No one can deny the popularity of home renovation shows. HGTV, first launched in 1994, is one of the mostwatched cable channels, and the DIY Network, TLC, and Bravo, all of which also air home reno shows, are not far behind. In fact, with renovation projects at an all-time high, TV Land impacts not only design wish lists, but home buying itself. Prospective house hunters are as influenced by their favorite HGTV shows— paging open-concept floor plans—as they once were by a house’s good bones or a community’s good school system.
On the surface, the overall impact is positive. People see the potential in their homes more than they used to. But all that binge-watching can lead to a certain sameness in design. Who had ever even heard of shiplap prior to Chip and Joanna (who happen to be launching their own Magnolia Network with the Discovery Channel later this year)…although I am still not quite sure what shiplap is, as the multitude of home shows depicts it in various shapes, sizes, and stages of decrepitude. Another unavoidable TV trend: The proliferation of boutique hotel-like rooms with the cliché accent wall is just astounding—to me anyway. If I wanted to stay in a boutique hotel, I would. It seems that there’ s an overall sanitization of interior design. Everything is styled or, even worse, staged. There’s simply no there there.
The best reno shows teach us to think outside of the box. Does the kitchen really need to be there? At the back of the house? Do I really need a seldom used hall behind my master or would that space be better served incorporated into my master closet and adding an “en suite” bath? (Along with “pop of color” you can add “en suite” and “I’m not gonna lie” or “If I’m being honest,” to my list of most detested phrases.) Still, that kind of open-mindedness in matters of layout is, as Martha used to say, a good thing.
Where home shows really delude us are with budget and time lines. Why Jesse Ferguson can build an entire house in a week—by himself! And in Maine every renovation, small or large, costs $30,000. I guess I could move to Maine, or Mississippi, or Texas—or anywhere it seems, but definitely not here.
But what the heck. I love me some HGTV, and it turns out the network is investing in more realistic programming. One such show, Best House on the Block, launching in the fall, is set in DC and promises to deliver both realistic timelines and costs.
(Hmmmmm, that might not qualify as entertainment, in my book; after all, I deal with realism every day.) Another recent debut, Christina on the Coast, a spin-off of Flip or Flop, is transparent about cost…but in the OC where $45,000 equals a bathroom renovation. Really? Not in my world.
So, what are my favorite shows? Boise Boys, set in, you probably guessed— Boise, features partners Luke and Clint, who are amusing and talented. I love their home-spun, home-schooled, family-centric outlook as well as their jocular and affectionate rapport. And they’re NOT married, for a change. Boise, btw, is one of the fastest growing communities…. Maybe that is why it is easy for them to be so jocular. A rising tide raises all ships. Another pick is Fixer to Fabulous. This time a couple and in Arkansas. Again, they seem to genuinely like one another and enjoy working together.
What I don’t like are the feuding, fighting, yelling types. Windy City Rehab? No thanks. I’m also not a fan of the formulaic approach, as predictable as a Hallmark movie. With the otherwise-charming Property Brothers, the plot is always the same: the visit to several homes, the unforeseen problems, the calls to the homeowners asking for budget increases, the trip to the local artisanal woodworker, glassblower, et al. I fast-forward through the selection process to the solution and then right to the unveiling. I don’t need the intervening discoveries of termites, water damage, floor slopes, rusty pipes. Don’t these people have inspectors?
Back in the day I used to appear on HGTV regularly as a decorating or home improvement expert. I was even offered shows of my own. But I swore that I would never say voila (post transformation of a closet into a glamorous bar for example) again. And I haven’t… Not yet.
Lyn Peterson, designer, author, mother of four and all round busy body is president of Motif Designs, Mamaroneck, NY.