The hit reality television series, “Rehab Addict,” aired on HGTV and DIY Network for eight seasons from 2010 to 2018. It was not an overnight success, as at first people thought that it was about a drug addict in rehab, but once they realized it was about rehabilitating historic houses, it developed a cult following. The show was as real as it gets, having as its main star Nicole Curtis, a single mother who restored old homes to their former glory. Behind the camera, her life was fraught with controversy, as she had to deal with lawsuits over properties, custody battles with the fathers of her sons, and a restraining order filed against her by her mother.
- 1 Her story
- 2 “Rehab Addict”
- 3 Personal woes
- 4 Why Nicole left the show and why she came back
Nicole Curtis was born on 20 August 1976, in the village of Lake Orion in Michigan. She didn’t have it easy growing up, but learned to make do and deal with whatever life threw her way.
She matriculated from Lake Orion High School in 1994 and then went to several states such as Michigan, Georgia and Florida for college, switching majors from law to elementary education, and workin odd jobs from waitressing at Hooters and IHOP to cleaning houses, to pay her bills.
She was in Tampa, Florida when she bought her first house, the ‘ugliest’ 1945 ranch for $52,000, with a monthly payment of almost $600, and fixed it up herself; she was 18 at that time. Her home renovation skills were developed through the years from learning from her grandfather, to things she taught herself. The second house she bought and renovated years later was a 1928 bungalow in Detroit.
Around 2007, things weren’t great in Detroit, with people losing jobs and houses, which meant that there was little need for her services. She packed up her Ranger pickup truck, and together with her son, who’s in fourth grade at that time, and two dogs, went to Minneapolis, Minnesota.
She had set her mind on getting a real job, one that was stable and had benefits, so she applied at Target’s corporate commercial design team, but was rejected after interview. Naturally, she felt anger at having been told that she’s not a good fit for the company, but after she calmed down, she realized that they were right. If she had been accepted, her mommy duties, which she really relished, would have taken a back seat, as her time would be tied up. Aside from that, it would take her far from her goal of being a bonafide real estate investor, which was her real passion.
Nicole then put together a business plan, and was on Craigslist accepting $100-job designing a kitchen or other parts of the house, as well as selling antique furniture that she found in her neighbor’s garbage. It was not surprising at all that she’s into upcycling, as she grew up with her grandfather running his own garbage company, and her grandmother re-using what she could find. She recalled, ‘We’d drive around neighborhoods, picking up stuff people didn’t want’ and her dad would then say that they would be stripping furniture that day.
Excited to announce that Nicole Curtis the Rehab Addict from HGTV & DIY Network will be filling in for Falen KDWB tomorrow from 7-10A on The Dave Ryan in the Morning Show!
Even after she earned her real estate license in Minneapolis, she admitted, ‘I was hustling every deal I could do.’ She soon bought her first house to flip, in Minneapolis.
Subsequently, Nicole received a call from a production assistant asking her to come and do a cameo for a reality show about real estate. They showed her an old house that they had gutted, and asked her to say something nice about the kitchen design, but she couldn’t because she found it horrible. The owner of the production company, Josh Kushner, came in and they had a talk. They let her say what she wanted to say as they filmed her, and then she didn’t heard from them for six months, when they called her up to tel her that they’d sold the show, and she was naturally incredulous, as she didn’t even know that they’d made one; that was in 2010.
Right after they started working on the series, she told them straight up what she wanted.
‘I don’t want everyone crowding around me. I want to be part of the production team. I want to drive this train.’ Her crew then began restoring houses in Minneapolis. The show premiered on 14 October 2010, and they then continued being picked up season after season.
In May 2013, it was tweeted that Detroit was selling firehouses, and she took it as a sign to go back home to Detroit; the network approved her proposal of taking the show there. The firehouse restoration didn’t pan out, so she took on the restoration of a house in Campbell Street, which had burned down, with only the façade remaining, and that was not the worst of it – another burnt house was leaning on top of it. They were able to restore the house and that was what made the show rise to No.1.
Working with “King James”
Getting one of the greatest players in National Basketball Association (NBA) history to appear on her show for six episodes in season five, not only made the news but also made her the coolest mom in the world to her 16-year-old son.
Nicole received a call from the LeBron James Family Foundation asking for her help in renovating the home of 11-year-old Mariah Riley, a local resident, as part of their Wheels for Education’s Promise Project.
According to the executive director of the foundation, one of the reasons they chose “Rehab Addict” was because of Nicole’s love for her hometown, Detroit, which was similar to how James felt for Akron, Ohio. James and his family were there to help with the eight-day renovation project. Nicole said, ‘Many people see LeBron as this big superstar, but from what I know…he’s a dad, a neighbor, he’s a community member,’ and then adding, ‘it’s so cool that I can now call him a friend.’
City of Minneapolis vs Detroit Renovations LLC
Known for her work in the Minneapolis, in July 2012, a local official and preservation group showed Nicole a house that had been sitting vacant for two decades, and a few days away from being demolished.
Nicole’s company, Detroit Renovations LLC, then purchased the 1900 dilapidated house at Hillside Avenue North in April 2013 for $2, with the caveat to fix it. However, the city only finalized the paperwork in November 2013. Her company began working on the house in the spring of 2014 and made it structurally sound, but when her contractor suddenly left, and with her being eight-month pregnant at that time, work on the house was halted. By the time she could bring a Detroit contracting company to Minneapolis, her building permit had expired.
The city of Minneapolis filed a lawsuit against Detroit Renovations LLC in January 2017 for breach of contract, claiming that the company failed to complete the minimum improvements on the property within the deadline set by the city in November 2014, and as such, they wanted the property back. They also claimed she hadn’t paid the taxes and insurance on the house. She denied it, saying that they were prevented from completing the work due to ‘acts of third parties’ and the ‘exorbitant’ deposit of $200,000 that the city required when they applied for a building permit.
In April 2017, an agreement with the city council was reached, and her company was ordered to pay a deposit of $150,000 and complete the project by 15 October 2017. Detroit Renovations did it and the house was said to be sold for $395,000. Nicole had planned to include the home renovation on “Rehab Addict”, but it didn’t push through due to the controversy surrounding it.
Detroit Renovations LLC vs Detroit Land Bank Authority
In 2017, Nicole’s company bought a rundown 1908 foursquare-style house at East Grand Boulevard in Detroit for $17,000, from the late homeowner’s widow thru a “Quick Claim deed.” The following year, it was discovered that the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) had held the title to the property since 2016, after it was awarded to them as a result of a nuisance abatement proceeding.
It was said that negotiations between the two parties broke down, and when in 2020 the land bank filed a lawsuit to resolve the issue of the title, the court ruled in favor of them, and set a date for Nicole’s company to vacate the place in February 2021. The five-bedroom house was then put up for sale for $40,000, with DLBA said that Nicole’s welcome to make an offer.
In March 2021, Nicole filed a lawsuit against DLBA claiming that they took advantage of her by taking the deed to the house she had invested her money in, paying taxes, insurance, security, on repairs and maintenance amounting to $60,000. According to reports, the land bank ‘didn’t record the title for more than a year after Curtis’ renovation firm recorded its deed.’ She initially planned to invest $500,000 of her money in restoring the house, but it was put on hold when the land bank claimed ownership of the property.
The three-year-long legal dispute was over after the judge ruled in favor of Nicole in May 2021.
Custody battle over Ethan
Nicole was 20 when she gave birth to her eldest son Ethan, on Christmas Eve in 1997; the father, Steve Cimini, was not present due to work obligations according to her memoir. However, Steve at that time was allegedly incarcerated, as he was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), and then fleeing after hitting a pedestrian, who died at the scene of the accident. After being ordered to surrender, Steve pleaded no contest and was sentenced to prison for a year. When he was released, it was said that he and Nicole tried to make things work between them, but they went their separate ways in September 1998.
She filed for joint legal custody, but full physical custody of then four-year-old Ethan, as well as child support, but Steve wanted joint physical and legal custody. The legal battle was never-ending, although they later agreed for the father to have visitation rights twice a week and every other weekend.
In 2004, a judge granted Steve more parenting time, but things didn’t get better over the years, as Ethan became a troubled teen and later received treatment from a therapist. Nicole’s mom, Joan, helped her raise Ethan, as Steve moved to California.
In 2015, Nicole and her son reportedly got into a fight that ended with Ethan living with his father, and finishing high school in California. According to court documents, Ethan called his mother ‘hostile’, and she was cut off from his life.
However, in 2021, 22-year-old Ethan appeared on Nicole’s reality show, and they seemed to have mended their relationship if it was ever broken at all. Ethan said, ‘She’s worked to the bone to get what she has,’ and that he absolutely appreciated it.
Custody battle over Harper
Nicole was involved in a custody battle with her ex-boyfriend, Shane Maguire, over her 15-month-old son, Harper. The two had an on-again, off-again relationship, that ended when she became pregnant in 2014.
She kept her pregnancy a secret for a time, even filming the show making sure that the baby bump wasn’t seen on screen. ‘I was worried about being judged. It was a very difficult time for me. There I was, almost 40, having another child on my own,’ she admitted.
In 2015, Shane filed for joint custody after the paternity test showed that he’s the biological father; Nicole wanted to raise her son alone and tried to modify the agreement. They shared parenting rights, but things didn’t quite happen the way they were supposed to, and they were back in court with her not wanting Shane to have overnight custody until Harper was two. In 2016, the judge refused to alter the agreement and prohibited Nicole from taking Harper to her workplace, where he could be exposed to toxins. Nicole was also ordered to pay the boy’s father for expenses incurred for ‘missed parenting times.’
Shane accused her of not honoring the court-ordered parenting schedule, by making up excuses including breastfeeding to keep him away from his son. The issue of breastfeeding her 30-month-old son was also met with criticism from the public.
A joint custody agreement was finally reached in October 2018, which included sharing ‘equal responsibility and decision-making authority.’ As agreed upon, she created a trust fund of $250,000 for Harper that Shane could use to buy a property near Nicole’s home.
Restraining order filed against her
In June 2016, Nicole’s mother, Joan filed a restraining order against her while the custody battle over Harper was ongoing. According to court records, Joan accused her daughter of threatening to harm her because Nicole hated her. Nicole had to share the ‘rocky relationship’ she had with her parents, and how she had to beg her mom to see her grandmother before the latter died.
Her father threatened to talk to the press about her; it didn’t help that her parents would sit with Shane during the custody hearings.
The judge didn’t issue a personal protection order against Nicole, after hearing their testimonies and reading the emails exchanged between them. She said, ‘It’s just sad and I can’t heal family dynamics with a stroke of the pen,’ and added, ‘I don’t know if there is anything that can be fixed….I don’t know how you separate your lives but I am going to recommend you don’t have any contact.’
Why Nicole left the show and why she came back
“Rehab Addict” lasted for eight seasons, airing its final episode on 29 August 2018. Nicole shared her reason for leaving the show: ‘I was so driven to be a financial success, that after the show got rolling, I forgot the reasons that we were doing it.’
She realized that she needed to go back to what was really important to her, and what made her happy. It was all about ‘putting the passion back to it and living for the joy in life rather than for the dollar.’
With friends who encouraged her and assured her that they had her back, she called the network executive after a two-year hiatus and said, ‘I’m coming back,’ to which the executive said, ‘Great. Where are we gonna film?’ Before she knew it, they were back to filming in Detroit for the spin-off series, “Rehab Addict Rescue,” which premiered in January 2021.
On a side note, Nicole shared in her July 2019 Instagram story that she had a new boyfriend named Ryan Sawtelle. In an interview at that time, she revealed that she had been dating the founder and executive director of a military nonprofit called White Heart Foundation for over a year. ‘My heart is happy and having him near me brings a calm I’ve never known,’ she said.