Give your “space” a little TLC

Megan Donoghue

If you are a home owner or apartment dweller, chances are that there is a room within the confines of your space that could use a little sprucing up. Although “All in the Family” was quite a successful 1970s sitcom, there is no need to pay homage to it by allowing an Archie Bunker-esque couch to grace the corner of your den. A challenge for your wallet, you say? Tell that little leather guy to relax! The solution to your design dilemma does not appear in the overpriced pages of Pottery Barn’s newest catalog, nor will it involve a costly consultation with an interior decorator — heck, it may not even mean tossing that brownish plaid couch you and Archie have both grown to love! Simply turn on your television and catch an episode of TLC’s “Trading Spaces” to evoke the creativity that dwells (somewhere!) inside us all.

According to its website,, “Trading Spaces” provides viewers with an entertaining answer to “What would happen if you stripped, ripped and painted as you pleased?” in one room of a neighbor’s home. The show travels around the country, sending two sets of people on a mission to do just that. They are equipped with a $1,000 budget, an energetic host, a savvy designer, a skilled carpenter and, finally, the keys to the house next door. Each team has two days to complete its projects without venturing back into their own homes until the unveiling occurs. That’s right, sneaking over to check out the progress of a formerly shag-carpeted living room is not allowed. Suspense and surprise are what make “Trading Spaces” so unique.

The host, Paige Davis, is responsible for ensuring that everything goes as planned. Although she is a thin, pixie-like redhead, don’t be fooled. Davis is more animated and vibrant than most television personalities and maintains the upbeat feeling of each episode of “Trading Spaces.” She nags the designers about their budgets and even captures classic, candid moments on her “Paige cam.” She assists the teams with projects and encourages them to forge ahead on their “Trading Spaces” missions, whether it takes a caffeine kick or a pep talk.

The designers are quite eclectic as well — a group of eight, with each one bringing their own unique style and ideas to the table. From the quirky endeavors of Texas native Frank Bielec, who describes himself as a work in progress, to the Mississippi-born, New York-trained Laurie Hickson-Smith, who favors an interesting elegance, viewers of “Trading Spaces” enjoy a variety of design strategies from people who have transformed thinking outside the box into an art form. Perhaps the best example of this school of thought is designer Genevieve Gorder, who refuses to wear shoes on the show out of pure practicality. She responds to a viewer on the website, saying “I like my shoes a lot. My shoes are pretty. If I were to wear them on the show, I would ruin every pair I have.” Just think, how can Gorder manage to successfully repaint a wall in the perfect shade of crimson if she is worried about the state of her Monolo Blahniks? Of course, she could just leave the wallpaper up and forget the crimson paint altogether; I heard that shiny, tin foil stuff is actually on the cusp of a design comeback! (Genevieve, please keep your shoes off ).

Ty Pennington and Amy Wynn Pastor are the carpenters in charge of creating anything the two teams need in order to make their design dreams into a reality. Pennington, an attractive and eligible bachelor, has a background in modeling and acting, not to mention that he is currently maintaining his own Atlanta-based carpentry business! He is an extremely talented craftsman who admits to keeping a less than tidy home, as he casually identifies the items under his bed on “one cat, two socks, eight books, two shoes, five quarters, two dimes, three pennies, two nickels, one driver’s license, two passports, one troll, one ball of hair.”

Amy Wynn Pastor makes her way to TLC from the stage as a former actor turned “behind-the-scenes” person and claims that she does not even own a bed, much less all the clutter Pennington has hidden underneath his!

“Trading Spaces” is currently in its fourth season and has as its cult-following a diverse group of “designaholics,” wannabes and those viewers who simply find it entertaining. So although you may never make it on the show, watching it will surely offer some tips on how to successfully and economically transform that hideous mint-green and lavender tiled bathroom you often fool yourself into believing is really not that bad into a space that truly isn’t. For more information visit and click on “Trading Spaces.” There, you will find a TV schedule, episode recaps and photo galleries, not to mention an opportunity to meet the crew and view their pictures — did I mention that carpenter Ty is attractive?