HGTV's 'Battle on the Block' Wraps in Jersey City

The final episode of HGTV's "Battle on the Block" with host Genevieve Gorder (left) takes place in Jersey City, a gritty North Jersey municipality that was once the seat of power for notorious political boss Frank Hague.

With a population of more than 240,000, it's the state's second-largest city; given its proximity to Manhattan, it's considered part of the New York metropolitan area.

Housing is more affordable here than in Manhattan, so for this episode of "Battle on the Block," we see three couples, all living in historic brownstones, battle it out for best living-room renovation. All will end up with great new living spaces, but who will win the $10,000 prize? Read on.
As usual, three couples have three days to transform one room in their homes. They get a budget of cash, merchandise and contractor time, as well as access to the HGTV tool truck to do the job. And as usual, host Gorder gives a pep talk to get everyone started. This final episode has been billed as "more intense," but it proceeds pretty much like all the previous shows.

Couple One. Shelly and Travis Skinner want to rip out a wall between their living and dining rooms and refinish their home's original hardwood floors. They've been yearning to open up their living space for five years and are raring to go. They hope to create a room that's "urban, mid-century, modern, eclectic."

Couple Two: Iris and Phil Rivo want to create an adult living area out of a cluttered downstairs room that's dominated by a ping-pong table. He describes himself as "anal-explosive," and sees himself as the neighborhood comedian. (His neighbors call him "a complete lunatic.") Iris is an artist, who has been inspired by the colors and designs of Turkey and Morocco. The couple visualizes a room with a Middle Eastern theme, a fireplace, and a window bench. They want to sheetrock a part of a brick wall to create space for some of Iris' artwork.

Couple Three. Marni and Matt Schapiro are the youngest and "newest" additions to the neighborhood. They recently moved into their home, so their living space is basically a blank canvas. They want it to be "modern comfy," and to achieve this they will paint, buy new furniture and lighting, add a new media center, and redo their floors.

Host Genevieve Gorder advises the Rivos to think about texture, cautions the Skinners about overzealous demolition, and suggests that the Schapiros paint stripes on one of the walls to make it pop. So of course Travis Skinner runs amok with power tools and rips out so much wall that the contractor is at a loss for words. The Rivos waste time trying to figure out how to disguise the big ping-pong table. And the Schapiros decide there's no time for stripes and just paint their wall purple.

Pressure builds as the Schapiros find mold and spiders in one of the walls; they argue about whether there's time to rip up their existing floor to uncover original flooring -- or to simply refinish it. He wants to rip up the existing floor; he prevails.
As the Rivos shop, Iris goes overboard buying pillows and bolsters in Middle Eastern designs. She wants to buy "poufs," but Phil argues he's not a pouf person. Travis yearns to buy a high-end sound system; Shelly reins him in, saying their budget won't cover it.

Gorder wanders in and out of the renovation sites, expressing disappointment in the Schapiros solid purple wall and suggesting that the Skinners probably are not going to finish.

But surprise! Everyone does finish, and when the local judges view the results, there are pats and pans all around. The Skinners have managed to create a spacious loft-like room that's a big improvement over their old space. The judges love the floor but hate the "1970s chandelier," and view the fireplace as "a desperate attempt to modernize."

The judges like Iris' artwork but aren't crazy about covering up the brick wall.

The Schapiros are praised for opening up their space, for the "new" floor, and for their colors. For the light in the hallway? Not so much.

The winners: the Skinners. They have the room they've wanted for five years; the money, they say, is a bonus. Phil Rivo has the last word, saying that the Skinners did an amazing job, even though their room wasn't to his taste. He adds that he'd love them to put up their home for sale and leave the neighborhood. (A local newspaper revealed that Phil is a realtor, so the comment was probably not personal but "just business.")

What we learned:

1. Be careful when doing DIY demolition. You can always take away more, but it's not so easy to restore what's gone.
2. If your home has original hardwood under an exisiting floor, remove a board or two to see if the original is in good condition -- and then go for it.
3. Don't go cheap on light fixtures. Poor choices can can bring down your room design.

More on AOL Real Estate:
Read more homeTV coverage.
See homes for sale in Jersey City, N.J.


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