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Carpenter, model makes interior design look good

Joshunda Sanders

Carter Oosterhouse walked into Red Table Coffee like a tall, dark and handsome actor playing a carpenter on television. He wore a black HGTV'd baseball cap with a dull yellow pencil over his right ear and a blue and ivory plaid button-down shirt over an immaculate white T-shirt and khaki pants. On his right hip was one of the five tape measures he wears below the pencil.

There was one problem with this scene. It was 101 degrees outside. But was he sweating? No.

"I come to Texas frequently to visit my brothers, so everyone else on set is sweating profusely, but I'm OK," Oosterhouse, 35, said as he sipped an iced chai latte. The not-sweating thing is great when you're a model and an actor, but it gets sort of challenging for Oosterhouse when people think he's just there to look good when he shows up to make over their houses. Who can blame them? The man was named "Sexiest Man Alive" in 2003 by People magazine.

But he didn't come to Austin to flaunt his ability to make the rest of us look like sweaty summer amateurs. He came to work. He's known for appearing on TLC's "Trading Spaces" and, more recently, he's hosted HGTV's "Carter Can," where he helps move stalled home improvement projects along to completion. In Austin, he was working as a guest designer on "HGTV'd," a new makeover show . Like "Punk'd," the show features popular interior designers from the network traveling around the country in a bright red 18-wheeler to reward fans with surprise makeovers. (The Austin episodes, featuring Oosterhouse and five other guest designers, will start airing in September.)

Oosterhouse was making over a 1,000-square foot home for some new, hip Austinites: "I try to get people to think about their houses like the runway model vibe," he said. "Runway models strut and are proud and you just get this energy from them. That's how people should feel about their houses, which are the biggest investments that they make. They should feel like their houses reflect them and their vibe."

His houses do that, as it happens. He was raised in Traverse City, Mich., and he describes his home there — a 100-year-old former farm — as his "lab." He turned a former space for boarding horses into an indoor motorcycle track for him and his guy friends. A house he owns near the beach in Los Angeles is simple and elegant — a style he prefers.

Oosterhouse grew up in a family of carpenters . He went to Central Michigan University on a rugby scholarship and majored in nutrition. He moved to L.A. to work in nutrition, model and act. "I was always working construction on the side, always being creative."

It was his work with the television series focused on first-time filmmakers, Project Greenlight, that got him interested in working in television.

He worked his way up from working grip to doing more advanced production work. His career took him from a Playboy appearance as an extra to "Trading Spaces." Now he works with Nate Harrington as an executive producer with Channel 8 Entertainment, he's penning an interior design book, he's a spokesman for Habitat for Humanity and he has a children's furniture line in the works for Rooms-To-Go. He also builds playgrounds for his nonprofit, Carter's Kids.

H e says he runs into women all the time who will comment on his shows. "Then, secretly, their husbands will say, 'Oh, yeah, I really liked that one show,'\u2009" Oosterhouse said, smiling. "My mission is to get guys comfortable talking about interior design."

Like everything else for Oosterhouse, it should be no sweat.

jsanders@statesman.com; 445-3630