Alison Victoria is used to helping others realize an ideal vision for their properties on Windy City Rehab. Now viewers will get to see the HGTV designer and home renovation expert tackle what’s billed as her riskiest, biggest, and most personal project yet on Windy City Rehab: Alison’s Dream Home.
The three-episode special sees the proud Chi-town girl transform her 6,250 square-foot warehouse built in 1930 into a hybrid workplace-residence with all the amenities. Victoria’s slice of heaven includes a custom chef’s kitchen, great room and primary suite, gym, theater, all-season courtyard, and spa. This all sounds good on paper until the pricey estimates come in and work begins.
Here Victoria opens up about the sacrifices and hardships faced to reach the finish line.
How did Alison’s Dream Home come about?
Alison Victoria: I was doing this project regardless. It was a no-brainer. My job is to keep HGTV informed on whatever I have going on, even if it’s a big client job, to see what content is there. This just made sense for us to make part of the series. I love this spinoff and that it ties back to Windy City Rehab. It was truly a dream when I pitched it as Alison’s Dream Home. They wanted to name it something different and I said, ‘No, this is exactly what it should be named.’ Now that I live in it now, I know it’s the perfect name because it’s the dreamiest, sexiest place I ever designed.
Did filming this feel any different?
Windy City as a whole is a docuseries on me, my life, and everything going on. To an extent. I’m very private about some things, but for the most part, people get to see everything I go through. I don’t hide any of it because I think there are so many shows that do that for you. The smoke and mirrors don’t work for me. It’s the same style with Alison’s Dream Home. It’s just more focused on me completely versus a different home I’m not going to live in or a client I’m working with. It’s shot the same with the same crew. We pride ourselves on being a small crew. We don’t have lighting or hair and makeup. Just shooting it as it happens. Nothing is staged. This is as real as reality gets just like my other show.
One of the challenges you face is being able to finance this project. People might find that surprising. What do you say to them?
Here’s the deal. I just moved in two weeks ago, and I still owe two of my best friends $400,000. So there is no rich chick here. It’s someone who bought a building and got really lucky, at a very inexpensive amount six years ago. When I had this dream, I bought this place with $350,000 and had the potential of turning it into something great. In my head, I thought it would be easy and I could get a loan people will see. That the banks will see what I see. Through that process, the money I did have saved, which was $500,000, wasn’t enough anymore.
I couldn’t just stop the project because what the hell was I going to do? The banks were like, “Sorry we’re not giving you a loan.” Look at where we are with the economy. We have a property that doesn’t compare to anything else, so how do we appraise something like this to give some cash back loan? I’m still struggling. I’m still trying to get a bank to come to see it and understand so I can pay my friends back. You don’t want to owe your friends hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially when they helped you get through a really tough time.
This airs after an emotionally-charged season 4 of Windy City Rehab where you’re coming out of a dark place in your life.
I think for me the viewers got to see me go through the hardest thing in my life. It was something I contemplated if I wanted to share or how open I wanted to be. The minute I let everyone in is when I felt the love and support from the people around me…People do care about me. That’s a huge deal for me. It’s a wow moment that people are with me and have gone through this with me. It is a big departure. I worked my ass off to get through all of that. I’m now on the other side of it. I saved up this money after going through so many lawsuits, spending millions of dollars…To show people I have integrity, fight the good fight, and that I‘m not going anywhere, and I will make this right…I have worked so hard to have all of this. As I sit in the dream home the last two days and take it all in and pinch myself and go, you’re exactly where you want to be.
On top of Windy City Rehab, you’ve been on other shows including Rock the Block and Battle on the Beach. Do you like being a judge or a competitor more?
I like them all. They are both so challenging. It gets boring when you do the same thing over and over. I like the rollercoaster of my life because the other way seems so blah. I love being a mentor a j judge, part of the challenge, and a designer I love taking risks. I love reaping the benefits and sharing those things with friends and family and experiencing life in fun ways and balancing work and life. When you love what you do, it’s really simple. You don’t look at it anyway. Every day’s an adventure. You just get to choose what that adventure will be.
Speaking of adventure, you were part of the Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge. You and your buddy Ty Pennington work on a disco-themed 1970s den for Ken. How was that?
Other than the Dream Home and my show Windy City Rehab, it was the best show I worked on. The greatest experience and eye-opening. I didn’t realize jumping into it that Barbie was actually my first client when I was really little. Designing my first Barbie dream house with all the furniture and moving things around space planning. It’s nuts to not realize that until you are 42 years old and getting to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s crazy. To build my dream house at the same time as building the Barbie dream house was really something. I can’t even believe it. I was going back and forth from Chicago to California to build these two dream houses.
What can you tease about Windy City Rehab: Alison’s Dream House?
People are going to watch how difficult this project was. This is a very old building. It has massive and almost crippling roadblocks. Things that would stop people in their tracks, and it almost did. This almost didn’t get compelled. People are going to be on the ride with me. I’m in the house. I’m going to keep working my ass off. I’m going to pay back my friends. This year I’ve done nine different shows. I’m working so hard. I’m on a plane four days a week. I’m busting my ass doing what I love to make money to afford things like this.
Windy City Rehab: Alison’s Dream Home premiere, July 25, 9/8c, HGTV