A few years ago, builder Chris Liles and real-estate agent Austin King were quietly transforming midcentury ranch homes in the Arcadia neighborhood of east Phoenix, striving to preserve the classic style while giving the homes modern amenities and making them functional for young families like theirs.
This year, their company, called Rafterhouse, may find a much larger audience.
After Austin tweeted photos of their work to a TV producer, Rafterhouse was selected to film a pilot for Home and Garden Television. The HGTV pilot (also called “Rafterhouse”) aired in October 2015, featuring Liles and Austin and their two photogenic young families — with seven kids between them.
Although feedback on the 30-minute pilot was good, HGTV requested they shoot a new one-hour pilot. Rather than showing Liles and King working on a home flip or spec home, they wanted them to work with clients on a home remodel.
The new pilot was shot last summer. Now, the families are waiting patiently to hear when it will air, which could happen any day or not at all.
“Last time, we got about two weeks’ notice,” King says.
That was enough time to organize a crowded watch party for friends and family. The two couples — Austin and Suzanne King and Chris and Fallon Liles — also used their TV platform to raise money and gather supplies for Children First Academy in Phoenix, a K-8 school that serves low-income and homeless families. They loved being able to help local charities and highlighting local businesses in the first pilot.
Recently, the two couples and all seven kids gathered at the Liles home in east Phoenix for a group photo. The house boasts a huge backyard where chickens roam, kids play and a giant new barn is a meeting spot for Young Life, a Christian youth group they host weekly. Both families are Zen about what happens next.
“I’m on the bus. I’m enjoying the ride,” Austin says.
Fallon says she and Austin are the most at ease on camera. But it’s clear the whole crew is good TV, from 6-year-old Lily King, a fashion plate who steals the photo shoot, to 9-year-old Branson Liles, the eldest of the seven kids, who is a wealth of information.
“I thought it was pretty fun,” Branson, a third-grader, says of filming the most recent pilot. “I got to play with the cameras, and I got free snacks.”
Fallon says they love filming the show with their best friends (she and Suzanne have known each other since childhood and play a big role in interior design and staging). But whatever happens, they’re grateful for the experience and know the outcome was meant to be.
“It will be really exciting if it happens,” she says. “But in reality, I think it would be a ton of work.”
The families put in some 12-hour days of filming, which made daycare a big expense, Austin says. Just the logistics of getting the seven kids to four different schools would take effort around a filming schedule. Meanwhile, their business is thriving; they’re working on five home remodels simultaneously.
Logistics aside, they have a real foothold in the TV world, with both an agent and a proven production company. High Noon Entertainment, which shot both Rafterhouse pilots, produces HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” and such shows as TLC’s “Cake Boss.”
“High Noon is amazing,” Austin says. “After seeing the first pilot, we had a lot of peace about who we’re with.”
Chris says he likes the switch from a 30-minute show to one that better showcases their personalities and close relationships with clients. Austin says the format also fits the new reality that client remodels are a better business model for them because both house and labor costs have gone up, making home flips more difficult.
10 family-friendly home-design features
Rafterhouse is known for modern-classic home designs that function well for busy families. Here are some of their trademark family-friendly features:
• Open kitchens with oversize islands that serve as gathering places.
• Trough sinks in kids bathrooms so there are no cluttered countertops.
• Built-in shelving, homework stations or bill-paying areas.
• Drop-it areas, such as built-in lockers or cubbies where kids can hang their jackets, sports equipment and school backpacks.
• Floors of wide-plank, light, natural wood or engineered hardwood (no high-gloss dark floors) that conceal dust, footprints and pet scratches in high-traffic areas.
• Clean sight lines in such areas as the laundry room, so piles of clothes aren’t in full view.
• Walk-in pantries — often with vintage or unique peek-in doors.
• Fun kids rooms with built-in bunkbeds, lofts, secret passageways and other features.
• Smart floor plans with an efficient use of space and good traffic flow.
• Large front and back porches and patios that create places for socializing.