By Carina Julig, Sentinel Colorado (AP Storyshare)
AURORA, Colo. — When she first got a call from HGTV asking her to audition for a new show, Aurora interior designer Poonam Moore didn’t think it was real.
“It’s like getting a call from Google,” she said, laughing. But it wasn’t spam, and the owner of Poonam’s by Design at Southlands Shopping Center ended up sitting for a screen test for a new show the channel was producing in Colorado, “Rico to the Rescue.”
Out of 100 applicants, Moore made it to the final 10, and then to the final three candidates. After multiple rounds of interviews and live camera tests, in June of last year she was asked to be on the show.
“It went really fast,” she said. “In mid-June they called and offered me the job and within two weeks I was on set.”
The season’s eight episodes are currently airing on HGTV, with the final episode playing for the first time this Saturday. The show follows home builder Rico León, who as the title implies, “rescues” homeowners whose projects have gone awry because of negative experiences with past contractors. He’s joined by estimator Matt Plowman and Moore, who provides the show’s interior design expertise.
Moore has been an interior designer since 2004, and first started her own company in 2006. In February 2020, she opened Poonam’s by Design in Aurora. A native of Fiji, Moore was raised in Los Angeles and Denver but has called Aurora home for the past 27 years. She wanted to open a design store right in the city so people wouldn’t have to always go into Denver to get what they needed.
“This is home, and that’s why we wanted to open up shop here,” she said.
Though it wasn’t a good time for many businesses starting out, the pandemic ended up keeping the company very busy, as the lockdown and changes in working habits prompted many homeowners to want second offices, home gyms and other new amenities.
“We were buried within weeks with work,” she said.
The storefront, which has 10 employees and works with about 40 tradesmen, has been busy ever since, Moore said. So busy, in fact, that this summer they are planning to open up a second location in Park Meadows Mall.
When Moore was asked to be on “Rico to the Rescue” she initially hesitated because of how much else the company had going on. But hearing about the premise — helping families who had been ripped off in the past — is what made her say “yes.”
We were really busy and had a lot going on and I really had to think about doing this,” she said. “Once we found out that we would be able to help people, it intrigued me.”
The show traveled all over Colorado, helping families in Parker, Five Points, Highlands Ranch, Evergreen and other cities across the state.
“Some of them are really heartwarming stories,” Moore said. Her favorite part of the show was when she was able to tell homeowners, many of whom had already exhausted their budgets, that they would be getting a lot of merchandise for free and that their homes would be able to be fixed.
“Some couples sat here and cried,” she said, referencing her store, where the show filmed many of its meetings.
Filming took place in July through December of last year, and for a while Moore and the rest of her employees weren’t able to tell anyone about the show. Finally getting to watch the episodes when the season premiered in January was nerve-wracking but exciting, she said.
HGTV offered Moore an opportunity to watch the episodes in advance, but she decided to wait to see them with her friends and family. When the first episode aired Jan. 7, her husband hosted a red-carpet watch party at their home for their friends and everyone on staff.
The show has garnered more attention for Poonam’s by Design, she said. Its Instagram account gained hundreds of followers in a matter of weeks, and people have come into the store because they saw it on TV. Moore said she’s happy to help put the business and Southlands on the map and to show people “that there’s local talent right here in Aurora that can make national television.”
After all the episodes have aired, Moore said they’ll be told about HGTV’s future plans for the show and if there’s a possibility to do more reasons. For her part, she’s all in.
“It was a very busy, stressful experience but overall it was really fun,” she said. “I would totally do it again.”
Poonam’s advice for working with a contractor:
* If a contractor asks you to pull your own homeowner’s permit because they can’t do it, Moore says that’s a red flag, because it means the contractor isn’t registered with the city or maybe isn’t even licensed. Some contractors will say that it’s hard for them to pull permits so the homeowner should do it themself. “Those are all myths. Aurora’s actually very easy to pull permits with,” she said.”
* When you’re looking at a bid, make sure you understand what it includes and what it excludes. “What is included in your contract — that is where all disputes come from,” Moore said. Unless it’s a design firm where everything is included, most builders expect homeowners to provide all their own materials, which many people may not realize until it’s too late. “You really have to watch what you’re signing,” Moore said.
* A contractor is going to be in your house for an extended period of time — pick someone you know you’re going to be able to work well with. “If you don’t get along with your contractor it’s just going to be no bueno from the very beginning,” Moore said. “Get somebody you can trust and that you can get along with.”