From his first appearance on Trading Spaces in 2003, Carter Oosterhouse attracted attention. After all, how many carpenters are also former models? But beyond his good looks, this charismatic craftsman is also a master of his trade. Today, Carter, 45, who recently cohosted the ninth season of ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight, makes his primary home in his native Traverse City, Michigan, where he and his wife, actress Amy Smart, like to get back to nature. “We are big into hiking and biking,” he tells Closer. “We love being on the water, whether it’s boating or stand-up paddleboarding. Anything where we can be outside is great.” Carter also owns and runs a Michigan winery, Bonobo, with his brother Todd and, together with Amy, an eco-friendly brand of home furnishings called SmartHouse.

Can you share some tips to make your house cozy through the winter?

“Music is number one. Put on a good playlist, and it will change the whole mood of everybody in the room. It also helps set the tone. A nice cozy fire is always good. Lighting is also key. Diffused lighting is always good.”

Winter is a great season for home projects.

“January and February are a great time to do a clean sweep of your space. Out with the old! Not totally in with the new, but you want to take these moments to start fresh. Depending on where you live, it’s cold outside, so it’s a perfect opportunity to work on your closets and get rid of all those old clothes that you never wear.”

What did you want to grow up to be when you were young?

“A rock star! I wanted to play guitar and sing and have long hair. That never happened. I mean, I guess I kind of have long hair, but not that long! I play guitar a little bit, but I am definitely not a singer. That goal changed quite quickly.”

You tried your hand as a model and actor at one point. Were your parents supportive of your Hollywood dreams?

“The funny thing is, my mom grew up in LA, so it wasn’t really so much a Hollywood dream. It was more like I had built homes. All of that coming into the TV world happened really fast, and when it did, they were very excited about it. They still are!”

What do you consider your big break?

“That would have to be Trading Spaces, for sure. We still talk about that show today, which is crazy. It was 18 years ago! I really thought that I would only work on the show for a year or two. Then I would go back to working behind the camera, because that is what I like doing. Or I’d go back to building houses.”

What do you remember most fondly from your time on Trading Spaces?

“I think it was just the healthy banter around the cast. We’re all still good friends and hang out. We all still talk to each other and send each other Christmas cards.”

Do you still enjoy working on houses?

“I love building. I still love building furniture and remodeling things at my house. We are doing a big project at our winery. I am always there pounding nails! I do love to do it, and I feel like that’s where my pure joy — and frustration — comes from in my life. I’m a pretty even-keeled person, but that’s where my emotion comes out.”

You recently co-hosted The Great Christmas Light Fight. Will you be back for another season?

“Yes. We shoot a year in advance, which is great. We’re looking for homes for 2023 now!”

When you’re not working, what do you like to do?

“I started a nonprofit called Carter’s Kids in 2006. We build playgrounds. To date, we’ve built around 100 of them across the U.S. We did one in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. That’s a big part of my life, with the fundraising and all that goes into that. In fact, I’m [on the phone] at a playground right now!”

That’s right. You and Amy have a daughter named Flora.

“Yes, our daughter takes up an awful lot of our time. And it’s great. She’s amazing and wonderful. But chasing her around keeps us busy, for sure!”

Carter Oosterhouse Happy Family

What’s your secret to a happy marriage?

“Patience and respect. My wife and I are just past our 10-year mark. I feel like we’re both happier than we were when we first got together. Things just work. If one person gets a little bit frustrated, the other one steps in and picks up the pieces. And that’s been a really pleasurable experience.”

What kind of advice would you give to your younger self?

“If I could go back to my 20-year-old self, I’d just say, “Relax. You’ll figure it out. You don’t have to feel anxiety or get worried about things.” It’s a little daunting to look back, but also it’s fun. I am very happy with where I’m at, and I couldn’t have planned this any better. I am a big believer in timing. Timing is everything in life.”

Would you be concerned if your daughter wanted to be an actor?

“We went to her first play, which was a Christmas performance. She and her friends even memorized their lines. So, it seems like she digs it. Of course, we’d be open to it. As a kid it’s a little bit different, but when she gets older, if she’s interested, we would definitely let her go down that road.”

What part does spirituality play in your life?

“Growing up, I went to Catholic school. My wife has a guru who is sort of her mentor. So, when we got married, we had a guru and a priest! Now our daughter is in a Catholic school, and she loves it. We think having that spiritual influence is really important, especially at a younger age.”

Do you have a bucket list?

“My bucket list is sort of vague. We want to travel and do more things, but it’s mostly about raising our daughter and letting her see the world. [My goals are] getting her to ride a bike or to be able to swim without a life jacket. It’s like it’s all happening all over again, like my parents did for me. And I love that.”