October 29, 2020

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What Syd McGee of “Dream Home Makeover” Admires Most About His Wife, Shea

From Oprah Magazine

  • Shea and Syd McGee are featured in the new Netflix reality series Dream Home Makeover.
  • The Salt Lake City-based couple launched their design studio, Studio McGee, in 2014.
  • Speaking to OprahMag.com, Shea and Syd open up about parenthood, work-life balance in quarantine, and the thrill of the “reveal.”

Now that they’ve starred in one, Shea and Syd McGee of Netflix’s Dream Home Makeover, can’t watch home remodeling shows to relax. “We’re like, We know what they did there. Before, I could turn off my design brain. Now I can’t. It took away the magic,” Shea tells OprahMag.com.

Still, Shea’s not complaining. Dream Home Makeover, out October 16, is the latest progression in her design firm’s astronomic trajectory, which began with the remodel of their studio apartment in Southern California in 2013, and has led to a thriving business and Instagram following of 1.4 million (and counting).

In the six-episode Netflix series, the married couple behind Studio McGee apply their sensibility—which Shea describes as “light and airy”—to a variety of projects, from kitchens to entire manors. Dream Home Makeover also is a portrait of the McGees as a power couple, who complement each others’ strengths.

“Shea’s superpower is her undying love for design. We always joke, Are you going to run out of ideas? She always comes up with so much stuff—it’s amazing. Pair that with her sheer work ethic and determination, that combination is incredible to behold. I do my best to support and keep up with that,” Syd tells OprahMag.com. Shea says Syd’s superpower is his people skills: “He really listens, but also leads with strength.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of NETFLIX

Though the Salt Lake City-based couple has been detailing their lives as parents and designers, the Netflix show presented an opportunity to reach a broader audience. “We’re so excited. I don’t know if we really fully comprehend what we’re getting ourselves into,” Syd says, laughing.

It also gave the McGees a chance to enact the hallmark of any good makeover or home improvement show: The—drumroll, please—reveal. For Shea, seeing clients’ reactions to their work was the best part of the experience.

“Prior to the show, we we’d walk our clients through, but it wasn’t as much of a surprise. They were there from the messy middle to the end. The surprise reaction was a highlight for me. It was so fun to watch them see this completely transformed space,” Shea says.

Here’s what you need to know about the couple, and their journey to Dream Home Makeover.

Their daughters, Wren and Ivy, are budding designers.

Wren, 7, and Ivy, 4, are already taking after their parents. “They love decorating their rooms,” Shea says. Wren also might be considering a career in the family business.

“Our daughter brought home this little notebook that they write in at school every day. It had a career page. She wrote, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a designer.’ My heart exploded,” Shea says.

Shea and Syd met during Shea’s first week of college.

The couple’s upcoming book, Make Life Beautiful, details how they came into each other’s lives. Shea grew up in Texas, and attended Brigham Young University. Soon after moving, she visited her brother at nearby Utah Valley University. Syd happened to be Shea’s brother’s roommate.

“My brother said, ‘My buddy Syd will be there and you’re going to like him, but don’t, because he’s my friend.’ As I pulled into the lot, I knew I was in trouble. There Syd was on a skateboard, wearing the skinniest skinny jeans I had ever seen. We went on our first date the next night,'” Shea writes in the book.

Today, the couple lives together, works together, and raises kids together. Sometimes, all that togetherness can get stressful. “When we start butting heads, it’s not because we don’t don’t agree on things. It’s because we feel the stresses in our business at the same time. We can’t go home and lean on the other one because the other one had an okay day. We both had a bad day at the same time, and then we come home to juggle family. We’re just feeling that, and it can permeate into our personal lives,” Shea says.

When that happens, the McGees make action plans—and they have one final trick. “If we just can put that phone away for a second and separate work and life, that usually gives us a moment to take a deep breath,” Shea says.

Studio McGee, their design firm, currently has over 1 million followers on Instagram.

You can pick up design tips on Studio McGee’s Instagram, @studiomcgee, where the McGees share updates from projects and photos from their own house.

They’re the authors of a book, Make Life Beautiful.

The McGee’s motto, “Make life beautiful,” is also the title of their design book, which will be published later this year. The book goes into detail about how the McGees built their business—including Shea’s decision to quit her job in PR, sell their California home, and use the profit to launch a business in Salt Lake City.

“Both long-time and new fans will not only gain insight into how the McGees built such a successful company but also be inspired to apply design principles to their lives,” the official copy for the book reads.

For the couple, good design is, quite literally, a way to make life look and feel beautiful. “I got hooked on design when we were living in a very tiny one bedroom apartment. I noticed that I could change the way I felt when I came home and started implementing changes. I loved the way it impacts my mood and the way we feel,” Shea says.

Now, they’re enjoying their own dream home.

In Dream Home Makeover, Syd and Shea are working on completing their own house amid their other projects. The custom-designed home was finished just in time for 2020’s lockdown. “The timing couldn’t have been better because we’ve spent so much time at home. We just look around and we’re like, We’re so glad we’re here,” Shea says.

At the start of the pandemic, the couple had to balance Studio McGee’s demands with ’round the clock parenting. “It was crazy. Syd was hiding in a closet to take a call when I was trying to teach the kids, and then we’d switch. I’d say, ‘I left off on this page. You need to take it from here. It’s all hands on deck,'” Shea recalls.

Want Studio McGee in your house? They designed a line for Target.

You might not be able to get a home designed by Syd and Shea—but you can get a few McGee-approved items thanks to Target’s Threshold collection, designed in collaboration with Studio McGee. Infused with Studio McGee’s breezy aesthetic, the collection has products made for every part of the house, including decorative accents, pillows, rugs, lighting and furniture.

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