The Untold Truth Of Dream Home Makeover

Dream Home Makeover just might be the escapist television you need right about now. Starring the wholesome and affable Shea and Syd McGee, this series documents the couple as they go about the task of giving sprawling homes the makeover of a lifetime. And while you might immediately head over to renovation juggernaut HGTV to check out the series, believe it or not, you'll find the McGees on Netflix.

In addition to showing viewers some pretty stunning home transformations, Dream Home Makeover also brings fans right into Shea and Syd McGee's family life. The couple, who have two children, are the kind of parents we all wish we had. It just goes to show that some people really can have it all: the perfect home, the enviable job, the sweet spouse, and the adorable family. This is definitely the content we need!

So what else is there to know about Dream Home Makeover? How did the show get started anyway? Are there things that go on behind the scenes that we don't know about? And does Syd really eat doughnuts all the time? Read on to find out!

Dream Home Makeover started on Instagram

Shea and Syd McGee might look like they were destined for television, with their flashy white smiles and well-tended bodies, but the couple didn't always have small screen aspirations. In fact, the McGees only started their renovation business in 2014, while each of them were in different professions. But when Shea started documenting her home redesign on Instagram, her following blew up. "Shea was able to understand what was needed to make her audience react and to grow," Syd explained in an interview with The New York Times. "She was an early adapter to Instagram." Once again, the power of social media becomes evident.

After that, the McGees realized they had a lucrative business on their hands, so they threw themselves wholeheartedly into it. They established McGee & Co., an online home furnishing enterprise, published a book entitled Make Life Beautiful, and eventually ventured into reality television with Dream Home Makeover. Oh, and they also have a line at Target, too!

With Syd as the CEO and Shea as interior designer extraordinaire, it looks like the McGees are only rising higher with each passing day.

One production company tried to make Syd McGee from Dream Home Makeover into a contractor

Shea and Syd McGee look like total naturals on Dream Home Makeover, with her as the likable star and him as the trusty and supportive sidekick. But as it turns out, the McGees were super reluctant to enter the world of reality television. The reason? The first production company that came along tried to make the McGees something they're not, which is why they "had a really disastrous experience creating a sizzle reel to pitch," she revealed in an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. "They tried to fit us into a box and made Syd the contractor and us kind of the quintessential husband-and-wife design construction duo." Um, they're not Chip and Joanna Gaines, people!

At the time, the McGees tried to lean into what the company wanted, but it just wasn't working. "I got, like, a 40-pound sledgehammer, which is really heavy," Syd recalled. "I had no idea. That's not what I do." 

After that, the McGees "swore off" television — at least for a while.

Dream Home Makeover has been in the works since 2018

After Syd and Shea McGee had a bad experience with the first production company they worked with, having a TV show seemed like a far-off prospect. But eventually, they took matters into their own hands, this time creating the audition tape on their own. "We made our own 'Sizzle Reel' to send in that ended up landing us the show for our initial meeting," they wrote on their blog. They added that it's super fun to look back at the sizzle real to see how they've grown and developed, both in their design choices and skateboarding skills.

After meeting with Netflix and successfully pitching Dream Home Makeover, Netflix gave them the green light — all the way back in 2018! "We've had to keep the secret of Dream Home Makeover for quite some time," they continued. "It's hard to believe that after a few years of planning and filming, it's finally released!" Congrats, you two!

Is Dream Home Makeover scripted?

It's no secret that many reality shows on television are a little less than, well, real. For example, on House Hunters, buyers have already selected their home before filming, according to E! News. And sometimes on Chopped, contestants are filmed opening their mystery baskets multiple times, so some reactions might not be their first ones.

However, there are no curve balls like that on Dream Home Makeover, at least as Syd and Shea McGee tell it. "Our show was completely unscripted," they revealed in a post on their blog. "We were really lucky that our [show] represent what our real process is actually like." 

In fact, that was one of the McGee's goals, as they wanted the series to be as close to how things really go down as possible. "What you'll see in this show is true to how we communicate with our clients, work with contractors, and collaborate with our team," they added.

Syd and Shea McGee from Dream Home Makeover want you to see their family life

While Syd and Shea McGee are the stars of Dream Home Makeover, viewers also get to see their children (two young daughters, Ivy and Wren) on the show as well. Of course, that's something that's intentional, as the McGees want you to get to know them as a family. "We wanted it to be true to us," Shea told The Salt Lake Tribune. "And our business is very intertwined with our family life." Isn't everyone's these days?

When the McGees first started filming for Dream Home Makeover, the children were distracted by the cameras, as any kids would be. But it didn't take long for the girls to get acclimated and go back to being themselves. "Within a couple of days, they just did not even notice that we were filming a day at the park or in our backyard or cooking together," Shea continued. She added that they made sure filming didn't interfere with what Ivy and Wren were doing, so what you see on TV is the real deal. 

This is what Syd McGee does behind the scenes on Dream Home Makeover

Dream Home Makeover showcases the design talent of Shea McGee, who really has an eye for what looks great in a home. But that doesn't mean Syd McGee doesn't do anything, or is relegated to the grunt work. Rather, he's in charge of operations, which is a significant role. "I oversee everything that's, like, not pretty," he explained in a chat with TheWrap. "So hiring, firing, managing the team, managing budgets, when the crap hits the fan." Syd added that his priority is making sure that everything behind the scenes runs smoothly, so Shea can focus on getting her work done.

While it's not as exciting to watch human resource meetings on camera as it is to see Shea's design magic, Syd still has a significant role on-screen in Dream Home Makeover. "He ends up tagging along, he makes everyone feel comfortable on camera and he's really good at that, so he ends up being my sidekick," Shea shared. But it's off-camera where Syd's real work is, as McGee & Co. has over 100 employees!

Syd and Shea McGee from Dream Home Makeover relocated to Utah from SoCal

Viewers of Dream Home Makeover know that Shea and Syd McGee call Utah home, which is where they work on many of the homes you see on the show. And while they had connections to the area (Shea went to college there, and that's where her parents retired to), that's not where they were based when they started their business. "We were living in Southern California, and everyone knows that it's a little bit more of an expensive place to live," she revealed in a chat with The Salt Lake Tribune. "And by a little, I mean a ton."

To that end, Syd and Shea knew that they should relocate in order to grow their design firm. "We just decided, hey, if we're going to go in on this we've got to give it the best shot that we can," she continued. So the McGees waved goodbye to sunny SoCal, sold their home, and headed for the Beehive State.

While the McGees admit to missing the City of Angels, they say they've "fallen in love" with their new home. "We really love the mountains," Shea added.

The interviews on Dream Home Makeover are filmed in the McGees' basement

While much of Dream Home Makeover takes place at Syd and Shea's clients' homes, where Shea works her design magic, a good portion of it also takes place at Chez McGee. For one, they renovate their own home on the series, so you can really get to know what their living space looks like.

Additionally, rather than use a studio, Netflix films one of the segments of Dream Home Makeover in a surprising location. "In the show, you'll see Syd and Shea sitting on a couch for the show's interview portions, but you might never guess that the set is actually right in their basement," read a post on their blog. "Since it is unfinished, it provided the perfect backdrop for the Netflix crew to set up a scene that looks like a design studio with a pinboard and a few plants." Well that's pretty convenient, huh?

How do the budgets on Dream Home Makeover stack up against the competition?

There are a ton of home renovation shows out there to choose from. You can watch Chip and Joanna Gaines work their magic on Fixer Upper, see Hilary Farr and David Visentin compete on Love It or List It, or enjoy Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead's work on Flip or Flop, to name just a few. But no matter where you get your demo-and-reno fix, one thing about all of these shows is the same: They all have to work within a budget.

Of course, that's the case for Dream Home Makeover as well, though one of the things that viewers may notice is that the McGees' clients have some pretty deep pockets. But according to Shea, the estimates you see on their show aren't as different from others as you might think. "The budgets don't sound like other TV budgets, but it's also because we are being more truthful," she told The Salt Lake Tribune. Well, it's entirely possible!

Season 2 of Dream Home Makeover filmed quickly after Season 1

Many shows from Netflix, Hulu, and pretty much every other service or channel had to pause or cancel filming in 2020 due to the pandemic, as noted by Vulture. That left a lot of TV aficionados hanging, or forced to re-watch series that were completed before the industry shutdown. 

Fortunately for those who were worried they'd have to wait an eternity for more episodes of Dream Home Makeover, Syd and Shea McGee had good news. "If you've already watched all six episodes of season 1, you'll see a screen at the end that says season 2 is coming soon, and we've actually already filmed it," they penned in a post on their blog. "Stay posted for more details about more Dream Home Makeover soon!" And sure enough, come Jan. 1, 2021, Season 2 had dropped!

Fortunately, many of our other favorite shows eventually resumed filming in 2020, including Dancing with the Stars, The Bachelorette, and Love Island. So hopefully that means Dream Home Makeover can move into Season 3 quickly!

Even if you don't have millions, the McGees want you to learn from Dream Home Makeover

While Dream Home Makeover can provide viewers with some great escapist television, some folks might feel envious of the people that they see on the show. After all, not everyone has $30,000 to renovate a single room!

However, that's not lost on Shea and Syd McGee. In fact, Shea hopes that viewers come away from the series with ideas for their own home, no matter where they live and what they're working with. "We know that like not everybody's in the same situation," she confessed in an interview with Us Weekly. "You can incorporate [my techniques] in any situation that you're in."

Even if you live in a one-room studio apartment, Shea wants you to learn from her. "It does not matter the size of your home, you can incorporate design principles that we're using at any scale," she continued. She added that one of her best tips is to clear out excess stuff, à la Marie Kondo's method, and invest in baskets.

This is Shea McGee's goal on Dream Home Makeover

Dream Home Makeover might be a super fun show to binge, as Shea McGee really transforms room after room with gusto and skill. But one thing Shea wants you to know is that she's working on real homes for real people. "It's not just for entertainment," she revealed in a chat with The Salt Lake Tribune. "We run a design firm that designs homes all over the country. And so many of the home shows that we watch, the homes are just for television." And that's definitely not the case for the McGees.

That's why Shea makes it her goal to prioritize her client's satisfaction, even if they can be a bit persnickety. "At the end of the day, our clients live in those homes," she continued. "I don't want them to be upset that we pushed them in a direction that they're not happy with." No wonder their business is so successful.

Does Syd McGee from Dream Home Makeover eat doughnuts every day?

In order to be a successful reality television star, you have to be the kind of person that viewers want to look at. That's certainly the case for Chip and Joanna Gaines or Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead, who are arguably competition for Dream Home Makeover. Both of those couples are quite good looking!

Of course, both Syd and Shea McGee are easy on the eyes as well, with their contemporary fashion, well-kept hairstyles, and healthy physiques. To that end, you might wonder just how many doughnuts Syd really eats, as it's clear on Dream Home Makeover that he's a fan of the confection. However, Syd wants you to know that he's "not eating a donut every day," but "when it's game time, it's game time — and I'll go hard," he explained to TheWrap. Apparently doughnuts are serious business!

Shea McGee from Dream Home Makeover wants to make your day better

When Syd and Shea McGee started their design business, their goal was to transform people's homes into what they've always wanted. Now that the couple is doing that not just for their clients, but also in front of a television audience on Dream Home Makeover, Shea has another aspiration. "I want to provide a bright spot in people's days," she shared in an interview with The New York Times. "There's a lot going on right now and I hope that people can find a source of happiness." Chances are she's doing that for more people than she realizes.

It's not just the escapism that Syd and Shea want you to enjoy, as they also want you to unlock your inner designer, as noted by Us Weekly. That way, you'll naturally be more happy in your own surroundings, especially if you're spending more time at home than you used to.

This is why Syd and Shea McGee wrote a book

In October of 2020, after a rousing first season of Dream Home Makeover, Syd and Shea McGee published their first book, Make Life Beautiful. They undertook the project in addition to working with their clients, having a successful Netflix show, posting on social media, and being parents — which had to be a lot!

So just why did the McGees add completing a book to their to-do list? "This was a big decision for me because, of course, I love images and creating visuals, but we do that every day — we share photos and videos and we talk about design," Shea explained in an interview with Parade. "But there's so much that goes on behind the scenes that we don't share, and we felt like this was an opportunity to lift the curtain a bit on working together." She added that it would also give fans more of an insight into what Syd does, as he tends to be a little more behind scenes. Not surprisingly, the book became a bestseller for The New York Times.

How the Dream Home Makeover stars first met

Before there was Dream Home Makeover, and long before there were McGee children, Syd and Shea McGee were just a couple of singles. And as Shea tells it, it's thanks to her brother that they met in the first place, though he wasn't trying to set them up. "On the phone he said, 'My buddy Syd will be there and you're going to like him, but don't, because he's my friend,'" she wrote in their book Make Life Beautiful. But doesn't that always make the person that much more appealing, without fail?

It must have for Shea, as the first time she laid eyes on Syd, she was seriously smitten. "As I pulled into the lot, I knew I was in trouble," she continued (via PopSugar). "There Syd was on a skateboard, wearing the skinniest skinny jeans I had ever seen. We went on our first date the next night." And, of course, the rest is history.

The stars of Dream Home Makeover had serious struggles when they started their business

While Syd and Shea McGee are certainly sitting pretty now, with a booming business, a successful brand, and reality TV stardom, that wasn't always the case. In fact, there was a time early in Shea's design business that they were seriously struggling to get by, as Syd's company had recently been acquired and soon he wasn't working. "We canceled cable. We canceled gym memberships. We stopped going out to eat," Syd wrote in their book Make Life Beautiful. "We cut out everything that wasn't mortgage or food." And even then, they still had a rough time making ends meet at the grocery store.

That's why Dream Home Makeover's Syd began selling off everything he could, from bikes to surfboards to furniture. "It came down to the question: Could we live without it? If we could, we sold it," Syd continued (via People). "We were losing ground quickly, making my lack of contribution even worse." It was only after Syd figured out his role in their fledgling business that things began to fall into place; once he realized he could run the business while Shea did the design, their problems abated (via KPMG Spark).

Shea McGee had some pretty intense guilt for a while

The financial stress that Dream Home Makeover stars Syd and Shea McGee dealt with while Shea was working on her burgeoning design business was, understandably, a lot in and of itself. But there was also fallout from both that and Shea's packed schedule, as she had more clients than she knew what to do with. Naturally, that ate into Shea's personal time. "I was frustrated when I drove by moms at the park in the middle of the day while I toted my baby to an upholstery shop," she wrote in their memoir Make Life Beautiful (via People). "There was guilt when I checked emails while feeding her cereal puffs and sadness when I sat in her room and rocked her." The struggle was real.

Shea found herself in her daughter's room regularly, where she could let her sad emotions out. "I could shut the door, rest my head on the back of the glider, and let the tears fall," she continued. "I'm a fighter, but I couldn't see my way out of this situation." Hey, we've all been there before.

Syd and Shea McGee's marriage was tested when they were building their business

Understandably, issues that Syd and Shea McGee were dealing with spilled into their marriage, as Syd hadn't yet figured out what direction he was going in with his career. That's something with which Shea really struggled. "I wanted to support Syd, but some days I felt like too much was placed on my shoulders," Shea wrote in their memoir Make Life Beautiful, as People reported. "I began to feel resentful he'd put us in this position." 

Fortunately, Syd and Shea didn't wind up divorcing, or giving up on each other. Rather, they rallied and got through it together, which is why they're so prosperous today. "We soon realized that our skill-sets complemented each other really well and that he could run the business and allow me to focus solely on the design," Shea revealed in an interview with KPMG Spark. "We sold our home in Southern California and moved to Utah to start our design firm in a more business-friendly state."

The stars of Dream Home Makeover don't watch renovation shows the way they used to

Raise your hand if you watch home renovation shows when you're having a rough time, and just need to be distracted by Chip and Joanna Gaines. Or perhaps you prefer to lose yourself in a Christina Anstead show, and always manage to find design inspiration after a good Flip or Flop binge. Hey, there's a reason these programs are so popular; they really can help you relax!

As for Syd and Shea McGee, they used to love doing exactly that, just like the rest of us. However, since they became the stars of Dream Home Makeover, Shea says it just isn't the same anymore. "We're like, We know what they did there," she explained in a chat with O, the Oprah Magazine. "Before, I could turn off my design brain. Now I can't. It took away the magic." 

Shea's not too bothered by that, though, as she knows, there are far worse problems to have. 

Shea and Syd McGee's kids are following in their footsteps

Fans of Dream Home Makeover will tell you that some of the most endearing scenes on the show are when you get to see Syd and Shea McGee's kids; Wren and Ivy are both adorable and have their own distinct personalities. Additionally, like their mama, both of the girls enjoy making their spaces beautiful. "They love decorating their rooms," Shea told O, the Oprah Magazine. 

What should come as a shock to absolutely no one is that the older daughter is already following in her mother's footsteps. "Our daughter brought home this little notebook that they write in at school every day," Shea continued. "It had a career page. She wrote, 'When I grow up, I want to be a designer.'" Naturally, Shea was absolutely thrilled about the prospect, as she said that her heart "exploded."

Hopefully there will be enough seasons of Dream Home Makeover that fans can see what Wren and Ivy become when they grow up! 

Spending so much time together isn't always easy for the Dream Home Makeover stars

On episodes of Dream Home Makeover, Syd and Shea McGee are definitely #RelationshipGoals. They communicate exceptionally well, work well as a team with their clients, and really seem to enjoy parenting their children together.

However, Syd and Shea are actual human beings, and their life isn't perfect all the time. In fact, they admit that sometimes living and working and parenting together 24/7 has its challenges. "We can't go home and lean on the other one because the other one had an okay day," Shea shared in an interview with O, the Oprah Magazine. "We both had a bad day at the same time, and then we come home to juggle family."

In order to take their minds off of work (for as much as that's even possible) and truly decompress, the McGees really have to get away. "The only time we really get a separation is by going on vacation and making a conscious decision to clear our minds and take a break from work," Shea explained to KPMG Spark. There's a reason people take vacations, after all.

Dream Home Makeover star Shea McGee's design style has evolved over the years

Anyone whose seen just one episode of Dream Home Makeover can tell you that Shea McGee's design skills really are impressive. Her appreciation of natural light, colors and contrast, and high-quality materials has helped her transform even the smallest and darkest of spaces. 

Of course, Shea has evolved as a designer over the years, allowing her to appreciate the finer points of her trade. "When I first started, maybe I wasn't experienced enough to pay attention to texture — really mix rough and smooth textures and tumbled stone, for instance," she revealed in a chat with Parade. She added that budget constraints were a factor as well, which absolutely makes sense.

Additionally, Shea has always adored vintage furniture, but earlier in her career, her clients weren't especially fond of pre-loved pieces themselves. "As I've gotten more experienced, our clients trust me to incorporate more antiques into their homes," she continued. 

Dream Home Makeover's Shea McGee has conquered her imposter syndrome

Syd and Shea McGee truly have it all: the thriving business, a hit show, a beautiful home, and adorable children. But Shea had to overcome imposter syndrome early on, something that only went away when she designed a full house that was lauded by her peers. "I think having that pat on the back really helped me feel like I could do this, like maybe I can be a real designer," she told Parade. "But you grow into that." 

At the end of the day, it's all about experience for Shea, which has allowed her to truly come into her own as a designer. "Even when people graduate with a degree in design, they're not a real designer until they're really doing it," the Dream Home Makeover star continued. "I think it just comes by doing." 

Well, for as long as Shea will be designing, we'll be watching from our couches and dreaming about our own renovations.