Taniya Nayak is everywhere these days.
Maybe you’ve seen her coaching her team in Season 3 of the design competition “Battle on the Beach” or working alongside co-host Shane Duffy to treat deserving homeowners to makeovers in Season 2 of “Build It Forward.”
Given she’s been around the block on the HGTV circuit, we wanted to hear her perspective about what really happens behind the scenes of a reality TV show. So we asked, and she answered! She shares some surprising details (including the “Battle on the Beach” alliance few know exists), plus some smart design tips she’s learned along the way that she thinks every homeowner should keep in mind.
‘Battle on the Beach’ just wrapped Season 3! It looks like you guys have so much fun while filming. Do you have any funny behind-the-scenes stories from this season?
It is so much fun. It’s just as much fun for us to film it as it is probably for people to watch it. And there’s way too many behind-the-scenes stories. We love to go out for karaoke because Alison [Victoria] loves to do karaoke and so does Ty [Pennington]. I’m not as big of a karaoke fan, but I’m a good audience and I’m the one who’s always filming these two doing their crazy karaoke.
Alison and I are friends, and we shared a house this season, so behind the scenes, [she] and I were living together doing the show, and we would always cook dinners and Ty would come over. It became one big, happy family. It was like a bunch of siblings hanging out, laughing and just having a great time. But the thing that I feel is really special about our relationship is that we are just as happy for the winner of the season.
No matter who’s winning each season, we’re so excited for them, you know, that they won. However, Ty and I did form an alliance. The only time we would not be happy is if Alison had won the kitchen again this season. We were really set against [that]!
Was there anything about this ‘Battle’ season that might surprise fans?
Every season is so different because the teams are so different. Ashley Basnight and Steve Lewis are work buddies. She’s a designer and an influencer; he is a professional tile installer. So their relationship is that they do renovations together and work [as] friends.
Then Ben Argall and Pete Meldrum: Ben is a Realtor® with an art degree background, and then Pete is a builder. So they have that sort of situation. But neither of them are professional designers, so they’re digging deep to come up with the aesthetics and the design part of it. But their construction is stellar.
Ryan and Kelsey Mansingh, husband and wife duo: They’re young, new flippers. Ryan has been doing construction for a couple of years. Kelsey has an eye for design.
So all the teams are coming to the table with different skills, which is what makes it really, really unique.
Throughout the seasons, do you feel like you’ve changed your approach to win?
Totally, 100%. Coming in the first season, we mentors were learning also, and so now here we are three seasons in and now I know what the judges are looking for. We’re researching the area a little bit better to find out what the actual local area needs. I think we’re just getting smarter at what we need to get done.
What tips do you have for those looking to refresh a vacation home?
This season, we have some dark colors. We got a lot of heat for it. So my tip is if you’re doing a beach house, do the beach house to what feels right for you, unless you’re going to be putting it out there to rent. Then you want to do a little bit more of a mass appeal.
I have a home in Fort Lauderdale, and I made it very much my style, which is a little bit more city, a little bit more urban style, but still coastal.
You can figure out what is really right for you or what’s right for the market depending on what you’re going to be using that house for. So my advice is I don’t follow trends too often, and you will see that in a lot of our designs. We’re not too trendy. We try to do something that we feel is unique and will stand out.
‘Build It Forward,’ which recently premiered Season 2, is all about giving back. What attracted you to hosting this type of show?
I’ve been wanting for a really, really long time to do a show that had some charitable components to it, so when I heard about the show and I heard my name was in the running for it, I was very persistent about wanting to be on this show because it was so important to me.
What’s different about it is that the makeovers are unique in the sense that these people that give back, they give very, very selflessly of themselves, but they don’t really know how to receive.
In Season 1, we found that a lot of times, the homeowners didn’t cry on reveal day. It was hard for them to react, actually. I asked why, and one of the women had told me that she was dealing with kids who had dealt with trauma and she couldn’t cry in front of them, so she sort of trained herself not to cry. These people give and give. It was so nice to give to them a little bit, too.
Our community projects are bigger and way more involved this season than they were last season. In this season, you will see the participants that are involved with the organizations actually using them.
We had one particular episode where we were working with adults with disabilities, and they got to come in and experience the space. I had tears on every single community project of the season. I think we learned a lot from Season 1, and we just made it even better for Season 2.
These projects are often crowd-pleasers. Do you have any take-home tips from these projects that could translate to anyone’s home?
A lot of these community project designs could work great in a kid’s playroom. You could always do a mural in a room. Find a local muralist or an artist or even take a stab at it yourself using a projector, or you can purchase certain decals online and create some good energy and some fun energy in your home yourself.
There’s also so much value in just refurbishing old furniture—painting, changing hardware, changing knobs. A lot of those things go a long way. So you don’t have to break the bank fully in order to give yourself a little uplifting renovation.
Lots of HGTV shows take place in one city, but ‘Build It Forward’ takes place all over the country. Have you noticed any design rule that’s universal everywhere?
One big thing that we keep noticing on a lot of these episodes is that people are blocking their windows with furniture and I don’t know why. We found ourselves unblocking windows in almost every episode. Let that natural light in. I feel like that’s a really big one. It will help the space feel bigger, more bright, and more happy.
I’ve noticed that most people are busy with their lives and they don’t really take a moment to pick out what’s going to serve them while in their own house. They aren’t taking a moment to look around and declutter. Breathe. Decluttering can give you clarity, a better start to your day, a better end to your night.