Behind-the-Scenes of Building the HGTV Dream Home 2021

Many Aquidneck Island residents played supporting roles in this year’s property sweepstakes

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It was just over a year ago when Kathryn Farrington, vice president of marketing at Discover Newport, received a call from HGTV, the ever-popular home improvement and real estate channel, requesting video footage of the area. Turns out, Newport – or Portsmouth, actually – was selected as the site of the HGTV Dream Home 2021. A sweeping montage was soon created, broadcasted, and posted online to whet their viewers’ appetite for not only the sweepstakes but the beautiful City by the Sea. From December 28, 2020 through February 17, 2021, eligible fans could enter for a chance to win twice per day at HGTV.com. 

Farrington points out that along with national exposure there are all kinds of economic ripple effects from the production. “Think of the purchase of real estate, commissions, the town taxes, building permits, architects, excavators, plumbers, carpenters, painters, etc. This provided good jobs over several months for lots of folks. Anything that can benefit our local economy is a win-win,” she says. “To pull off what they did during a pandemic is amazing.” 

Along with national sponsors, HGTV, or Discovery, Inc. its parent company, utilized local resources – including the builder. Via referral from Tracie Hall, Keller Williams, JPS Construction & Design, Middletown. Says JPS owner Jamie Stebenne, “This project required a 100 percent commitment due to the complexity and relatively short time frame we had to meet the HGTV production deadlines and onsite filming schedule. We designed and built the home in about seven months time, with excavation beginning on the very day Discovery inked the purchase of the land.” He continues, “Any project of this size helps to keep our staff of roughly 50 employees busy and we employ dozens of local subcontractors to help us deliver the quality, fit, and finish the customer demands – in this case, Discovery. I have to believe lots of people saw the HGTV special showing the beauty of the area, and some of them are probably planning vacations to Newport as we speak. It’s definitely a win for the island.”

And of course, whenever a crew is in town, they patronize a range of businesses. HGTV designer Brian Patrick Flynn and his team were taken for a sail on historic 12 meter yachts with Julie Lassy of America’s Cup Charters; Flynn was also a regular fixture around Newport. “22 Bowen’s is my regular place for lunch and I usually run to Kilwin’s for ice cream two to three times a week,” Flynn shares. He scored vintage tennis rackets at Aardvark Antiques, and coastal furnishings at Ben’s Furniture to the delight of owner David Bolusky. “Newport has so many unique shops and businesses that embody life on the island so it is appreciated that the HGTV design team made the effort and took the time to shop locally and show off what we all have to offer,” says Bolusky.

Sometime this month a tidal wave of attention will return as the channel ramps up for the winner to be announced “around May 10.” Until then, many who have entered the sweepstakes will be daydreaming about life in the biggest little state with luxe amenities like a European open concept bathroom, warming trays in their outdoor kitchen, and a three-hole putting green. 

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