Dave and Jenny Marrs
As Seen on TV
By Glenda Graves
Photos courtesy of HGTV
For years, HGTV has given viewers inspiration to transform something outdatedor neglected into something fresh and beautiful. Fixer to Fabulous, featuring Bentonville couple Jenny and Dave Marrs, first aired on HGTV in October 2019 and has proven to be a viewer favorite. The show’s success is due in part to the couple’s creativity and ability to transform dilapidated homes into designer homes, but it’s likely also due to the fact that Jenny and Dave are happy and engaging individuals – a perfect representation of the type of people Northwest Arkansas is made of.
Both Jenny and Dave agree that being in the national TV spotlight is something they would never have imagined for their lives. Dave grew up in Denver, Colorado, where his father was a homebuilder and auto mechanics teacher and his mother was an ER nurse.
Although Dave had considered following in his father’s footsteps, he ultimately decided to attend college with the plan of becoming a doctor. “I was pre-med until my senior year of college – getting a degree in biochemistry,” he says. “I got to organic chemistry and realized I didn’t want to do it. I saw how the rest of the college students were living — not having to study all the time — and so I changed to communications.” After graduation, Dave took a job working for Rubbermaid as a regional sales manager, which brought him to Northwest Arkansas.
Jenny grew up in Orlando, Florida. Her parents owned and operated a wholesale bakery where she and her three siblings worked when they were younger. “I watched Melrose Placeon television when I was growing up and wanted to do advertising because of that,” Jenny says. “I wanted to move to New York or Paris or San Francisco – but after doing internships in advertising, I realized that was not where my passion was. Later, I took a job with Rubbermaid, and that’s where I met Dave.”
Jenny was working in Tampa, Florida, and then Nashville, Tennessee, but she and Dave talked all the time and were often in work meetings together. Dave says, “The team we were working on was all right out of college, and we all became great friends.” For about a year, he and Jenny developed a close friendship.
“We had a special connection,” Jenny says. “Then, one day, a friend of mine told me that Dave liked me – and we started dating! We dated long distance for a year. But we both traveled all the time back then, so it wasn’t really that awful. We got engaged in April 2004 and that was when I decided to move to Arkansas.”
Dave says it was a big deal when she made the move to Arkansas. “Her whole family was still in Orlando, and they are really close,” he explains. “But this is just such a unique place – we have everything we need in Northwest Arkansas. We didn’t really plan to stay here forever, but once we started having kids, we realized what a great place it is to raise a family. Now, we don’t think we’ll ever leave.”
After a couple of years in corporate America, Dave says, he realized it wasn’t something he wanted to continue doing. So, he went back to his roots and began building houses while Jenny continued in sales with a supplier. Craving a creative outlet, however, she started a photography business on the side and helped Dave out some with the building process. However, when the couple had their first children — twin boys — she left her corporate job and shifted her focus to raising the boys and working more with Dave. “Both Jenny and I are sevens on the Enneagram, which means we like to start new things and we don’t like repetition,” he says, referring to a popular personality test.
After a few years of completed projects, a friend told them that HGTV had a network executive looking for smaller towns in America as the base for a series of shows. Someone from the Walton Family Foundation recommended Bentonville. As luck would have it, Dave and Jenny had built a home for that person. Dave says, “She mentioned that HGTV might be reaching out to us. Jenny even received an email from them once, but deleted it, thinking it was just junk mail.”
HGTV finally made contact and invited Jenny and Dave to film what is called a sizzle reel. “A sizzle reel is like a proof of concept,” Jenny explains. “They brought film crews in and we visited houses that we had done before.” They were picked out of a large number of sizzle reels filmed around the same concept to go ahead and start filming the pilot. “We didn’t have any expectations of it going anywhere. The odds of a pilot going to a season are really low, so we just took it one step at a time,” she says.
“Dave was worried about how they would represent Northwest Arkansas. I worried about the kids,” she says. “But we met with a producer who was originally from Rogers, and he was very protective of the area. That took care of our fears about the area. We prayed on what we thought it would look like with our family. We worried about putting our kids under a microscope. But we thought maybe it could be a platform to help with our nonprofit work. We agreed, and they came back and said they wanted eight episodes.”
Before the first eight were even finished, the network purchased two more, rounding the first season out with 10 episodes. After a successful first season, the network announced that there will be a second. Filming for season two began in February and the first show is expected to air in September.
Jenny and Dave explain that the process for selecting homes to feature is a nice back-and-forth collaboration. Homes for season two have already been selected, but that process began with homeowners submitting their homes to HGTV. The network then narrows the selections down and then passes those on to Jenny and Dave. The couple then visits each home and meets the homeowners and their families. They do a video walk-through, find out the budget and narrow it down to the ones that will work best within the allotted budget and timeline. “It’s also important that the houses and families are different from episode to episode,” Jenny points out.
Jenny and Dave have five children – keeping their needs, schedules and activities a priority allows the couple to enjoy family life and successfully manage their careers and filming shows. “I found out I was pregnant with our fifth child one week after we finished filming the first season!” Jenny says. “The kids have basketball, soccer and school activities, but missing any of those things is a non-negotiable for us. When filming, we make sure to have blackout dates for each of the kids’ birthdays – I just have to have boundaries. We love filming the show, but we don’t want to miss our kids’ childhood to do it.”
Though the Marrs family has garnered a bit of celebrity status, after meeting the easy-going couple, it’s easy to see that they really are more “regular” than “celebrity.” Jenny says, “We just really love this area and want to highlight Northwest Arkansas in a positive way. We’re proud of the people and the homes here and the work we get to do. We are trying really hard to raise our family and keep their lives as normal as possible, instilling generosity, kindness and hard work.”
Jenny and Dave’s tips for remodeling and homebuilding:
Get bids from a couple of contractors.
Ask for contractor references.
Go around and see work the contractor has done.
Spend the money on an architect.
Don’t get bogged down with decisions.
Stick to one style.
Keep the exterior authentic to the style of the home.