'Trading Spaces' is trading up
By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
Trading Spaces is moving into the high-rent district — at least for one show.
TLC's popular redesign series is dropping its $1,000-per-room limit on Sunday's special two-hour episode (8 p.m. ET/PT) and going on a $100,000 splurge ($50,000 a room) at the homes of two lucky couples in Plymouth, Mass.
Fans shouldn't worry that the popular cable show will abandon its frugal approach, which is considered a main charm. In its fourth season of designing on a shoestring, Spaces just wanted to show what its designers could do with a beefed-up budget.
"The $100,000 episode is a fantasy episode," says Doug Wilson, who worked on James and Tina Drakakis' kitchen and family room. "But the $1,000 per room, that's our show. That's what makes us unique and interesting."
When host Paige Davis told Barbi and John Joyce and the Drakakises that each room would get a $50,000 makeover, they were dumbfounded.
"We were so excited to be on Trading Spaces, period. Then, when they said it was $50,000, I was shocked," says Barbi Joyce, whose living room was assigned to Spaces designer Laurie Smith.
With the $1,000-a-room limit so identifiable, Spaces has room to tweak its established format for the occasional Sunday special, executive producer Kathy Davidov says. In November, for example, the series will feature a British invasion, with designers from England's Changing Rooms doing their stuff. A special in April will include a house giveaway.
Such moves are at least partly designed to help the pioneering Trading Spaces (regular slot: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET/PT, along with other times) stand out from an explosion of home design shows, including TLC's While You Were Out and Trading Spaces: Family and Style Network's Area, that appear destined to remodel every room in America. USA's House Wars and HGTV's Date With Design and Outer Spaces premiered this week. High-profile upcoming series include:
•Merge, Lifetime, Friday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET/PT. Lisa Rinna helps newlyweds arrange their belongings under one roof.
•House Rules, TBS, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Three couples compete in a remodeling competition. The winner gets a new home.
• Mix It Up, WE: Women's Entertainment, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. Courteney Cox and David Arquette produce this series in which two roommates — couples, friends or siblings — blend different design styles.
Despite the bigger redesign budget on the Spaces special, the two-day time limit remained, forcing the designers into creative approaches, including ordering custom pieces in advance. Planning becomes paramount with the extra money and limited time, Smith and Wilson say.
"I was thrilled to be chosen," Smith says. "But with the heightened budget comes a lot more responsibility, too. These people won the (redesign) lottery. So I want them to not just like it, I want them to love it."
How the couples feel about their new rooms — joy or dismay — is part of Spaces' trademark final-reaction surprise. Whether they enjoyed the experience is no secret.
"How can you not? Somebody comes in and shakes up your life for a couple of days and gives you $50,000 worth of stuff?" Barb Joyce says. "This is crazy. I could have done my entire home for $50,000 — and had some left over."