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Jeremy Renner's Favorite Tools for Making Music and Flipping Homes (The Wall Street Journal)

Whether fixing up million-dollar properties or motoring alongside his daughter in her matching mini-Tesla, the Hollywood tough guy enjoys the good life—especially his leaf blower.

by Chris Kornelis

At 8 years old, Jeremy Renner walked alone to and from his Modesto, Calif., school, letting himself into his house each afternoon with the key hanging from a nylon string around his neck.  Free to do what he liked, he built forts, shot bottle rockets and figured many things out for himself.

"I had a lot of free time to sort of raise myself," Mr. Renner, now 47, said.  "I was a doer.  I was very actionable.  And I think in doing that it was the beginning of just trying and failing and overcoming."

Mr. Renner said the skills developed during his free-range youth have helped in all aspects of life, including becoming one of Hollywood's most recognizable actors, taking on Oscar-nominated roles in films like "The Hurt Locker," and joining summer tentpoles like the Mission: Impossible and Avengers franchises.  This monthe he stars with Jon Hamm in "Tag," a comedy about a cross-country game of cat and mouse among friends.

Mr. Renner has also joyfully taken on the role of father to Ava, his 5-year-old daughter.  He writes and performs music -- left-handed on drums, right-handed on guitar -- and for the last quarter-century has worked as an accomplished house flipper.  Tearing into homes with potential -- like that of iconic Old Hollywood filmmaker Preston Sturges -- he turns them into luxury properties worth many millions of dollars.

"[My] skill set is being an observer and spending time figuring out how to problem solve," he said.  "I was never really taught anything."

My most important tool in remodeling a house is: CAD, my computer-aided design software.  You can't just start building a home.  You've got to have a plan.  You've got to know where the lights go and why.  It takes a lot of forethought.

A home feature new owners should focus on: ceiling height.  You can walk into two rooms -- exact same size, exact same furniture.  With an 8-foot ceiling, you think: This is a great room, I like that fireplace.  If you pop the ceiling up 3 feet, it evokes very different emotions in terms of time, place, space.  Drop that 8-foot ceiling 6 inches and oh, my God, it feels like a basement.

A common mistake when designing a home is: window placement.  In cookie-cutter tract homes, almost 100% of the time I'm wondering, Why would you put the window here?  This is where the bed goes so you can look out and enjoy the view!

My favorite tool for around the house is: my Dyson v7 hand-held vacuum.  The thing has so much power.  My kid has a lot of friends over here, so there are crushed Goldfish crackers everywhere.  It just -- zzzuuhhhh -- sucks that stuf up and we're good, baby.

What I like about the Frank Lloyd Wright style is: the mixture of textures -- of woods and irons, concrete and stone.  And the open flow, with high ceilings and different levels.

An essential outdoor tool is: my Greenworks Pro 80-Volt Leaf Blower.  I like to spend a lot of time outside when I'm home in Tahoe or L.A., so I've got to clean up foliage.  It's battery operated and pretty quiet.  Damn, do I love my leaf blower.

One thing every workshop could use is: an air compressor.  It can be used for multiple things, like filling motorcycle tires or your kid's blowup toys.  Think about the effort it takes to blow up a pool raft.

To escape the news: I listen to "Ted Talks" podcasts.  It's like having an interesting conversation at a party.  I don't have to listen to salacious channels and hear all the depressing things that are going on.  I can actually hear people tell positive stories about what they do and what they've overcome.

I never travel without my: go bag.  It's like a Jason Bourne kit, with my passport, different currencies, nail clippers, lip balm.  It's like a city survival kit.

My favorite game as a child was: Tetherball.  I used to crush at that game.  It seems like an insurance hazard at this point to keep a ball on a rope, so now they take them down after school.  And then they look like stripper poles, right?

The last show I binged on Netflix was: "Ozark."  I pounded it out for two days.  It was amazing.  It was fun to watch something like it was a long movie.  I don't normally have the time to do that.

When I have some free time: I ride motorcycles.  I have three or four or five of them, including a Triumph Thruxton 1200 R.  It has a really great old-school sort of design and all modern technology.  There ain't no plastic parts on the thing.  It's a beautiful, beautiful bike.

For every character I portray I put together: a playlist.  It helps to get me in the mood for the wiring of a character.  For "Tag," I included some music I've been working on as well as some Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars and a few dark, twisted songs.  The list really won't make sense to anyone else, but it's just got to make sense to me.

Now I'm listening to: the Doobie Brothers.  It's all real, live musicians.  It's melodic.  It's got a good vibe to it.  "What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits" was one of my first 8-tracks. F--- vinyl, I love 8-tracks.

I play music on a: 1960s Martin guitar that belonged to my grandfather.  Martins have a really wonderful mid-tone.  A Martin, especially an old one -- where the wood is old and settled and almost petrified in areas -- has a lot of character to it.  You can't get that on a new guitar.

I drive a: 2012 Tesla Model S.  It's just a beautiful piece of machinery.  I love that there are no emissions.  My entire house is run off solar and so is my car.  That feels good.

My 5-year-old daughter drives a: Tesla Model S For Kids by Radio Flyer.  They did a great job making it literally a mini car.  The attention to detail on it is really quite stellar.  My daughter's only complaint is that there are no cupholders for her sippy cup in her Tesla.  So they might want to think about that.

Source: Chris Kornelis at The Wall Street Journal

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