As stars of the HGTV home renovation show “Restored by the Fords,” brother-sister duo Leanne Ford and Steve Ford know a lot about big reveals.
The reality show documents the pair as they remodel Pittsburgh-area houses before unveiling the magic to the homeowners — always a highlight of any episode.
The Fords’ latest project is a big reveal, too. Only this time, the siblings are revealing what inspires them — from their childhood in Upper St. Clair to early career starts and stalls to Pittsburgh’s eclectic architecture.
Interior designer Leanne and contractor Steve spent two years writing a memoir that tears down the walls separating them from the viewers who follow them. “Work in Progress: Unconventional Thoughts on Designing an Extraordinary Life,” will be published on Oct. 29, but we got a sneak peek.
While the intended audiences for the book are fans of the TV series “Restored by the Fords” and folks in the design world, Leanne says she hopes the book’s impact is more far-reaching: “It’s about inspiring people to do what you love, despite knowing you’re going to fail,” Leanne says. “It’s no big deal to blow it.”
The idea of embracing the biggest obstacles — even if you stumble — is an overriding theme throughout “Work in Progress.” And the challenge of writing the book itself serves as a prime example of this, especially for Steve.
While he appreciates how fortunate he is to write the book and record an audio version, the licensed contractor and carpenter acknowledges that reading and writing aren’t his strengths.
“I’m the kind of guy who would buy an audiotape so I wouldn’t have to read a book,” Steve says, laughing.
Still, they jumped right in, and the result is a funny, sincere glimpse into creativity, reality and family that reads like a call and response conversation between siblings.
“Work in Progress” follows each of the Fords’ circuitous routes to their current success.
Steve worked as a safety ranger and on ski patrol at Seven Springs Mountain Resort while attending West Virginia University. He was working in home remodeling in Pittsburgh when he decided to move to Los Angeles, where he worked as a background actor and surfed the Pacific.
He later returned to Pittsburgh, where he opened Decade, a clothing boutique with a surfer vibe on the South Side. During the store’s 10-year run, Steve began creating visual designs for Pittsburgh-based retailers including American Eagle Outfitters, ModCloth and rue21.
Meanwhile, Leanne worked in public relations, fashion styling and editing after graduating from Ohio University. Her fashion career took her from New York City to Los Angeles to Nashville before she came back to the Pittsburgh area. Once back in Pittsburgh, Leanne bought a 100-year-old schoolhouse and got to work renovating it, with lots of help from Steve.
That DIY project spawned a collaboration that landed them their own show on HGTV, as well as appearances on several of the network’s other shows, including “A Very Brady Renovation” and the upcoming “Rock the Block.”
Both say their Pittsburgh roots, from spending time in the Mid-century modern home their grandparents built to childhood trips to Fallingwater, have influenced their architectural and design aesthetic.
“Pittsburgh is steeped in history, which is pretty cool,” Steve writes in the book. “Sometimes when I take a back road to my place, I wind up the hilly streets, looking at all the public staircases that weave their way through the terrain.”
Season 2 of “Restored by The Fords” launched with the renovation of a Craftsman-style house for a growing family in Mt. Lebanon. Here, Steve opened up the walls to let sunlight from the den pour into the rest of the house and exposed the original brick hidden behind the outdated fireplace. And although “Work in Progress” emphasizes Leanne’s love of white paint (a running joke through the TV show, as well), this episode featured client-requested pops of teal in addition to French doors and an open floor plan.
Another project saw Steve and Leanne modernizing a Victorian home built by a ship captain in the late 1800s. Although the dining room became the living room and the parlor became the dining room, Leanne retained a touch of Victorian charm by decorating with decoupage from floral wallpaper.
But one of the most ambitious projects for the pair was the Season 2 finale of “Restored by the Fords,” when Steve purchased an abandoned 1940s warehouse in the city of Pittsburgh to transform into a home of his own. With touches of surf and cabin vibes, this industrial-inspired bachelor pad now functions as Steve’s workshop, garage and living space.