The Untold Truth Of Rehab Addict

It would be pretty hard to not love the host of HGTV and DIY Network's Rehab Addict Nicole Curtis. She's a gorgeous spitfire who refuses to take no for an answer. Every house she renovates clearly finds a special place in her heart. Instead of going with the flow of quickly flipping old homes into modern, open-concept, Ikea-clad houses, she keeps the historic charm and details while giving them a much-needed lift.

No matter how much you love her, though, we're betting there are still some things about Curtis that you don't know. From being mistaken as the contractor's wife to getting her first house for free, there's a lot more going on behind the scenes of Rehab Addict than we would have guessed!

She's a dumpster diver

On Rehab Addict, host Nicole Curtis is famous for salvaging even the most hopeless artifacts. One of her design mantras has always been, "only garbage goes in the dumpster." Curtis shared her philosophy with the La Crosse Tribune. "I challenge people every day. I really use all salvage materials," she explained. "My goal is to make you think before you act."

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And Curtis doesn't just salvage everything for her remodeling jobs. She insists on creating her own home this way too. "I garbage pick every day. Any given week I pick up things from the garbage," shares Curtis. "Broken furniture is my favorite because most of the time it's a quick fix. I have a 4,000 square foot home that's filled with everything out of the garbage, but I'm OK with it. I staged the entire house off my garbage finds and Craig's List."

So where did this love of garbage come from? It may be in her blood. Curtis grew up seeing her grandfather run his own garbage company while her grandmother made sure to re-use everything she could. "I would not be who I am today without growing up in such an environment," she shared with AZ Central. "Opportunity comes to those who value what they have."

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Real estate was not her first choice

Curtis' life could have looked very different had she stayed with her college majors. First, she went to college in three different states: Georgia, Florida, and Michigan. And her indecisiveness didn't stop there. She also changed her major. Curtis started out studying law and then later switched to an education major. Curtis shared with AZ Central that she loved teaching. "I am still a teacher at heart," she shared. "My favorite saying is: 'I love kids; adults, not so much.'"

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Her startup costs were zero

So many of us assume that you have to be wealthy to start investing in real estate. If you're having trouble making your mortgage payments, there's not going to be a lot of extra to invest in yet another house to renovate. Maybe that's why it's so surprising that Curtis didn't have much when she started out. "Really, how I got started doing this is that I found out cities across the country were demolishing old houses because nobody wanted them. When I got into real estate, I had absolutely zero dollars to invest," she shared with The Inquisitr. "I said, 'Well, will you give me the houses? If you're going to demo them anyways, it'd cost $20,000 to the taxpayers to demo these houses, why not give them to investors like me who'll take them, rebuild them and live in them?'"

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Even though this offer sounds like a no-brainer for everyone involved, it wasn't always that easy. "It seems like a very easy concept, but even to this day, I still have to twist arms of mayors and council members," explains Curtis. "This is a good idea. You're keeping a building standing and you're revitalizing your neighborhoods and it's not costing you a dime. That's kind of how it got going."

Nicole never set out to have her own show

When Curtis started buying homes and restoring them, she never thought about being on television. She had humble beginnings. "I came to Minneapolis about four years ago, got my real-estate license, went into the antiques business, and supported myself that first year selling on Craigslist," she told Minnesota Monthly. "Then I bought the house I currently live in, and picked up two others."

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Fortunately for her, while Curtis was hard at work making a name for herself, staff at DIY Network were creating a new show. "Coincidentally, there was this really horrific Glamour Shots photo of me on my website, and when a production assistant at Magnetic Productions was scanning for blond real-estate agents for the show, they saw it," she explained. "So I met up with them, and they told me they'd just replaced the original kitchen in a 1920s with a modern one. I said, 'Oh, that's horrible.'"

The basics work

Curtis shared with The Inquisitr that most people think they need the best and newest tools if they want to be serious about home renovation, but she sticks with just a few basics in Rehab Addict. "A small torch in your toolbox goes a long way," she shares. "I've done so much plumbing in my way, removed flooring and all that."

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Curtis started small and recommended we do the same. Don't jump into your first renovation and try to do it all. Start with a few basic tools and go from there. "I still have four things; a hammer, a claw, a drill and my torch," she explains. "With simple things, you can get a lot done."

Curtis actually created her own line of tools and decor items for beginner rehab addicts. She told PopSugar that she wants to empower everyone to take ownership of their homes. "So many times, people jump into these huge projects and get overwhelmed. They quit, and they give up," she shared. "I always say celebrate your small successes . . . sit back, have a glass of wine, and be like, 'I did that!'"

Nicole knows how to hustle

When you watch Nicole Curtis on TV with her perfect blonde curls and gorgeous houses, it's tempting to think that everything is easy for her. In reality, Nicole hustled her way to success. She worked her way through college as a waitress at a few different restaurants including IHOP and Hooters. Not only that, but she cleaned houses before her shifts at the restaurant just to make ends meet. Once her son Ethan was born, Curtis continued cleaning houses to support the two of them. She actually owned her own cleaning business so she could set her own hours and always be there for her son. "I never regretted giving up a corporate job to clean houses so that I could make Ethan's second grade Halloween party happen," she told People.

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As if cleaning homes, serving wings, and raising a baby didn't keep her busy enough in her youth, Curtis rehab'd her first home when she was just 18 years old. Did she have an inkling that this could become a mega successful career? Not so much. She told AZ Central that she did it out of necessity. "I got interested in rehabbing because I was poor," she explained. "Nothing motivates you to learn how to do something like not having the money to pay to have it done."

She does it all

Curtis insists on controlling all aspects of her show, so it's pretty incredible to think that she has the same 24 hours in a day like the rest of us. From finding each house to writing every Facebook post, Curtis must not have a lot of time for sleep each night. "I'm the executive producer of the show and the projects are all mine," she explained to The Inquisitr. "They're all houses that I found."

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Curtis values her relationship with her fans and wants to truly connect with them. "I handle all of my social media," she told PopSugar. "No one ever believes me when I say that, but I've handled it since day one. It's always my tone. It's me making a post. I am really guarded about that. It's me — I'm very open about everything."

She always avoids buying new

There's a reason Curtis is always trying to salvage as much as she can from the original house. Not only does this practice save money and retain the original charm, it's also just more realistic. "If you go and rip out an old door, I guarantee that you'll spend two days screaming and hollering trying to fit a new door in an old space," she shared with Country Living. Old houses have "grown really snug with all those old house parts... to me, ripping out old house parts to put in something new is pretty much like ripping my heart out. Original is always best."

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Real mistakes happen

Curtis lives by the mantra, "Mistakes are knowledge waiting to happen." On every show, she makes sure to stress that beautiful, thoughtful renovations take time. "I tell it like it is. I show what really goes on," Curtis shared with The Inquisitr. "You cannot remodel a kitchen in 22 minutes and make it look perfect. I think that's why people enjoy it (the show)."

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Curtis admits to making mistakes on the show, from flooding a room to nearly lighting another one on fire. "That's what's fun about it," she says. "You learn as you go."

Rehab is in Nicole's roots

It's clear from her interview in Minnesota Monthly that Curtis has always been passionate about saving historic pieces. "My dad is a history enthusiast; we were always restoring furniture," she shared. "But here's the real inspiration: my great grandmother had an 1890s home that sold when I was in high school. I remember screaming, 'Why isn't anyone buying this house?' My family just let it go. So this whole thing is the result of that post-traumatic stress. I was heart-broken." She now uses that passion on every home she transforms.

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Fortunately the story of her grandparents' home doesn't end there. Curtis was eventually able to purchase the home and rehab it herself! She even dedicated the entire seventh season of Rehab Addict to this home. It was the biggest kitchen rehab she had ever completed. The home clearly holds a special place in Curtis' heart, and she often shares pictures of it on her Instagram account.

The show was not an overnight success

Curtis shared with The Inquisitr that it took some time for the show to gain some traction. "The first year we kicked off Rehab Addict, I had to explain to everyone that it wasn't about me being a drug addict and that I wasn't in rehab," she joked. "After I got past that, I had to explain that it wasn't 'Add-ick.' It was 'Add-ict.' It's come a long way."

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Now that she's become a household name, Curtis no longer has to explain herself. "We're going into our eighth season, so it gets a little easier," she shared. "Now, we have such a following. Somebody said the other day, 'Nicole, you've developed this cult.' I said, 'I know I have.'" No more confusion about what kind of rehab she's into!

It's a man's world

While Curtis is petite in size, she's had to develop a big presence. Like it or not, she's working in a male-dominated field and has experienced some blatant sexism firsthand. "Some days it might as well be 1925 around here," she told Minnesota Monthly. "There are still men that want to speak with my husband. There are people who will explain projects word-for-word to me."

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Curtis shared that she even had a hard time with her own family. She told Minnesota Monthly that her well-meaning grandfather was always trying to "marry her off" and wouldn't let her fix things up around his house. Fortunately, he's come around now. "I'd go to his house, and he'd say, 'Oh, I'll have one of the boys do that,'" she admitted. "Now I go there, and he has a to-do list waiting for me."

A reality show that's actually real

Curtis is very open about the fact that Rehab Addict just happens to follow her real life. Rehabilitating old homes is what she was doing before the show, and it's what she'll continue to do if and when the show ends. "With my first house, I bought an old house and it needed work. The show is off my real life," she shared with the La Crosse Tribune. "It's just kind of what I do. Nothing I do is separate. It's all wrapped into one. And it's all self taught."

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So how did Curtis learn how to transform these homes if she had no training? Simple, she asked! "That's how I learned everything," she shared. "I brought in a plumber and I asked him, 'How did you do that?' Not because I can master it and do it myself, but I'm paying for the knowledge. I ask questions about everything. I want to learn about everything I can."

LeBron James really did the work

When LeBron James and his LeBron James Family Foundation asked Curtis to help rehab older houses in Akron, she jumped at the chance. "I have a 16-year-old son and as soon as I said 'LeBron James' on the phone, because he was in the car since we were on our way to school, that was the end of it," she told Fox 8. "This is a dream come true for me, but as a mom, it's been nice to be kind of the coolest mom right now ever."

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So sure, James is doing great work through his foundation, but was he actually putting in the elbow grease? "LeBron's been here every day with me," Curtis shared. "This is a family affair for him. His mom's been out. His wife's been out. The boys have been out."

So now not only does Curtis know that she made a difference to the people of Akron, she also has a pretty cool new friend. "Many people see LeBron as this big superstar, but from what I know of LeBron and his foundation and his family, he's a dad, a neighbor, he's a community member," she told Fox 8. "It's so cool that I can now call him a friend."

For Nicole, it's a labor of love

Each week on Rehab Addict, Curtis shares her passion for protecting older homes, and she doesn't take that for granted. "The most important thing is that these homes are one of a kind," she told the Boston Globe. "We're never going to be able to rebuild them. We don't have the tradespeople anymore to do it, we don't have the materials that these houses were built out of, and you know, like anything else, once it's gone it's gone."

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And it seems the only thing Curtis loves more than an old home is a challenge. "Years ago, when I started in the building trades, people told me: 'There's no way you're ever going to be able to do what you want to do,'" she shared. "My favorite words are 'Watch me.'"

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