Boise, Idaho…Erma Bombeck wrote a book about it.
Idaho’s capital city is on fire and everywhere one looks it is booming and groaning under the pressures of people discovering just how lovely it all is in this “City of Trees” where a river runs through it, goats aside.
HGTV’s Boise Boys is back for season 2 and capitalizes on that energetic push the city is enjoying — and has for the last few years. The wholly unique home renovation series features the design and build-team of Clint Robertson and Luke Caldwell of Timber and Love.
The two men have a secret weapon few shows have…Boise’s a target rich environment for finding not only incredible mid-century and craftsman homes but also delicious last century Americana finds and exotic treasures to decorate a home in thrift stores, vintage shops, and yard sales.
There’s a lot of aspiration here. There’s a lot to worry about as well.
Clint and Luke tackle some affordable fixer-uppers in Boise’s white-hot real estate market. It is their chemistry along with their out-of-the-box designs and clever money saving ideas that sell this concept.
The premise is the polar opposite of a few other reno shows that have repetitive design elements and go-to palettes and products you know they will use over and over again in baths and kitchens.
We’re looking at you Miss subway tile, Shaker cabinets, and white quartz counter-top queen!
Their appeal is growing by leaps and bounds. An unlikely duo, they refer to themselves as the Bert and Ernie of home reno. Luke and Clint are modern Renaissance men in the way they look at each house and move forward with its new trajectory on terra firma.
They are well traveled, too, and find interesting design inspiration from all over the globe.
Not kin but close, the two met in church and have since been making a killing on the lucrative and fast(er) paced real estate market.
People are grabbing properties in red hot neighborhoods like the East End, Foothills East, North End, Bench and Mesa to either redo and live happily ever after or sell a “crappy” house — as Luke tells me — and cash out while the “boys” do their magic and then sell a remodeled masterpiece.
Luke is an eclectic designer who veers to a modern clean line aesthetic for each home. Clint is a licensed contractor and Texan who brings a big personality and enthusiasm to carry out Luke’s vision.
Both men are fathers — Clint to three children and Luke a dad to six — who understand that budgets are to be stuck to and creative fixes can save a lot of money and look great when artfully executed.
Both men are kind, and fit in with the city’s well-publicized ethos.
We went to Timber and Love headquarters in Boise and spoke to Luke and Clint where the Boise Boys magic happens. The guys are full of knowledge concerning the distinct neighborhoods and houses of booming Boise.
Monsters and Critics: What was the premise of your show when you pitched it? What made it different from the rest of the pack — obviously outside of the location?
Clint: Well, we really didn’t pitch it. They actually found us. Luke is really good with social media and he would pop up pictures of things that he and I were doing together.
They [HGTV] found out real fast. Yeah. The “what” makes us different than anything else. I mean, you can tell just what you’re seeing here in the office. We are an absolute Bert and Ernie odd couple. I mean even down to the looks.
They were actually looking for something like that, something different than the husband and wife combo.
They started calling us and then they put together a little sizzle reel. At one point we had five different companies bidding at us for our show at one time…We weren’t even thinking about that.
Luke: We had heard that HGTV had actually put out [descriptions of] what they’re looking for to different production companies.
One of the things they had just put out was that they were looking for an odd couple, not a husband and wife.
So we had no idea. And we also had heard that they were looking for a show in the [Pacific] Northwest because they didn’t have it. We’re still the only show in the Northwest, so regionally it actually worked out well.
They have so many standards for their shows. You have to be flipping a certain amount of houses. You actually have to do the work, then they don’t want actors or acting… They just don’t want people saying, ‘hey, we can flip houses, let’s try to put a show together.’
M&C: People are very naive about that, and think, ‘oh I can just buy a house and flip it,’ and I feel like the actual costs and numbers are understated on these reno shows.
Clint: We don’t, it is actual numbers on our show.
Luke: We were one of the few shows that do that.
M&C: But a lot of shows they do and it’s like there’s no way that they redid that kitchen for $15,000. A good range can cost that.
Clint: We’ve never met a kitchen we’ve renovated for less than $35-40,000.
Luke: Right. For renovation.
M&C: What are some of the interesting things about Boise for people outside the region that you can talk about? I see a preponderance of mid-century homes.
Luke: What’s unique about Boise is that it was founded in the late ‘1800s and there really is a huge range and gamut of different styles of homes.
You have the bungalows, craftsmen, mid-century, there’s a few art-decos there. But in general, we have a very vast selection of homes, which is really cool for what Clint and I do because we love the [architectural] variety.
We don’t want to just do the same old thing over and over and over again. For myself personally, I’ve always kind of gravitated more towards clean lines which happens to be a lot of mid-century homes, although I’m not a mid-century enthusiast by any stretch of the imagination.
I lean more modern in general if I was to say a style that I really like. But mostly just anything that’s fresh. I love fresh design. I love mixing a lot of organic elements into the space. And so hence our name, Timber and Love.
We try to infuse timber wood elements into every single one of our projects [and] usually are our front doors are always going to be brand new and would have some form [or wood].
Then a lot of clean lines mixed with vintage items. I’m always looking, as you saw [in their incredible back storage room of picker “smalls” finds] scouring for vintage pieces because they bring so much soul to the projects and they bring so much life [to a finished design].
Otherwise, it can just feel like a tract home where it’s very stale and it doesn’t have a lot of character. We also gravitate towards houses that are 1970’s and older.
You could find a home built in the late 1800’s too. There’s a whole lot of houses from late 1800’s to the early 1960’s and those houses are the majority of what Luke and I have worked on.
And you know, what the cool thing that I like about those houses? They weren’t built for how cheap they could build them. They were built how well built they can be built.
When you open a wall in the house, [say] it was built in 1906, and you see these hand-hewn two-by-fours that someone either cut at a sawmill or they brought up the wood and they actually cut them to size right on-site with hand tools…They work. The houses were built to last.
And the funny thing is, some of these newer houses that are built in the 1980’s and 1990’s that have insulation in the walls [still] will not keep you warm like an older house. It’s just lath and plaster with no insulation walls.
The construction quality of those older homes is just nothing compared to what’s being built today. And from my perspective, as a guy who sees those nuts and bolts and who sees just the functionality of it…there’s just something to be appreciated.
And Luke… all the time when we work together we find these older hand-hewn two-by-fours in the walls …say if we’re going to take that wall out or not use that wall anymore, we’ll try to re-purpose that [lumber] back in the house, either done as a design element or whatever.
For me, it’s just in this area… because like we’ve said, when the city was founded it was built with some amazing variety of houses, unlike any other place in the country.
M&C: There are so many distinct neighborhoods in Boise. Talk about your favorite neighborhood and why
Luke: Clint and I both live on the [Boise] river now. We’re both drawn to the river. We live on opposite sides of it. He’s in the East End. I’m more on the west, kind of down by White Water Park.
I grew up in the North End on 23rd street. So my whole entire childhood was right there on 23rd and Eastman and it’s hard for me not to love the North End because I had a paper route from the time I was 10 years old.
I started my paper route and I was going door-to-door up and down the streets and I remember even as a young kid just loving all the different homes, all the different architecture and really appreciating it.
I love the sidewalks and all the mature trees and the different homes. Every house looks different. It’s not all the same look as [new construction] nowadays.
The suburbs… just every house looks identical and you’ve got all these HOA [home owner association] rules where every house has to be the same color and that is just a huge turn-off for me.
My heart’s definitely there [North End] because I grew up there and walk down to the parks with my brothers and sisters and we’d play basketball and hang out and so there’s a lot of fond memories for me in the North End in particular.
Clint: Before the North end was cool?
Luke: As far as growing up as a kid in the North End. Yeah. The North End was hip. My dad bought our house for $118,000 — it is a big house. It was a great home and I loved living there. But I would say now as an adult, everything just seems a little too close to me.
There’s not enough garage space [in most North End homes]. My wife and I have six kids and so we bought a full acre on the [Boise] river where the kids can just explore, and the houses aren’t so butted up to each other. I like that nowadays.
Clint: I liked the North End vibe to me [about] five years ago. Maybe not today. For me, there’s too many cars. It’s just everybody’s driving through to get up to Bogus [Basin] and in the Highlands and what have you.
For me, there’s a small pocket in the East End, just north of the [Boise] river, south of the Foothills [East]. Where it comes to that pie shape before the Mesa, and in that whole area in there, kind of on either side of Warm Springs Boulevard [where] you’ve got no one driving there unless they live there.
The roads are wider, the house are further apart. You still get the same history. In fact, my wife and I, we’ve been here in Idaho about a decade now and [for us] the East End is my favorite place in all of Idaho.
M&C: I was told by construction people here, don’t buy an old house in Boise. The foundations, there was no building code until 1970. So is that true?
Clint: Luke and I had been in some of the shoddiest basements you’ll see because we’re on the whole Boise Valley River Basin.
You’re not in the shifting area. It’s packed and if you’re in an area which is very solid, most of the foundations were built with huge sandstones that were kicked up. The [Old Idaho Penitentiary] prison would be used to build downtown.
Last season’s Porch House. That one had the stone that was cut in the prison back in the early 1900’s. So don’t let anybody tell you or scare you off of old foundations here.
For one thing, everybody’s scared of foundations. Everybody’s scared of what’s behind the sheet-rock. Nothing. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed. We’ve had houses before where you’d walk in and realize everything’s sideways. Even that doesn’t scare us because if you get it for the right price, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed.
Even a house if it looks like it’s coming apart. That’s not that difficult to fix with the foundation. It scares people. It’s the unknown. And everybody’s been taught from birth — there’s a foundation problem in the house, ‘Oh No. The house is can never be used again!”
Luke: Or there’s mold…
M&C: Your Business is predicated upon buying low then fixing, and ostensibly selling higher. Houses in Boise aren’t as cheap as they used to be.
Luke: No, they’re not.
And thankfully because of the show, we kind of have an inside track a little bit now with people because people know that we fix up homes, that we do them well and so we have a lot of people who can contact us first when they are thinking about selling their house as is. We take on the biggest projects, the worst houses and so that’s what we kind of aspire to.
A lot of people will reach out to us and ask, ‘Hey, I’ve got a really crappy house. I know you guys do this. Would you be open to looking at my house too if you want to buy it?’ That’s how we get a lot of our homes. We also have different marketing strategies we use to find properties that are not yet on the market.
But if you’re just going off of [Multiple Listing System] MLS and you’re trying to buy a property low and sell high, it’s not going to happen.
Clint: Most homeowners, they look at their house and they may see that crack in the wall, they don’t have the money or even the desire to mess with the crack or they know their house is outdated. Or they look at their house, they said, ‘well, no one’s going to want my house…’
But they know what we can do to the house. We do have a lot of folks who have that mindset, they don’t want to put [their home] on the MLS because they feel like they’re not going to get the amount they could get from someone who can actually [see the value].
Sometimes we’ll pay more just because we see we can see where this house can go…
Luke: Right. But it takes a lot of money to put into it to do that, which we have capital to make that happen.
M&C: How long have you two worked together?
Clint: Almost five years now.
M&C: How did you find each other?
Luke: I was on tour as a full time touring musician traveling all over the world. We played 15 different countries played every single state except Alaska and we had a tour bus doing the whole thing and loved it.
My wife and I had two kids of our own and we really felt called to adopt and we didn’t have an extra $35,000 laying around and I always knew that you could make money in real estate.
I bought my first house when I was 21 in the North End. And I knew the value there, but I’d never done it before.
So I just decided to try to figure it out. I bought a house at auction, fixed it up, loved the whole creating the vision and the design aspect. But the nuts and bolts of everything was totally… I’m not a handyman. I’m not a Clint. But I just tried my best.
I got scammed a little bit here and there, but just worked through it, got the house and sold it. We were able to make a good chunk of money and it helped towards paying for our first adoption.
Then I just kept doing it on my own. We’ve adopted four kids now from China, all special needs children, and it all happened through real estate and I never thought about making it a career or business or anything like that.
It was definitely [money made] on the side and Clint was a big reason why that happened. Because when he came into Boise and we met, I had done a few houses, maybe three or four houses on my own. But nothing major. And he was like, ‘Hey, we should do this together.’
I didn’t really want to start a business, my thoughts were, ‘I’m just doing this on the side. I’m a musician. That’s my job,’ and he [Clint] was a lawyer, he had a law practice at the time.
It was one of these things where — which is funny — design and law [laughs] like polar opposites and it’s crazy that it just turned into this so, so quickly.
When we merged, it had the synergy that neither one of us had apart from each other and we really figured out quickly that we are better together than we were separate. And neither one of us thought that this would be our journey.
But here we are five years later with a TV show on HGTV that we never even tried to get. And just loving it and crushing it here in Boise.
M&C: Clint. How come you’re not practicing law?
Clint: I didn’t become a lawyer to practice law. I grew up as a tinkerer and the consummate entrepreneur as a little kid. I was always trying to figure out how to make money and I always loved just doing stuff in my hands.
I went to law school thinking I’m going to go to medical school … I wanted to be a doctor because I liked working with my hands and then I started thinking now that’s I’m too A.D.D. for that. I liked doing a lot of different things. I like seeing things start and work and creating things.
I became a CPA, got my accounting degree and went to law school just because I wanted that background of business law. I didn’t want anybody… kind of like Luke said where people would take advantage of me.
I’ve started tons of businesses, a wide variety. I got my real estate license, became a broker and we did everything from developing the dirt all the way up to sell everything in between. Building multifamily duplexes, four-plexes, apartment complexes and so on, and really just love it.
But my boys were 12, 10 and eight when I looked around and thought, you know they’re the most important thing in my life. This is why I’m doing this stuff.
So cold turkey, before everything fell apart [financially] in 2008. I guess it was providence. I was walking around one day and said, I’ve got to stop everything I’m doing and take a sabbatical and spend some good time with my boys.
So sight unseen we moved to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I bought a pawn shop. I started the buying and selling gold and then open up a little law practice.
And when my oldest boy turned 16, he got a full scholarship to Boise State University, and I’m not going to have my 16-year-old go down there [alone]…
So we helicoptered down here and we were kind of splitting time. But when we got here [to Boise] I realized this town is in the Goldilocks zone of buying and renovating homes and building homes.
I started looking around. I met Luke the right about the time I started really getting interested in doing that and that looped to a mutual friend at church.
And that very same day, Luke and I jumped in the car. He wanted to show me a couple of these properties. And I liked the design stuff, but Luke is a savant in design. But my design is about function, it’s about making things last, it’s about making spaces that work as far as flow and function in the light, but the design part is not my love.
When I met Luke and saw what he was doing and realizing the holes in his process as far as getting to the end, I started thinking he knows the area… he grew up here…That’s my weakness.
Because in Fort Worth, Texas I can tell you where every single house was plus the history of the neighborhoods and what have you. But here I had that lack of knowledge about the area.
So we picked up our first house and we just made a killing on it. And it was a great house. After that first house, it was on, we just did as many as we could possibly do because now that went from being what we do inside to how we were providing for our families.
We were comfortable in our professions. Luke is a professional musician and me in my businesses and my law practice.
Luke: We were both really successful making quite a bit of money doing what we were doing too. But to take that jump once the TV show came… we both were like, this is once in a lifetime opportunity. We’re going to make sure we put everything into it.
M&C: All these design teams on TV have like their signature thing. Like for Joanne and Chip Gaines, it’s ship-lap…
Clint: We don’t do that. We just try to serve the house and the community.
Luke: I would kind of disagree with that a little bit because I think that’s why our name is called Timber and Love. We do try to invoke like timber features in every single house. They’re going to look differently.
I love feature walls and so they’re almost in every project we do, not that we’re necessarily known for that, but every project we do, we do unique features in every home that makes them custom.
Clint: We love Chip and Joanna [Gaines]. But we want to say that none of our houses look the same.
Luke: It’s more about incorporating thoughtful design into every single project that stays with the home.
Whether that be a lighting feature I’ve created, I designed [many] feature lights that go into homes, [or] a different wall feature that Clint will install that are just amazing. But they’re not ever predictable. They’re all different. They’re all unique.
I think part of our signature that we invoke is that we add custom features into every single house that no one else is doing.
Like any other custom build job, [most builders] they’re just going to do whatever is the most cost effective. That’s it. That’s not how we approach that.
Clint: You’d be hard pressed to put your finger on [finding] that ship-lap in every home with us.
Boise Boys airs Wednesdays (season 2 premiere is April 24) at 11 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.