If you love interior design or DIY, you may remember the “Trading Spaces” design show on TV from 2000 to 2008...probably most memorable for the ridiculously impractical and out-there designs of Hildi Santo-Tomas (hay on walls, furniture mounted upside-down on the ceiling, and sand on the floor indoors, oh my) and the launching point of some of today’s big name designers and TV personalities: Genevieve Gorder (TV host of over 20 shows, plus her own branded line of interior design products), Vern Yip (“Design Star” TV show judge and designer of lines of décor, lighting, and fabric and trims), Ty Pennington (personable carpenter who went on to host Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), and Laurie Smith (who continued to design and branded lighting and fabric lines), among a few. These folks all showed their design and client interaction talents for the world to see on the first Trading Spaces, and the world (including the design community who you would think would scoff at DIY) responded approvingly. Here’s a link to what all the designers have done since the iteration of “Trading Spaces” left the air 10 years ago:
Photo courtesy of TLC and Usmagazine.com
I loved watching Trading Spaces years ago, but please know I didn’t exactly love all of the makeovers. Actually, I probably only liked about a third, because you know, some of it wasn’t actually good design, plus it’s just so easy to be an “armchair decorator” and second-guess things after the big reveal. For the show’s first iteration, I think the best part was the spirit and attitude necessary for the designers, homeowners, and friends and relatives (who were usually 100% novices at DIY) to … just do it! For me, the show had a terrific mix of energy, problem-solving, and people interaction skills that was always entertaining. If you want some laughs and want to revisit some of the “worst” of the first season (which ran 2000 – 2008), check out this recent article from House Beautiful magazine:
The formula for the new iteration of Trading Spaces is essentially the same as the original show: Two teams of two people trade houses, and with the direction of a designer and carpenter and a budget of $2000 provided by the show, they transform one room in each other’s homes. Paige Davis is still the host, and she has always done a beautiful job as the upbeat host with a sympathetic ear and kind spirit…good psychologist too.
There was quite a build-up in recent months for the new show. On the televised reunion show, Vern Yip remarked “Trading spaces opened up design to everyone.” And Genevieve Gorder said the best compliment she receives are from 25-year-olds who come up to her and say that Trading Spaces inspired them to be designers. Well, TS sure convinced me way back in 2000 when I was finishing up my Interior Design studies at the University of California that there was inordinate value in formally studying Interior Design (and learning what not to do). I’m so glad I was actually academically trained…it has really helped me give my clients a great design experience.
So what’s my review of the new Trading Spaces on TLC now that it has 5 episodes under its belt? Excellentl!! The mix of all the things that made the first show successful are still there, but I have to say the designs now are more polished, sophisticated, and look feasible for the homeowners to actually live there after the production crew has departed. The rooms on the new season have been pretty ambitious. Further, the new show demonstrates clearly that selective and small “craftsy” projects are feasible, but need to be impeccably executed. (And Hildi’s recent painting of leaves all over basement walls were not well executed, IMO). Also helpful and challenging is the $2000 budget (per team) for materials (versus $1000 in the original show). Of course, both old and new shows get the luxury of TONS of additional free labor, including a carpenter. Homeowner reactions are still a hoot…some love their new rooms, some cringe, but all homeowners thus far are gracious and appreciative of the work their friends did. It’s all about expectation management.
The best episode so far this new season was Episode 3 - “Feng Shui & The Golden Nook” - where Vern Yip and Genevieve Gorder, my two favorite designers, designed master suites. Both rooms were superb. Since it’s no secret that these two designers love fabric (and now design and market their own fabrics), it was a natural show for me to love. Vern did the orange Feng Shui room, and Genevieve the gold room.
Here’s a link to the episode - Season 9/Episode 3:
I totally agree with the good reviews the new show has been getting in the press. Hank Steuver wrote the following in a 6 April 2018 Washington Post article titled “Trading Spaces” returns to TLC, as comfortable as an old sofa’
“Trading Spaces” returns us to a safer, saner space of amateur willingness and neighborly bonhomie. Aesthetically, though, it seems Doug and Hildi haven’t moved a stone in 10 years. When the couples open their eyes, there’s no mistaking that both rooms look very much like the rooms that were revealed all those years ago.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. So check out the new Trading Spaces on TLC, or DVR them and binge watch when you need a bit of a fix. As a side note, you might be surprised at the other famous designers you may see on the new show--well-known designers who didn’t appear on the first iteration (like Clinton Kelly from “What Not to Wear”, Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent) are showing up to do rooms now…that speaks volumes to the popularity and fun of the Trading Spaces concept. I applaud these designers (who are already stars and probably millionaires) for giving this format a shot, and being super good sports given all the constraints….like the time and the budget… Go figure, time and budget constraints like in the real world.
And, finally, major foot stomp here……
If you happen to work for TLC (The Learning Channel) and are reading my blog, please know I am totally ready to be a guest designer on the new Trading Spaces! Call me!!
Barbara Phillips, interior designer and owner of Center Stage Interior Designs, has delivered impeccable window treatments and design services to both residential and commercial clients in Massachusetts since 2001.