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Whether it is Frank's art, Doug's grids, Vern's brilliant lighting solutions, or Hilde's straw on walls
July 17, 2002 1:11 AM   Subscribe

Whether it is Frank's art, Doug's grids, Vern's brilliant lighting solutions, or Hilde's straw on walls TLC's "Trading Spaces" is a strangely compelling show that, until I found this link at CNN, I thought my fiance and I were the only ones watching. The show is great and all, my question is just that with this, "A Makeover Story", "A Wedding Story" and "A Baby Story", is it really "The Learning Channel" anymore?
posted by McBain (46 comments total)

 
It's a great show... not only that, but you can find all sorts of discussions and some hilarious recaps at Television Without Pity...
posted by gelatinouscitizen at 1:54 AM on July 17, 2002


Part of the appeal of the show is the designs, but the other part is when people get all catty about the designs. Doug is notorious for simply doing whatever despite objections, as the article illustrates:

Like the time in Maryland when designer Doug Wilson retrofit a train-lover's bedroom to make it look like a Pullman car -- which didn't go over particularly well -- or in Houston, when he enlarged a photo of a resident in racy black lingerie and made it the focal point of her overhauled living room.
posted by McBain at 2:07 AM on July 17, 2002


Guys, guys, you need to watch Trading Spaces' papa, the mighty 'Changing Rooms', who's the daddy? Who's the daddy? Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen is, you betcha.
posted by nedrichards at 3:55 AM on July 17, 2002


I'll second the nomination of "Changing Rooms" over "Trading Spaces"-- better host (especially since the old TS host left) and no Hildy. Plus some episodes are set in Scotland and worth watching for the accents alone.
posted by yerfatma at 4:17 AM on July 17, 2002


I maintain that Paige Davis is much better than Alex Mcleod.
posted by McBain at 4:19 AM on July 17, 2002


Doug's an ass. Give me Vern any day.
posted by ColdChef at 4:33 AM on July 17, 2002


Gah! Trading Spaces! That show gives me hives.

I can't stand the way the designers disregard the wishes of the people they are designing for. They create "art" that looks like half-assed craft projects made in a great rush on a tight budget and festoon people's walls with it. The redesigns are rarely very practical. I mean, that's nice tht you hot glued sequins all over the mantle but how fuck is the homeowner supposed to dust that? No wood surface is safe with these Trading Spaces designers. I still shudder to think of the episode where the woman painted blue diagonal stripes on a woman's hard wood floors.

Let me say that again: The woman had lovely blonde hardwood floors and this ninny painted blue diagonal stripes on them. The woman also had like 17 kids, so I'm sure that the acrylic paint on the varnished wood is going to last lifetimes...

And while I have seen a room or two that made me go, "Oooo, that's neat" most of the time the decor is so sickeningly trendy that in six months these poor schlubs are going to be at Home Depot, asking the paint expert how to get Italian plaster off their walls without gouging the dry wall.

As for the channel, I believe I read here on MetaFilter some time ago that the "The Learning Channel" is officially called "TLC" now. Didn't want to align themselves with all that learning, I suppose.
posted by jennyb at 4:34 AM on July 17, 2002


It had to happen.
I love watching what Doug will do. It's a freakin' train wreck.
posted by machaus at 4:44 AM on July 17, 2002


so... anyone know of any good sites for "do-it-yourself" home decorating ideas? I've looked and looked, and found mostly crap.
posted by Espoo2 at 4:51 AM on July 17, 2002


I can't stand the way the designers disregard the wishes of the people they are designing for.

It totally depends on which designer it is. Doug and Hilde are notorious for just saying, "I'll do what the fuck I want". Meanwhile, Frank, Vern, and Lori will abide by the homeowners wishes almost unilaterally.

I guess I have little sympathy for the people who get all bent out of shape by the designs that Doug and Hilde foist on them. If you are going to go to all the trouble of signing up for "Trading Spaces" why not take a little risk in life and just run with it. Nothing is totally irreversible.
posted by McBain at 4:58 AM on July 17, 2002


If you are going to go to all the trouble of signing up for "Trading Spaces" why not take a little risk in life and just run with it.

I agree that by now people should be aware that signing up for the show gives them some public exposure and a very fast, very cheap redecorating job. Many, many of those jobs look like crap, even on tv, and even the better ones aren't likely to last long as the time pressure forces some serious cutting of corners. If you get some cool ideas for changing your design properly later, that's great.

But some things they have done during this show are irreversible: how about taking a *sledgehammer* to the original 13 foot long spruce mantle in a Craftsman house that is decades old? (Please note: the mantle wasn't pried off so it could be replaced later -- it was *destroyed*). Yep, it's the infamous hay-on-the-walls episode that has led to a lawsuit.

Apparently homeowners are supposed to give the producers a list of any room elements that should not be touched. They didn't list the fireplace as they just didn't consider that any reasonable person would destroy the original detailing in their fireplace. Poor them, they had Hildy and a bunch of producers who didn't even think to stop her from doing something truly dumb.
posted by maudlin at 5:55 AM on July 17, 2002


Another vote for "Changing Rooms" - it is far better than TS in all aspects. Of course, all the shows that American stations copy from the Beeb are worse than their originators. Even "Walking with Dinosaurs" was hacked when shown on Discovery Channel. They even overdubbed Kenneth Branaugh (sp?).
posted by DragonBoy at 5:56 AM on July 17, 2002


anyone know of any good sites for "do-it-yourself" home decorating ideas?

Not a website, but I wholeheartedly suggest getting a membership to ReadyMade Magazine. It's Martha Stewart without the clenched molars.
posted by machaus at 6:08 AM on July 17, 2002


I was a little unsure about this show because the first one I ever saw was the one was the moss on the walls, but while I was on vacation (moving into my new house), my wife and I watched it every day, and now I am a fan.

If you haven't bothered to go look at the show's own website, here's the link, where you can find out which homeowners really hated their "new look" rooms even when they said they liked the results.

The appeal of the show to me is one part Iron Chef-like amazement at how the designers improvise new decors with limited budgets and time, and one part schadenfreude (or anticipated schadenfreude) when the homeowners see the results. The format of the production is such that you don't really get any idea of how to actually *do* the projects they come up with, or how they structure the two days to get the work done.

BBC America is now showing "Changing Rooms", so I'll want to compare the two for myself. When the Food Network copied "Ready Steady Cook" a few years ago, I actually liked the FN version better.
posted by briank at 6:11 AM on July 17, 2002


My significant other and I love to watch Trading Spaces, but I know better than to ever go on the show myself. As Maudlin points out, you never know what you're going to get. I think the only one of the designers I would even let in the door of my place is Vern. Vern is actually an architect turned designer, and I've seen shows where he goes off on the carpenters for screwing things up. I would not, however, let anything be done in my house in two days and for under $1000.

As for TLC, you pretty much have to watch after midnight if you want quality "educational" programming. Last night they had an hour long program on that five thousand year old iceman found in the Alps.

If you're interested in other "do-it-yourself" projects, check out diynet.com. I haven't looked at their projects in any detail, but they've got a pretty thorough selection.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:28 AM on July 17, 2002


I'm addicted. If it's a DIY show on BBCAmerica, then I watch it. TLC lost its edge some time ago. I think it's gone from Learning to Lite.

While I prefer Changing Rooms to Trading Spaces, I shudder when the designers break out the aqua paint. House Invaders scares me. I have to wonder why people allow a designer to cover their nightstands with faux green fur.

Ground Force does some beautiful garden transformations. The transformations they did for Nelson Mandala's garden and the yard at Palna, an orphanage in India were spectacular. They usually do gardens for houses.

While I'm fascinated by what he does, you couldn't pay me to allow Diarmuid from Homefront in the Garden to bring 40 tons of concrete into my yard.

However, we can't forget the orginal DIY show, at least in the US. This Old House still shows a nice balance between doing something your self and when you need to pull in the contractors. TOH's magazine is great too.
posted by onhazier at 6:34 AM on July 17, 2002


I am a TOH and New yankee Workshop junkie. I believe that Norm can create life out of wood and 2-part epoxy.
posted by tj at 6:53 AM on July 17, 2002


I hate myself for liking this show, but I find I can't turn away from it or Changing Rooms. For an interesting behind the scenes view of one of the episodes, take a look at this.
posted by willnot at 6:59 AM on July 17, 2002


Vern is the only decent designer. Frank always claims to be going for a "mediterranean" look, and always ends up with country bumpkin arts-n'-crafts.
posted by waxpancake at 7:13 AM on July 17, 2002


I love ground forces & changing rooms. My obsession with Gwen (aghhh /homer) makes trading spaces the winner, hands down.

Plus they make me feel like I could do all of that if I wanted do, not that I ever will.
posted by Mick at 7:16 AM on July 17, 2002


Once my life became TiVo-enabled and I started browsing for shows to record all at once every coupla weeks or so, I was amazed to realize how much of what TLC shows is repeats of the same stuff, over and over and over again.

Something about seeing all the listings in an easily-browseable format, and the fact that TiVo lists the year that a show was made made it all clear to me. (Much of their programming is 3-4 years old)

That said, they do have some real good stuff, but the newer things don't come around all that often.

I particularly like some of their medical shows, and stuff about huge engineering projects and disasters. They had a really excellent series about the oceans not too long ago (the bioluminescent deep sea creatures were wicked-cool, as was the "dumbo" octopus)...

More on topic, I agree that schadenfreude is a huge part of Trading Space's appeal. I haven't checked out the British version on BBC America, but it sounds interesting (at least for the Scottish accents).

And I used to watch This Old House, but something about Norm bugged me. I think it was the feeling that he is probably a big asshole in person. Nothing too overt, just that his Eastern-US seriousness and lack of warmth really rubs me the wrong way.

Give me Hawaiian Aloha Spirit any day. :)
posted by beth at 7:21 AM on July 17, 2002


I've seen an episode or two of Trading Spaces, but I watched every episode of Changing Rooms I could get, sometimes twice. (No TV anymore, so no Trading Spaces.) Yes, the designs were quickly put together and often rather tacky, but the basic idea was fascinating: put a designer under strict resource constraints and see what they mix together from of the mess.

The show raised the bar for what I consider "radical". Now it's easy to think of painting a corner of my living room green, installing crown-moulding, doing a kitchen in China red with a gold ceiling, building a bookshelf for the foot of the bed. After all, it's not half so wild as what we saw on Changing Rooms...
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:36 AM on July 17, 2002


My fave is when Ground Force redid a bedroom while the Changing Rooms people redid the garden of a house. Loved watching that poncy, pirate shirt wearing designer get his hands dirty!

Trading Spaces, Ground Force,and Changing Rooms are my secret TV addiction. And there are tonnes of threads on message boards for devoted addicts like myself.

Ground Force seems to be the most fun, though - the team is great, and there don't seem to be many upset homeowners.
posted by kristin at 7:36 AM on July 17, 2002


Doug has his own toys.
posted by ColdChef at 7:42 AM on July 17, 2002


also: Which "Trading Spaces" cast member are you?
posted by ColdChef at 7:43 AM on July 17, 2002


I read somewhere that the show has helpers that do some of the work for the homeowners, but I have not seen this corroborated anywhere else. Has anyone else heard of this?
posted by internal at 8:02 AM on July 17, 2002


My friend Steve wrote a great review of 'Trading Spaces'
posted by owillis at 8:16 AM on July 17, 2002


I can't stand the way the designers disregard the wishes of the people they are designing for.

That's the reason I can't watch, either. Its a good idea, but the real reason to get a designer is to get someone who will work with you, not "challenge" you.

And then, of course, there's the time Doug covered up a fireplace and violated a city fire code in the process.
posted by anastasiav at 8:30 AM on July 17, 2002


Whee! Good thing I came back here: I was inspired to check my listings and found that BBC Canada is about to show a Changing Rooms episode. I started work early today to beat the heat, so I can now take a break and watch other people sweat for half an hour.

Oh, and as already mentioned, Deborah at Television Without Pity writes great recaps of Trading Spaces. She has the definitive write-up of the Hildi/straw on the walls episode.
posted by maudlin at 8:33 AM on July 17, 2002


Doug's a mean bastard, but that fireplace woman was asking for it with her little note. I'd have done it, too. I love watching that woman burst into tears at the end. And the husband saying, "You're going to fix this."

Almost as good as the woman who refused to let Hildie dye the carpet orange.
posted by ColdChef at 8:42 AM on July 17, 2002


I watch Trading Spaces for one reason.

Rrowr.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:32 AM on July 17, 2002


wow, i'm doug, and the description is right on the mark.
posted by sadie01221975 at 9:52 AM on July 17, 2002


Doug, you're a bastard.
posted by ColdChef at 9:58 AM on July 17, 2002


I like Doug, and either way, he's nowhere near as nasty as Laurie. Her Southern charm doesn't cover the seething psycho-bitch lurking just beneath the surface.

I really love Trading Spaces, but I doubt I'd let them into my house (unless I could pick the designer and be sure they'd actually do something vaguely in line with what suited me). Hildi's circus tent living room would have made me cry. And this quote about Doug being nasty from one of the articles "when he enlarged a photo of a resident in racy black lingerie and made it the focal point of her overhauled living room" doesn't match what I remember of that show (I saw it fairly recently), the homeowner was vaguely embarrassed, but she seemed to be more flattered than anything else.
posted by biscotti at 10:24 AM on July 17, 2002


I like Doug, and either way, he's nowhere near as nasty as Laurie

Anyone else noticed that when Laurie starts to get mad at the homeowners, her "genteel" accent goes away? I think she's pulling a Chico Marx...
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:34 AM on July 17, 2002


I love it on Changing Rooms when the contestants hate the room so much they cry. That hasn't happened for a while. It's usually when Lawrence LB does a room. I also adore Home Front, because the sexual tension between Lawrence LB and Diarmud Gavin is very real.
posted by Summer at 10:41 AM on July 17, 2002


Oh yes, and I've also seen the Australian and New Zealandish versions of Changing Rooms, which are similar to the original. It's as fun to see a white wooden bungalow in Melbourne done up like stately home as it is to see a Victorian terrace in Swindon done up like a Moroccan harem. Trading Spaces goes on too long. You need a snappy half an hour.
posted by Summer at 10:45 AM on July 17, 2002


Anyone else noticed that when Laurie starts to get mad at the homeowners, her "genteel" accent goes away?

You mean like on every show she's on (yes, I have noticed)? She drives me nuts, she has such thinly-veiled contempt for everyone and completely ignores or belittles any opinions the worker bees have.

As for sexual tension, I'd say there's certainly some between Genevieve and Amy Wynn.
posted by biscotti at 10:47 AM on July 17, 2002


My wife and I watch this show regularly, mostly for the entertainment value but also for the occasional idea. We both agree that Vern is *it*, but we disagree over Doug and Hildy. Ari (my wife) thinks both Doug and Hildy have had some good designs in the past (I'll let her believe that) and so it's hard for her to loathe them. Me, I have no trouble loathing them. Both Doug and Hildy are regularly inconsiderate of the owners' wishes and often go to irreversible extremes. Still, though, I'm not nearly as obsessed with hating Doug as I am with utterly abhorring Hildy. Is she the antichrist? I'm thinking of starting a "Stop Hildy Before She Designs Again" movement or at the very least a "Survivors of Hildy" support group.
posted by michaelbrown at 10:50 AM on July 17, 2002


I read an article that suggested the cheescake picture in question was done at the suggestion of the husband.
posted by Mick at 10:55 AM on July 17, 2002


Oh, yeah, Hildy.

My wife and I actually coined a term to describe her stuff. Hildeous.

OK, it's not that funny, but it's accurate.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:07 AM on July 17, 2002


"Hildeous." Heh. Good stuff.

Anyone else noticed that when Laurie starts to get mad at the homeowners, her "genteel" accent goes away?

You mean like on every show she's on (yes, I have noticed)? She drives me nuts, she has such thinly-veiled contempt for everyone and completely ignores or belittles any opinions the worker bees have.

I like the way she nods at people when she's explaining something to them. That's not insulting at all.

My lady and I have decided that if we're ever on the show, we want to work with Frank (king of the FauxMos) because he seems the nicest, but we want Vern to do our home.

We just don't have any friends that are cool enough to go in with us. Oh, and Ty has to keep his well-oiled drill away from my woman, if you know what I mean.
posted by ColdChef at 11:46 AM on July 17, 2002


re: sexual tension issue: what is up with the husbands grabbing Paige all of the time? (ex: in the reveal the wife always drops her hand right away, but him, he's usually in it for the long haul.) Don't they realize that they are being taped - love to be a fly on the wall when they see that show for the first time - "ugh, honey, lemmee explain..."
posted by lilboo at 11:54 AM on July 17, 2002


Hildi's circus tent living room would have made me cry.

HA! Yes, I found this more offensive than the straw on walls.

what is up with the husbands grabbing Paige all of the time?

There is one episode with Alex where she and a husband start goofing off with one of those power cleaners that has a big rotating brush. It was very flirty and the wife seemed none too pleased. I always speculated that Paige was brought in to please the women, as she is much less sexually threatening.
posted by McBain at 1:08 PM on July 17, 2002


Paige is married now, you know. To Patrick Page.

That's right, she's now Paige Page.

Actually Mindy Paige Davis Page, but I hate her, so I mock her.

Paige Page Paige Page Paige Page Paige Page Paige Page!

Muahahaha!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:46 PM on July 17, 2002


Wow. Am I the only one who watches it (well Changing Rooms, can't stand the TLC version) and loves it when the people LIKE the designs? I've never seen people break down, but I don't get to watch much.
posted by Nothing at 1:57 AM on July 18, 2002


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