Cristy Lee Opens Up About Filming Season 1 of ‘Steal This House’

The auto-guru-turned-HGTV-host gives a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like filming for Steal This House.

Photo by: Nick Hagen

Nick Hagen

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It’s natural to wonder how automotive guru Cristy Lee — born into the Daytona Beach world of cars, bikes and trucks — went from racing vehicles and spending sunny days in her dad’s auto shop to renovating houses in Detroit.

“I’ve always loved houses. I’ve always loved remodeling,” Cristy tells HGTV. “There was a housing boom in 2005 when I graduated from college, so I moved to Detroit.”

The rest is history, she assures us as Season 1 of Steal This House comes to a close. As proof, check her out on HGTV. She’ll show you: Renovating homes and fixing up cars aren't all that different — at least when you're a hands-on, DIY-lover like she is.

“I put everything I have into these projects and into this show and into putting out solid renovations and amazing designs,” she says. “I hope viewers can learn something along the way.”

With all things Steal This House on her mind, Cristy sat down with us to share some behind-the-scenes details about filming for HGTV.

Photo by: Nick Hagen

Nick Hagen

HGTV: What was your favorite part about filming?

Cristy: Filming in my home state of Michigan was so awesome. It was amazing to be able to do what I love in an extremely familiar environment. Going to all the different neighborhoods and looking at all the different homes. That was a huge advantage for me, because I know the area. I also loved working with the crew and the homeowners. Everyone’s so fantastic to work with. I don’t feel like the homeowners are my clients — they become my friends throughout the process, and it’s so cool showing off the final project and seeing how happy they are.

HGTV: Any behind-the-scenes tidbits?

Cristy: I’m kind of the same person all the time — on camera and off camera and although I take my job very seriously, I also keep it light. I like to have fun and goof around a bit, and sometimes the crew had to reel me in. But we had a lot of fun on set. I also did a lot of metalwork throughout the season. In one project we had a custom metal steel stair railing. We also put together a full-blown steel wall surround behind a fireplace unit as well as a copper range hood.

HGTV: What was a big challenge you faced during filming?

Cristy: Covid was a massive challenge for literally everyone on the face of the earth, but aside from that there were a slew of challenges. One of the biggest was pulling off the construction of the steel fireplace surround. There were a lot of moving parts and to finish it off I had to cut a nine-inch perfect circle through a piece of steel that took weeks to ship to us (we didn’t have the time or budget to order another one) — so there was a lot of pressure. I'm not sure if you can see me sweating on camera, but that was a very stressful moment. Luckily, I totally nailed it. But time and budget — those are two things that we were constantly working against.

HGTV: Real estate and design are completely different from cars and motorcycles. In what way do you think these two worlds overlap, and how has your experience with the auto industry influenced your real estate prowess?

Cristy: I think the biggest thing for me is that I love diving into projects. I love working with my hands. I love tearing things down, rebuilding them, learning new things, working with tools, creating projects, figuring out how to build them, the engineering behind it, the fabrication behind it. Although cars and homes are extremely different, when you really break it down, the process to renovate or restore both of them is very similar: You're using tools. You're building things. You're learning how to fix something. My experience with the automotive industry — not only working with tools and building things, but my metal work experience as well — has definitely helped me. I’m so glad I'm able to take those skill sets to the table for home renovation. Being able to do some of that stuff ties the two together. As different as they are, for me, someone who likes to build things and be hands-on, they're really not so different. They’re both DIY.

For more decorating and renovation tips follow Cristy on Instagram at @cristylee09.

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