Interview: 'Windy City Rehab' Star Alison Victoria, Season 2 Winner of 'Battle on the Beach'
She says she’s never won anything in her life — which is why HGTV's Alison Victoria is especially excited about the results of Season 2 of Battle on the Beach.
You’ll no doubt chuckle when you hear what happened to Windy City Rehab host Alison Victoria immediately after she found out she and her teammates Corey and Paige Cyr of Cyriously Living emerged as the winners of the second season of Battle of the Beach. “I was so excited I peed my pants!” she laughs. “I’ve been in a bunch of competitions including HGTV’s Rock the Block and the first season of HGTV’s Battle of the Beach, but I’ve never won anything until now. My team worked so hard, it was literally blood, sweat and tears, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Alison and her teammates, along with two other teams led by Ty Pennington (Rock the Block) and reigning champion, Taniya Nayak (Build It Forward), were each given a budget of $80,000 to renovate three beach houses based in Surfside, Texas. “We had to prove we could add the most value to our property,” explains Alison. “It was exhausting, but we did it!”
Ahead, Alison shares why you’ll never see a “Sandy Toes and Salty Kisses” sign in any of her beach designs, why she and the other mentors donned red Baywatch swimsuits near the end of the competition and why her teammates will forever be part of her life.
HGTV: What was the best part of being a mentor this season?
Alison: Being a mentor is such an amazing experience in terms of camaraderie — you reach an emotional level that’s so much deeper than the actual work you’re doing when you’re a part of a team working so closely on a project. I recently had dinner with Sunjay and Darryl, my teammates from the first season of Battle of the Beach when I was in Atlanta, where I got to meet their son. Going forth, Corey and Paige will undoubtedly be in my life as well.
HGTV: If you had to describe the experience in just a few words, what would they be?
Alison: Stressful and grueling! The timelines were a little tighter this season so everything felt more down to the wire. Plus, the weather was so fickle — one day it was freezing and we were in hats and sweaters, the next day it was hot and we were in shorts and short sleeves.
HGTV: How much strategizing did you do with Corey and Paige prior to construction?
Alison: There was zero pre-planning! The teams have no clue what they’re up against until they walk into the house, making it fun and exciting but also nerve-racking. My wheels didn’t start turning until I saw the space on day one.
HGTV: What was your team’s ultimate goal for this beach house?
Alison: We wanted to elevate it to a higher level and make it look — and feel — like a million bucks. We were going for a sophisticated design, like something you might find in the Hamptons or Malibu.
HGTV: What set your house apart from the typical beach house design?
Alison: I’m not a kitschy person. When it comes to beach houses, I’ll always take a pass on signs that say, “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere!” and peachy colors (if peach is your beach house jam, great, but I prefer cooler tones like blues and green). I also love to mix in natural materials for added contrast and depth.
HGTV: What was your favorite décor steal from Ty’s and Taniya’s teams?
Alison: I loved Ty’s team’s floorplan — I’m all about reconfiguring spaces to make them more livable and functional, which, of course, leads to a higher home appraisal. Taniya, when she took that shower curtain and turned it into a huge piece of art — that was a standout moment for me.
HGTV: Was there one design feature you wanted to steal for your own home?
Alison: Yes, those brass portholes. We found them during the antique store challenge and put them on the face of a living room banquette. They were gorgeous — and heavy; I’d say they were at least 35 pounds each. The brass against the white shiplap and throw pillows — we killed it!
HGTV: Some would say you won the challenge because you took risks. How important is it to take a risk or two when designing a room?
Alison: For me, it’s not so much about taking a risk as to what feels good. For example, we removed windows in the living room (even though many would consider that move taboo) to create a big, beautiful built-in, adding value to the house. I live and die for arches, and since we didn’t have a kitchen budget for fancy appliances, we needed to go big with something that looked expensive. My team wasn’t in total agreement over the stone archway above the stove, as creating it meant we would lose some upper cabinets, but in the end it was worth the investment. It’s true the risk is often worth the reward!
HGTV: Was there one design point you kept stressing to your team?
Alison: When it comes to a beach house, it’s all about how many you can sleep — there’s value in putting bodies in beds. So, I kept emphasizing we needed to maximize the number of beds. Cory and Paige did a great job with the bunk beds in the kids’ room and the adult style bunks in the guest room.
HGTV pro Alison Victoria partners with up-and-coming house flippers Corey and Paige to renovate their beach house with an elevated modern farmhouse style.
HGTV: If you could call a do-over, what would it be?
Alison: In hindsight, I would have put more detail into the main bedroom, rethinking the headboard and possibly incorporating some built-ins.
HGTV: Corey and Paige love a neutral palette. How hard was it to move the needle on their color wheel?
Alison: It was definitely a challenge because Paige is hardheaded just like me. I felt bad for Cory as he had two Alisons on him. It wasn’t easy to get Paige out of her comfort zone, but eventually she trusted me. For example, when we painted the exterior green, she was texting me she didn’t like the color, but eventually she grew to love it.
HGTV: Is there something you did in the end to win over the judges?
Alison: Curb appeal is so important. I want to be wowed before I even walk into a house, so the fresh coat of green paint was somewhat of a game changer. But the final push was adding the outdoor kitchen. I said to my team, “We can’t just throw a grill out into the yard as there’s value in hardscape,” so we created a full built-in with a sink using some leftover butcher block from the kitchen. It was a great way to seal the deal.
HGTV: How difficult was it to be evaluated by your peers?
Alison: I’m okay with being judged as I’ve learned to take criticism with a grain of salt. And because Sarah and Bryan are such good, authentic people, it was a lot easier to acknowledge their assessments of our work. Plus, we had a lot of fun together, laughing our asses off as we pulled off side competitions, including a sand castle building contest.
HGTV: There must have been some very long days. Any fun stories when you were all getting punchy?
Alison: Last season, Ty, Taniya and I wanted to recreate a Baywatch moment, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Luckily, we were able to pull it off this season. We ran down the beach in our red bathing suits with torpedoes in our hands and everyone watching us thought we were nuts. At one point, Ty went out into the water to save some girls, who clearly didn’t need saving!
HGTV: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned over these last two seasons?
Alison: You have to trust that your team will listen and incorporate what you’re suggesting while still making the project their own. You don’t want anyone to feel like this is ‘Alison's project’. And that’s a strange role for me to be in as I’m used to doing things myself. What I’ve also learned as a mentor is you can’t tell someone what to do. You have to say, “This is why I think it would be great” yet ultimately, your teammates need to make the final decision.
HGTV: If there’s a Battle of the Beach Season 3, are you up for mentoring again?
Alison: Oh God, yes. I’m looking forward to holding onto my championship title. I have no intention of being dethroned!