Singing isn’t the only talent that New Kids on the Block boy bander Jonathan Knight possesses. He is also a handy man to have around the house, and tonight, on HGTV’s new six-episode series Farmhouse Fixer, he will display his talent for restoring historic homes.
“We’re at a point now in society where everything is so disposable,” Knight exclusively tells Monsters & Critics. “People won’t think twice about tearing down a 200-year-old house because they can build a brand new one and have it sparkly and nice. I would rather look at a 200-year-old house than some developer, cookie-cutter, boring house. There’s just no character.”
When NKOTB broke up in 1994, Knight wasn’t sure what he was going to do next until a friend asked him to come and flip houses with him. Knight had no idea what that meant, but he went and watched his friend through the processes of flipping a house and he was hooked. So, in 1994, they started a company and they’ve been doing it ever since.
In the 27 years since, Knight has renovated more than 200 houses and carefully preserves the original craftsmanship and historic charm of classic homes while he also modernizes layouts, and updates interiors.
Read on for more of our chat with Knight to learn how he works his magic, where he picked up his skills, how hands-on he is, and more.
Monsters & Critics: Back when NKOTB was in its heyday, were you doing renovation?
Jonathan Knight: No. When New Kids was in its heyday, there was zero time to do anything. I had done a lot of rennovation as a young teenager, before New Kids dragged me away. I did a lot of work with my dad, who was a carpenter, and I think that’s where the love started.
M&C: But you had the basic skills because of your dad?
Jonathan Knight: Yeah. Well, it’s always so funny to me that so many people own houses and they don’t even know the basics of how it runs, the mechanicals and problems with roofs and stuff like that. So, I’m fortunate that I’ve learned this craft and been able to do it.
M&C: This show particularly focuses on farmhouses. You’ve done like 200 renovations, but when did it specifically get to farmhouses, and are they hard to find?
Jonathan Knight: No. There’s a lot of them. It became farmhouses because I had a conversation with my partner, and I was tired of doing the same old cookie-cutter houses. Those mainly were moneymakers, but there was no feeling there for me. I’ve just always loved the country. I’ve always loved old houses, architecture, and all things old.
M&C: How do you strike the balance though, between keeping the house authentic but bringing it up to 2021, where it has the modern kitchen and bathrooms, and things that people want?
Jonathan Knight: Want and need. We’re lucky now that there’s technology to be able to go into walls without having to destroy everything. You can get insulation blown in. They have PEX [cross-linked polyethylene] that just weaves through the wall for hot and cold water. So, there’s definitely ways to keep the authenticity of the house and not completely destroy it. People don’t want a kitchen from 1739 in their house, so yeah.
M&C: You talk about listening to the house and being true to what the house is.
Jonathan Knight: Old houses are just so quirky, and I find that charming. I think it’s the balance of keeping the quirkiness with making the quirkiness work. You may have a bedroom where the floor is sagging three inches on one side and you just kind of make it all work. You make that quirkiness something that’s a part of the house.
M&C: How hands-on are you on these projects? Or do you have teams?
Jonathan Knight: Two days ago, I was covered in white epoxy and a couple weeks ago, I had cement burns all over. Start to finish, really, the only thing that I won’t do is electrical, because I don’t have an electrical permit. I’ve done electrical. I’ve gotten shocked quite a few times, and I said, “Oh, just leave that to the professionals.”
In the past 20 years of working with my business partner, he’s taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined. So, yeah, definitely hands on. Like in two days, I will be in muddy boots and ripped jeans and right back in the trenches.
M&C: One of the things that people always want to know, how do you find good people?
Jonathan Knight: You go through a lot of contractors. Usually, I’ll find somebody and just give them a small job. It may just be a few cabinets in the laundry room, and see what the quality is and how they do. Then if I like them, I’ll take them on to bigger things.
M&C: New Kids on the Block went out on tour in 2019. How was it different touring in 2019 than when you were younger?
Jonathan Knight: It’s so much different. We’re all grown men now. I think we all respect each other a lot more. We appreciate things a lot more, and we’ve learned to really pace ourselves, and if there’s something we don’t want to do, we just pass on it. We just want to keep it nice and relaxing.
M&C: How did you manage with families?
Jonathan Knight: Families come along. The husbands and wives come along. The dogs. So, it’s pretty cool. Back in the day, we would drive the busses from city to city, stay in hotels, and that just got to be crazy. So, now we’re all just camping out. Busses now, they’re pretty amazing. Like you have your own bedroom, your own shower, your own kitchen, eight TVs. It’s easier for us now just to keep on the bus. The bus is now home.
Farmhouse Fixer premieres tonight at 9/8c on HGTV.