If there was a checklist that highlighted positive individual character traits, Alison Victoria Gramenos would undoubtedly score high marks across the board. Bright, successful, attractive, gregarious, funny, talented, passionate, confident … and a foul mouth that she’s not the least bit ashamed of.
So it’s not exactly shocking that Gramenos is about to launch a reality-TV show career as host of Kitchen Crashers on DIY Network. What’s astounding is it took this long for someone to find and hire the 30-year-old interior designer.
A Chicago native, Gramenos moved to Las Vegas in 1999 to attend UNLV, where she chased her passion (“I’m one of the lucky few where you just know what you want to do in life”). Two years after landing her first professional job with Christopher Homes (as the company’s youngest designer), Gramenos launched her own firm, Alison Victoria Interiors, and later her own line of modern luxury furniture. Soon after, the new owners of the Silverton hired her to oversee the property’s $160 million expansion as creative director (a position she still holds).
When producers for the DIY Network caught wind of Gramenos’ résumé, and then her personality, they moved quickly to bring her into the fold, eventually making her the first female host of their popular Crashers series. In Kitchen Crashers, she surprises homeowners in Las Vegas and Chicago—her two home bases—with extravagant kitchen redesigns completed in four days.
As of mid-September, Gramenos (who drops her last name for the show) had taped six of 13 episodes, the first of which airs at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 10.
What’s the Kitchen Crashers experience been like so far?
It’s fun. It’s ridiculously fun. I get to do what I love to do, I get paid for it, and I get to do it for people who really appreciate it. Each homeowner has truly become a friend of mine. And it’s like my business on crack. It really is. Normally a house might take me two years if it’s from the ground up, or it could take me six months if it’s already built. But it’s never four days—ever. So now I get to go from design to completion in four days, and I get to change someone’s life. And it’s one of the most incredible feelings because it’s real. And when I say “real” I mean this might be the most real reality TV show. There’s no script. There’s no bullshit. It’s me with a sledgehammer. It’s me bashing my head into a gas line. It’s me in high heels taking down an outdoor kitchen.
How did you land the job?
I got a random e-mail one day, and it asked, “Are any Chicago-based designers interested in being on a reality home-design show?” And I wrote back, “Fuck yeah—me! I’m the one, and here’s why.” … My specialty is getting shit done fast. Not that I ever jeopardize the quality, ever. But what I wrote in the e-mail to one of the producers was, “I’m fast, and I’ll show you how fast I am. Come to Trump Tower in Chicago and watch me install this condo on the 42nd floor in four days. Just watch me do it.” And she said, “All right, I’ll come check you out.” She came out, told me, “This is unbelievable. We’ll let you know.” And I got a call back that day.
What’s the most challenging thing about hosting your own reality show?
I can’t be that much of a control freak, because I’m not in control. I’m in control to a certain point, but it’s TV. So I can’t just say, “Let’s get these doorknobs on!” because they’re like “No, no, no, let’s get the camera, and we’ve got to do take one, take two, take three.” Or the lighting’s not right, my mic was off, something’s wrong. So this show has taught me a lot about patience.
What’s the most extravagant project you’ve done on the show?
This outdoor kitchen in old Henderson. Before they had this little tiny kitchen area that the previous homeowner had started but didn’t get near finishing. No appliances were in it, it was this little weird area with this kind of creepy outdoor shower. But I liked the idea of an outdoor shower, and the homeowner is a bartender at one of the local pools, so he wanted that cool feel of a resort backyard. So I wanted to keep the shower, and we did this huge outdoor kitchen with this kind of hideaway shower. It was like a spa. When it was all said and done, that was about a good $70,000 [project].
What’s the biggest mistake people make when remodeling their kitchen?
I think that they think they can do it on their own. A lot of people are so overzealous that they start it and never finish it. They get so overwhelmed. You want to make sure—especially when you’re designing the kitchen, which is the hub of your house—that you find a licensed contractor who knows what they’re doing. Get a designer. Spend the money. Spend now or spend more later.
What’s the best piece of architecture in Las Vegas?
The Lou Ruvo Brain Institute. That’s Frank Gehry. It just stands out. The Smith Center is going to be beautiful. That whole area, watching downtown come alive, is going to be so amazing. But as for what’s there now, it’s the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute. It’s just so different, and different isn’t always good for Vegas.
If there was one place on the Strip you could redo, what would it be?
From scratch? I think Imperial Palace. It’s the best piece of real estate [on the Strip] and has tons of potential to be something great, like a boutique hotel. I think boutique hotels are going to make a comeback here in Vegas.