained how some episodes of the home-hunting show were filmed.

“We’ve actually had ex-pats that didn’t want to be abroad anymore and were moving back to the States, and we just filmed the show backward,” she said, quoting the story she was told.

But Hawk established early on that it wouldn’t be necessary to fake the drama on her show. With television executives in town to view houses they could choose from for the pilot episode, Hawk got a call from a contractor. Doors for a house they were closing on in two weeks had arrived early and they were the wrong style.

Hawk used this as an opportunity to prove her point to the executives. She brought the executives with her to the house to see if the doors could still be used. When they arrived, a man was standing on the one-story roof painting trim. Then, he fell off.

“And he didn’t just fall off onto the ground, like 8 feet below,” she said. “We had dug a giant hole for access to the basement, so he fell the normal 8 feet and then another 6.”

The producers loved it, but the pilot of “Good Bones” wasn’t quite as authentic as subsequent episodes.

Hawk and company had 11 filming days over a one-month period to renovate a house, something that normally took six months. She realized later she could push back on the timelines, but for the first episode, she was eager to please.

The network no longer airs that pilot episode, and for good reason, she said. The house did not function. Toilets didn’t have running water. The marble had broken on a double vanity sink. Without time to fix it, they took a piece of cardboard with marble contact paper and set it on top.

“We didn’t cut out sink holes, we didn’t, like, set fake faucets on it, it was just a piece of cardboard,” she said. “And no one noticed.”

But they passed the test. They’re now working on the fifth season of the show and there is talk of a spin-off that will also be set in Indianapolis. If it gets the green light, the new show will be based on helping millennials in the home-buying process.

“It’s been a wild ride,” Hawk said.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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