How the Stars of HGTV’s ‘Restored by the Fords’ Got Their Start in Home Restoration

It's all thanks to a few strategically placed holes in the walls of Leanne Ford’s vintage schoolhouse.

By: Jessica Galliart

Siblings Leanne and Steve Ford have made restoring off-the-beaten-path Pittsburgh homes their specialty, as seen on their new HGTV series Restored by the Fords, premiering Jan. 2. But it’s quite possible none of it would have happened if not for some guerilla demolition and an older brother beer bribe. 

“It’s very handy to have a handy brother, I’ll tell you that,” Leanne Ford said. 

After purchasing her first home, a historic schoolhouse that hadn’t been touched since the 1960s, Leanne had grand plans for modernizing it while maintaining its original charm: open rafters, a totally wet master bathroom, slat ceilings with twinkle lights. But when the contractors she interviewed to carry out her vision all said no, she took matters into her own hands and, by default, her older brother’s. 

“She had this vision, and she would instantly go into a room and just start wrecking stuff,” Steve said. “Then it had to be fixed to her taste and liking. She knew I could do it, so I got the phone call. I think she knew she had, like, a safety net. She could knock out walls and then her brother would come fix them.”

While Steve wasn’t contracting full-time at that point, he was far from inexperienced. In between pursuing interests like skiing, snowboarding and rafting, he had relied on seasonal construction gigs to pay the bills since high school. His sporting pursuits aren't ancient history — he's still showing East Coasters the ways of wakesurfing with his Surf Pittsburgh initiative — but working as an unofficial executor of dreams is his full-time gig. 

“My favorite part about working with Steve is that he can make anything happen,” Leanne said. “Any crazy idea I dream of, any idea I dream up, he can make happen. That’s very nice in a contractor.” 

Once the schoolhouse was finished, Leanne and Steve started getting requests from friends and friends of friends to work on their houses. One house led to another, and not long after, the Fords made home design their primary gigs. 

“We search out Pittsburgh for the coolest homes, the stranger, the weirder, the more unique, the better,” Steve said. “And then Leanne comes in and puts her spin on it, and I go to work.” 

A creative at heart, this isn’t Leanne’s first go-round in such a field. She spent nearly 15 years in the fashion industry as a stylist and a creative director in New York City and Los Angeles. Interior design is her focus now, but, as we’ll hear often in Restored by the Fords when she’s describing her visions for a space — “Lighting is like jewelry for a dress” — Leanne’s two main career interests are more intertwined than they may seem. 

“Honestly, the same thing in fashion is what I love about interiors, which is just new ways to connect things; new ways to put things together; mixing old and new, shiny and rusty,” Leanne said. “And all of those things together are what makes a home interesting.” 

Restored by the Fords premieres Jan. 2 on HGTV. 

Next Up

“Restored by the Fords” Is Back for Season 2

Season 2 premieres on Tuesday, March 19 with back-to-back episodes at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET/PT!

Steve Ford is Loving Life in His New Warehouse Loft

On the season finale of Restored by the Fords, Steve and Leanne renovated a warehouse for one very special client — Steve Ford himself! HGTV caught up with Steve to see how the new place has been treating him. Spoiler alert: he loves it!

How to Refurbish a Gas Grill

Don't throw away your old gas grill, learn how to make it work and look like new again by replacing the burners, grates and more. Plus, find tips and tricks for removing rust and grease.

How to Refinish Wood Furniture

Follow these simple steps on how to refinish wood furniture that include stripping, sanding and staining.

How to Sand Furniture Before Painting

Whether you want to spruce up an old wooden Adirondack chair or give a fresh coat of paint to a great thrift store dresser find, you need to prep your furniture before painting. Here’s how.

How to Get Rid of Roaches

Here's what to do if your home has cockroaches, plus learn how to prevent these bugs from ever coming back.

How to Hand-Wash Clothes

Hand-washing items in your wardrobe can preserve quality, target stains and help your most cherished garments last longer.

How to Choose a Mattress

Your mattress holds a king-sized responsibility to deliver a good night's sleep. Here's how to buy the right one.

How to Get Organized for Good, According to Professional Organizers

The experts are telling all — including the storage solutions they use IRL and how to get an Instagram-worthy pantry that works for real life.

Expert Tips on How to Make It Through a Renovation

Living through a renovation can be mentally and emotionally taxing, and requires careful planning and a lot of patience. We've got expert tips inspired by Life Under Renovation, premiering April 28 on discovery+. By Mariette Williams.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.

Luxury Home Giveaways

HGTV Urban Oasis

A bold remodel in Portland, Maine.

HGTV Dream Home

A grand coastal escape located in Newport, Rhode Island.

HGTV Smart Home

A sophisticated home blending design with today’s top tech in Naples, FL.