About three years ago, James DeSantis quit his job to work, full-time, in other people’s yards.
The decision is paying off: the Oneida High School graduate is about to star in an exterior design show on Bravo TV.
The show, “Backyard Envy,” premieres 10 p.m. Jan. 17. It features the exterior design business Manscapers, which DeSantis helped found about five years ago.
“We like to create outdoor rooms,” DeSantis said in a phone interview this week. “And for the space to be reflective of the style of that person.”
Each episode tackles two projects, with clients who want to turn their outdoor spaces or backyards into an area that’s inviting and comfortable – a literal extension of their homes.
DeSantis says his expertise is about business management and design. (He formerly worked for Ralph Lauren as a designer for stores worldwide and on set design at HGTV.) Melissa Brasier also designs but adds building experience to the mix. The third partner, Garrett Magee, knows landscape design and plants.
“We are like three siblings who get along and work together,” he said. “You fight,” he added, “but you get along.”
Manscapers started about five years ago as a side hustle. DeSantis and Braiser were roommates who’d transformed their 2,000-square-foot backyard into an outdoor living room. Word spread, and clients signed on. Three years ago, DeSantis was the first of the three partners to quit his main job and focus on Manscapers.
That leap came, in part, from watching his father, blacksmith David DeSantis, go through the excitement and challenges of running his own business.
“There’s an entrepreneurial spirit that my father instilled in me,” James said. “Any day of owning your own business is better than a day just sitting in an office.”
As Manscapers’ clientele grew to include restaurants, hotels and New York City-area homes, a friend and producer at Bravo took notice. “’You have a TV show,’” the friend said.
After a successful pitch and months of production, they do.
DeSantis said his early years in Sylvan Beach still inform some of the decisions he makes for clients. “I know what plants can survive in this climate,” he said. “What I would do for my mother’s yard in the summer is similar to the things we find here.”