"Fashion ignores safety, comfort, and common sense.
A guaranteed attractant for millions of vacuous minds."
Duane Alan Hahn
Please join me in welcoming Rob Chiller as a new columnist with Low Carb Luxury.
Rob has rediscovered the joys of speaking his mind after a decade-long stint in Corporate America.
When not behind a keyboard, Rob can be found offering his unsolicited opinions on life to anyone
who happens to be passing by his house.
Human behavior can often be baffling. I have long stopped trying to figure out why someone would voluntarily
jam a three-inch spike through their tongue, or style their hair so they resemble a huge, demented pink rooster.
But I must admit that the Trading Spaces phenomenon has me wondering when the alien Mother Ship is coming to pick
me up and take me home.
Is it that America is having a designing crisis? Is there even such a thing as a designing crisis? Maybe
I'm not qualified to answer that; in my house, whatever is setting next to the family room door (whether
it be an $1800 solid oak coffee table or a cooler holding up a poker table-top) is getting covered with
For those who do not know, Trading Spaces is a television show currently airing on TLC. It features two sets of
neighbors who trade houses for 48 hours to redecorate one room in each house. Each set of neighbors is assigned
one of Trading Spaces' regular "designers," who is in charge of creating and implementing the new room's theme
Sounds innocuous enough, right?
That is, until you realize these designers all seem to have gotten their training at the
San Quentin Design School/Bar and Grill.
To illustrate, let's revisit some of the show's finer designing moments: One woman had her bedroom redone to
resemble a small gravesite. The room came complete with a white picket fence, a blanket of flowers with an
Astroturf fringe over the bed, and a nice gravemarker-shaped headboard. In another case, a perky, blond
designer named Genevieve happily stapled real moss onto the homeowner's bedroom wall. (Do you think there's
an allergy medicine for "indoor moss?")
But surely the shows' coup de grace was when designer Doug Wilson turned a perfectly fine (if slightly boring)
bedroom into a prison….literally. It was equipped with beautiful institution-gray cinder blocks painted on the
walls and iron bars over the windows. A mural was painted towards the ceiling, showing a lone prisoner shackled
to the wall. It was the sort of room Jeffrey Dahmer would find romantic. The piece d' resistance of the room
was the wooden bench, supported by two free-standing toilets.
Not mentioned is the prolific use of flower petals, or the designers' preference for colors so bright they would
make Ray Charles squint.
Despite all this, it's impossible to really blame the designers for their "creative" creations. After
all, bad rooms make good television. TLC now markets a DVD entitled "They Hated It," which shamelessly highlights
the worst "reveals" (the moment the neighbors return home to see their new rooms) in the show's history. There's
anger. There are tears. There's even some violence, with one woman wrestling her neighbor to the ground after a
particularly bad reveal. ("I just kind of went a little crazy for a second" she is quoted as saying in an interview
with the Washington Post.)
Therefore, I am confounded by the fact that TLC gets five hundred applications per week to be on the show.
Why are so many people offering up their houses for this legalized vandalism?
It can't just be the thrill of being on TV. With the current growth rate of cable and satellite companies,
every individual American should have their own TV channel by 2015.
It can't be that TLC fools these homeowners in any way. They tell their applicants up front that everything is
fair game. They will even refuse to accept an applicant who demands that a certain item be protected. Yes,
folks, Doug Wilson can come into your house armed with a chainsaw and take the posts off the bed you got as
a wedding present from your father. It's happened.
Even if there is a critical need to redesign in this country, does it make sense that people would value
the opinions of some chainsaw-wielding bed-killer over their own? We Americans are staunch
individualists, and are world-renown for our rather strong opinions on... well, everything. It seems
odd that so many are willing to turn over complete control to something as personal as a bedroom to
a total stranger.
So, what is it that has flocks of homeowners clamoring to be on the show?
Perhaps that question is best left unanswered.
Because as I grow more horrified week after week, it occurs to me that I'm watching the show week after week.
I can't turn away. I have to see what ridiculously bizarre plan Doug is going to come up with next. I need
to know what outdoor plant-life Genevieve is going to paste to the wall. And, cruel as it may be, I want to
see the faces of those homeowners who rolled the Trading Spaces dice and had them come up snake-eyes.
(Note: To my knowledge, no one on the show has actually used snake eyes to decorate a room. Yet.)
In short, motives be damned, I need these people to be on the show.
Ultimately, then, dear Trading Spaces applicant, this article becomes a salute to you. To you courageous souls
who would sacrifice a room of your house on the altar of Television Ratings, who would risk an antique armoire
for my entertainment, I lift an amused but mystified glass in your honor.
I may never know why you want to appear on that program.
I'm just glad you do.
Copyright © October 2003 Rob Chiller and Low Carb Luxury
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