Meet Denese and Mike Butler, the Dream-Team Hosts of ‘Fix My Frankenhouse’
The husband-and-wife duo specializes in renovating homes with wonky layouts.
They’re easy to picture — those houses that look like they’ve been chopped up and put back together again — but they’re not so easy to fix. Enter Denese and Mike Butler, partners in the business of life and renovating. The married couple and hosts of HGTV’s newest show, Fix My Frankenhouse, have a knack for modernizing homes in the Boston area with wacky layouts and quirky elements (like a staircase that leads into the back of a bedroom closet). Throughout the season, which premieres Sunday, April 23 at 9|8c and is available to stream the same day on discovery+, Mike reconfigures layouts to make them actually work for clients’ families. Meanwhile, Denese gives them the interior design of their dreams, complete with bold elements and personalized touches. Read on to learn how they fell into renovating homes, the origin of the "Frankenhouse" and how the Butlers balance family and work.
The Couple Got Into Renovating Houses Together by Accident
It all started with their own house in Jersey City, New Jersey.
“I have a fashion background so interior design wasn't really what I had my eye on. I just fell into it,” says Denese. “We would have friends come over and they’d be like, ‘Oh, wow!’ and then it snowballed into this cool business opportunity.”
In 2019 Denese and Mike moved from New Jersey to Boston to be closer to family and found themselves renovating what became known as "Frankenhouses."
Frankenhouses Don't Make Sense
“They're hodgepodge houses that don't flow,” says Mike. “A Frankenhouse could have ... ten different types of flooring on one level or bad sightlines, e.g., you open the front door to a view of a toilet down the hall. The layout and features just don't make sense or lend themselves to modern-day living.” Frankenhouses come in all shapes, sizes and locations, but Mike and Denese admit they've seen more of them in the Boston area than any other place they’ve worked.
Denese Is the Interior Designer and Mike Is the Construction Guru
You’ll see Mike designing layouts and making construction decisions and Denese dealing with the aesthetic choices post-renovation. But, according to the couple, there’s some crossover between their roles.
“Sometimes I trickle into his world,” says Denese.
“Sometimes?” asks Mike.
“It depends on how my creative brain works,” says Denese. “I’m like, ‘Ooh, do this and let’s move that,’ and he’s like, ‘The design is over, pencils down. Time to focus on aesthetics.’”
Denese Is All About Personalized Design
“I wouldn’t say I have one signature [style]. Every house in the show has a completely different feel,” says Denese. “I take what I know about the homeowners and blend it with modern elements to create something magical. That means you may see the outside of a house and then go inside and it looks completely different.”
“That’s what we're known for: our versatility and ability to bridge multiple styles,” adds Mike.
“I can design for a 90-year-old woman or a 23-year-old young woman that lives in Manhattan with a gorgeous apartment,” says Denese.
The Couple Lives in Their Own Frankenhouse
“You walk into our house and you wouldn’t think that an interior designer or builder lives here,” says Denese. “We live in our own Frankenhouse, that’s it!”
We'll get to see some of the Butler's own renovation process throughout the season, but it’s not as easy for them to make decisions about their own home as it is to make decisions for their clients.
“I think I’ve redesigned our house three times already. I keep going back and forth on what we should do,” says Mike.
“It’s a blessing and a curse being married to a builder,” says Denese, laughing. “They get things done, but it’s like eighty percent finished.”
Denese and Mike’s Contractor Dads Make Regular Appearances
Both Denese and Mike grew up in the world of building and renovating and depend on their dads, John Butler and Peter Doyle, throughout the season to complete special projects or just lend a hand hanging drywall. Construction became second nature for Mike, but Denese thought she was destined for different things.
“Growing up, I never really showed an interest in my dad's construction world. I thought I would be a scientist when I was younger, but that didn’t work out,” says Denese. “The one way my dad has influenced my journey is how hard he works and that is something that has been instilled in me.”
“My dad, my grandpa, my uncles — they're all builders and carpenters who work in the industry. I have three sisters, so working with my dad was our way of bonding. There’s pictures of me at a construction site with little boots and diapers on,” says Mike. “Then in high school, I studied technical drafting and was able to design homes throughout high school and college. Now we’re where we are today.”
For Denese and Mike, Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
With three kids (two under the age of five) and a house of their own to work on, Denese and Mike are no strangers to the concept of hard work.
“I’m superwoman, okay?” Denese says while laughing. “When I say that, I'm talking about the fact that we have three kids. We’re dealing with Latin tests, parent-teacher conferences, things like that. That’s my version of superwoman — balancing the business and construction aspect with my kids and my husband too. We’re about to hit eleven years and I feel like an experience like this can break or make your relationship and it has made us as people and as a couple a lot stronger.”
“We really understand the saying, ‘It takes a village’ now,” says Mike. “It took a lot of time and effort from hundreds of people to make this happen. We’re thankful and grateful and blessed for the opportunity. Our team, our parents, our families … it really took a village.”
Keep up with Denese and Mike by following them on Instagram at @denesebutler and @thehandybutler, and catch the premiere of Fix My Frankenhouse Sunday, April 23 at 9|8c on HGTV.