AFTER OWNING AND OPERATING A CONSTRUCTION AND INTERIOR DESIGN FIRM FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS, THIS STATEN ISLANDER NOW DESIGNS, REMODELS, RENOVATES, AND DECORATES FOR A NATIONAL AUDIENCE ON HGTV
BY JESSICA JONES GORMAN
Give Eric Eremita some subway tile, a little molding, and a couple of swatches of paint, and he’ll create an innovative design scheme that will completely transform the look of a home. Give him three days and a set of tools, and he’ll tackle the job from start to finish.
“I’ve always had a love for design,” the famously cantankerous Eremita said, describing his fervor for home design and renovation. “Even as a child I would walk around with some paper and a pencil in my hand, sketching ideas and making all kinds of design schemes. The ability to knock it down and put it all back together again just came from years of experience.”
Born and raised in Staten Island’s Grasmere neighbor-hood, the home design expert started working for his father’s construction company when he graduated from high school. After several years of steeping himself in the ins and outs of the industry, he struck out on his own.
“My father, Nunzio ‘Duke’ Eremita, owned a glass and mirror company based out of Staten Island, and I wound up 2018taking it over, which inspired me to start a construction and design business as well,” Eremita said. “I expanded over the years, started doing all sorts of renovations, and eventually with the help of my father-in-law, Joseph Ligotti, showing me the ropes graduated to building custom homes. I went from doing a simple bathroom or kitchen Reno to doing full extensions, roof raises, and new construction.” No matter the job, though, he explained, he’s informed by the same approach: a refusal to stop until he’s found just the right design elements.
“It didn’t happen overnight; it took years to build the business,” Eremita said. “But I truly loved every minute of it.”
Three years ago, HGTV, the cable channel dedicated to home improvement, remodeling, and gardening, also became aware of Eremita’s zeal. The channel recruited him for Brother vs. Brother, a construction and design reality show, where he worked alongside Jonathan and Drew Scott of Property Brothers to complete a competitive home renovation.
“It was a life-changing experience,” Eremita said. “I wasn’t crowned the winner of that show, but ultimately became the winner, because HGTV asked me to be the construction manager on Love It or List It.
On the show, Eremita, representing Team Love It, works alongside world-famous designer Hilary Farr to compete for homeowners’ final decisions to stay or go. It’s his job to show the owners that within their budget, his crew of contractors and of course Farr can transform an old, worn out house into the home of their dreams. Love It or List It, which premiered in 2008 on the W Network, airs on OWN Canada as well as HGTV in the United States, and is syndicated in eight countries. In 2014, the show began filming in North Carolina. Last September, HGTV ordered 20 new episodes; the new season will start airing in July.
“Last season, Love It or List It attracted more than 17 million total viewers,” John Feld, senior vice president of original programming and production for HGTV, DIY Network, and GAC, said in a press release. “Hilary and David’s [co-host David Visentin] home renovation and real estate expertise, coupled with their fierce competition and funny banter, delivers entertainment that clearly keeps audiences engaged and inspired.”
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do in life,” Eremita said. “For years, my clients have been telling me I should be on TV. This is honestly a dream come true.”
Eremita, who now lives in Staten Island’s Annadale section, is currently filming in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, though he travels back to Staten Island whenever possible to be with his wife and three children.
“Leaving my family is honestly the hardest part of my job,” he said. “I come back as often as I can, but when we’re in the middle of filming a show, I’m on set for several days or weeks at a time.” As a consequence, he now works solely for HGTV and no longer operates the New York-based contracting and design business.
“Giving that up was a difficult choice, but I was traveling a lot and I wanted to give the network my undivided attention,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to one day have a renovation show of my own, and won’t stop until I get it.”
The renovation celebrity was quick to add, however, that he’s still actively involved in the Staten Island community, and detailed his time as an executive board member of the Emergency Children’s Help Organization (ECHO), whose mission is to provide financial assistance to children experiencing challenging medical or living emergencies. That assistance can take many forms, including help in paying for medical bills and medical travel expenses associated with treatment; food store gift cards to provide nutrition for the child and his or her family; gift cards for clothing, school supplies, and other general merchandise; and funding to pay for physical and occupational therapy.
Eremita also actively supports Michael’s Cause and its mission of raising awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. (DMD primarily afflicts boys, but in rare cases can affect girls, too. About one in 5,000 boys is diagnosed with the disease, making it the most common type of muscular dystrophy.) Another cause close to his heart is Gianna Nicole’s Heart of Hope, which directly helps children battling cancer. Eremita also recently served as emcee of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce Building Awards and will host St. Joseph by the Sea’s Honor Society induction program in April.
“Hosting these local events is such a privilege for me,” he said. “It is really such an honor to be invited to participate; it brings everything full circle for me.”
His advice for anyone trying to break into the trade?
“Follow your dreams and do what you love,” Eremita said. “Hard work and determination will get you where you want to go. And remember…when you love what you do at work, you’ll never work a day in your life.”