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So you’ve found the house of your dreams — with some quirks that, like your husband’s loud chewing, can be hard to live with. What do you do when you need a way to make your true love easier to, well, love? When it’s your husband, you put him on mute. When it’s your house, you call up HGTV.

Lori Ribezzo and Adrian Montero are the proud owners of a Whispering Pines home that was the subject of season two, episode 10 of HGTV’s “Tough Love with Hilary Farr,” which aired in December. The process started in 2022, when Lori found herself at her wit’s end with stalled home improvement projects and, on a whim, responded to a vague social media advertisement for those looking for help with renovations. Soon after, she found herself at a casting call.

Lori Ribezzo and Adrian Montero

“You’re cast just like you’re going on a TV show,” she says. “Then you meet with people, go through all the dynamics of a project. You pay out of pocket for all the work, but the incentive of being on HGTV is you get to work with people who want to do a great job and make sure their best work is featured. You’re getting the best of the best.”

The 2,666-square-foot home in the Country Club of Whispering Pines is a classic midcentury modern packed with unique features that have drawn the attention of groups like The Pines Preservation Guild and NC Modernist. Known as the W.R. Isom House, it was designed and built in 1969 by Stephen R. Isom for his parents, and changed hands five times before Lori and Adrian purchased the home in 2021. 

The W.R. Isom House from the front, above, and the back, below.

“We were looking to buy during the worst timing ever, during the pandemic, and we were losing houses left and right for all-cash offers from New York and California,” said Lori. She had all but given up when she saw the W.R. Isom House, with 14 walls of floor-to-ceiling windows and slate floors, and couldn’t get on the phone with her Realtor fast enough.

Finding the house of her dreams isn’t the only time Lori’s patience paid off. She and Adrian are engaged to each other for the second time — 11 years after their first marriage ended in divorce.  

“I guess I came to my senses,” Adrian says in the episode, “and asked her if she wanted to take another chance.” 

“As you can imagine, our story was also a hook for the show,” Lori laughs. The description of the episode, called “Love After Construction,” says Hilary “looks to renovate their outdated midcentury house to help the couple live happily ever after.” 

The Renovation and Reveal

A longtime fan of the midcentury aesthetic, Lori was an advocate for keeping as much of the home’s original features as possible — but a previous renovation and poor upkeep of materials left her, in some instances, with little choice.

“We had a sunken tub that I called the “concussion tub;” the inspector wouldn’t let us go through with the purchase until we put up a grab bar. We crossed our fingers when we flushed the vintage floating toilets. We would have loved to keep more of the tile, but it was falling apart. Things weren’t functioning; that was the real impetus of the project.”

HGTV contacted Lori in October 2022, and the couple heard back the following April. Filming began in May 2023. During the 26-week project, the couple moved themselves and all their possessions into a Southern Pines rental home. 

“You truly have to trust Hilary Farr,” Lori says. “If it wasn’t her, there would have been a bit more trepidation. I sent her screenshots of things I loved so she could get an idea of the style, and then let her have free rein.”

Hilary Farr’s design incorporated fun tile accents throughout the project.

Following Hilary’s initial walk-through, assessment and design, there is some drama — the general contractor assigned to the project drops out, just when Adrian leaves for Hawaii for an extended work trip. The job is eventually picked up by SouthEastern General Contractors, out of Hope Mills.

After that, the only drama involves Hilary and Lori trying to convince Adrian, who works out of Fort Liberty, to trim down the amount of clothes in the new closet designed by local company Affordable Custom Closets & Garages.

The episode also highlights a visit to Dunrovin Country Store’s Exotic Animal Sanctuary, where Lori volunteers. Local cameos include the furniture, most of which was purchased from the Design Market in Aberdeen; as well as Lori’s hair (Kayla McNeill, Homegrown Roots in Carthage) and dress (Monkee’s, Southern Pines) during the final reveal.

“They mic’d me up in the car before we even pulled into the driveway,” she says. “I’m not an actress, so I wanted to be fully surprised.” 

Lori and Adrian exclaim over all the home’s latest transformations. But when the tour lands in the kitchen, Lori immediately spreads out her arms and drops down onto her new island. “I’m a hugger,” she says.

“Love Under Construction” is available to watch with a subscription to HBO Max; it can also be purchased on Vudu, Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV.

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