Tamara Day gained unexpected popularity in the renovation home industry through the reality television series called “Bargain Mansions.” The TV host, designer, and businesswoman went on to transform dilapidated historical mansions in Kansas City back to their former glory, while giving them a modern twist that delighted home restoration enthusiasts. It premiered in 2017, and the restoration expert continued to boldly take on projects that were too big and/or difficult for others to contemplate. It originally aired on DIY Network, a spin-off from HGTV network, but for some unexplained reasons, the show stopped airing new episodes after three seasons. At that time, viewers were left to speculate if the TV show would be back for the fourth season.

Meet Tamara Day, the early years

Her interest in fixing homes came early on in life, but never thought she would end up making it a successful career with a TV show to boot.

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Her childhood and early exposure to home renovation

Tamara Schraeder Day was born on 20 August 1976, in Kansas City, Missouri, and was raised on a farm in Salina in the Midwestern plains, by her parents Ward and Trish Schraeder. It was her father who was responsible for exposing her and her siblings to home construction and renovation. Ward had been a jack of all trades as he dabbled in several businesses in the last three decades, including medical development management, banking, an imaging center, and a winery. When Tamara was growing up, her father went on to take his first handyman job, which was to help her grandfather renovate the family’s ranch home in Kansas City. When the project was nearing its completion, they ran out of money, so her father called everyone in the family to take over the project and finish what the professional crew started. During weekends, the family would go down to the ranch home and each member was assigned a task. Eventually, Ward realized that he loved fixing homes, and took on more projects. Later on, he fully went into the construction business and had commercial projects. It was then that Tamara developed a fascination for rebuilding structures, and making them look great again.

Tamara and her husband bought, renovated, and sold old houses

Renovating spaces or homes started as a hobby and a necessity, but Tamara truly never thought that it would turn out to be her niche. When she was studying her Communications degree at Kansas State University, she transformed her dorm room into something stylish yet cozy. When she married a financial planner named Bill, they went on to purchase a home, which turned out to be her first fixer-upper. She recalled, ‘It was in such bad shape we had to wear shoes to bed while we were redoing it.’ After renovating it, they found people who loved it enough to buy it from them, and used the proceeds of the sale to purchase more homes to fix and flip.

Her first huge renovation project that started it all

While they made some profits in the small projects that they tackled, the first big project that started her path toward her a successful company and TV show was when she had her third child, and Tamara and her husband looked for a bigger home for a growing family. It was back in 2008 when they bought a 5,000-square-foot property that was foreclosed, located in Leawood, Johnson County, Kansas. Other people who didn’t have her creative vision and her husband’s financial wizardry wouldn’t touch it, let alone purchased it not only because it was quite huge but it was also in wretched condition, filled with garbage along with broken appliances and furniture left by the previous owners. There were even vandals living in it, but they weren’t daunted since they knew it would turn out great after a makeover. The renovation process was going well until America was hit with a recession.

Due to financial constraints, Tamara took the role of the general contractor, and went to work using her hands instead of complaining, even if initially, she wanted to give up and just sell the property. Her husband encouraged her saying ‘We’re going to push through.’ She would go around estate yard sales to buy furniture during weekends, along with her fourth baby in tow. She would fix the furniture and then when some people complimented her work, she then bought more furniture to refurbish and sell. Eventually, they would hold a furniture sale twice a month, which attracted a total of 2,000 visitors. When their house was finished, it was featured in local lifestyle magazines, and that started her path to better things ahead.

Tamara Day, CEO of Growing Days Design

After successfully renovating her own home, Tamara was inspired to do more, and with the help of a supportive husband and father, it led to her establishing a design business.

From a personal DIY project to a full-blown renovation designing business

Tamara Day fell in love with the whole process of buying old houses and turning them into beautiful homes. She founded a design company called Growing Days Design, and had a team of local designers based in Kansas that offered in-person full-service interior design. Most people thought that her company also offered general contracting services, but it was limited to designing the interior. If the client wanted recommendations, they would give names of trusted contractors. They offered to work closely with the client’s chosen general contractor until the completion of the project.

Established e-design services for people outside of Kansas

For people who lived outside of Kansas, her company offered E-design services with four packages to choose from, with a price tag as low as $200 up to $4000 depending on the scope of the design. Each tier offered something different so a client wouldn’t have to pay so much when all that was needed was a simple design of a room instead of the whole house. Tamara’s team prepared a set of questionnaires so it would be easier for the clients to describe what they wanted from the company. Growing Days Design also provided services that were focused on seasonal decoration, with additional services of putting links on where to shop for the materials needed. If a client wanted to access the company’s exclusive designer accounts when shopping for materials, they could avail of the Complementary Ordering Services through their site, but it had a minimum of $5,000 and the service only included ordering, not delivering the products.

Tamara Day, the host of “Bargain Mansions”

With the kind of talent and work ethic Tamara had displayed over the years since her first renovation project, it wasn’t a surprise that television production companies came knocking at her door.

A reluctant reality TV star

When Tamara was approached by a production company called Conveyor Media about the latter’s interest in producing a TV show for HGTV about her interior designing and customized furnishing business, she was quite reluctant at first. She initially thought that filming a show was a waste of her time, since they hadn’t heard something like that ever happening in Kansas. ‘I felt the odds of this not being a scam is low.’ Later on, she was convinced that it was real and the company meant serious business, and filmed the first season, which was aired via DIY Network. They gained a fan base and the network kept on ordering for more seasons. It was interesting to note that five years before she was approached by Conveyor Media, her brother, who was also into home renovation, was the first one to be approached by a TV executive when he was buying materials from a hardware store, to film a TV show but nothing came of it because her brother refused the offer. Tamara said that it was probably her fate to be the one to enter the TV industry.

The premise of the show

With the abundance of home renovation reality shows on TV, Tamara knew that they had to offer something different to viewers. It was the reason why Conveyor Media chose her to be the focal point of the show, as the series was aptly named, “Bargain Mansions,” since it focused on renovating not just any regular home but dilapidated mansions, and turning them into something fabulous without spending too much, while retaining their historical features as well as their unique architectural elements. It wasn’t a surprise that the show gained popularity after the first season was aired; people were curious about what kind of mansions would be renovated. Tamara along with her father and their crew started with a French chateau for the premiere episode, with Tamara ensuring that she preserved the vintage French vibe in the house while trying to stay within budget.

Enjoyed high ratings in 2020

By the third season, Discovery Channel, which owned HGTV and DIY networks, announced that “Bargain Mansions” achieved its highest ratings in 2020, attracting more than 16 million viewers, and was included in the top 10 cable TV shows on its Tuesday timeslot. The HGTV President back then even complimented Tamara’s growing influence, saying that she’d gained a legion of fans, so they started to feature her in other shows on the network. Even in the streaming platform, the third season was in the top four in the most viewed series. The popularity of the show was evident on the network’s official social media pages, which gained close to two million views on the clips about the show that were posted on them.

Working with her father

One of the reasons why “Bargain Mansions” was quite interesting was because Tamara was often joined by her father, who served as her mentor in renovating homes. He wasn’t originally part of the cast when the show was being conceptualized, but when Ward came to visit her during the filming of an episode, the producers liked his charming personality so he was included in the show; Tamara was extremely delighted. She said that there were many neglected mansions that could be bought for a bargain in Kansas, and her father had always been politely honest with his opinions about her designs, which she highly appreciated. It was funny that each time Tamara would show her design plans, Ward would usually start the conversation with, ‘My mother always used to say to me that if you don’t have something nice to say, it would be best not to say anything at all.’ With that, she already knew that her father wasn’t feeling some of the changes she was about to execute. However, her father would also tell her that he’d keep an open mind about it. It was a great way to bond with him as they shared the same interest. She said that with some help from Ward, she could turn those old beauties into amazing upgraded masterpieces that anyone would love to call home.

Tamara Day, CEO of Growing Days Home

With the popularity of “Bargain Mansions,” Tamara explored the idea of expanding her business, and instead of just focusing on the design aspect of the homes, she turned the opportunity given to her by creating a lifestyle brand. In January 2020, she opened a retail store called Growing Days Home located at the Prairie Village in the same city where she lived. She said that most people thought that her businesses were a one-woman show, but it wouldn’t have been possible if she wasn’t supported by her family, friends, and production crew. The retail store offered home décor mostly used in the renovation projects featured in the show. Customers could easily browse over Tamara’s collection as they were categorized by room in the house, or they could also just simply shop by episode, and could make their purchase through the online store.

The show was busted for failing to comply with work practice standards by EPA

In 2020, the US Environmental Protection Agency accused some home renovation shows including “Magnolia Homes,” “Rehab Addict,” and “Bargain Mansions” of some violations while renovating homes. The stars of the shows were cited for improper handling and disposal of lead-based paint, and Tamara was fined for the violation, and there were four other contractors from Kansas City who appeared with her that were fined as well; the defense of just making an appearance in the TV show didn’t excuse anyone from the violation. Tamara Day settled it out with the government agency by following the required steps to ensure that her business and TV show complied with the lead-based paint regulations. The show promised to help educate the viewers about the hazards of using this type of paint, and was the reason why in September 2020, she released a video on her website entitled “Lead Paint Safety with Tamara Day.” People were warned that exposure to this type of paint was quite dangerous, most especially to kids and those who were pregnant. It could lead to damaging the development of the brain and the nervous system of the body.

“Bargain Mansions” latest season

Fans of “Bargain Mansions” were confused about what happened to the show after they aired the third season in 2020. Some of them thought that it was canceled, but most of them believed it had stopped airing new episodes when the Covid-19 pandemic started. It wasn’t logical that it was canceled because the reality TV show was even praised for generating high TV ratings during the third season. Later on, there were reports that DIY Network was going to be rebranded to Magnolia Network, which was co-owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines, the powerful renovation duo from “Fixer Upper” fame, and Warner Bros. It was also reported that not all DIY network programs would be brought over to Magnolia Network. The launching of the new network was delayed, and so it probably affected the programming schedule.

Tamara Day was grateful that “Bargain Mansions” was included in the handful of TV shows that were given the green light to film a new season for Magnolia Network; the new episodes could also be streamed on Discovery Plus. The fourth season started airing in August 2022, and she said that about 20 houses were featured. The main difference was that they worked with homeowners who wanted to renovate their homes instead, of working on those homes that were currently on the market. Tamara was accompanied by her father just as in the past seasons. When interacting with the owners, it allowed her to give recommendations on how to upgrade their homes or how to make them look better, as well as tips if they wanted to sell their newly renovated homes.

For some other people, mixing business with family could be difficult, but Tamara said that in her case, her father involved her early on in the renovation process and it paid off quite well, as it became her foundation in the career that she chose to pursue. Today, she continues with the tradition, and her children along with their cousins have been involved with her projects. It was a great way to teach them the value of hard work when they were helping her tear down wallpapers, or removing something in a room, and the feeling of accomplishment after they saw the finished product. This unique experience she had with her family was also what she wanted the viewers of “Bargain Mansions” to learn from.

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