Television viewers first met Ty Pennington on TLC’s groundbreaking reality hit Trading Spaces, where (according to the Food Network) he stood out as the show’s “quirky and creative carpenter.” Then in the early 2000s, Pennington was tapped by ABC to host Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the feel-good home renovation series that spawned Pennington’s now-iconic catchphrase for each episode’s big reveal: “Move that bus!”
Since the cancellation of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in 2011, Pennington has been busier than ever, writing books (such as his memoir Life to the Extreme) and appearing on various TV series — including a 2018 revival of Trading Spaces that brought the original crew back together. In January 2021, Pennington launched a whole new venture for HGTV, Ty Breakers, joined by some other HGTV talent.
A familiar face to viewers, Pennington’s return to television is certainly welcomed by the legions of fans who watched him on all of his previous small-screen hits. Yet despite being a near-constant presence on television for decades, there’s still much fans may not know about this carpenter-turned-TV star. To learn more, keep reading to discover the untold truth of Ty Pennington.
Ty Pennington overcame his struggle with ADHD
Throughout the years, Ty Pennington has candidly discussed his lifelong struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In an interview with Ability Magazine, he recalled how the “H” in ADHD made school difficult. Teachers, he said, labelled him “a classic distraction,” and he was constantly in trouble. “And if you are a child with an enormous amount of hyperactivity, school itself, along with the learning process, goes right out the window,” he explained. “I mean, I was so out of control that I spent most of the time in the hallway or in detention.”
Another problem Pennington faced was difficulty retaining information. As he explained, one of the characteristics of ADHD is that “you can read a whole chapter in a book and not remember one word.” And this proved to be a devastating combination when it came to Pennington’s education. “So not only was I the class clown, but I never really had a chance to learn much because it just didn’t sink in, mainly because I was being disciplined the whole time.”
As Pennington told HuffPost, being ostracized as a school troublemaker “certainly affected my confidence and my belief in myself.”
Ty Pennington didn't meet his father until he was 5 years old
Undiagnosed ADHD wasn’t the only setback that Ty Pennington experienced when he was a child. “It’s safe to say my family wasn’t built on a strong foundation,” he wrote in his 2019 book Life to the Extreme. In the memoir, Pennington revealed he didn’t meet his biological father until he was 5 years old — and shared the bizarre way that meeting wound up taking place.
According to Pennington, he and his older brother were playing pinball at an arcade when a male stranger came up to them, offering a handful of quarters. “This happens several times as we continue to play in the arcade center in Underground Atlanta while mom is somewhere next door at the jazz club called Dante’s Down the Hatch,” he wrote.
When the boys’ mother finally came to fetch them, she noticed their pinball benefactor and asked Pennington if he recognized him. He first guessed the guy was someone they’d seen on a TV newscast, but that was incorrect. “That’s your father,” she told him. “Cool,” he recalled telling his mom. “Can I have more quarters?”
Ty Pennington once wrote a book in seven days
Ty Pennington’s memoir, Life to the Extreme, certainly lived up to its title — at least when it came to speed at which he wrote it. While promoting the book, Pennington told the Chicago Tribune that he wrote the entire thing in just seven days, as a challenge he set for himself.
“That was the whole goal, to try and do something extreme,” he revealed, noting that at the same time he was also involved in filming the rebooted Trading Spaces along with two other shows (While You Were Out and Small Business Revolution — Main Street), not to mention all his other various projects. “I thought that was kind of a fun twist,” he said of his self-imposed seven-day deadline, mirroring the seven days the Trading Spaces team are given to perform one of the show’s now-iconic home makeovers.
“Let’s face it, it’s not like my life is ever not chaotic,” Pennington added. “I want it to be that way for some reason, so why not try to write it in that amount of time?”
Ty Pennington believes home improvement is also good for body and soul
Renovating and repairing a home is obviously good for the physical structure itself, but Ty Pennington believes the process can also yield less-tangible but equally important benefits. As Pennington told TMZ, renovating one’s home can also nourish the body and soul.
When asked if he felt home-improvement retailers like Home Depot were actually essential businesses that needed to remain open during the pandemic, Pennington said they were. “If we’re going to have to be confined to our homes, I think we have to have certain supplies to give us projects to do,” he explained.
According to Pennington, “making the space you’re in a better space, a cleaner space, a more fun place to be around, is absolutely important in a crazy time like this.” Citing his book Good Design Can Change Your Life, Pennington shared his conviction that someone’s mood is obviously impacted by the space they’re in. If people feel good about the way their home looks, “then that’s the way they’re gonna greet the world… if you wake up in clutter and complete disaster, that’s also how you’re gonna go out and greet the world.”
Ty Pennington collects this strange item
Hobbies can run the gamut, particularly when it comes to collectibles. While some people collect stamps and others collect comic books or vintage vinyl records, Ty Pennington collects something altogether unexpected: vomit bags. “Like the kind you get on airlines,” he elaborated in an interview with Austin Monthly. According to Pennington, his bonkers collection numbers more than 300 bags. “I use them at parties and put little tea lites in them to light up the driveway,” he explained. “Then, if anyone gets sick, they can take one home as a party favor.”
Pennington shared even more information about his beloved collection in an interview with ABC News. “I actually use them as artwork, themselves,” he divulged. “Sometimes I write words of inspiration, I’ll do drawings, and, and, and if you receive one from me, you know, that it’s genuine because it’s a vomit bag.” Among the lucky recipients of an authentic Ty Pennington vomit bag, he revealed to Austin Monthly, was none other than Ellen DeGeneres.
Ty Pennington is a "purist" when it comes to working with wood
Ty Pennington got his start in carpentry, and his interest in woodworking extends back nearly as far as he can remember. As he recounted for Where Calgary, as a child he would exasperate his mom by taking furniture apart “and putting it back together differently.”
All these years later, Pennington admits he’s still entranced by “the versatility of wood.” Working with wood, he explained, allows you to “create a table or chair, or you can get really intricate with a router and chisel and carve a piece of art.” Pennington also enjoys being able to mix different types of wood into one piece, allowing for the creation of “your own grains and patterns.” Furthermore, covering wood with a coat of paint or stain isn’t really Pennington’s thing. “I’m a purist, so you won’t see me painting wood very often,” he said.
Natural, unpainted wood is also Pennington’s flooring of choice. When asked by Austin Monthly to identify the single “home design choice that will always be in style,” he responded, “natural wood floors. There’s a warmth there.”
The cancellation of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition wasn't such a bad thing for Ty Pennington
First premiering in 2003 as a spinoff of the controversial plastic-surgery reality series Extreme Makeover, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition outpaced its origins to become one of ABC’s most successful series. Yet all things must pass, and in 2011, The Hollywood Reporter reported the feel-good series was being cancelled after a nine-season run.
The cancellation of a TV series is rarely welcome news for its stars, yet Ty Pennington apparently had mixed feelings about the show ending. He told Parade that while he missed his onscreen “family,” cancellation offered him a respite from what was a pretty intense workload. “My friend recently said, ‘Oh my God, dude. You look rested.’ Now, I actually have a chance to try to get some of the things in my life in order,” Pennington explained.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition led to a lot of time on the road, forcing Pennington to put the rest of his life “on hold” while constantly traveling. The end of the show provided him more time, which he said he was using “to reconnect with my own family” and begin building his dream home.
Ty Pennington responded to being replaced by Jesse Tyler Ferguson
As it turned out, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition wasn’t cancelled so much as was put on ice. In January 2019, HGTV announced it was resurrecting the show without original host, Ty Pennington. Instead, Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson was tapped to host. “I was so inspired by the original series and now I can’t wait to help families as the new host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” Ferguson shared in the network’s announcement.
Shortly after Ferguson was revealed as host, TMZ caught up with Pennington. When asked if he was planning to “reach out” to his successor to offer advice, Pennington jokingly offered some: “Rest up.”
Pennington wound up making a guest appearance on the show, pitching in on a home renovation for a first-season episode. Speaking with TV Insider, Pennington shared his impression of Ferguson. “I think he has great energy,” Pennington said, placing his version of the show in context with the new one. “I think we are the OG generation, but just like Star Trek, there is this new generation, but the spirit of the show is the same.”
Ty Pennington hosted a show that only aired in Canada
In 2010, Ty Pennington was still hosting ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition when he branched out on his own for a new TV project. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new series was titled Inside the Box with Ty Pennington, and was being produced for Canadian television. As THR noted, the competition series’ premise pitted two amateur “armchair designers” against each other, with each “given 48 hours to create a themed room using only materials that Pennington supplies in a mystery crate, complete with helpful tips.”
Pennington described the show to the Toronto Star as offering a “way for people to challenge themselves and think outside the norm.” Despite the show’s title, Pennington suggested the whole idea behind Inside the Box was to think outside the box. “A lot of people are just so comfortable in the way they see things, they won’t even try something new, [but] so many times, once they tried it, the end up loving it,” he explained.
Unlike earlier hits, Inside the Box didn’t enjoy a long run; as the show’s IMDb page indicates, it vanished after just one season.
Ty Pennington fired back at Extreme Makeover: Home Edition backlash
One of the unintended consequences of those spectacular dream-home renovations featured on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was that the renovated homes ended up being worth more, resulting in higher insurance premiums and property taxes. In addition, the increased value of the home allowed homeowners to increase the amount of their mortgages, which some of the show’s participants took advantage of. This, noted The Wrap, resulted in some families featured on the show losing their homes to foreclosure.
While promoting the 2018 revival of TLC’s Trading Spaces, Ty Pennington offered his take on the media stories chronicling the families who lost their homes; Pennington was adamant that the show’s producers weren’t to blame. “If the family chooses to triple-mortgage their house to start a business that they’ve never done before just to see if they can get into it, that’s their own demise,” he told The Wrap. “That’s how you lose your home, is you’re like, ‘Oh, let’s use it as a lottery ticket and see what we can get out of it.’ And then you lose it because you can’t make the payment.”
Ty Pennington once lived in his dressing room
One of the big downsides of Ty Pennington’s years on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was the insane amount of traveling the show required, bringing him and the rest of the cast to a different location for each episode. As he once told Parade, he wound up “literally traveling every three days.”
In a 2012 interview with ABC News, Pennington revealed that on those rare occasions when he wasn’t on the road, he wound up living in his dressing room. “It’s sort of my home now,” Pennington said, but admitted, “luckily I’m used to that right now. I’m living right here, which is great.”
All that traveling, Pennington added, was also a big part of the reason he was single. “I’ve sort of become distant, because I’ve been working so much,” Pennington lamented. And when he did get a little down time, Pennington tended not to remain idle. “Occasionally I’ll just sit down and be like, ‘Wow, I’m taking a break,’ but I’m kind of good on the go, I mean, that’s sort of me, you know,” he shared.
Ty Pennington had a virtual reunion with the Trading Spaces gang
When Ty Pennington and the original crew of Trading Spaces reunited in 2018 for a revival — a decade after the show left the air — fans had clearly been missing it. According to a report from Deadline, ratings for the premiere were through the proverbial roof; not only was Trading Spaces the highest-rated show on cable that night, it was the most-watched series on all of television, delivering a whopping total viewership of 2.8 million.
Given those numbers, it came as no surprise when TLC renewed the revival for a second season. Unfortunately, viewers were left hanging when the COVID-19 pandemic paused production. That delay, however, couldn’t prevent Pennington and his co-stars from reuniting via Zoom. In April 2020, Trading Spaces designer Genevieve Gorder shared a screenshot of their online reunion on Instagram. “My favorite Brady Bunch,” she wrote in the caption.
Sadly, weeks after Gorder’s Instagram post, tragedy struck when fan-favorite Trading Spaces designer Frank Bielec died after having a heart attack at age 72. “We will miss and remember him fondly, his quirky style and wonderful sense of humor,” TLC shared in a tweet.
This is why Ty Pennington advised everyone to "shop small" at Christmas
In addition to his various other roles, Ty Pennington is co-host of the streaming series Small Business Revolution, a show whose mission is “to revitalize small towns, one small business at a time.” When small businesses were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennington spoke with People about the crucial message he had for consumers as the holiday season came around: shop small.
Indeed, Pennington urged holiday shoppers to take their precious dollars and spend them at small businesses instead of big-box chains or giant online retailers. “Just remember that this is the most important time to support small businesses,” he explained, pointing out that many retailers depend on sales during the Christmas season to carry them through the rest of the year. “If we don’t give them support, a lot of these businesses may not survive,” he continued. “Their lives are depending on our support.”
This Ty Pennington series teams him with other HGTV stars
In September 2020, HGTV announced that Ty Pennington would be headlining a brand new show for the network: Ty Breakers, an eight-episode series that placed him in familiar territory by assisting a “desperate” family fed up with their current living situation. Much like Love It or List It, each family has the choice to renovate their existing home or move to a different, newly renovated house. Pennington explained the dilemma in a promo: “Do they move or improve?”
Despite having his name in the title, Pennington’s new effort wasn’t entirely a solo affair. According to HGTV’s announcement, the show also features some familiar HGTV personalities: Windy City Rehab‘s Alison Victoria, Grace Mitchell of One of a Kind and The High Low Project‘s Sabrina Soto. Their job is to convince each family to let them design and renovate a completely customized new home, while Pennington pulls out all the stops to persuade the family to stay where they are. “I can’t wait for folks to watch Ty Breaker!” said Pennington in the announcement. “I loved meeting so many awesome families and helping them decide on their future home.”
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