Carmine Sabatella brings the Real to Real Estate

Carmine Sabatella holding a jig saw
Carmine Sabatella from "Inside Out" Photo from RealDesignCarmine Instagram.

The hunky host of HGTV’s new hit series Inside Out

Mike Pyle sitting on a toilet holding a sledge hammer and Carmine Sabatella is standing in a demolished shower holding a shower wand
Carmine Sabatella (R) and Mike Pyle (L) from “Inside Out.” Photo from RealDesignCarmine Instagram.

You may know him as the hunky host of HGTV’s new hit series Inside Out, but there is much more to Carmine Sabatella than meets the eye. The 47-year-old heartthrob is an interior and landscape designer, successful real estate agent, husband to partner Ryan Delair, and father to 17-year-old Gianna Evangeline from a previous marriage to a woman. In this exclusive conversation, Carmine breaks it all down.

How did you establish your career, and what led you to the world of real estate?

Carmine Sabatella: I have always been drawn to design, whether it be interior or landscape design. I always had this passion for it; I just did not know how to bring it to fruition. I grew up in a very Catholic Italian family. We were generations in the restaurant business. After I graduated college, it was organic for me to ease my way into the restaurant business, which I did. I always enjoyed engaging with people on the customer service and sales levels; however, it never fed my soul. I never felt the restaurant business was my calling. Thus, I started doing small interior and landscape design jobs for friends and clients through word of mouth. It was during this time I began to fall in love with real estate. I was 37 years old when I read a story about Lucille Ball, who I always admired, where she wanted to create a situation where she could keep an eye on her husband who was cheating on her, work with her best friend, and work as a comedian because she was not taken seriously as an actress. I was amazed how she changed her life at 37 years old by creating the I Love Lucy show. I had an epiphany where I realized I had to shit or get off the pot before it is too late. When I turned 38, I decided to liquidate my assets, I sold both of my restaurants, and I sold my home I had for fifteen years, all to ignite this new career in real estate and design.

Research has shown that as many as 80% of new real estate agents fail or quit within their first year in real estate. After you left the restaurant business, how difficult was it to establish a career in a completely different field?

CS: I started in real estate before design. I anchored down in real estate ten years ago. The first year was really challenging because I was doing leases, not making much money, I went through all my savings, and up until this time, I never borrowed money from anyone in my life. During this time, I had to borrow $50,000 from a dear friend because I had a nest egg for my daughter, which I refused to touch. Nevertheless, I had faith it would take off. In the second year of my career, I ended up in the top ten of sales in my Sotheby’s office in Pasadena, and it went up from there. In 2015 I opened my company, CSDomains, and I started to restore old homes built anywhere between 1880 to mid-century 1950s. I just completed a 1906 Japanese craftsman.

How did the HGTV series Inside Out come about? Were you approached because you started to gain a following, or did you pitch the concept to the network?

CS: I did not pitch the idea. This goes back a while. I was married to a woman, this is how I have my daughter, and my ex-wife recently reminded me how I would discuss how I always wanted my own television show on HGTV. One day I received a call from my current producer with House 8 Media, who asked if I would be interested in doing a sizzle reel for a television pilot. Initially, I thought it was bullshit, and someone was playing a prank. It ended up being legitimate. They had approached my cohost, Mike Pyle, who has a strong social media presence, and asked who he would recommend being the interior designer. Mike’s business partner, Kim, went to high school with me and followed my work for years. Kim gave production my name.

What was it like to finally work on your own series on HGTV?

Carmine Sabatella and Ryan Delair wearing swim trunks
Carmine Sabatella (R) from “Inside Out” with Ryan Delair (L). Photo from RealDesignCarmine Instagram.

CS: When Discovery was absorbing HGTV, they wanted to change the platform of HGTV programming. They did not want to have the “move your bus” concept anymore. They wanted to start to produce television series where the client was in the trenches with the designers where they went through every step together. They used Inside Out as the platform and guinea pigs for this new concept. We worked on the show for three and a half years before they actually greenlit it! In the end, it was worth it because we were in the top three of over 20 new shows which premiered, and Inside Out accumulated over 16 million viewers in its debut season.

It was announced Inside Out was renewed for a second season. I understand you are currently filming. What can viewers expect this time?

CS: Viewers can expect larger budgets and a broader spectrum of project where we go from tackling rooms to the entire house. We also have more unique concepts as the clients we feature are even more involved now because they have watched season one. I think season two will be all around much more entertaining and exciting.

There are rumors that there will be a spinoff of some sort. Can you confirm this?

Carmine Sabatella and Ryan Delair standing with Carmine's daughter Gianna in between them.
Carmine Sabatella (R) from “Inside Out” and his daughter Gianna (C)with Ryan Delair (L). Photo from RealDesignCarmine Instagram.

CS: They greenlit a six-episode spinoff which is very much behind the scenes and incorporates outtakes and bloopers. The spinoff touches on who Mike and I are as human beings. You will meet our families, see our homes, and get a glimpse of our personal lives.

Prior to this, clients were never heavily involved on any HGTV program. Was it intimidating being a part of a production where clients have as much of a say as you do?

CS: Ultimately, I have had to put my foot down because my name is attached to this. I have had clients who want me to do crazy stuff where I refuse because I know it will trend out in six months, and they will hate me for saying yes. I think the concept is great because we get to sit down with clients and deliver something they will love. However, it is also challenging because a lot of people do not have good taste, which you must break to them. Overall, I have felt it has been a really great experience.

You have such a unique story. You are openly gay, you are married to your partner Ryan Delair, and you have a daughter from a previous marriage to a woman. Can you tell us about your past?

CS: I married my ex-wife in 2000. We separated circa 2004/2005, just after our daughter was born. I then went through extensive therapy to try to understand my feelings. I even attempted to date women again after my ex-wife, and I broke up. I finally came out circa 2005/2006.

Granted, I grew up in a very white Republican community, but I never came from a family or environment where I felt like I couldn’t be me. My immediate family and friends were very liberal. I think I was more of a judge against myself than anybody in my life because I have very traditional values. I always wanted to be married, to have children, and live in a nice suburban house. I never felt like it was possible if I was gay. After experiencing everything I had to go through to get where I am now, I realized you can absolutely have it all. My husband and I have full custody of our daughter, and we live with her in South Pasadena in a very family-oriented community which we love.

Was it challenging for you to come out, given you already had a daughter?

Carmine Sabatella standing in a demo room
Carmine Sabatella from “Inside Out” Photo from RealDesignCarmine Instagram.

CS: Of course! I was going through the emotional trials of just getting divorced. Even if two people agree on a divorce, it is still a daunting process. I got married at 25, and at the time of my divorce, I was 30. Growing up, I suffered a lot of abuse and trauma unrelated to my family. Due to this, I always felt being gay was kind of dirty, and it evoked a very negative feeling in me. Fortunately, when I started to come out, one by one I realized none of my family and friends gave a damn.

The only issue I encountered was my father, who gave me pushback initially, but quickly became my best friend. Sadly, I lost him 14 years ago. Knowing my immediate circle was so accepting allowed me to break down the walls I built around being gay. I also underwent extensive therapy to work through the abuse I endured during my childhood. My daughter was my inspiration to pull my shit together, come out, and live a genuine life.

Are you on civil terms with your ex-wife?

CS: My ex-wife and I are on good terms. We are not best friends, obviously. We live about 30 minutes from each other. We are there for each other when we need it; we co-parent very well. My daughter lives with us full time just because it is easier for school and demographically speaking, as she is involved with a lot of sports.

You could seriously write a book. Finally, what is next for you?

CS: I am writing a book! I am writing a series of children’s books currently inspired by our dog Pinky who we recently lost suddenly. Pinkie was my best friend. We have a publisher and an illustrator. The storyline centers around a gay family with a daughter. The dog comes into the house and takes the role of the mother because there is no mother. Pinkie was a bull terrier and shar-pei mix; however, everyone thought she was a pit bull. The book is about tolerance, not being judgmental, and accepting others who do not fit the mold. I also have six design projects in the burner right now.