Special to the Telegram & Gazette
When your home has become a monster of horrific design and scary renovations, then you have a Frankenhouse, and a new HGTV home renovation series, "Fix My Frankenhouse," premiering April 23, shows how to get out of the nightmare.
As the name humorously suggests, this series focuses on turning houses that are a mix of mismatched parts and badly executed renovations into functional, flowing beautiful homes, and Worcester County is the focus of the first episode.
The series kicks off with a poorly functioning — but much loved — Millbury house dating to the early 1900s, which was in need of some expert TLC from "Fix My Frankenhouse’s" hosts, Stoughton-based home renovation/interior design duo, Mike and Denese Butler.
The husband and wife team, who head The Perfect Vignette home renovations company, are new to the reality TV world. But they had some help feeling at home during the filming from their fathers, John Butler and Peter Doyle, who are both master carpenters and appear in the series.
“Denese’s dad is a natural,” Mike says of his father-in-law’s TV appearances. “My dad is not so bad,” he laughs. “It was a fun journey for us all.”
Mike grew up in Lexington and Denese in Mattapan, but their careers took them to New York City, where Denese worked in design, while Mike was involved in major commercial construction projects. After moving to Jersey City and starting a family, in 2019 the couple decided to move closer to their families to raise their three sons.
The home in Millbury in Episode One shows the result of poor overall planning, with a kitchen that doesn’t function at all. Mike says he took one look and could see what needed to be done: So, dramatically, walls came down and space was opened up for a more free flowing environment, and walls went up to extend functional space.
As the series will reveal, unlike the disparate parts of the houses they get to work on, the Butlers are opposites that blend well together. While Denese concentrates on design details and creating something personal for the owners, Mike refigures the overall layout, but, says Dense, “We are both very detail oriented. When it comes down to aesthetics, I am very subjective, I see what the client wants. I am very confident in my decisions.”
But Mike sees the big picture.
“I have worked on homes, I have worked on skyscrapers,” adds Mike. “I always tell homeowners to slow down, consider the whole house. Otherwise, you limit the possibilities.”
Denese says she never considered a career in TV and calls this a dream gig. It certainly happened at the right time: in March 2020, just as the pandemic shutdown meant a considerable loss of work and income, it pretty much dropped into their lap.
“I was posting lots of photos on Instagram and a producer saw them and contacted us,” said Denese. She had no qualms about performing either: “I feel I’m always on stage. I think that comes from dance classes and I taught fitness classes in New York. I don’t mind feeling like all eyes are on me. It gives me a great sense of confidence.”
Mike was a bit more reticent about being on-camera, “I saw I had to help Mike feel more comfortable with it,” she added.
When all six episodes were filmed and done with, Mike admits he felt relief, but also satisfied with the work.
“I’m used to the pressure of performing in the work environment and I’m not scared of a challenge,” he says. “In construction, we do what we need to do to accomplish the goal. I feel I accomplished something with this.”
“But,” he adds, “I am naturally an introvert. I was extremely out of my comfort zone, so I had to figure that out. Denese was born for TV, she’s a natural star.”
"Fix My Frankenhouse" premieres Sunday, April 23, at 9 p.m. EST on HGTV, with simultaneous streaming on discovery+. HGTV.com