Good Bones’ Mina Starsiak Hawk Talks Home Renos, Family, And More – Exclusive Interview
Mina Starsiak Hawk is best known for her HGTV show Good Bones, in which she and her mom, Karen Laine, rehab homes all around their hometown of Indianapolis. According to her website bio, Starsiak Hawk and Laine got started in the renovation business when she bought a run-down home way back in 2007. The two women “were bitten by the renovation bug,” and haven’t looked back since. They started their own company, Two Chicks and a Hammer, and saw so much success that HGTV got involved. Good Bones has been on the air since 2016, bringing Starsiak Hawk’s amazing design talents, big smile, and even bigger heart to HGTV fans everywhere.
But this smiley strawberry blonde is so much more than a reality star. Starsiak Hawk is also a business owner, full-time home rehabber, mother of two, and a children’s book author. Talk about busy! What keeps her going? What inspires her? What advice does she have for people looking to follow in her work booted footsteps? She covered all this and more in an exclusive interview with The List.
Mina Starsiak Hawk shares the inspiration behind her children's book, Built Together
What inspired you to write a children’s book?
I think having kids and just thinking about what I wanted him to be reading, and seeing and around. I mean, part of the reason that we chose to live downtown again was the exposure we wanted for him. So he sees lots of different kinds of people and whether that’s someone homeless on the trail behind a house, whatever. Just this idea that there’s not just one way or one kind of person or one look in the world. That’s how my family is. It’s all hodgepodge.
I don’t know if you’ve even tried to watch, there’s a YouTube video where we made up a family tree. And it’s a joke because it’s just why my dad’s second wife… He had two kids with and then after they divorced, she remarried or almost remarried her first husband that she already had a kid with. So her first husband and third husband was her and my dad’s kids’ stepdad, that kind of stuff.
You can’t even make it up. But just this idea that family comes in so many different shapes, and when I was growing up… Even in high school. The high school I went to, it was the end of, like, my friend’s worlds when their parents were getting divorced. And I just grew up that way. I just thought it was a fun take on construction, like how you build a house, everyone does it different. You start with a good foundation and then you make it pink or yellow or blue or… And the same thing with the family. Mine was definitely all hodgepodge together.
My step-parents, ex-step-siblings, half-siblings, people that I call aunt and uncle that are just my parents’ good friends. People my kids call aunt and uncle that are just my good friends, but that I consider part of my family. So yeah, that’s the thought.
Mina Starsiak Hawk talks writing and renovating
Have you noticed any similarities between the two processes of writing and renovating?
Oh, for sure. This is even way before the kids book. The area I live in, there’s no homeowner’s association. So you can do whatever you want within… You can have a rooster if it doesn’t make noise, because then you’re going to violate a noise ordinance. But you can paint your house yellow or orange, or, I don’t know, make it out of glass. I drive around to projects and I’m like, “Oh my god, who did that? Why did they do that?” I really just wish everyone would consult me because they’re making really bad choices. Then I’m like, “But this is why I do this here, because you can do whatever you want and whenever it makes you happy.” That’s the idea of how you make your own family, whether it’s adopted, or surrogate, or same sex … you know, the whole live and let live.
What was the most challenging thing about writing the book and then how does that compare to the most challenging thing about renovating homes?
I mean, it’s trivial and funny, but honestly the hardest thing about writing the book was getting my husband’s character looking right. He was like, “I work out. I work really hard. Can I get a beard? Can I look like I have muscles?” There’s a little bit of back and forth on that. But I mean in general, the book was just… I wanted it to be fun and cute but not super cheesy. And yeah, that was really the hardest part.
Then what would you say the most challenging thing about renovating homes is and which one’s tougher?
I think, I mean, definitely renovating homes is tougher. The kid’s book [took] a couple [years], but it was in phases and we’ve been done for a year. But then it’s getting it to print, and getting it across the ocean and all that stuff. And there are fewer variables to mess up. In the house process, there’s so many decisions to make. It’s not just like, “Okay, we need to add a beard to Steve.” It’s all the finishes, all the floor plans, then you have a budget. I mean, we had a house fall down last season. It literally fell down, it wasn’t supposed to do that. So a little bit more catastrophic things than the kids would process.
This is what makes Mina Starsiak Hawk's children's book stand out
What would you say makes Built Together different from other children’s books?
It’s definitely not by any means the first children’s book that’s like embracing something different, something other than like “the mom, dad, two and a half kids.” I think it does it in a unique way, because it pulls in so much. I mean, it talks about the old lady next door who maybe doesn’t have a lot of family and helping her out, bringing her into the fold.
Like there’s a girl across the street. We have the same birthday, and she turned 100 on my birthday this year. And there was just… She’s everyone’s great grandma. She’s lived here forever. I’m the newest newbie. And there’s this huge line of cars and everyone to see her sit on her front porch with a tiara and her fur coat on her 100th birthday, and it was incredible.
I feel like it’s those people that are around that maybe aren’t necessarily at the forefront of your mind. Regularly I reach out to her daughter. I’m like, “Just remind her, I’m across the street. I’m close if you ever need anything.” Making the idea of family more about not just blood and your neighbors and your friends. People who need help. People who need empathy. And I’ve only just started my career in reading children’s books. I’m sure there’s others that are very similar, but like the Little Blue Truck. Little Blue Truck is well known and very good, but it’s a different fun take on that same message like lend a helping hand [and] someone will help you out. Yeah, it’s just more of that.
And unlike Little Blue Truck, your book appeals to little boys and girls that might want to go into renovating homes one day, the next generation.
It’s really cool that so many of our fans are young kids that watch the show and like construction boys and girls, because it wasn’t… I don’t remember watching TV with my parents like that. And I get lots of messages from parents, it’s like, “Sally, when it’s nap time… She’s 5, all she wants to do is watch Good Bones and she knows I’ll do it so she gets us to watch it during quiet time.” So yeah. It’s fun.
Mina Starsiak Hawk on her new store, Two Chicks and Co
Can you tell me a little bit more about your store, Two Chicks and Co? What is most exciting to you about the store? What do you love? What can you just not wait to share with people?
Yeah. One of those back-of-the-mind dream projects for a while. My sister, Kelsy, we actually hired her three years ago and she was supposed to open the store. And for no fault of her own, financing and just bandwidth, it didn’t happen. It finally opened, two months late in the middle of the pandemic. I think it was June, this past June. And we were like, “You know what, whatever. We’re ready. We’re going to do this. It’s fine.” And it’s, I think partially because we have the platform with the show, it’s been okay. We’re not losing our butts.
And we ramped up our ecommerce really quickly because so many people wanted to be able to come see it and wanted to buy cute things, but didn’t want to come in. Those actually both did really well, and it’s just been nice when we were all deciding what we wanted to do.
Like we’re in the Midwest. Our prices on our show are reasonable. I like watch HGTV [and say] like, “Oh my god, I really want that rug.” And if you were to be able to find it, it’s probably 10 grand. We wanted a store where everything… There was something for everyone. We got this like fancy, fancy, fancy couch, velvet. It’s amazing. It’s giant, and it was $4,000. I think that’s the most expensive thing we’ve ever had in the store. But rugs are $90 to $400 and pillows, and [we] just wanted it to be like fun, approachable. You can watch the show, say, “I like this,” find it here, and you’re good.
How Mina Starsiak Hawk balances being a mom, business owner, and a reality star
How has it been running your business, writing the book, filming a show, and taking care of your family all during a pandemic?
Hectic. But the family part is honestly the easiest part. We have an awesome nanny that’s been with us since Jack was six or nine months old. And actually, she has an apartment up there. She’s pretty much… I mean, she’s family. She’s been quarantined with us at various times. Steve and I, we get up at 7 a.m., spend some time with the kids, and then she’s with them the rest of the day till we’re done. That makes everything else doable for both of us because [we’re] working… Yeah. It’s not a thing working from home when you have kids if someone’s not helping you. That’s really made everything else manageable. And we’re filming a little bit less, we’re being more purposeful with it. We’re not just all hanging out, goobering each other up with our germs all the time, which has given me some more time at home for work.
Mina Starsiak Hawk dishes on the upcoming season of Good Bones
You’re filming Season 7 right now, right?
We are wrapping up six. It’s always interesting like, we’ll get the official season pickup when we’re halfway through the season filming. We just keep going and buying houses, assuming it’s going to happen until someone tells us it’s not. In my head, we’re going to be starting filming Season 7 probably in the next month or two.
What was your favorite part of filming Season 6 so far?
Gosh, we did a special episode about the store, the build out of it, which is probably uniquely more interesting to me because we’ve owned it for five years and all the different things it’s gone through. The day we hired my sister to open the store — and you can’t even make this s**t up. It was in the middle of February, and our office was in the house next door to this warehouse that we were using for storage. I had appliances for the houses, vanities. It was chock-full of stuff.
And there’s a coffee shop right next door and the guy that owns it knows us, and he comes over and he’s like, “There’s water pouring out of your front door of your warehouse.” And we go, and there was probably five, six inches of water because the main had busted and flooded the whole thing. Obviously none of us were prepared, so it’s like all hands on deck. We’ve got trash bags tied around our feet because it’s freezing cold water, trying to, like, move everything that can get hurt to the high ground and the concrete. And that was my sister’s first day. Seeing it go from that to how pretty it is now is very encouraging.
Can you give us a little more insider knowledge as to what we can expect to see in Season 5 and Season 6? Anything specific that we should keep an eye out for?
Next to my home, we have one that is probably my favorite we’ve ever done. It’s super, super cool. We just finished it. I imagine it’ll air towards the end of the season, but just architecturally, really cool. It’s a new construction, which you guys don’t see a lot in the season because demo’s such a big part of what we do. We can’t get away with this very often. But we do have that one, which is really fun.
And also this is the first season that mom’s partially retired. So you get to see more of our designer, MJ, and more Cory because I’m working more closely with them on the floor plans and the designs and stuff like that. Mom’s still there. I’m doing her [part] for key projects and demo and the landscaping, but it’s cool because you get to know the rest of the team a little bit more.
How Mina Starsiak Hawk handles working with her family
How does it compare working mainly with your mom versus working with some of the newest members of the team?
So Cory is one of our project managers. I’ve known him since he was like picking his nose. He was my high school boyfriend’s best friend’s little brother. He’s pretty much family. MJ has been in the loop for like a decade, so it’s not a lot of fresh blood. We actually did just hire a new guy in for the construction department and … no one knows him, he’s new.
But I think that it’s actually those kinds of employees who are really helpful, because, with your family or your friends, you get into these habits, whether they’re good or bad. Expectations like, “Oh, so and so is going to behave like this.” And I think it’s good to get some [outside view] of it and be like, “Oh, yeah.” We do talk to each other poorly and so this new guy just said we should reevaluate that.
Going back to how you work with your mom, has the working relationship ever caused waves in your personal relationship? And if so, how did you guys work through that?
100 percent. It was really early on when we had just gotten picked up. Our original network executive who’s no longer with the network, she started her own production company, came and visited us, and gave us what I thought was like really good advice. She said, “As long as you’ll remember none of this has anything to do with you, you’ll stay humble and you’ll be fine. So the people who love you and build you up on social media and think you’re the bee’s knees, they don’t love you, they love the version of you that the show is showing. And the people that hate you and think you’re terrible, they hate you, they hate that version. So if you just remember none of this is about you, then you can keep your head on straight because TV does weird stuff to people.”
And, even with Tad, because he’s on the show and he’s my brother and also my employee. We always have these ups and downs. That’s how mom and I have been, honestly, since I was like 6. We didn’t talk for a year, like my first year of college. We always figure out a way to get back to it. But it’s definitely challenging because it’s… Like when we were filming full-time, you don’t have time to go to your corners. You’re just with each other all day, every day, and that can be really intense. Like, “What did she mean by that?” And Kelsy would be like, “Nothing.” I’m like, “I don’t know, she sounded like she meant something else by saying, ‘Hi.'” That kind of stuff.
Mina Starsiak Hawk's advice for future home renovators and would-be children's book authors
If you had to give one piece of advice to any of those future home renovators or even adults now who are looking to get into that, what would it be?
Definitely [it] is not as fun or easy as HGTV makes it. They take a six-month process, edit it down into 42 minutes of the best. I think that’s why there are those like, “Help, rescue me. I’ve messed up my house” shows because they make it look really easy and it’s not, and everything can go wrong.
If you had to give one piece of advice to someone who wants to write a children’s book, what would it be?
Make it something you know. Make it something that you care about, you’re passionate about, you relate to because then I think you’re just more invested and then other people can pick up on that, unless if you’re just like, “I am writing a children’s book about ballet.” I don’t do ballet. “No, we’re not buying that.”
What's next for Mina Starsiak Hawk?
Can you tell us anything about if you have any big plans for the future, what might be coming next for you guys and your family?
Gosh, now, I mean family-wise, we’re just all surviving during the pandemic. Hopefully we’re going to take a family vacation this summer, but hopefully Season 7 gets picked up and goes well. I do have a fun cameo that I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but it’s on another show that’s airing in late February on the networks so that’s kind of fun. But just a lot more of the same.
Episodes of Good Bones air on HGTV.
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