25 Things You Didn't Know About Russell J. Holmes of 'Renovation Impossible'
HGTV sat down with the host of 'Renovation Impossible' to learn a little bit more about him.
In his new HGTV show Renovation Impossible, Russell J Holmes joins forces with designer Paige Poupart to help wavering and warring couples — who’ve been paralyzed by their inability to make decisions — resolve their construction and design issues.
“We focus on the people first, then the house,” shares Russell. “Plus, we complete our projects in no more than two weeks!”
He may come off as a tough guy, but it turns out Russell is really just a big softie: he loves to sew and starts each day hand-watering the herbs and plants in his garden.
Ahead, learn how this born-and-bred New Yorker grooms his famous beard, hear about his favorite father-son activities and discover how he’s using the strength he’s culled from a difficult childhood to better the lives of everyone around him.
1. He’s a Twin
Born on December 15, 1972, this Sagittarius and his twin sister, Colleen, were born one minute apart (Russell's older). “With Colleen, I had a partner in crime — one of us would always be on the lookout for the other,” shares Russell. Russell also has two younger brothers, Sean and Danny.
2. He Says He’s 49 Going on 15
“I don’t feel my age,” says Russell, who turns 50 this year. “I think that’s because I always try to stay busy. When I get sedentary, I’ll start to feel old but right now, I’m always on the go. I live with this mantra: ‘I’ll die tired.’”
3. He Lives in Texas but Was Born a Northerner
Russell’s parents divorced when he was in third grade and afterwards, he and his family moved all over Long Island. “We were a very transient family,” notes Russell, who now lives in Keller, Texas.
4. He Acted in High School Plays
While growing up, Russell always wanted to be private detective David Addison (played by Bruce Willis on the television show Moonlighting). So, it’s no surprise he spent time on the stage in high school. “I played Benedict Arnold and Snoopy in a version of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown where I got to sing and dance. I also loved doing talent shows,” he shares.
5. He Had a Tough Childhood
“I didn’t have it easy early on,” shares Russell. “My father died at 39 from alcoholism and my mother committed suicide after multiple attempts one year on Valentine’s Day. Witnessing many of those attempts propelled me to become an EMT and fueled my desire to help others. I never wanted to feel helpless again when it came to assisting someone in need and these days, I’m passionate about anything that deals with suicide prevention.”
6. He Married a Jersey Girl
“I no longer drink alcohol, but I happened to be in a bar with my former Garage Rehab co-host Richard Rawlings, when I heard a laugh and I noticed my beautiful wife. She was leaving the bar so I got up and held the door for her and she commented how nobody holds the door for anyone anymore. We got to talking and I was smitten! We made a plan for our first date and the rest is history,” says Russell. He later propsed to her in on the steps of a church in Rome.
7. And, She's His Biggest Inspiration
“She wakes up on the right side of the bed every day,” Russell says. “She’s always looking at the glass half full and truly believes every day is going to be the best day and then does everything she can to make that happen.”
8. He’s Become an Expert on Resolving Conflicts
Because his show is all about helping families settle design and construction differences, Russell often finds himself playing the role of therapist. “The key is seeing yourself in someone else’s shoes, understanding why that person leans towards certain ideas and then meeting them on common ground. In one episode, I actually go to a spa and get a facial with a husband so he can better understand why his wife wanted a place in her home where she could unwind and relax,” Russell says. “When we coexist with someone, we don’t always recognize the joy they receive from something or how a change in their home will positively affect their day-to-day. Relatability brings it down to the most basic level — understanding why that change is important to the other person often switches on the lightbulb.”
9. He Loves His Boys
Russell is dad to Dylan (25) and Zachary (24). “I had kids when I was in my twenties, which was great because I was that parent who could always be physically involved, like during Dylan’s senior year when I played in an alumni parent football game,” says Russell.
10. He’s Eight Years Sober
“During the process of becoming sober, I had to do the step work and acknowledge what was causing me to be that person. Sure, there are medical studies that show alcoholism is hereditary due to an addictive gene, but there’s the other part of it which deals with how you internalize things and the lifestyle you lead,” says Russell. “Now, I go to bed every night and evaluate my day and figure out how I can do the right thing and be a better person the next day. Having that perspective in life is a great gift.”
11. He Got His High School Degree Later in Life
“I didn’t graduate from high school,” shares Russell, who got his GED in 2001. “It was important to me to get that degree because how could I tell my kids they have to get an education when I didn’t finish mine?”
12. He Has Three Dogs
There’s Kal, an 11-week-old Cavapoo named after Superman; Max, short for Maximus, is a 19-month Cavapoo; and Gus, which is short for Augustus. “I’m half Italian and Laura and I love the whole Italian name thing,” laughs Russell. “Gus, a toy poodle, is the senior leader of the pack at 10 years old. He was [my wife's] dog before we got married.”
13. He Owns an Orange Harley Davidson
Russell learned how to ride motorcycles when he lived on Long Island, but didn’t realize what it would be like riding in Texas. “I love my 2011 bike – it was the only year they manufactured it in orange — but it’s just too hot to ride a motorcycle in Texas,” he laughs.
14. His Beard Requires Quite a Bit of Work
"Having a beard is like having a child — there’s so much work involved. You’ve got to wash and condition it with a special soap, trim it, oil it," says Russell, who surprisingly never thought to grow his out until he was 43. “I was always clean shaven. Then, when I did the screen test for my previous show, Garage Rehab, the producers told me they loved my beard and I should never shave it, because it makes me more recognizable."
15. His Favorite Tattoo Honors First Responders
Russell has 22 tattoos but it’s the image of the American flag surrounded by the Star of Life (the Star of Life has become synonymous with emergency medical care) on his left inside forearm that he loves the most. “Inside the Star of Life there’s an 'S' representing Superman, which was my nickname when I worked with EMT and ALS units,” he shares. “This tattoo gives me a lot of pride because it honors all of the first responders I worked with over those years.”
16. He Has a Fear of Heights
Well, sort of. “It’s not the elevation I’m afraid of, it’s the risk of mechanical failure,” he explains. “I can work on a roof with no problem but it’s getting up on that ladder where I have issues. I’m constantly asking myself, ‘What if it breaks?' To help overcome it, I started taking classes to get my pilot’s license. I don’t want a fear to beat me but I have to admit it is paralyzing.”
17. He's a Huge Elvis Fan
“In high school I used to wear my hair like Elvis and walk the halls in these blue Capezio-style shoes — my own version of Elvis’s blue suede shoes!” When he was a teenager, Russell got a tattoo of Elvis on his right shoulder. “The joke is, it doesn’t look like him,” he laughs. “Elvis once said, ‘If my fans want my shirt, they can have my shirt. They put it on my back.’ I feel the same way about the fans of my show.”
18. He Loves When Homeowners Get Their Hands Dirty
Moving the needle with homeowners who are frozen in their remodeling decisions is what drives Russell on his new show. “But to see them get active in the reno right beside me is what I love. I always teach my kids you don’t appreciate something as much if you didn’t work hard for it,” notes Russell. “These homeowners are truly invested — physically and mentally — in their home’s final outcome. They’re willing to undertake something big, that in the end, will have a great effect on their lives."
19. He Describes Himself as a Fixer and a Big Teddy Bear
On the former: Russell’s Twitter bio reads, "Car/Truck/Motorcycle/Tool/Guy/Construction." Yet if he had to choose one word to describe himself it would be “fixer.”
“That word encompasses it all,” he shares. “A lot of that came from growing up poor and not being able to hire anyone to fix things. I love being able to problem solve.” On the latter: “People ask me why I’m always screaming, but I’m not — I’m from New York!” laughs Russell. “I’ve also got a New York attitude — I will advocate for homeowners and it’s not always rosy. But I know my tough-love approach is best for my clients.”
20. He Hit it Off Immediately With Renovation Impossible's Designer
Despite the fact that Paige Poupart is 5’3” and Russell is 6’2”, they see eye to eye. “You know that saying ‘dynamite comes in small packages’ — well that’s Paige in a nutshell,” Russell shares. “She’s a small person with a big personality who is also incredibly creative, caring, energetic and has amazing taste. She’s also very thrifty and can get creative with a budget, which bodes well for the homeowners. And as a realtor, she takes into account the resale value of doing something.”
21. He’s Picked Up a New Hobby
Besides the show, Russell is most excited about golfing with his son Zach who recently moved down to Texas from New York. “We’re actually signed up for a tournament!” he says. “I have to really work on my game to get to my son’s level — he’s that good.”
22. He Starts Each Day by Gardening
“After I have my coffee, I water every plant and herb by hand and tend to my garden,” Russell notes. “Everything I've planted was once a seed or bulb. I especially love my basil — it smells great.”
23. He Makes a Mean Chicken Parm
“My grandmother was off the boat from Italy. It was important to me to tap into my heritage, so I learned how to make my own sauce. The recipe developed over time — I’d take a little of this and a little of that — but it’s now perfect. I want to open a restaurant one day and put it on the menu and call it Parmdemonium!”
24. He Can’t Live Without These Three Things
His family and friends (“I don’t know where I’d be without them”); his Pantene hairspray (“They discontinued it, but I can still find it online”); his pool (“Being from New York, I need to be by water”).
25. He Has a Favorite HGTV Show
And it's My Lottery Dream Home. “David Bromstad is just so genuine and makes me laugh, he’s the real deal,” Russell says. “I recently bought a jacket for my son that reminded me of something David would wear. I would love to work with him.”
Renovation Impossible with Russell Holmes airs on Thursday nights at 9/8c on HGTV.