UK television programme largely responsible for the revival of DIY as 'cool' in that country.

Presented weekly by Carol Smillie, this farce revolves around two neighbouring couples swapping houses for two days with the object of transforming one (chosen) room in the other's abode. This is done at a strict budget, and usually leads to the use of copious amounts of MDF and emulsion paint. Fear not, however! The teams, kitted out in BBC-supplied dungarees, are each aided by one of a team of professional interior designers. These are:

In addition, both teams have access - when they're obsequious enough - to Andy 'Handy Andy' Kane, the show's resident carpenter and joiner who has knocked up panel units, beds and wardrobes over his time on the show. All out of MDF, of course.

Changing Rooms' success lies arguably in the fact that it has combined the typically dry DIY format with a perverted game show combining all the best (?) elements of Who Wants to be a Millionaire's 'phone-a-friend' and Blind Date. Both teams, surprisingly, are required to pay the budget for the decoration (usually £500) in full, and they deem this to be a worthy expense due to the high quality of design exhibited on the programme.

Five books have been released under the Changing Rooms brand, and the pun just doesn't get any funnier. These are:

  • "Changing Rooms": Complete Home Makeover (ISBN 0563537817)
  • "Changing Rooms": Handy Andy's Weekend Workbook (ISBN 0563384255)
  • "Changing Rooms": Finishing Touches (ISBN 0563551577)
  • Changing Rooms (ISBN 0563551011)
  • Changing Rooms: Colour (ISBN 0563551127)
The show airs at the primetime slot of 8:30pm on the BBC's first channel and shows no sign of just quietly slipping away with dignified grace. There has been a remake made in the USA, Trading Spaces. (Thanks atesh.)
If anyone has any information about the last two designers, please /msg me.

Bland, inoffensive game show of the late 90s to early 2000s, broadcast in America practically non-stop on BBC America. For those who subscribed to the channel hoping to see 50 years' worth of excellent broadcasting, from the Masterpiece Theatre type stuff to solid police drama to various sitcoms, you were going to be upset and very upset that between this and Antiques Roadshow that was all you got.

That being said, this particular show's premise had the germ of a great idea. Take two families who live next to each other, separate them for a weekend, and lodge them in each others' houses to make over a room with a budget rivaling that of the prop budget for a 1960s Doctor Who episode - e.g, about a hundred pounds. Have them furiously slave away to complete some ambitious tasks assigned to them by a variety of guest interior designers, the most famous of all was rather Bohemian looking  Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who tended to sashay in dressed like Tom Baker and something out of a 1980s The Cult video. Hosting it all was reyther Scottish saunding and manly-faced Carol Smilie, who'd basically dart back and forward asking people what they were doing.

Of course, not everyone knows how to swing a hammer and there's only so much that paint can do, so they had a general carpenter/joiner and all around handyman who naturally had to be Cockney, so they hired a fellow named Andy Kane to wotcha, mate the place up while making voluminous jokes about just how cheap and nasty the MDF stuff was that they built everything out of.

Because this was a fascinating exercise in ambition versus reality. Since the people doing the renovation aren't exactly skilled craftsmen, you're not going to be seeing highly technical or trompe l'oeil painting, lathe-turned legs, or... well, anything beyond dragging a paintbrush along a wall or punching a hole in said wall with a hammer. And of course, interior decorators are used to using Ralph Lauren paint in dazzling hues, putting together a room with harmonized palettes, efficient use of space, and flow. Here they were more likely to be using Home Depot entry level paint, and be trying to build an underwater princess fantasy bedroom for a six year old out of baling wire and snot.

There's only so much you can do with a hundred pounds. Honestly. But saying fair enough, let's get really decent paint and a nice throw rug and make the place nice doesn't' make for a magical "before and after". So most of the budget went into MDF building the most unorthodox of furniture or fittings, and repurposed junk shop or pound shop items. Which looks great on television, which is what they optimised for but in person looks like the set that it really is.

And just as how you don't watch NASCAR so much for the cars going around in a circle but the occasional highly damaging crash and general pile-up of debris when someone makes too sharp of a turn to go around that circle, aside from watching the sheer joy of a six year old seeing their room transformed into a Disney-style set - watching the reactions of people seeing their house for the first time is absolutely priceless.

British people are generally reserved in the same way Southern folks are. "Well isn't that just precious" is basically code sometimes for "at least you tried, darling." And sometimes watching people walk into a room and seeing "fake marble" painted effect on an MDF pillar and giving that kind of awkward smile that communicates that they're clearly wondering to themselves just how long they're going to have to live with this in order to be polite to the neighbors and how much it's going to cost to paint over all that to make it beige again is hilarious. And you can see the reunion after where they're embracing each other, both families agreeing that they didn't exactly hit the mark, and that we'll call it 1-1 and no hard feelings in that one almost crying smile - classic.

The one where the guy was looking at the cheap looking MDF and even cheaper looking paint and asked Andy "Can't we get some nice carpet in or something and do this with actual style" was rebuffed with "not f'r a handred paaahnds, mate!" You get the idea that what they thought they were doing was getting a great deal on some interior design, only to find out what they were doing was allowing others to run riot building a literal set inside their home. In that one moment where the guy asked about carpet or maybe a nice bit of marble to find out nope, it was all going to be MDF and stencils - and then realized that his own house wasn't getting carpet or marble either - and he'd therefore gone out of his way to do all this TV crap expecting carpet and marble to get dollar store stuff stapled to his wall - I'm practically wetting myself crying with laughter.

Even better are the ones where for one reason or another someone scored some cool stuff in a antique store or something and were able to put money into better paint, and/or were better able to execute a real vision - so whereas one group got a rich looking room with two very nice looking repurposed antique lamps, the other people got bamboo stapled to their wall and fake coconut shag for an "island theme" or something and you see the very-choked-back utter jealousy in the eyes of the one group as they realize they got the raw end of the deal is even funnier.

But the absolute best are the ones where you find out just how much the family was absolutely off about the other. One very memorable one had someone redoing a bedroom, and the designer guy obviously was thinking about some kind of fetish/Leigh Bowery trip and actually put nails and eyehooks in the wall and orbital sander pads as cushions for that "kneeling on rice" 50 Shades of Grey trip and the woman walked in and didn't even begin to hide her disgust with the whole thing, going off on her neighbor as to just how could she let this film crew do THIS to the place where she and her husband sleep, and/or suggest that they'd MAKE USE of the various eyehooks and bolts coming out of the wall. It was especially heartbreaking because they did this under duress with the designer insisting it was hip and modern and she'd love it, even as they expressed over and over again they weren't quite sure about this whole Lady Gaga industrial dungeon idea. That show saw the film crew packing and heading out the door REAL quick as the woman exited in tears vowing never to have anything to do with the other people again.

That being said, it certainly spawned a small cottage industry in terms of people thinking they really could repurpose junk and/or throw paint around to somehow really improve a living space for short money. Heck, everyone was trying to do it, the mid 2000s were the era of flipping houses by staging them as cheaply as possible and this programming fit right in to what people wanted. Of course, television is all about illusion, as opposed to reality.




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