Imagine walking out of your home, and letting your next door neighbor redecorate a room in your home, without any knowledge of what direction that redecoration would take. Add into that mix some interior designers, a carpenter, plenty of MDF and paint.

Trading Spaces is a decorating show on TLC - The Learning Channel, where two sets of neighbors swap keys to transform a room in each other's home. The transformation takes places in only two days, with a $1,000 set budget, and the owners are not allowed back into their own homes until the "moment of truth".

There is a British show based on the same premise called Changing Rooms. Same rules, same style, just different cast and country.

Cast and Crew:
Frank Bielec: One of the show's interior decorators. His designs tend to be fairly conservative. He frequently uses innovative paint techniques to save money.

Paige Davis: The hostess of the show. She is always bubbly and happy, as any hostess should be.

Genevieve Gorder: She is the interior decorator who most consistently comes in under budget. Her designs are usually fun, creative and thoughtful

Laurie Hickson-Smith: Another interior decorator. "Elegant, but eclectic" is her self-proclaimed style.

Hilda Santo-Tomas: Another interior designer on the show. She typically uses contemporary designs. Some of Hildi's designs are spectacular, while others are simply ho-hum.

Douglas Wilson: Interior designer who has even made a woman on the show cry when she saw her "new" room. Although his rooms can be at the extreme, like the "prison of love" room, he is one of my favorite designers.

Vern Yip: Interior Designer who frequently uses his architectural background to develop "clean" and pleasing designs.

Amy Wynn Pastor: She is one of two carpenters on the show.

Ty Pennington: The second carpenter on the show, however, he tends to be a bit of a practical joker.

Applicant Rules
1. For production purposes, participants must live near one another, preferably right next door.

2. You must either own the property or have written permission from the owner.

3. Each home must have a "team" of two people — spouses, parent and child, siblings, and friends are all welcome, as long as they live in the house that will be redecorated. All participants must be at least 16 years old.

4. The room must be at least 14'x14' — big enough for the camera crew to observe the work.

5. The room must already have furniture in it. Any furniture that should not be touched can be removed beforehand, but the room cannot be empty.

6. You and your neighbors must both be able to take the same two days out of your schedule. You might need to take off work, as these shows are not always filmed on the weekends.

7. Interested groups (with confirmed neighbors) should fill out an application.

Applicant rules and show information from

The true fun of Trading Spaces is playing "armchair designer". You quickly learn which designers you enjoy and which ones you despise, and you will find yourself rooting for one or the other. For instance, Hildie is not well-liked in our house, becuase she commits what I consider the fundamental crime of designers and architects--she lets her own vision override that of the people she is working for. Besides, her stuff's just ugly.

The show thus can be a great example of what not to do while decorating (for instance, pinning moss to a corkboard wall, while an interesting effect, would be a nightmare to clean and maintain), and sometimes there are some actually good, low-cost decorating ideas in the show. Almost all of the designers have a bold style--no neutral decor here, they seem to enjoy yellow, purple, blue, red and pale green a whole lot.

Also, another part of the vicarious thrill of it all is watching people when they're brought back into their own house--and it's clear they hate what has been done. Most people actually do a decent job of hiding it, but there have been tears and obscenities uttered by the owners.

Watching Trading Spaces thus becomes somewhat like watching a sporting event on TV--we will yell at the screen when a designer makes a dumb move, predict what will happen when the participants see their place, and there's much discussion about what we would do if it were us.

It's great fun, and I highly recommend it.

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