Ty Pennington Biography

Journalist, Reality Television Star (1964–)
Ty Pennington is a TV host, author and designer whose purview, in all its forms, is home improvement.


Ty Pennington was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 19, 1964. Debuting in 2000, the reality show Trading Spaces helped make Pennington a nationally known figure. One of the show's carpenters, Pennington soon became a nationally recognized star, and released his first home-improvement book. In 2004, he left Trading Spaces to head up his own show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which has been a consistent hit in the ratings.

Early Life

Born on October 19, 1964, in Atlanta, Georgia, famed television personality and designer Ty Pennington is known for his enthusiasm, creativity and good looks. Pennington was raised by his mother, a child psychologist. At an early age, he showed a knack for taking things apart and building new wondrous creations. He even built playhouses for other kids in the neighborhood, asking to be paid in comic books.

Pennington first attended Kennesaw College where he studied art and history. Wanting to focus on design, he transferred to the Art Institute of Atlanta. Pennington earned a bachelor's degree from the school and then studied art and sculpture at the Atlanta College of Art for a time. To support himself, he often worked as a carpenter and also found work as a model. Pennington appeared in advertisements and catalogues for such companies as J. Crew, Diet Coke and Levi's.

In 1995, Pennington helped make the sets for the feature film Leaving Las Vegas, starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue. He also showed his talent for renovation by buying an old factory and converting it into lofts with his brother. With the house he bought in Atlanta's Grant Park neighborhood, Pennington demonstrated his ability to decorate in style with a limited budget, making a metal salad bowl into a sink and other such low-cost creative touches. He also started his own company, Furniture Unlimited, which sold his own designs.

'Trading Spaces' and 'Extreme Makeover'

The reality show Trading Spaces helped to make Pennington a nationally known figure. Debuting in the fall of 2000, the program centered on two teams switching homes to undertake an interior design project. Each team worked with a limited budget, a two-day time limit, a professional designer, and a carpenter. Pennington served as one of the show's carpenters.

A huge hit, the show became the most watched program on The Learning Channel cable network. Pennington himself developed a huge fan following, especially among female viewers, who enjoyed his goofy humor and his handsome appearance. People magazine named him one of its "Top 50 Bachelors" in 2002.

While on the show, Pennington released his first book, Ty's Tricks: Home Repair Secrets Plus Cheap and Easy Projects to Transform Any Room, in 2003. The book became a best-seller. The following year, he signed a contract with Sears to serve as a spokesperson.

Also in 2004, Pennington left Trading Spaces to head up his own show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, on the ABC television network. The heart-warming program has been a consistent hit in the ratings, captivating viewers with its strong human interest stories. In each episode, a deserving family—one who has faced a variety of challenges and setbacks—has their home redone by Pennington and his team of designers with the help of local builders and volunteers.

"What's cool about what we do is that we lead a team of people from the community, so it's neighbors helping neighbors. The show isn't like anything else on TV because it does something positive that makes a permanent difference. It's real and it's tangible,??" Pennington told the Saturday Evening Post in 2008.

Pennington is clearly dedicated to the people and projects featured on the show. After undergoing emergency surgery for appendicitis in 2005, he continued working on that week's renovations—two episodes are shot at the same time??—from his hospital bed. That same year, Pennington also launched his own line of bath, bedding and other home accessories, called Ty Pennington Style, through the Sears department store chain.

In 2007, the premier issue of his new magazine, Ty Pennington at Home, hit the newsstands. He also made the headlines around this time after being arrested for drunk driving. "??I made an error in judgment," Pennington said in a statement obtained by People magazine. "I could have jeopardized the lives of others and I am grateful there was no accident or harm done to anyone. This was my wake-up call." He was later fined $1,500, ordered to enroll in an alcohol-education program, and sentenced to three years' probation.

Overcoming this personal challenge, Pennington has stayed on as the popular and boisterous host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition while continuing to expand his many business interests. In 2008, he signed a deal with Howard Miller for a new line of high-end furniture. His second book, How Good Design Can Change Your Life, was published in the fall of 2008.

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