If you're the kind of person who trawls Zillow listings for fun, then Sara Gore has your dream job. For the last 14 years, she's hosted Open House NYC, where she takes viewers inside standout homes for sale (and some not!) in New York and across the country. In the process, Gore has learned a thing or two about design—some of which she's put to use in her own homes in Westchester, New York, and farther upstate on Lake George. Ahead of another Saturday Open House premiere (this week it's a reality TV lover's dream, with a lineup that includes Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright of Vanderpump Rules and Real Housewives of New York alum Kelly Bensimon), House Beautiful catches up with Gore to hear about some of the most memorable homes she's toured, as well as the home design projects she's taken on this year.
You started out in the food industry. How did you end up here?
I've been cooking since I was 10—it was always a passion of mine. I started doing dinner parties for friends, and then I started working in restaurants in New York. I was a personal chef and had a food column at one point. But I was also acting, and then I got into hosting, which just immediately was the right fit for me. I never went back to acting—even though I had studied it. I’ve always loved real estate and design, too. My mom and I are proud of having our own tool belts—we know how to work a saw. We’ve always done projects. But in 2006, when the head of LX TV wanted to do a real estate show, I said, “Do people really want to see real estate on TV?”
Clearly they do! I imagine you naturally gravitate toward kitchens. Are there any that have stood out over the years?
I have a fondness for a good stove. If I see a magnificent stove—I don’t care if it’s old or new. Sometimes the old ones have a history to them. So many amazing meals have come out of that stove! Just like a house has a history and a past, so does a stove. I think not only is the kitchen the heart of the home, the stove is the heart of the kitchen!
Have you redone your own kitchen?
Yes, finally! It took me four years, but I did. It’s clean and bright and happy.
This has been such an interesting year with so many people newly discovering the importance of home. What do you think that means?
This past year has definitely been a time for us to bond with our homes—to kind of make them more of what we've always wanted them to be. I think a lot of people have taken the time to do projects that they've been waiting on and to live in their homes enough to really find what needed to change. Our homes are not only where we sleep and eat anymore.
Did you make any changes?
I have a house on Lake George, a turn of the century Victorian that was built in 1880 in Saratoga and moved to the lake. It’s lopsided and certainly haunted—there are so many projects. But one thing I did was I became a really expert wallpaperer, which is a skill that you should have!
You must get so much inspiration from your work. Are there any specific things that have made you rethink spaces in your own home?
One of the first things I took from someone else’s house and immediately started collecting for my own was from Max and Lubov Azria’s house in LA. That house was so incredible; when you first walk in the door there's this cascading waterfall-like chandelier that goes from the double height ceiling down. She had a collection of sunburst mirrors everywhere. I just loved how it looked so I started collecting them. I have them on the wall in my living room now [for proof, see the portrait above!].
What is it that you look for in selecting homes to be featured on Open House?
Anything with a wow factor. It’s not just, oh this is $120 million—let’s cover it. There has to be something unique that we haven’t seen someplace or a designer we want to feature or a home with history we want to explore. And just like for House Beautiful, it’s about how the home is presented and how people live in it. For me, personally, my home is eclectic; I like things that don’t always go together sometimes, but a real mix.
Love knowing what your favorite HGTV stars are up to? Same. Let’s keep up with them together.
Have you ever showed up to film a home that was NOT camera ready?
Oh yeah! It’s always frustrating for the production team. But we’ve been sent photos of homes with furniture that have been staged and then we show up and it’s been removed and there’s no furniture!
Besides that, when you go into home, what’s the first thing you notice?
The first thing I notice is how it makes me feel. I think homes have an energy about them; certain homes have a really good energy, and some are just kind of flat. So, if I walk into a house and I feel like this kind of uplifted happy feeling—which is how I felt when I walked into my house, even though it was a mess and really not my style—that’s really important. Generally, I love homes that feel open and bright and have light—you feel like you can breathe.
This might be impossible, but do you have a favorite home you’ve been in? Or a few?
That’s like asking you to choose your favorite restaurant! But really, I feel like I love each home better than the last. I’ve been in thousands of homes at this point, and there’s a nugget I take from each with me. Even if it’s a home I wouldn’t live in myself, there’s always something I can take from it. But I feel the best is yet to come.
Watch some of the best moments in Open House history here.
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