Home sweet home

Jocelyn Zolna-Pitts (center) and Bryan Pitts (right), both UWL alums, were featured in an episode of HGTV’s “House Hunters” last year. The Chicago-based couple wanted a larger house for their growing family.

Alums featured on HGTV’s ‘House Hunters’

Jocelyn Zolna-Pitts doesn’t watch much TV. But when she does plop down on the couch, the 2002 and 2004 UWL alum is partial to “House Hunters.”

Jocelyn never expected that she and her husband, Bryan Pitts, would make an appearance on HGTV’s longest-running show. But that’s exactly what happened last August, when the couple’s house-hunting adventures in Chicago were broadcast worldwide.

“We met one of the producers of the show as just a happenstance thing, and she encouraged us to apply,” Jocelyn says. “It’s a show we both enjoy, and I know a lot about it because it’s the one show I really like. We felt like it would be a great experience.”

The growing family — Jocelyn and Bryan have a 5-year-old daughter and an 18-month-old son — had been searching for their dream house, on their own, for years. But no single property had checked every box.

It didn’t help that the couple had different items on their respective wish lists. Jocelyn wanted something sleek, modern and move-in ready. Bryan pictured the family in a fixer-upper with lots of character and old-world charm. These differences inspired the title of the episode: “Old vs. Cold in Chicago.”

However, the couple did have one point of agreement: The home needed to have much more space than their condo, which was quickly becoming overrun with toys.

“We had been searching for a house ever since our daughter was born, so we knew what we were looking for,” explains Bryan, a 2003 UWL alum. “Then when we were expecting our son, it pushed us even further into the house-hunting world.”

Despite all the episodes they had watched, Jocelyn and Bryan were surprised by the amount of time and work that went into filming. On an average day, the couple was on the move or in front of the cameras for 11 to 12 hours — a schedule that was even more exhausting with a newborn.

And while there was a certain amount of TV magic behind the scenes, the tight-knit and authentic nature of the production also stood out to Jocelyn and Bryan.

“I was surprised by how much of a mom and pop show it is,” Jocelyn says. “I didn’t know if it would be a big production with a lot of trucks, but it was a really small, intimate filming crew.

“They let us walk through the house and have our own authentic reaction,” she adds. “You can roll your eyes, stomp your feet, slam doors — be whoever you want to be.”

After touring a newly built home with modern amenities, a century-old home that was newly renovated, and an 1893 Victorian loaded with character, the couple settled on the Victorian.

The family ultimately selected an 1893 Victorian with lots vintage character (for Bryan) and plenty of room to entertain (for Jocelyn).

It required a lot of fixing up — plumbing, electric and water all had to be redone — and there are still a few unfinished projects. But the new house is everything Jocelyn and Bryan hoped it would be.

“Now that we’re on the other side and can see the finish line, it’s a great house for us with a lot of character to it,” Jocelyn says. “And the neighborhood is fantastic. We know more of our neighbors now than we did at our condo, and we lived there for years.”

As a bonus, whenever they want to reminisce about the move, they only need to press the “play” button. They’re now the stars of their favorite episode of their favorite TV show.

“One of the biggest benefits of doing the show is it’s all documented now,” Bryan says. “Especially with young kids, it’s cool that we can go back and see them on TV. And because we did significant renovations on the house, we can show them what the house used to look like too.”

Helping out their alma mater

After meeting at UWL and earning their respective degrees — Jocelyn in psychology, biology and physical therapy; Bryan in public administration and political science — the couple has maintained close ties to the university.

Recently, they started a scholarship for students in UWL’s physical therapy program.

The Zolna-Pitts Family Scholarship for Professional Integrity is reserved for third-year physical therapy students who approach the field with professionalism and sound ethics.

“In my profession, it’s been really disheartening to see a lot of unethical practice over the years, and not many people speaking up,” says Jocelyn, a clinic director and physical therapist. “For me, it’s important to reward people for having integrity, and that starts with encouraging young people to speak up and do the right thing.”