Interior design comes at a cost

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

My fascination with "Trading Spaces" is just sad. Sick and sad.

The sad part is that I don't even own a home, so I'm constantly trying to harass my friends into applying to be on the show. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law live in houses a stone's throw from each other, so they're growing accustomed to my arguments on why they're perfect for "Trading Spaces."

"Why wouldn't you?" I say. "You'd get all that free interior design! And you'd get to meet the designers you see on television all the time. Maybe even Ty! He's cute, right?"

Apparently, they trust their own sense of design and don't want hay or live moss on the walls or an entire family room painted black. Whatever.

They say an activity isn't an addiction until it starts hurting your life, and I'm willing to admit I'm sick. I stop everything and watch "Trading Spaces" when it's on. I curse at the women who begin crying because they absolutely hate their new living rooms. (If they thought they had all the design answers, why did they contact the show to begin with?)

And to top it all off, I ruined the half bathroom in my townhouse with a home-improvement plan.

It actually began with a highly flammable gel candle that sent flames shooting up nearly a foot from the wick. It burned a large section of the wallpaper.

Painting over it was a horrible idea. Apparently, yellow paint doesn't stick to burned wallpaper.

There was only one thing for it: The wallpaper had to come down.

"It's OK," I assured The Other Half. "I've seen them do it a million times on 'Trading Spaces.'"

To his credit, Mr. Half wanted to hire a professional. He knew we lifelong renters have no business embarking on any sort of home-improvement plans. But I insisted. We borrowed an amazing product that gets water under the wallpaper and holds it there so that the paper eventually will peel right off. It was absolutely amazing. As promised, the wallpaper peeled right off.

So did the primer, in some spots.

Mr. Half and I were left looking at patches of drywall. There was nothing to do but 'fess up to the landlord.

"But don't worry, we're going to prime and paint the bathroom," Mr. Half told him.

"Don't do anything else," the landlord said, with the "you've done enough" part of the sentence silently understood.

So we've been using a downstairs bathroom that looks as though it's been through a war. It's almost worth climbing the stairs to avoid it ... and avoid the reminder that I'm no Genevieve Gorder.

So there won't be any more painting or wallpaper removal around my place anymore. But I don't think I can give up the show itself cold turkey. I'm just too involved, as evidenced by a visit from another "Trading Spaces" devotee -- my friend Guy -- on Sunday night.

The designers were Vern Yip and Christi Proctor. We both find Christi's overly chipper demeanor and foam family trees to be irritating, but we almost came to blows over Vern.

"He's my favorite one," I said. "Why don't you like him?"

"I don't know," Guy replied. "I just don't like him."

It was maddening. "Well maybe you're just a tacky, no-style-having racist!"

Guy left.

That's OK. Maybe a "Trading Spaces" addiction is something you have to deal with alone.

Heidi Hall is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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