Tami Michaels walked confidently into the KOMO Radio office and announced that she was there to interview for the home interior radio show program. She was met with confusion.
“We aren’t interviewing for a radio host,” she was told.
“Ah,” Tami replied, “I’m sorry. I’m new to the area; it must be KIRO Radio that’s hiring for that position.”
Tami, who was a single mom at the time, was renting a room near the KOMO and KIRO radio offices. She’d arrived from California in a 1963 VW Bug that only got two radio stations – KOMO and KIRO – and while the stations had gardening gurus, there was no home improvement specialist. There was also no position open for one—until Tami’s resourceful meeting created one.
“Wait,” she was told. “Do you think you could get advertisers?”
“You bet I can,” she said. And in the following years, Tami Michael’s KOMO Radio show, Inside Out, has become one of the most popular sources for information on all things home-related.
“When I started, I knew that I knew more than most people about home matters, and people had lots of questions,” she recalled.
From that first week until today, 23 years ago, Tami took that confidence and innovation to field completely random calls – and she answers them all deftly.
“When people call me to ask the most random questions…. When it comes to how to get oil out of silk, I actually know the answer… it’s baby powder. It’s a set decorator’s trick. I was surrounded by set decorators my entire life,” she said. “My favorite part of hosting Inside Out is that it attracted a list of contractors,” she said. “They listen, waiting to chastise me that I got it wrong…thinking, ‘There’s no way she’d know the answer to that.’”
But time and again, Tami does know, and she has earned a loyal following.
Tami, who is the daughter of Disney Imagineers, is a keen observer and communicator of details.
“My Dad was an electrical engineer and created imaginary realities,” she said. “He helped create the famous ‘rain scene’ in The Sound of Music, where Liesl is singing, ‘I am sixteen, going on seventeen.’ With all of the electronics and the rain, he was terrified that he was going to electrocute the actress…and he wasn’t alone! In her book, I am Liesl, Charmian Carr, who played Liesl, recalled that she had this fear, too.” Fortunately, that didn’t happen!
“He worked on Bonanza, HR Pufnstuf, and did a lot of the Disneyland sets, like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.” Pirates was originally going to be “scary,” but her father was inspired to create a fun, eclectic experience. “Disney had cancer at the time, and he was from the South, and it was really important to him that he have fireflies for Pirates,” Tami said. So with tiny lights, a hairdryer, and wire, he helped create the tiniest “fireflies” Tami had ever seen. The effect was nothing less than magical—the lights truly did look like fireflies. Tami inherited that same innovation and attention to detail.
“When I go to a restaurant, I’m looking at how they pull the details together. What did the molding look like? The staircase? I think that this really helps people,” she said.
With an up-and-coming home product line, designed specifically with pets in mind, Tami’s career was on the fast track—until it came to a grinding halt this past summer. On July 1st, she was hit by a large pickup truck while she was driving; her car was pushed into two other cars. The accident caused a serious concussion that she’s still recovering from. Blonde, petite, and smiling, Tami recounted her painful summer.
“I don’t remember any of July, and most of August,” she said. Her husband, Guy, nodded.
But with her home knowledge so well-ingrained, Tami was able to continue on with her radio show. She still has issues akin to “sundowning”—in the later afternoons she has cognitive decline and needs to take a break—but she has noticed that she’s slowly improving.
“Even with the concussion, I have a database for home improvement in my brain,” Tami said.
Inside Out and her new project, Pet Decorator, helped her maintain her focus during her recovery. She hopes that readers will take their pets into account with their New Year’s resolutions—and her new product line can help make homes more pet-friendly.
The catalyst behind Pet Decorator was a bulldog named Malcolm.
“Malcolm belonged to one of my clients,” Tami recalled, “and he was ruining everything they owned. Malcolm didn’t get mad; he got even. If they tied him up, he ate the siding off of the house. If he was put in the garage, he took the bumper off of a car. Anything my client bought—if it was nice and beautiful, he went to the bathroom on it. They were ready to surrender him to the shelter.” Realizing that a dog with known house-soiling issues would have a harder time getting adopted, Tami had a heart to heart with the difficult little dog. “Look buddy,” she said to him, “we’re busting out of here.”
But Malcolm’s path of destruction didn’t end at his previous home.
“The problems persisted,” Tami said. “He was being so destructive that our carpet cleaner Gary told us to euthanize Malcolm, so we euthanized Gary’s number instead.” Tami’s face was fierce as she recalled those difficult days.
Instead of giving up on Malcolm, she was inspired to create products that were truly pet-friendly. “Whatever we brought to market had to really work,” she said. And Malcolm was ready to put that to the test.
“We wanted to create home cleaning products and flooring that specifically had pets in mind. Our cleaners don’t deodorize, they neutralize,” she explained. “Deodorizing just means you’ll have two smells: the good and the bad, and then it’ll grow bacteria and the odors will come back.”
Pet Decorator’s flooring was created with meticulous attention to detail, and they created responsibly harvested hardwoods with a 25-year warranty. “We wanted to create a floor that really works,” Tami said, “so we looked to North American hardwoods that were harvested green, and not kiln dried, because that will make them split. The woods that we choose are beautiful, plentiful, and have random coloration, with knots and mineral streaks, and we made these floors so that people can install them themselves.”
“It’s a click system,” Guy explained, “and it’s the best click system I’m aware of. It’s patented and has extra tight seams between the boards.”
The best thing about this flooring just might be the color names for the eight different wood colors. “We have the blonde dog series for the lighter woods, and the Labrador series, and Timber wolf, and Irish setter, which is a cherry,” Tami said, laughing.
The wood is stain-resistant, nearly waterproof, and wire brushed to have a texture to prevent slipping paws.
“It’s the floor your dog would choose, if they could,” Tami said. “Your pet is our customer.”
Creating pet-friendly homes isn’t Tami’s only passion, though.
“We were in New York, in the Millennium Hilton when 9/11 happened,” she said. “The impact from the second plane hitting threw us back—Guy sustained a serious neck injury from it.” Tami and Guy had encouraged their son to join the army only seven months earlier, believing that there had never been a safer time to do so. Her son was in that first wave to Iraq.
Tami and Guy became involved with the USO to support the troops, and they also support organizations like Brigadoon and programs that help imprisoned military veterans train future service dogs.
“It can be a life-altering experience for them,” she said.
In addition to Malcom, Tami and Guy have shared their lives with a long line of rescue dogs. They currently have a Chihuahua/Dachshund mix named Griffin.
“Rescuing animals goes back to my childhood,” Tami said. “We’ve always adopted older dogs. We adopted our dog Elliott when he was 17, and he lived to be 21. He was blind in one eye. Then we had Anika, a 15-year-old Dachshund with stage IV breast cancer. She was in hospice care with us. Emily was another Dachshund who we adopted at 15; she lived to be 18.”
Once, when Tami went the shelter “just to look,” she saw a small, shivering pup who was cowering beneath a blanket and a placard that read, “owner died.” That pup, named Ingrid, came home with her that day, where she instantly bonded with Elliott.
Having older dogs often means more accidents in the home. “Griffin gets stomach issues and diarrhea a lot,” Tami said, “but with our patented cleaner, the mess literally evaporates; it melts right before your eyes. We have both a cleaner and an odor neutralizer.”
The Pet Decorator product line was created with pets in mind – and it gives back, too. “A big portion of our sales will support nonprofits,” Tami said.
Tami’s dream was to support harder-to-adopt pets by creating durable, attractive home accents which are both chic and functional. Her family has supported her every step of the way. Tami said, “my family believes, ‘If you can dream it, you can create it.’”
Tami’s family has lived by the adage, “If you can dream it, you can create it,” and Tami is delighted to help make the dream of pet-friendlier homes – from floor to ceiling – a reality for her clients.
“There are no bad pets, only bad floors,” she said, laughing.
To learn more about Pet Decorator, including its new product line, visit their website here.