HGTV's 'Battle on the Block' Goes Back to the Kitchen

After a kitchen renovation and a patio remodel, HGTV's "Battle on the Block" returns to the kitchen and turns up the heat, pitting mother vs. daughter vs. same-sex couple in a three-way battle for design dominance. Who gets $10,000 and bragging rights forever? Here's what you missed....

As usual, three couples get merchandise, cash and a one-third share of contractor hours for three days to do their renovation. The winners are judged on creativity, functionality and total transformation.

The venue: Cortlandt Manor, N.Y. (the fictional home of wealthy villain Palmer Cortlandt in the popular soap, "All My Children").

The first couple: Mike and Sharon Lombardi. They want a rustic, New England look and have the most ambitious floor- plan change, involving the removal of a wall to join the kitchen with the living area. Mike is a chef -- a quiet, handy guy, who is organized and focused. A good sign if past shows are any indicator of who will win. Sharon complains and stands around a lot, while repeating how badly she wants to win, mainly to one-up her daughter .

Second couple: Same-sex couple Ingrid Wittman and Jan Melillo. Their galley kitchen is cramped and dark. They want to move the refrigerator, install a new counter and backsplash, bring in more natural light, lay a new floor and add some Tiffany art-nouveau style. They also have a painted, faux tin-ceiling that is starting to peel. Their first thought is to repaint, but after Jan points out that the weight will just increase the peeling, they decide to install a bead board ceiling over it.

Third couple: Christa and David Daniello. They have a well-kept but plain-white suburban kitchen. They want new cabinets with better-organized space, a granite counter with a new sink layout, and stainless steel to replace white. She's a hyper-organized spa-and-plastic-surgery diva in competition with her mother.

The drama: As work commences, Mike Lombardi is a one-man wrecking crew, clearing out old cabinets and appliances and making short work of the demo phase. At times the Lombardis seem to be struggling more with each other than with their renovation. At one point Mike says: If she'd just listen to me, life would be so much easier. At least for me. Their biggest problems: an uneven subfloor and a fridge that's shorter than the cabinet overhang allows. Mike perseveres; even by Day 3, he keeps his cool, going to bed at 3 a.m. and leaving just a few finishing touches for the following morning.

Ingrid and Jan seem to get overwhelmed early on, spending big chunks of their three days trying to get their ceiling up. The DIY-ness of this is very difficult, working against gravity while cutting pieces to butt up seamlessly. While the other two projects fell largely on the husbands, the two women roll up their sleeves and struggle together. Ingrid scores a direct hit when she mocks Christa, saying she wouldn't want to mess up her manicure.
Ingrid and Jan have the most even relationship, as they are never seen bickering, just expressing mild disappointment when something goes wrong. They are shown sharing moments of joy when they find retro-glass cabinet knobs and lighting fixtures-and when they learn they can punch a big pass-through in the doorway area to create a nook with barstools on the other side. This gives them their light and space, and they jump up and down with pleasure.

Their biggest problems: the ceiling and the wrong color grout. They get points for their beautiful backsplash -- and for finally finishing the ceiling properly. They are criticized for the purple/blue paint scheme.
The Daniellos seem to have the least ambitious plan, but even this gets stuck when their design plan is derailed because they didn't fully check out their design concepts. They are not able to move their corner sink and they put a big double-door fridge against a side wall, so one door could not be fully opened. Also, they constructed a rangetop island with a breakfast nook that was right next to the burners.

Like her mother, Christa complains a lot and states the obvious: "I'm so panicked." By day Three: "I want to, like, do something, but I can't do anything." The departure of the work crew really throws her into a panic.

Biggest problem: The sink is too big and it has to stay in the corner. Christa dresses up as Tinkerbell for reasons unknown.
The winners: Mike and Sharon Lombardi. Christa concludes: "The worst thing about losing is that I'll have to hear about this from my mother for the rest of my life."

Home Improvement Lessons Learned:
  • When buying integral materials like grout, bring a sample of your material to the store. Buy multiples if you're not sure; you can always return unopened merchandise.
  • Estimate the time you need for working overhead; then double it. Gravity, standing on a ladder and neck strain make everything much more difficult, along with the awkward angle it takes to hammer, staple, and get something to stay in place. Consider some kind of safe makeshift scaffold.
  • When dealing with a floor, check a small sample area before going big.
  • Measure twice, cut once. Don't believe listed dimensions for appliances without considering features like hinges, handles, opening-and-closing clearances, directionality of doors, etc. Call company help-lines for information or actually view the item you're buying at an appliance store.
Read more home tv coverage or reivews of past episodes of "Battle on the Block."
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