TV Talk: Pittsburgher hosts A&E's 'Living Smaller' |

2022-06-20 01:01:21 By : Mr. Gengxi Cai

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As a former New York City resident, Pittsburgher Cinque Cerra-Saunders has experience “Living Smaller,” which is also the title of the A&E series he hosts at 12 and 12:30 p.m. Saturdays beginning June 4.

“In New York City, we don’t call it living smaller, we just call it living,” Cerra-Saunders said Friday afternoon. “Most adults there live in (less than) 500 square feet.”

Each half-hour episode of “Living Smaller” profiles people and their tiny houses made out of shipping containers, vintage trailers and sheds. In the episodes premiering this weekend, the buildings are generally used as short-term rentals or vacation destinations.

“Our show is about showing people who are finding a way to make their dreams happen through tiny living,” Cerra-Saunders said. “For many people on the show, that means the financial freedom of not having to go to work every day, quitting their corporate jobs. You do see a lot of people who build a (tiny) home, realize that there’s so much earning potential with Airbnb and other short-term rental sites and so it becomes a family business. But you also encounter people who decide that they want to travel with their spouse, or even their children, and don’t have the means to do it, so they convert a pickup truck into a means to see the world with their family.”

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“Living Smaller” marks Cerra-Saunders’ TV hosting debut, and he came to it after a career in fashion design. But he can trace back his interest in building to an early age.

“Growing up in New York City, I lived in a brownstone that was built in 1895 in the Bronx,” he recalled. “We had knob-and-tube (wiring), original parquet wood flooring. My mom was a single mom and she took on a lot of those home projects herself.”

Cerra-Saunders remembers watching TV and hearing a loud noise from elsewhere in the house: a portion of the original lath and plaster ceiling collapsed.

“I specifically remember my mom renting a drywall hoist and one of her friends and her putting fresh drywall on the ceiling and looking at that and thinking, ‘I really like this idea.’ I must have been 6 or 7.”

Cerra-Saunders began taking art classes regularly and eventually enrolled in New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology studying interior design. Ultimately, he graduated in 2009 with a degree in menswear.

“But it’s all related,” he said. “I love designing homes, but I also love designing clothing.”

It was fashion that brought him to Pittsburgh, but flipping homes led him to stay.

While working in Los Angeles as vice president of design/creative director for the Young Reckless clothing brand, Cerra-Saunders started freelancing as a creative director for East Liberty-based Daily Bread clothing, which had an early affiliation with Mac Miller.

Through that association, Cerra-Saunders began investing in real estate in Pittsburgh in 2018 before moving to town in 2020 after leaving his Los Angeles fashion job.

“At that point I had already renovated and sold four houses,” he said, noting that he usually lives in whatever house he’s currently renovating, which has made him a short-term resident of Lawrenceville, Shadyside and now Swissvale. “For me, owning real estate represented financial stability. A lot of fashion designers, those who don’t make it big, end up living a paycheck-to-paycheck life. And even interior designers are also singing for your supper. So for me, being a designer who flips houses, its an amalgamation of the two things. I get to design one product for one customer, like haute couture, right? In fashion, you have to sell 1,000 T-shirts to be successful. And you have to do that every season. To be a successful house flipper, you just need to sell one house a year.”

When looking at houses to buy, Cerra-Saunders is drawn to unloved properties lacking a straightforward layout.

“The very first project that I did in Pittsburgh was only about 600 square feet above grade,” said Cerra-Saunders, who has yet to meet fellow Pittsburgh interior designer/TV personality Leanne Ford. “It was in Lawrenceville and it had one of those Pittsburgh potties so the only bathroom was in the basement. And that was one of the reasons why the property just hadn’t sold. The whole layout had to be retooled in order to make it work, to make it functional.

“My approach when I’m looking for a house is I’m looking for the small, awkward, ugly duckling amongst a sea of homes that typically appeal to your status quo real estate investor or your end users,” he continued. “So I can find a home that’s on the smaller side and do really clever things like multipurpose storage solutions, smaller appliances, and really make those properties sing. I always say that I’m a designer first and I’m a house-flipper second.”

While in Los Angeles, Cerra-Saunders got to know his now-manager, who pitched Cerra-Saunders as a potential host for “Living Smaller,” which was already filming segments on tiny houses. Cerra-Saunders tapes his hosting segments from different tiny home communities, beginning in Georgia in the episodes airing this weekend.

He said so far the show has yet to profile any tiny homes in Western Pennsylvania, but he hopes “Living Smaller” will film locally in the future.

“In New York City, everyone aspires to have an apartment in a high rise or in a brownstone,” Cerra-Saunders said. “We don’t really aspire to have houses with two-car garages. It’s very different from the L.A. lifestyle. And it’s also very different from your classic Pittsburgh lifestyle. So for me, (living smaller is) really in my DNA. I had a Murphy bed for every single apartment in New York City. I prefer to live in one room. I’m a loft guy. I like an open-(floor) plan situation.”

‘Daniel Tiger’ TV special

A new one-hour “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” special, “Daniel Visits a New Neighborhood” produced by Pittsburgh-based Fred Rogers Productions, will premiere on WQED-TV at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. June 20 (8 a.m. the same day on WQED’s PBS Kids channel, 13.5).

The episode features Daniel and Mom Tiger riding a train to visit Daniel’s pen pal, Juan Carlos, with the episode focused on strategies for young children and travel and being away from home.

This summer, PBS Kids will debut new episodes of FRP’s “Odd Squad” (July 4-8) and “Alma’s Way” (July 11-14).

Timed to the 10th anniversary of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” FRP announced licensing deals with 16 new and existing partners on Daniel-branded products, including magnetic toys, consumables, vitamins, sporting goods and umbrellas.

• Netflix renewed “Is It Cake?” for a second season.

• HBO will bring back “Black Lady Sketch Show” for a fourth season.

• HBO Max canceled “Raised by Wolves” after two seasons.

The biographical documentary “Citizen Ashe,” about tennis legend and humanitarian Arthur Ashe, makes its CNN premiere at 9 p.m. June 26, on the eve of the 135th Wimbledon. … Recent theatrical release “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” comes to Disney+ on June 22. … The CW adds two new scripted shows to its summer schedule, Australian comedy-drama “Bump” (8 and 8:30 p.m. Aug. 11) and the historical drama “Leonardo” (8 p.m. Aug. 16) about Leonardo DaVinci that’s written by Frank Spotnitz (“The X-Files”) and stars Aidan Turner (“Poldark”) and Freddie Highmore (“The Good Doctor”). … reports NBC and/or USA may revive CBS’s canceled “Magnum P.I.” reboot.

You can reach TV writer Rob Owen at or 412-380-8559. Follow Rob on Twitter or Facebook. Ask TV questions by email or phone. Please include your first name and location.

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