Galveston Couple Gives Old Homes New LifeBy Barbara Canetti
Texas takes the spotlight again at the intersection of television and historic preservation. Michael and Ashley Cordray are the hosts of the new national television show, Big Texas Fix, which premiered on April 6 on the DIY Network. The Cordrays live in Galveston and rehabilitate and restore soon-to-be demolished properties.
Their hourlong show focuses on the couple’s ability to roll up their sleeves and dive into these pitiful properties, making them useful focal points in the community. Because they are selecting houses in less popular areas, their contribution is an obvious upgrade for the street and, ultimately, the neighborhood.
“I think it is the history that draws people to Galveston,” says Ashley. “We work on houses that are unlivable where no one has been in them for more than a decade. We make them whole again.”
The couple got started in the home renovation business by accident. Both are graduates of Texas A&M Galveston, although they did not attend at the same time. But they met while working for a Houston barge company and, shortly after they started dating, Ashley said she wanted to buy a Galveston house.
“We bought a house, stayed in it one night, and then moved in with Michael’s family for the next 18 months,” she says. They worked on the house nights and weekends until it was finished. Then they bought another ramshackle place, fixed it up and sold it. They did this several times until Michael decided to “cut the cord,” quit his job and tackle renovations full time. Ashley continued to work at her full-time job until they decided renovating houses was where they both wanted to be.
Around that time, the HGTV network sent a nationwide proposal to production companies for a show that featured house flippers in a beach community where houses sell for less than $500,000. Michael got probably 20 calls from production companies, all who wanted to know first: How many houses are you flipping now? Ten? Twenty?
“I was only doing one at a time,” says Michael. The conversations with each of the production companies ended quickly with the exception of one company, Maverick TV USA, that expressed an interest. They came to Galveston, filmed the couple working on a house and sent a short video, called a “sizzle,” to HGTV. The network liked what it saw, funded the pilot, and the couple was signed to a contract. The pilot, called Saving Galveston, aired six times in 2018.
That was 18 months ago. Since then, the pair have completed about 20 island houses, including the iconic Kettle House on Galveston’s West End. This property, which the couple has kept as their personal beach house, is a 900-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath inverted steel dome that almost looks like the top of a water tower. It was originally intended to be a retail space 50 years ago, but it was never completed by its original owner. The Cordrays totally redid the interior and exterior, even adding a deck that seems to lure uninvited guests frequently to peek in the windows – even when they are home.
“We weren’t expecting that,” says Ashley.
The couple tries to restore houses by using many original or period materials sourced from local antique and restoration companies. They also creatively decorate with inexpensive items that they salvage from other properties and their own home.
Unlike many home renovation shows, none of the airtime is spent shopping for houses. Their show focuses on the restoration, as well as a mini-trip to local eateries and landmarks.
“Galveston will benefit from this because they film us going to restaurants and looking down the alleys searching for doors and windows,” Ashley says. “We never dreamed of this happening. It was never planned, but we are happy it did.”
Big Texas Fix
Ashley and Michael Cordray
Big House Antiques
2212 Mechanic, Galveston