Television show host and carpenter
Born October 19, 1965, in Atlanta, GA. Education: Attended Kennesaw College, Atlanta, GA; Art Institute of Atlanta, B.A.; Atlanta College of Art, studied art and sculpture.
Addresses: Home —Los Angeles, CA. Office —Lock and Key Productions, 1149 South Gower St., Ste. 10, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Website —http://www.tythehandyguy.com.
Took carpentry jobs to pay for college; became a model, working with various companies; purchased a piano factory and turned it into loft-style apartments; founded Furniture Unlimited; built sets for film Leaving Las Vegas; carpenter, Trading Spaces, 2000-04; actor, The Adventures of Ociee Nash, 2002; wrote book, Ty's Tricks, 2003; host and head designer, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, 2003—; spokesperson, Sears, 2004—; host and head designer, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition—How'd They Do That?, 2005—; designer of Ty Pennington Style, Sears, 2005—.
When cable channel TLC's show Trading Spaces first aired, no one dreamed of the phenomenon it would help start. Nor did anyone expect that one of the show's breakout stars would be a carpenter. But with his model looks and goofy personality, Ty Pennington turned from simple carpenter into television icon.
As a child, Pennington learned woodworking from his father. He would tear apart furniture and turn them into toys. His mother sent him outside to build something that he could then destroy. He gathered up the neighborhood kids, negotiated pay at three comic books per hour, borrowed tools from their parents, and then constructed a three-story tree house.
While visiting his father, the young Pennington was asked what he wanted to do. He chose to build something. He and his father began construction on a boat, which was sea-worthy three days later. When he entered Kennesaw College, he majored in art and history. He told Alma E. Hill of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that carpentry was "not something I wanted to do professionally." On the advice of one of his professors, Pennington transferred to the Art Institute of Atlanta to study graphic design. To pay for college expenses, he continued taking carpentry jobs. He graduated with a bachelor's degree, and continued his studies at the Atlanta College of Art.
He also became a model, where he traveled the world. He modeled for a variety of companies, including J. Crew, Swatch, Body Glove, Macy's, and Land's End. He appeared in television commercials for Diet Coke and Levi's. He helped construct the sets for the 1995 film Leaving Las Vegas. He also purchased an old factory with his brother, and renovated the place, turning it into loft-style apartments. Pennington also started a company called Furniture Unlimited, where he designed and constructed furniture in the modern primitive style. Pennington then purchased a home in the Grant Park section of his native Atlanta. He renovated the three-bedroom, two-bath house for only $10,000. He added some special touches, including using a metal salad bowl as a sink, and using a plunger as a lighting fixture.
Pennington joined Trading Spaces, a show that was based on a popular BBC program, in 2000. The premise of the television program is two neighbors (working in pairs) swap houses and renovate one room in the house on a $1,000 budget in two days. They receive help from designers and a carpenter. Pennington was one of two carpenters for the show. He and fellow carpenter Amy Wynn Pastor shared an assistant to help meet the show's tight deadlines.
The show was a success and Pennington was a hit, especially with women. His comedic antics and occasional bare chest quickly made him a star. In addition to his role on Trading Spaces, he traveled around the country making appearances at home and garden shows. His fans would line up for hours, traveling long distances just to see the hunky carpenter. Pennington aimed to please, using the time to answer questions and dish on his co-stars.
Though Pennington had lived in Atlanta most of his life, he and his girlfriend, Drea Bock (who is also his manager), moved to Los Angeles so he could begin his acting career. Hyperion also released his do-it-yourself book, titled Ty's Tricks: Home Repair Secrets Plus Cheap and Easy Projects to Transform Any Room in 2003. The book featured the renovation of his Grant Park residence. In addition to tips and how-to guides, he also included humorous anecdotes that would set his book apart from the others. He toured to promote the book, and it also landed on the New York Times best-seller list.
Pennington signed a multiyear contract with the Sears department store chain in 2004. He began appearing in ads that were aimed at families. In addition to being a spokesperson, he also acts as an ambassador for the Sears American Dream Campaign. He has also developed a line of products for the home titled Ty Pennington Style. Products were available for sale in the spring of 2005. "I wanted to show you can create a fun, casual, and quality living space, and you don't have to break the bank," he told People.
During this time, he signed with ABC to do Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Home Edition was a spin-off of the Extreme Makeover program that gave a chosen few the chance to be made over physically with plastic surgery. Both television programs were similar to the 1950s show, Queen For A Day . In the case of Home Edition, a well-deserving family would have their home renovated, and in some cases, rebuilt, for free. Pennington led a group of designers to design the house, and they would use local construction companies to renovate the home in seven days while the family was sent away on vacation. As the hour-long show progressed, viewers watched as the designers sometimes bickered, and Pennington would playfully tease the family with misinformation. In each show, he would also take on special projects for one of the family members. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition would turn a two-bedroom house into a mini-mansion. Companies such as Sears and Home Depot donated appliances, furniture, and building materials. The house would be revealed to the family, and many times, a few extras were thrown in.
In the middle of the second season, Pennington was preparing for a shoot when he needed an emergency appendectomy. Not one to shirk his duties, he had the surgery, and camera crews were with him in the hospital as he tried to lead the renovation from the hospital bed. Later in the week, he was able to film some scenes for the episode. In a statement obtained by CNN.com, Pennington expressed, "I don't want to let the family down, and all of us with the show want to give them the new house they deserve."
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition became a popular show, one that continued to grow in popularity. Applications to be on the program come by the thousands each week. Fans line up for hours at the shoots waiting to catch a glimpse of the star. One female fan showed up in a wedding dress, so Pennington dropped to one knee for a picture. In addition to Home Edition, there have been two spin-offs: EMHE: How'd They Do That? and Extreme Makeover: Wedding Edition. Both shows began airing in 2005.
In addition to being a carpentry whiz and home design guru, Pennington is also a painter, which he studied at the Atlanta College of Art along with sculpture. He also has a one-man band named Barney. He has released a demo CD, and performs reggae, country, and hip-hop while wearing a leisure suit made of Christmas lights. He loves to surf and skateboard. Though currently enjoying all that he does, he told Mary Beth Breckenridge of Newark, New Jersey's Star-Ledger, "when my 15 minutes are over with, I can go back and do carpentry, and be happy."
Ty's Tricks: Home Repair Secrets Plus Cheap and Easy Projects to Transform Any Room, Hyperion, 2003.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 29, 2002, p. B2; September 14, 2003, p. LS1; November 3, 2003, p. E2; January 19, 2005, p. E2.
Booklist, September 15, 2003, p. 190.
Budget Living, October/November 2003, p. 36.
Home Textiles Today, September 27, 2004, p. 2.
Library Journal, December 2003, p. 161.
New York Times, April 14, 2005, p. F3.
People, November 29, 2004, p. 113; April 18, 2005, p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, October 21, 2002, p. 14.
Redbook, September 2004, p. 58.
Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), March 13, 2003, p. 67.
Time, December 20, 2004, p. 159.
Biography Resource Center Online, Gale Group, 2003.
"Makeover's Ty has appendectomy," CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/TV/01/19/people.pennington.ap/index.html (January 19, 2005).
"News," Ty the Handy Guy, http://www.tythehandyguy.com/news_set.html (May 21, 2005). "Ty Pennington," ABC.com, http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/bios/ty_pennington.html (May 21, 2005).
"Ty's Biography," Ty the Handy Guy, http://www.tythehandyguy.com/bio_set.html (May 21, 2005).
—Ashyia N. Henderson