First published in the August 5 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
South Pasadena resident Carmine Sabatella is one of the stars of the HGTV show “Inside Out,” which takes a unique view of home improvements, not only looking at both the inside and outside of homes, but working with homeowners on the renovation budget.
Sabatella works on the interiors of the homes, while his co-star Mike Pyle comes up with ideas for the exteriors of the houses.
Previously, many HGTV shows would have designers come in, lay out their plans and make changes, but the owners left the house and weren’t so involved with the process. It was a “surprise” when owners returned, Sabatella said.
“Inside Out” lets the homeowner “get in the trenches with the designers,” and stay until the final stages of the renovations. They do still leave for the final touches and are surprised at the end.
“They have a hand in everything. They have a hand in the design. All of the choices to the point of what they want. Some of them say, ‘Look, we don’t even know where to begin [regarding] design choice. You just choose it.’ That’s how it all started, and that was about six years ago,” Sabatella said. “We were kind of the guinea pigs … to see if an audience would like this different platform, and they did.”
The show’s popularity opened opportunities for similar types of shows on HGTV, he added.
In the first episode of the first season, Sabatella wanted to make improvements to a small Ranch-style home and recommended removing a fireplace to open up the space inside.
“My clients really, really wanted an open floor plan,” Sabatella said, adding that the couple didn’t use the fireplace. If they had, he would have tried to relocate the fireplace.
The change expanded the size of the home’s galley kitchen, which can be very difficult for two people to cook in.
Pyle made suggestions for the outside of the home, including building a permanent area for a grill because the couple liked to cook not only in the house, but also outside.
Through negotiating, the couple agreed the fireplace should be taken out and countered that they would prefer an outside cooking area where a portable grill could be used, which was a less-expensive option. In the future, they could add a permanent grill.
The show actually began with Pyle coming on board first, through his extensive social media presence, and the production company wanted to bring in someone to do the interiors. Sabatella said he and Pyle had worked “loosely” on a few projects years before.
Pyle’s business partner was in the car when he was talking to show representatives on the phone. She suggested Sabatella, with whom she’d gone to elementary, middle school and high school. The show’s reps then looked at Sabatella’s social media content.
“It was super random. It was like the right place at the right time,” Sabatella said.
The combination of the two designers clicked and the show, through a sizzle reel, or a short promotional video, moved forward.
Sabatella said sometimes it’s a challenge for the homeowners to give over creative control to the designers. “Sometimes it’s hard for them to wrap their minds around” renovation suggestions, he said. It can be a process for the homeowners to come around to see that the professional designers probably have the best ideas.
Also, when deciding on renovations, there are often other issues that come up such as sewer problems or an electrical panel that needs to be replaced. The show highlights those challenges and how homeowners can still keep the project on budget. “We try to keep it real,” he said.
So, he and Pyle try to move around the funds or they try to get something donated for the project or tap into vendors who may owe them something. “We try to make it work for them,” he said.
Sabatella was born in South Pasadena and lived there until he was 9 to 10 years old, attending Holy Family Catholic School. The family moved away when they opened a business. When he went to college, he lived in Malibu, attending Pepperdine University. He transferred to USC for business and public relations as a junior and didn’t want to live in downtown LA, so he moved back to South Pasadena.
“I’ve basically been here ever since,” he said.
In addition to “Inside Out,” Sabatella works as a Realtor/broker for Compass in Pasadena. He is also a well-known home renovator.
The second season of “Inside Out” premiered Monday and is available to watch on DirecTV Stream and Philo.