television: Cross-Decorating 

Do you trust your friends' taste? TLC's "Trading Spaces" puts friendships and taste to the test.

But our secret smug snobbery has greater depths still. You have to peel back one more layer of our psyches to get to the core reason for the appeal of "Trading Spaces": Deep in our souls, we believe we have better taste even than the decorators who guide the neighbors as they remake each other's nests.

This is, in fact, probably not too far off the mark. Because for all their flair and showmanship, the "Trading Spaces" decorators are relentlessly, unremittingly, uncompromisingly middle class. But, then, so are the homeowners selected to participate in the show.

Now don't get all hot and decide to write a letter to the editor: I have nothing against the middle class. Some of my best friends are middle class. Actually, I am middle class, troublesome though that may be to contemplate. But, if I'm going to look for somebody to redecorate my house, you can bet I'll be looking for somebody with more taste than I have to help me.

Blame some of that on the time constraints imposed by the rules of "Trading Spaces." The neighbors and decorators on each show have exactly two days and a $1,000 budget — no more — to redecorate the other team's room. And neither neighbor is allowed back in their home until the projects are finished.

I suppose you just have to accept that there's only so much you can do with two days and a thousand bucks, no matter how much taste you have.

Nevertheless, "Trading Spaces" is a hoot and a holler to watch. Take a recent episode set in Plano, Texas, for example. The original rooms were atrocious. One was a sage-and-beige master bedroom that screamed late 1970s. The other was a children's playroom that looked like it had been trashed by a particularly rambunctious 5-year-old. Designer Doug Wilson had no trouble persuading his group to update the playroom with earth colors, slipcovers for a tattered sofa, and louvered doors for a storage space. Over at the other house, designer Hilda Santo-Tomas repositioned the bed, painted the walls white, whipped up some fake fur throws and added 12-inch orange baseboards. However, she ran into a brick wall of Texas intractability when she wanted to dye the white rug orange. Her group rebelled, and the rug stayed as it was. But watching a self-assured decorator obsessed with whimsy take on an obdurate Texas blonde with an orange phobia was well worth the price of admission.

On "Trading Spaces," there's always something to keep you coming back — whether it's to pick up a few tips on how to update your own nest or whether it's just to snicker at what passes for taste in some quarters. And most attractive of all, perhaps, is the fact that it's all happening to somebody else, not you. You can relax and be a makeover voyeur with no responsibility whatsoever for the outcome.

And just for the record, I think I might have taken a chance and gone with the orange rug. S

"Trading Spaces" airs on the TLC cable network weekdays at 4 p.m., Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at noon.


Latest in Arts and Culture


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Don Dale

Connect with Style Weekly

Most Popular Stories

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation