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The Handyman Can!

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HGTV host Carter Oosterhouse proves that home is where the hunk is

New Orleans was treated to a socketful of eye candy at the end of October, when

Photo: Charles Bush

Carter Oosterhouse, one of America’s most recognized lifestyle experts, came to town. Credited with improving the quality of people’s lives by enhancing their habitats, the incredibly handsome HGTV network star and host of Carter Can and Red Hot & Green, two shows dedicated to solving home-improvement dilemmas, partnered with Coty’s Nautica Fragrances and the United Way to refurbish the playground of the Kids of Excellence Child Care Center in New Orleans as the first venture in Louisiana for Carter’s Kids, Oosterhouse’s nonprofit foundation dedicated to developing and building community playgrounds and parks across the country. By doing so, he helped to indelibly etch smiles onto the faces of appreciative New Orleans children.

The next day, Oosterhouse elicited even more smiles when he made an exclusive in-store appearance at the beautifully renovated Dillard’s in Lakeside Shopping Center, a welcome addition to the New Orleans shopping scene. As the face of Coty’s Nautica Voyage, a fresh, cool aquatic fragrance that captures the freedom and adventure of this undeniably masculine man, Oosterhouse met with fans and admirers to personally autograph their Nautica fragrances and inevitably made them swoon! Thanks to his skilled craftsmanship, amazing good looks and cheery optimism, it’s no wonder that in addition to his current shows on HGTV and his frequent guest appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Today show and the like, Oosterhouse has even more dynamic series in production for 2009, including a children’s show. Stay tuned for more starring this utterly humble hunk of a handyman!

Carter, it’s so nice to meet you! You’re no stranger to New Orleans; you’ve been here a number of times since Hurricane Katrina to help people repair their homes. Are you having a good time on this visit?

So far it’s been a great time! Last night was the first time I had ever gone to Bourbon Street. Craziness! [Laughs] It’s like spring break with all ages. It was great people watching, too. But this is, I believe, my fifth visit to the area since Katrina. We’ve done a few projects for some of the shows, and we did the first health-care clinic ever in the Lower Ninth Ward right after Katrina.

It’s great for typical homeowners across the nation to have their houses redone by you on television, but in post-Katrina New Orleans, it’s a true necessity after an ugly disaster. You’re really helping to hand people’s lives back to them here.

I work with homeowners every day, and there’s been probably about 400 or 500 makeovers that I’ve done on TV, but here, it’s just so much bigger and deeper, there’s so much more emotion. The best is when people are genuinely excited about the makeover. Not all of them are. It’s great for camera, they’re happy to be on TV, they’re happy to get their room done or they’re happy to meet certain people on the shows. That’s why they do it. But some people genuinely need a makeover in their house and, of course, this is an area where people need for basic principles of living and functioning and need a soothing, calming place to come home to. That’s when I really get excited, because after you build so many tables and desks for people who don’t appreciate it, it gets a bit monotonous. When people express their gratitude, it’s such a pleasure.

Photo: Aaron Rapoport

Many people must get emotionally overwhelmed when they see the improvements you do on their homes.

Oh, yeah. This business is so fast-paced, so sharing the feelings that people are going through is really important to me, and that’s when I realize I have fun doing what I do. If you only get that on every 10th home you do, it’s still worth it. Whenever we come to New Orleans you definitely see the love and the appreciation, so I’d come back here as much as possible.

Well, please come back to New Orleans often. And please come to my house and fix everything, and I promise I will cry the whole time. I will show my appreciation!

Yes! Yes! I’m there!

I know people in New Orleans truly appreciate your interest and your help. And yesterday you aided in the rebuilding of the playground at the Kids of Excellence Child Care Center through your foundation, Carter’s Kids. That’s amazing that you are using your expertise to encourage children to get outdoors and become active.

I started the foundation about two years ago. I don’t have kids, but I always had outside activities to do when I was growing up. I thought about what I could do to give back, and I’ve always liked working with kids because it’s so fun, and I’m a big kid at heart. We’re raising the most sedentary generation ever, kids that just sit around and watch the tube. And many kids don’t have the opportunity to go to nice playgrounds, and studies show that kids are 400% more likely to be more physically active if they have a nice attractive place to play. It became my goal to build playgrounds for kids, especially when I saw in Los Angeles how dilapidated some of the playgrounds and parks were. This is the first playground we’ve done in Louisiana, and it went well. This particular child-care facility didn’t have room for a big playground, so we gave them jungle gyms, toys, toy cars, mini hurdles and basketball sets, and they were all over this equipment! Once we did our presentation, the kids just came running out with their little construction hats on, it was so cute! It was really fun, and for me it’s inspirational to see the people involved every day in this child-care facility, who have their own hardships yet remain dedicated to helping other families out. And seeing the kids come out and play on the monkey bars, well, they don’t have to say anything—you can see it in their eyes. That’s what counts most.

It makes sense that you are the face of Coty’s Nautica Voyage fragrance for men. It seems like the scent was made for an active guy who really experiences a joie de vivre. It’s a bit sophisticated, too.

Nautica’s whole mission is to embrace the active outdoor lifestyle. And they wanted Voyage to be for an active, physical guy who wants to be successful, strong and confident and who wants to accomplish life goals. I don’t want to wear something too pungent. This scent is not too strong, and you could wear it outdoors or [at work] as well. Whether you’re in an executive board meeting or you’re swinging a hammer or sailing, this fragrance is for everybody. It’s not too strong or too sexy, but it’s spirited.

So if you want your man to smell just like Carter, this is the perfect thing to buy. And will men look like you too if we spray them down with Nautica Voyage?

Oh, yes! Exactly! It makes a great gift! [Laughs]

Awesome! And the photo of you in the Nautica Voyage ad where you look like you are steering something big is brilliant. It captures the essence of what the fragrance is all about.

That photo was taken off the coast of Brazil on a day we thought we were all going to die! [Laughs] We wanted clear blue skies and a turquoise ocean and got nothing but rain the whole time. We tried to shoot something anyway, so we sail out and the waves are really choppy, and the swells got up to about 15 feet. We’re off the coast, and the boat, which had all the Nautica people in it, caught on fire, so it’s craziness going on, and I’m trying to steer the ship, which is Brazil’s big racing boat that they use for the America’s Cup and stuff, and the photographer’s going, “Carter, Carter, keep going! Keep going! This is great! This is wonderful!” And we got a great shot from it, which was the total opposite of what we planned, but it totally embraced what Nautica’s ultimate goal is, which is taking control, being outdoors and just living life to the fullest.

That’s crazy! But it’s working: There are many women lined up by your photo display here at the newly renovated Dillard’s, waiting to get a load of you and have their Nautica fragrances signed by you.

Oh, my gosh, this Dillard’s is such a gorgeous store. I’m not a big shopper by any means, so you’d never really catch me shopping, but this store is gorgeous. They’ve done an excellent job renovating it. I’m looking forward to seeing my fans in New Orleans. I love when people ask genuine how-to questions and have genuine concern. I can’t solve every home problem, but I appreciate people who get inspiration from the show, because if we’re not inspiring people we’re not doing our job.

And your shows on HGTV do inspire. I like the environmental focus of Red Hot & Green. Some people think that the greening of one’s home can lead to some drab decor, but the opposite is true. And the “red hot” in that title, that’s got to be about you, right?

No, no! [Laughs] Oh, gosh, no! But thank you, I will take that compliment! No, the “red hot” part is about the fact that you can still get a fantastic look within your home with actual green elements. Many people say, “I never would have thought this is eco-friendly carpet!” It’s amazing. And the beauty of it is that we get to work with brand-new durable green materials because they want to showcase them. For the playground material, we tend to use recycled material for the padding, the mulch and some of the equipment too. But people have contrived that title in many different ways, like “red, white and blue,” and the network was all over this title, they loved it. It’s supposed to be red about hot design and green elements.

Well, you have been deemed one of the sexiest guys ever by magazines like Us Weekly, People and Cosmogirl, so I had to ask! [Laughs]

Oh, geez, the man pool was down those years! That stuff doesn’t go to my head. And I have a good support system around me, a good family that always brings me back down to reality. My brothers are both general contractors, and they’ll tell me, “Oh, how could you build that thing yesterday! It’s so stupid! You should have built it this way!” [Laughs] So there is never a shortage of Monday-morning quarterbacking on their end telling me what I did wrong.

Your family must have played a role with your love of carpentry and construction.

I’ve been in construction since I was 12 or 13. My dad was always handy around the house. And I find it very easy to teach people how to build furniture and put paint on walls and put crown molding up. That’s fun for me. Who would have ever thought that slinging a hammer in the summertime would have come to this?

And who would have thought that New Orleans could be so lucky to have you help out so much!

New Orleans is a great city! There’s such a good energy around many people and lots of people down here who really want to help others out. Many people in this country take for granted that they don’t have to work every single day just to live, where unfortunately that’s not the case here thanks to Katrina. But seeing the fun that people have here is good; it’s good to see people really enjoy life. Embracing the culture here is cool, too. The architecture’s great, and that’s where I draw lots of inspiration from. Just looking around at different buildings inspires me with certain designs that I bring to, say, building a coffee table. And the jazz down here is amazing! It’s unique from any other city around the U.S. It’s great to walk around by myself and take pictures, but I still have yet to have gumbo! We tried to have gumbo last night … [Laughs] Oh, look at that face!

Good lord, man! You are missing out! Let’s pray that you’ll get some good gumbo before you depart! [Laughs] One last question, Carter: Is everything in your own home totally fixed up and perfect?

Oh, yeah, right! Um … no, not at all! [Laughs] I was actually thinking about all the stuff I have to do when I get home today and all last night. I need some help on my own house! [Laughs] Look, a lot of people get comfortable in their own environment and that’s why they don’t change it, and I’m the same way. When I come home, I’m like “Okay, well I can live with this, I don’t really have to change that much,” but I do love changing things up. I always changed my room up every week when I was a kid. But now I just want to go home and hang out!