From Rock n' Roll to Renovation

From Rock n' Roll to Renovation

Michael Sauri films special McLean home portico project for HGTV show 'Curb Appeal.'

Michael Sauri never planned on getting into the business of housing renovations. In fact, it initially seemed like he was headed down the road of rock stardom.

"I absolutely did not grow up doing construction," said Sauri.

The son of a dentist and a doctorate of English literature, Sauri first picked up a pink, plastic guitar at the tender age of 18 months. At the age of 6, his parents granted him the real thing, and by the age of 17, he had turned pro and was playing gigs all over the Washington D.C. metro area. Sauri grew up in Washington D.C. and graduated from Towson University's music program.

By his early 30s, Sauri had performed, produced and recorded all over the world with the likes of Placido Domingo, the United States Winter Olympic team, Deep Dish, David Byrne, Tom Ze', Fighting Gravity, Cinema8, David Oliver Cohen and Niki Barr. He had also had the opportunity to study and play with jazz superstar Joey DeFrancesco's guitarist Paul Bollenback and with Steely Dan guitarist Jon Herrington.

However, everything changed for Sauri when he fell in love. Using his savings, Sauri purchased a run-down row home in Baltimore for $18,000. He fixed it up and rented it out, and used his profit to buy an engagement ring. Engaged and ready to settle down, Sauri then bought another row home in Washington D.C. He continued to play rock and roll as he renovated and sold approximately a dozen more Washington row homes, but it was not long before his contracting services were in demand.

"Originally I was buying houses and fixing them up and selling them," said Sauri, who currently lives in Arlington with his wife and newborn daughter. "That was in 2000, but then I started having more and more people come and ask me to do their houses ... so even though those weren't investment properties, it was something to do."

SAURI STARTED his own company TriVistaUSA — an anagram of his last name and his wife's last name — and over the past few years, he has done whole house renovations, kitchens, bathrooms, design and build projects and restaurants. Most recently, Sauri has been working on converting Jack Abramoff's Signatures restaurant into a hip, Old World Italian bar and restaurant for chef Francesco Ricchi. In addition, Sauri was asked by HGTV to film a 12-foot portico project on a house in McLean for the network's show "Curb Appeal."

"You're basically building a front porch, but it is a non-traditional porch in that the roof collects all the water from up above it," said Sauri. "So it acts as a holding place for that water, and then drains it down through the foundation."

"Curb Appeal" has been a featured show on HGTV for several years. Hundreds of homeowners apply to be on the show, and its producer sift through the applications to decide which houses will be featured.

"This house was not a typical 'Curb Appeal' house because it is already a beautiful house, and we usually find one that is a fixer-upper," said "Curb Appeal" producer Breanna Hoepner-Cowe. "But we chose it because it resembled many of the houses in its neighborhood and we thought we could change it and make it look different."

Sauri and his workers started the project in mid-September and completed it last week. The structure features stone accents, stucco and stone pavers — and on Wednesday, Oct. 25, TriVistaUSA installed an 8-foot wooden front door that Sauri calls "the crown jewel of the whole project."

Sauri said it was interesting to do the project in front of the HGTV cameras. The focus of "Curb Appeal" is completely external, and Sauri was surprised to discover that only the external project work mattered for the show.

"There were a couple of things that I had to do to the interior of the house, just to tie in the exterior part of the project, but the camera man had no interest," said Sauri. "They had a very clear picture of what they were doing."

Sauri also had to break himself of habits he had learned on MTV.

"I kept getting in trouble because in rock and roll you look right into the camera, and they don't want that on HGTV — they want you off talking to the producer," said Sauri.

THE SHOW is scheduled to air on HGTV sometime next spring. Hoepner-Cowe said that working with Sauri and his company was a dream come true.

"I have never, ever worked with a contractor who is so organized and on the ball," she said. "This year I remodeled nine homes and worked with nine different contractors, and it's always hit or miss."

Although the HGTV producers will submit different contractor names to the homeowners, it is the homeowners who ultimately make the decision as they are the ones paying for the project.

"We have to make sure we know what's going on so we can have the cameras out there at certain times... and Michael can give you a projective three weeks in advance," said Hoepner-Cowe. "It's just wonderful to work with him."

In the meantime, Sauri will continue to work on the restaurant project and two other residential projects.

"We're booked up enough that we have a good strong pipeline of work coming in for us, but we're not so slammed that we have to say to clients 'yeah we can get to you next year,'" said Sauri. "I think that's very prohibitive for clients."

Sauri said that he has really just learned construction and renovation skills through time and practice.

"The main part of what construction is, is it's a great deal of coordination because its skilled trades and going between those trades, and making sure that everything runs smoothly," said Sauri. "I learned a lot of this stuff on the job ... I started out doing everything when I had those houses, and it's something that I've always been interested in and I love knowing how things work."