Kim Wolfe Tells Us All About Hosting Why The Heck Did I Buy This House? - Exclusive Interview

Out of all the things you regret doing in life, buying your house shouldn't be one of them. However, there are still people who make this massive purchase, only to ask themselves, "Why the heck did I buy this house?" That's when interior designer Kim Wolfe comes in — and she knows a whole lot about making the most of what you have.

In 2012, Wolfe spent weeks in the wilderness and won Season 24 of "Survivor." In 2020, she returned to the famous franchise for a second shot at winning the show. Now, we get to see her in a completely different on-screen environment: the wild world of interior design.

These days, she's busy helping out homeowners who are suffering from serious buyer's remorse. With her new HGTV series "Why The Heck Did I Buy This House?" finally in full swing, we had the opportunity to ask Wolfe all about it. In an exclusive interview with The List, Wolfe shares why she wanted to host a design show, what it's like working so closely with her husband, and if we'll ever get the chance to see her compete again on "Survivor."

Kim Wolfe looks back at her path to becoming an interior designer

You've been designing off screen for years now. How did you initially get into interior design?

Yes, such a great question, and I don't want to bore you by going all the way back to the beginning. My dad was a football coach, my mom was this crazy artist, and I'm sure she'll love to be called that in all the interviews that I've said that, like, four times today.

We moved 16 times before I went to college. We are moving around on this tight budget, and ... early on, she gave us the keys to our little corner of the kingdom or "our room," and let us do whatever we wanted every time we moved. Really early on, I was super aware of what that transformation felt like — to get a bedroom that had really gross green carpet, and then rip it up, and paint the walls purple, and how much better I felt, so it started there.

It was definitely — It's been a super organic self path journey for me, and I'm, for sure, still learning. After winning a million dollars on "Survivor," or $639,000 after taxes, we bought our first flip house, my husband and I, and did that together. It got in my blood, and that [was] 12 years [ago]. We've been going from there.

Why Kim Wolfe wanted to say yes to her own design show

You designed Chelsea Meissner's house, which I know is how you were approached to do "Why The Heck Did I Buy This House?". What was your first thought when you got the call to have your own design show?

Oh, my. The thing with Chelsea was so fun. That was really my first project when I had gone out on my own, and she's one of my best friends. We met on "Survivor," and at the time, she was on Bravo's "Southern Charm." She gave me three months ... She gave me total creative freedom, and didn't micromanage, and let me have fun. She's such a cool person, and so it was really fun to not worry about minding P's and Q's and breaking all the rules, and we had a lot of fun doing her house. It turned out really cool, like her.

It ended up in "Southern Living," got picked up by some publications, and then that's when High Noon [Entertainment] reached out to me and asked me if I'd want to do the show.

What made you want to say yes?

Oh, gosh. [Laughs] I tend to say "yes." I don't think a lot about logistics, which drives my data analyst husband pretty crazy. I'm always like, "Yeah, that sounds fun. Let's do that," not realizing exactly what I'm biting off.

It's always a "yes" for me. I've made so many mistakes. I've tried so many crazy things. Some of them go well, some of them don't, but I'm never sorry. We're always learning from it, and it's always an experience.

Here's her biggest advice for people dealing with buyer's remorse

From what you've seen on the show, what would you say is the biggest contributing factor to buyer's remorse?

It's so many different things for so many different people, but if I had to sum that up, I feel like people get starry eyed when they're [house hunting]. It's really like dating. It really is. When you're looking for a house, you kind of overlook all the things. You hear and see what you want to hear. You tell yourself the story that makes you feel most confident and comfortable putting in that offer. It's typically a huge purchase and the biggest purchase people have ever made in their life.

When you start to see the valley, you get over that initial ascent, you're looking down to the yuck of all the things that you feel responsible for, or it's not working for your family, and it's a really bad feeling for people — a "What have I done?" moment.

Yeah, it can get scary. What is the best piece of advice you have for people who are beginning to question why they bought this house?

[Laughs] When I go in and meet people for the first time, and we're going to do this experience, it's figuring out what is the most broken for them. They need help figuring out, in a list, a hierarchy of needs, and a list in order of "What are the things that are really driving me nuts here?" And then figuring out, "How much do we have to spend? Where can we triage, and then where do we have to start over?" And getting a game plan, and starting.

For me, as a yes person, jumping in on the first house we bought — it was built in 1940 and had never been touched. It was a total disaster, green carpet, paneling, and all. You start somewhere, and it really always does feel crazy and messy in the middle, and you regret that you're doing it, and then at the end, you wouldn't change a thing. It's the whole process, committing to the process.

This is her favorite part about hosting the design show

Do you ever get nervous before a final reveal?

Yeah. This is our Season 1, so I had never done this experience this way. I had more of a hands-on experience with homeowners where they were there for all the decisions along the way. They were a part of the process, and so this was unique.

It didn't scare me going into it, but there were a couple of houses that — one of the things I enjoyed about this experience was trying to read people, and trying to read their mind, and figure out what makes them tick, and what's going to blow them away, and who they are, and giving them the best version of themselves.

So, yes, there were a couple of houses that the people, for me, were harder to tag. Right before the reveal, I was like, "What if I totally have not gotten this person?" And it's like, "Ta-da! Here's your house." And they're like, "We hate it." That definitely did not happen, so it was great.

All across the board, the houses turned out fantastic. Our homeowners were just wonderful people, rock solid people. We had a great experience, and so it was a win.

The episodes can't capture every step of the renovation, because it can take weeks or even months. Is there anything that you wish the cameras could have captured on the show — maybe a special moment or something you thought was missing?

I haven't seen the episodes yet. It was hard for me to know. I'll be watching live along with everyone else, so I don't know what they have shown.

It's a hard thing to get. Honestly, it really is so comparable to "Survivor" in the sense that when you watch back "Survivor," every 40-minute episode is, three or four days [of] sitting on that island, and it goes by so quick. It's similarly so interesting to watch a 12-week renovation in 46 minutes, and I think it's so fun though. I've always loved renovation shows, and that's why we, as humans, love transformation, and there's something so cool about watching it flash before your eyes like that. I'll be able to answer that better at the end of the season.

Kim Wolfe on what it's like working with her husband

Your husband Bryan also stars with you on this show. What made you two decide to start working together?

So funny. Honestly, the show — we've been working together on our personal properties, but the show brought us together here in a more permanent way [Laughs], because I was so overwhelmed. We had these seven projects going on for the show, and I needed help. He's been working in data and analytics. He's an actuary and a risk analyst, so I don't know if you've ever seen "Along Came Polly," but Ben Stiller's character in that movie that's super careful and worries about everything [Laughs], that is my husband's personality.

In a lot of ways, we're so great for each other, but also push all of each other's buttons. He came along to help me. He took a leave of absence for filming, and then it became a permanent situation. Now, we're working together on several projects, and he does all the things that I am not good at, but yet [he is] scared to climb a ladder. It's a really funny mix of our personalities coming together. [Laughs] I'm interested to see how that goes on screen.

How does he feel about being on TV now, too?

I don't think he knows how to feel. He's never done it before, so it's all so novel to him, but we're having so much fun. We are arguing non-stop, but I keep telling people it's productive pain, because we're working together for the first time, and it's really funny to work with your spouse.

It sounds like it'd be so much fun I think though, too, to team up and do something like that.

Lots of good moments, for sure, and I need him so badly. He makes us a legitimate business. That's for sure.

The Survivor winner talks about her experience on the reality show

Do you think your experience on "Survivor" helped prepare you in any way to have your own show?

Yes. I definitely think having gone through my experience with "Survivor," it helped set expectations. I was 28 the first time I went on "Survivor," and knowing that the world can be a bit cruel and not being focused on that, or that there's going to be criticisms, that there's comments, that everybody has an opinion, and being able to come into this in a season of my life where I'm feeling less concerned about what everybody thinks, I'm really grateful for that, you know?

I had some friends that were on "Survivor" at the same time that were younger and weren't as solidified in who they were, and I know that really did a number on them, and so I'm grateful for having a sense of what that feels like.

Honestly, this is just as hard as "Survivor." We had to really get super gritty, and we worked our tails off, and there were a lot of moments where we wanted to quit and give up. Seeing it through to the end, it's very rewarding to finish, so it feels like a big win.

Overall, how has competing on "Survivor" affected your life?

Gosh. Well, I think for sure it opens doors for me. There's no doubt about that, but honestly — this may feel like I'm dumbing it down — but it was so fun. That's the thing that I look back at. It's been this novel, you know? A lot of joy came from it, a lot of really cool friendships, and it was such a fun experience, such a cool thing to have gotten to do.

Will we ever see Kim Wolfe compete again on Survivor?

If you ever had the opportunity to return to "Survivor" for a third time, would you do it?

[Laughs] No, definitely not.


I feel really confident that I'm done. I had a moment with myself at the end of "Winners at War," the returning season that I went on a couple years ago that I did not win. But I would not go back, and I had a real moment of clarity about that.

Something would have to dramatically shift within me to want to go back out there. It is so grueling, and you forget how bad it is until you get back out there [Laughs], and it's too late. You're stuck, so I want to try to remind myself of how that feels.

Who knows? Maybe I'll get bored in ten years, and I'll go do it again, but right now, it's a "hell no."

"Why The Heck Did I Buy This House?" premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV.