Bill and Barbara Putman are building a really big house near Caro, and their family of 25 relatives under one roof is about to become a really big deal – in the Thumb area and, maybe, around America.
Now that “Meet the Putmans” – a reality TV show on the TLC channel – is scheduled to become a series later this year, production crews figure to descend on the family home being built near Caro, in Tuscola County.
Documents on file with South Central Michigan Construction Code Inspection Inc. in Caro list the project as a 20,765-square-foot home expansion, on four levels – a basement level along with three floors above it.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the square footage of the expansion includes the area in the basement, but the project appears to be a one-of-a-kind expansion in the annals of Tuscola County.
“I’ve never seen one this large,” said a worker at the building codes office on Friday, noting she has worked in the building codes office in Tuscola County for 28 years.
The worker described the upcoming reality show as “a plus for the county, though I’m not a big TV watcher.”
The Putmans announced this week via Facebook that “Meet the Putmans” had been picked up for a series, following the January airing of the pilot episode.
Bill Putman and Barbara (Wasik) Putman are both graduates of Caro High School in Tuscola County, and Bill and Barb Putman once owned the Gunsell’s Furniture store in Caro.
As The Advertiser first reported, Bill Putman said the road to becoming the subjects of a reality-TV program began about four years ago, when he and one of his sons sought to compete on the show “Wipeout,” a then-weekly reality competition where contestants try to navigate an extreme obstacle course and win a $50,000 prize.
Producers read the application and were interested in the fact 25 people live under one roof.
Bill and Barbara Putman have four children: sons Billy Putman, 33; Brandon Putman, 30; Dr. Blake Putman, 28; and daughter, Blair Putman, 26, who is married to Jamie, a doctor. The spouses of all four children live in the home.
Family members signed a contract for “Meet the Putmans” with MysticArt Pictures, a Los Angeles production company, last year.
“It’s exciting for all of us…here is what you have been asking about and waiting for…more of Meet the Putman’s! Thank you everyone that made it possible! We are blessed!” the family announced on its page this week.
The Putmans aren’t the only ones rejoicing about the news.
Shelli Fogarsi, manager of the 17-room Woody’zzz Motel, 2010 W. Caro Road (M-81) near Caro, hopes the business realizes an economic spinoff from the TV series being produced around Caro.
For now, the family of 25 lives in a home on Sand Point along Saginaw Bay in Huron County’s Caseville Township, where film crews recorded much of the footage for the pilot episode of “Meet the Putmans” that aired in January.
“We’d love to have (production crews) stay here,” Fogarsi said. “I hope they do come and stay – bring ’em on.”
News of a reality show originating in Tuscola County surprised Fogarsi.
“It’s hard to believe there’s something like that in Caro,” said Fogarsi, adding she hasn’t seen any camera or sound crews, or others, staying around town yet.
“That’s exciting, though,” Forgarsi said. “We offer a continental breakfast in the morning, and all of our rooms are equipped with refrigerators and microwaves, and coffee pots. I think this is the spot for ’em.” (Story continues below slideshow)
Following the announcement of the series, Bill and Barbara Putman — along with sons, Billy and Brandon — provided The Advertiser with an inside look at the project, located on about 80 acres the family has owned since 1991. The Advertiser agreed not to publish the address.
Bill Putman said the house is about one-third completed and it will be another year before it’s done. A large amount of the framing is in place.
Blueprints on file at the building codes office for the Putmans’ home expansion provide insight into what the final product will look like, though as recently as Friday the family was discussing slight adjustments to the layout.
The basement of the home calls for a carpeted theater with a projection system, along with a fitness gym, racquetball court and 1,458-square-foot carpeted game room. The basement also will have a den with a bookshelf, and laundry room featuring a powerlift dumbwaiter leading to upper floors. Plans also call for a canning and crafting room.
Barbara Putman told The Advertiser that the girls and women in the family enjoy crafts and sewing. Billy Putman said craft-related gifts are among the most popular given and received at Christmas.
The building permit for the expansion was issued July 22, 2016, and the architectural firm is Designhaus of Rochester. Peter M. Stuhlreyer is named as architect on the blueprints.
Blueprints show a U-shaped “great room” on the home’s first floor. Bill Putman said the room will feature a “walk-around” with access to walls that will be lined with shelves full of books.
Also on the first floor will be a master bedroom/bathroom and four bedrooms designated for the four Putman couples that include the four children of Bill and Barbara Putman. There are separate bathrooms off all five of the couples’ bedrooms.
A study and an office are planned near the master bedroom that looks out over a pond. The first floor also includes a dining room with fireplace, kitchen, nook, lockers, walk-in cooler, walk-in freezer, a porch off the master bedroom and a patio off the dining room.
The second-floor blueprints show at least eight more bedrooms adjacent to multiple bathrooms and walk-in closets, an office and a 918-square-foot playroom.
The pilot episode of “Meet the Putmans” in January indicated that following the home expansion, the residence near Caro would feature 15 bedrooms and 19 bathrooms.
Blueprints show a third-floor trophy room with part of its floor area made of a 4-inch-thick natural texture aqua color glass flooring system. The third-floor plan includes at least four balconies as well.
The far western edge of the third floor will feature an atrium where the family plans to cultivate plants, including a decades-old jade plant — traditionally a plant associated with good luck — that Bill Putman said used to be in Gunsell’s when he owned it.
An elevator that Bill Putman said “looks like a bank tube” will allow for easy access to all four floors.
Throughout the entire house are nooks for storage, including one near a primary entrance that will have lockers for family members.
“Because right now, we have a pile of shoes that you have to sort through every morning,” Bill Putnam said, indicating a pile that is thigh-level. “And we have two piles of coats.”
One highlight of the home’s exterior will be the Christian symbol of a cross visible on a chimney exterior featuring cultured stone, brick herringbone inlay and brick border.
Another outside feature will be a pond that Bill Putman said “will be more of a lake.”
“It’s spring-fed and crystal clear,” he said. “This will all be shoreline instead of dirt,” he added pointing to the edge of the water.
Also outside the house is an old barn set to be razed. However, Bill Putman said the old oak inside the barn will be repurposed to make molding for the new house.
Documents in the building codes office list the cost of the home expansion at about $1.1 million, with the contractor named as son Brandon Putman.
Bill Putman, Billy Putman and Brandon Putman operate Putman Developing & Demolition, specializing in commercial real estate, excavating, construction and demolition.
Every adult in the family owns an equal share of the family development and demolition business, Bill Putman said. The Putmans are Christians and Putman said he hopes the TV series “will be like a spiritual awakening for the family” among those viewing it.
The Putmans are adamant about making sure people understand that the family doesn’t make decisions or live their lives just for TV.
They point to the fact that the Tuscola County house expansion project started almost a year ago — long before the pilot even aired, as proof that the home is a legitimate dream come true.
The pilot episode also disclosed that Blair Putman is pregnant with the 26th Putman family member.
When asked if larger quarters will take away from the drama of the TV show, Bill Putman shakes his head and laughs.
“Sixteen kids, there’s always drama,” he said. “There’s always someone breaking a finger. Crying.
“And 10 adults?” he adds. “When you put 26 people together, there’s never a dull moment.”
Shooting is expected to begin within a few weeks with the series set to premiere on TLC in mid-September.
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org