The Secrets to Pulling Off a Live-in Renovation, According to Two Magnolia Network Stars Who’ve Done It



One of the only things more challenging than taking on home renovation is attempting to also live in the house that you’re working on, but Tara Mangini and Percy Bright have built their careers on doing just that. The co-founders of the Jersey Ice Cream Co. spent years temporarily moving into the houses that they’re renovating, but they recently decided to put their skills to ultimate test by working on a home of their own in Upstate New York. 

The pair have been chronicling their live-in renovation experience in the Magnolia Network series, “The Story of Home,” and shared some of the secrets to pulling it off in a recent interview with Apartment Therapy.

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At this point, it feels weird to be in a house that is not under construction, Mangini shared. “I feel like I’m tiptoeing around and not supposed to get anything dirty,” she said. “Versus the feeling of when it’s under construction, which is this very loose, who cares, spill it, draw on the wall, nothing matters… It’s this really free situation.”

“There’s also the practical benefit of getting to know the house better and getting to change your mind all the time, for better or worse,” Bright said. “[You can alter] your plans as you go, instead of having this detailed design plan that just gets executed by someone else and then you walk back in. Being able to change things up as things progress is huge.”

One of the keys to success is coming up with designated living quarters. “Create these makeshift areas,” Mangini said, recommending a temporary kitchen and living area. “For me, once I can get that up and running, it’s actually pretty easy to get used to that.” 

She noted that it’s also important to recognize the exact nature of your renovation: whether it’s a simple paint job or something involving gutting and insulation. “I think there’s some degrees where you should probably get a hotel or Airbnb for a month or something,” she added.

Maintaining mental wellness is another important part of the process. It can be easier to pull off a live-in renovation in the summer, because you have the option to spend time outside of the house, Mangini said. Getting exercise and talking to friends are also simple ways to get out of the headspace of the project. Mangini shared that there’s no straight line and that she and Bright usually have a check-in every six-to-ten weeks where they come up with a new plan and that “it’s just always kind of a new approach.”

“The Story of Home” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on Magnolia Network, discovery+, and the Magnolia app.


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