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Monochrome report: Trading Spaces - Mongologue
May 17th, 2004
03:28 am

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Monochrome report: Trading Spaces
Well, thanks to TiVo, I've just seen Saturday's episode of Trading Spaces. And to me.. it's one of the examples of the decline of the show, even as it's an exercise in monochromicity.

The show was done in North Hollywood and featured two gay couples - which I will denote as the Flamings and Notflamings, for convenience and personality summary's sake - as the homeowners. The Notflamings had a TV room/office in a converted garage that needed redecoration- the 'before' look included shelves on cinder blocks. The Flamings had a nicely decorated fairly formal living room, with fireplace,hardwood floors, and a look that was pretty cohesive as it was. It didn't really need a Trading Spaces redecoration at all, in my mind.

The designers were Doug and Hildy this go around. Doug was working with the Notflamings on the Flamings's living room with plans for an all-white room, Hildy working in counterpoint with an all-black room. The designers were also dressed in monochrome. So far, so good...

Now, normally Hildy comes up with horrible wall designs using outlandish things just for the sake of being outlandish. "She doesn't make rooms, she makes statements.", my sister put it.. and living in a statement is hard. This show seemed no different.. the walls were covered in black ribbon, ditto the ceiling. There was, of course, black carpet, black furniture, everything black black except for lighting. But, and here's the surprising part.. it worked. The Flamings were agreeing that it would completely suit the space and be right with the Notflaming's style; The ribbons and mixtures of black fabric added a lot of texture, and the purpose as a TV room fit the black. And, in the end, the Notflamings loved it; it worked as a room first and a statement second.

Doug's room, the all-white one, was a different story. From the beginning to the end, the Notflamings fought him on the starkness of the design: It lacked warmth, it lacked brightness and color, it didn't fit the personality of the Flamings. As thing after thing went white, they voiced protest. And yet Doug pressed on, white paint on the walls, windows, a white overlay floor atop the hardwood (to keep it intact..), white armoire and couches. It ended up feeling stark, looking horribly bland- lacking the textures and depths of the black room. The Flamings hated it, except for one good piece of wall art; they ended up crying and storming off.

This is the trouble with Trading Spaces, now that the show's grown to popularity. Most of the designers- save for perhaps Verne and Frank - are trying to much to make shocking rooms, big bold statements of Design with a capital D. In the first and second seasons, it was much more about designing for the homeowners, trying to base choices on opinions and ideas on feedback from their neighbors. Now, it's about statements and not rooms, and that looming shark has just been jumped.

I suppose the search for dichotomy and contrast in the rooms of this episode met with a contrasting end.. one couple loving their room, one hating it. Black versus white. Starkness versus texture. "Ohhh yes!" versus "Oh no.." It was a balnace.. but not an artistic one.

Time to watch In A Fix and Clean Sweep now, where bad rooms are turned into better rooms, and there's no "They Hated It!" DVD to capitalize on misfortune.

--Chiaroscuro

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