Architecture

Nicole Curtis is Hooked on Detroit

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Nicole Curtis is enthusiastic about Detroit

Refreshed after two years of Haitus, Rehab Addict Nicole Curtis is back – and she’s on a mission to save classic Motown houses from the trend stars

Nicole Curtis “I shine the brightest when I’m back in Detroit because people just let me be,” says Nicole Curtis. // Photo by Nicole Curtis from Sara Demick

T.he rise of Nicole Curtis From a working single mom in Michigan to a good HGTV star with a loyal do-it-yourself conservationist following is well documented. That doesn’t mean 44-year-old Curtis was famous.

“When you’re suddenly recognized, that’s the strangest thing,” she told me during a radio interview in 2019. “They used to just yell, ‘Rehab girls! Rehab girl! ‘”

That’s why she introduced herself to HGTV at the start of her long-running Rehab Addict show, which rebooted in January as Rehab Addict Rescue, featuring eight new hour-long episodes of Curtis helping Detroit homeowners with their dazzling home improvement projects. Rehab Addict’s two-year hiatus gave Curtis time to adjust to her breakneck schedule.

On a recent phone call from her Los Angeles home with helicopters whirring in the background (“Detroit we have sirens; LA’s only helicopters,” she quipped) Curtis’ energy was infectious as she described her hectic schedule from rehabilitation for Homes in Detroit, with an emphasis on motherhood, and her decision to step back and recalibrate herself before introducing herself to the world again.

Hour Detroit: Can you transfer me to the moment you decided to get going again and produce episodes of? Rehabilitation Addict Rescue?

Nicole Curtis: My life really started with this little single mom house cleaner in Detroit, who moved to Minneapolis, worked on all these old houses, and created this show that shot up – and then I had 10 years of non-stop, absolutely insane madness. I’ve finally reached a point where I was too crazy. The reason I started all of these businesses and started the show was because of this good life. And it just became clear to me that I was walking around like crazy and not happy right now. So I just stopped everything just to get back to a private, quiet life. And I needed it. Being at home and being a mom during those years was a luxury I was able to give myself through the show – and that was most important to me. To catch our breath because we haven’t stopped shooting [Rehab Addict] for 10 years in a row.

It feels like a lot of people reevaluated their lives – and ultimately their homes – during the pandemic, but you have a head start.

Oh yeah. It’s funny that I had to make all of these pre-pandemic revelations, and by the time it hit I was already in that relaxed, sedentary mood. I said, “Sweet, the whole world can stop now and I’m not losing a game because everyone has to stop.” That was really when I thought this was the time to come back because I could do it at my own pace. Most importantly, I wasn’t going to just come back on any terms; The way we wanted was a lot of negotiation.

And even with the cameras off, you never really stopped renovating homes, even here in Detroit.

Oh yeah. I shine the brightest when I’m home in Detroit because people just let me be. It’s a kind of peace. I control my show, but then you have this whole other side that people don’t see, which is a network that hires you. You are buying a product. To have this dictation in my life for so many years is a lot. Finally being able to be back in an old house – we were still filming and these episodes will come out one day – but it was just refreshing. It was a nice break. We have just completed another really amazing restoration [the Detroit neighborhood of] Island view.

Many people rehabilitated themselves at home during the pandemic – and some failed terribly. What advice would you give to someone out there who may have bitten off more than they can chew?

I’m really scared right now. I’m a lifelong Detroit resident so I’ve seen the architecture we’ve had for years that only sits there because nobody had the money to do anything with it. And the worst thing for me as a conservationist, restorer, and someone who’s invested in Detroit for life – not just for spontaneous investments because it’s trending – is that we’re losing this architectural detail faster than ever before. Because people have the means and they don’t know what they’re doing. You are just coring all of that architecture and it’s horrible to see. I hope with this show that we can stop some of these disasters. Look, you’ve just bought a really stunning Detroit house that has the original tiles and the original bathroom and all of those original features. Don’t listen to the trends. Follow us because we know what it takes to build these homes and we can show you the right way.

Episodes of Rehab Addict and the first season of Rehab Addict Rescue are available on HGTV and can be streamed through Discovery +.

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Dusty Kennedy