Boston-Area Husband-Wife Duo Team Up in HGTV’s New “Fix My Frankenhouse”
Stoughton-based Mike and Denese Butler will work on homes throughout the southern Massachusetts suburbs.
Many of us spent a good chunk of 2020 within the same four walls. And when you’re spending 24 hours a day confined to what’s essentially a fancy box, you start to realize that the “charming quirks” you wrote off when you bought the place are actually unnerving, like something out of a horror novel, whether it be an affordable addition that interrupts the flow of foot traffic or a historic staircase that was horribly placed when it was built.
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If you’ve experienced this sensation, you may be living in a “Frankenhouse.” Much like the monster created by Dr. Frankenstein, this term describes homes with a motley assortment of structural elements that combine to create a near-terrifying effect. One Massachusetts husband and wife duo have dedicated themselves to fixing these sorts of oddball properties—and now they’ll be doing so on HGTV.
The new series Fix My Frankenhouse, which premieres on Sunday, April 23 at 9 p.m., will follow Mike and Denese Butler, a Stoughton-based renovation/design team, as they correct strange floor plans and refresh disjointed homes in Greater Boston. Mike will handle the construction side of things while Denese will use custom finishes to style their completed projects.
“I think the pandemic really opened a lot of people’s eyes,” says Mike, who grew up in Lexington. Many of the Butlers’ clients didn’t consider their home’s flow when building additions, or they’d purchased less-than-optimal places years ago and only really started to rethink the design when working from home. Forced isolation was, as Mike puts it, “the perfect storm for everyone to re-evaluate.”
These types of disjointed homes are common in New England, Denese points out, where an older housing stock means a longer history of questionable home renos. “Over time, families make changes,” she adds. “It could be a budget issue where they’re like, ‘I don’t want to spend money redoing the entire thing.’ So over time they add an addition here and there, which doesn’t end up being super beneficial because they never look at the bigger picture.”
So how did the Butlers become housing’s antidote to Dr. Frankenstein? “I come from a family of carpenters and builders,” says Mike, who attended the vocational-technical Minuteman High School. “I’ve been bred as a carpenter’s son and decided later to focus on design. I knew I wanted to be an architect. [In] high school, [I] focused on design and then went on to architectural school. I have navigated between the design world and the construction management world most of my career.”
Meanwhile Denese, who’s originally from Mattapan, started her career at a luxury textile company. When she wasn’t working, she was decorating her own home, often staying up late into the night rearranging the couple’s furniture to fit her vision. From this, she discovered her love of, and knack for, design. Pretty soon, friends started coming over and asking her to design their homes. After having the couple’s first child, she struck out on her own, establishing a design studio, The Perfect Vignette. “I have a background in fashion,” she says. “Interior design is similar—it’s home fashion.”
After the couple moved to Stoughton in late 2019, a production company found their design work on Instagram and reached out about the possibility of doing a show. One sizzle reel and a few years later, Fix My Frankenhouse is a reality.
The first season, which will also stream on discovery+, will kick off with the couple bringing an early 1900s abode into the 21st century by eliminating all its dysfunctional spaces. Over the course of six episodes, the Butlers will work on homes in Weymouth, Dedham, Wareham, Millbury, Rehoboth, and Hanover. “The biggest thing you’re going to see is a different design aesthetic,” says Mike. “Every house is different. We don’t necessarily have a staple. We’re pretty versatile between multiple aesthetics.”
The show will also feature the couple’s respective fathers, master carpenters John Butler and Peter Doyle, who will use their skills to help save these houses, crafting unique projects like a kitchen island with a built-in bench seat and a repurposed antique chest. “We are so fortunate to be able to work with [our dads],” Denese says. “I was able to pull them out of retirement.” The couple’s three children will also appear, making the show a real family affair. “America is going to see a really awesome, feel-good family show. I feel like there aren’t many out there so I’m grateful to be part of something cool.”
Fix My Frankenhouse premieres Sunday, April 23 at 9 p.m. on HGTV and discovery+.