A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking to Paige Davis, the host of TLC's Trading Spaces. Artisan Entertainment released The Best of Trading Spaces on March 18th.
How has your life changed since you joined The Learning Channel as host of one of their most popular shows?
Well, my life completely changed. I'm now recognized, I'm now someone that has a lot more opportunities, I joined a whole huge family that I travel with everywhere, I gained 22 new friends, like, bam! Everything is different and yet a little the same. I'm still doing all the same things that I was doing when I first joined. I'm still painting all day and finishing projects and sweating in the sun and vacuuming, and whatever. We still do the rooms, it's just when I leave the location I usually get stopped along the way on my way back to the hotel.
Do you enjoy that...being recognized?
Uhh...yeah, I would say 99% of the time I enjoy it very, very much. I tell you, it's a really special and unique position to be in when you can go through your day and just sort of hear all day long that people love you and appreciate what you do. It's extremely rewarding to be part of something that people love so much. It's flattering, it's exciting, it's a very powerful and rewarding feeling.
I haven't met a single person that doesn't love the show.
<Laughs> Well that's great.
So, as the host of the show you paint and you help out, but you're also a banker, you keep track of all the money that's spent...
...and you're a referee as well.
Yeah, I mean it's by all means up to me to kind of keep the teams on track and remind them along the way that there is a challenge in all of this and there are rules and to not get carried away. I'm very lucky too in that I get to go back and forth between the houses. My role is also to be the liaison between the people at home who are watching and all of us here. I'm in a way the liaison between the two homes as well. It's definitely part of my role to keep the story together as one story............what am I trying to say here?
To keep the flow of the show going, right?
Yeah, to keep both rooms together in one story and to keep them connected as one event. Because they will go off in their own little world and they forget that there's this whole objective, that there's this whole other house <laughs> that's happening. I have to remind the designer that, "oh, by the way...you know your carpenter is building stuff for somebody else somewhere in another land. There's a whole other house. You can't have that armoire...there's no time."
Now you bend the rules too, don't you? I've seen that.
Budgets get broken. I remember a Seattle episode...
Yeah, that's the most famous episode. I mean almost every single time when the designer has gone over budget it actually comes out of their own pocket but in that instance I believe TLC absorbed the extra costs because nobody had the heart to leave these homeowners with absolutely with no furniture at all <laughs>, but in the strictest letter of the law, in terms of the rules of the challenge, those homeowners should have been left with soaking wet sofas, or nothing. Because that is what would have been able to be accomplished in two days....in these two days in Seattle, and with only $1000 to spend. If we had more money we could buy more sofas, if we had more time we could let you dry and try something else, but we don't have either of those things. So, you're right...definitely by the strictest letter of the rules of the game that should not have been the case.
You looked like you were in pain as well
Yeah, well...I was really torn, I was really torn because I love this game, I love this challenge and I have the upmost respect for it and I believe in my heart and I know for a fact that our designers also love the game and have the upmost respect for it. I mean even through all of the entertainment and the television and everything that goes on...the antics and everything else, I know for a fact that they respect the challenge highly. Yeah, I was torn but I was happy, personally, that these homeowners were getting better furniture. I mean I was thrilled for them, but certainly as the host I as slightly torn, I was like "are we setting a precedent here?" At the same time we were all happy. It was definitely the better choice.
What do you do when a designer goes out of control and starts going on their own little....kinda something you know the homeowner isn't going to like. What do you do as the host?
Well, I just point out that it's still up to the designer to make that choice. I'm not as inclined to fight for the homeowner as I would be to fight for the team working with the designer. In other words if the team is truly against it, if the team would never, ever do it I'm more inclined to help the team make their argument. In the end the way our show logistically works is that the designer does sort of have the final say over even the neighbor.
Or the homeowner leaves the little "do not touch" signs
Oh yes, well...that just pisses us all off <laughs>. I say that jokingly. I state very clearly in many of the episodes you can not know or see, or have any say in what's happening in your own home. Those are the rules...you have to give it over and I can't even say that I would be willing to do that, but that's why I wouldn't apply and I love our designers and I love the rooms they do, but you definitely have to be willing to give up control. You have to be and if you're not then you may get a beautiful, beautiful room that you're still disappointed in because you have something set in your mind and what I found is the people that are able to give over, are almost always the ones who are the most happy in the end because they don't have a pre-conceived idea of what's going to make them happy.
There was a famous episode that's highlighted on the DVD where a lady was crying and had to leave her room because she couldn't stand to be in it.
She had definitely decided that she did not want anything done to her fireplace. We did not do anything permanent to her fireplace at all. The cosmetic facade that had been built around it was easily taken down, with some patch work on the ceiling and it wasn't really a big deal but she was devastated. She had her heart set on a certain thing, whatever that was, and we did not give her that and she couldn't take it. She really was not as open to change. I definitely have empathy and understanding and sympathy for the disappointment that our homeowners feel when they don't like their rooms; it's a real bummer. As participants on Trading Spaces they've had very high hopes and they've had really intense anticipation about what their room is going to look like and they've thought about it well before their two days arrive. They've thought about it since they found out they were booked on the show, so you can imagine the downfall that comes from have such high hopes and - if you're disappointed - that plummet is going to be quite extreme, which I think accounts for some of the more radical emotions that we see on the show. So I felt for her very much, and I wanted her pain to end, I wanted her to feel okay, I wanted to ease her disappointment as much as I possibly could - but I didn't feel sorry. Does that make sense?
I didn't feel that we needed to apologize. It ripped our hearts out. None of us like to see the people disappointed on Trading Spaces. You should see our crew; they cry right along with the people who are crying. I always look over and I see producers tearing up because they're so moved and happy, and I feel the same way. It's definitely very awkward and we all feel very sad for someone who's disappointed but that also is part of the game and the nature of the situation.
Now do you view the show more as a home improvement show or more as a game? Because you keep mentioning "the game".
Well, "the challenge" I guess is really the word. I don't really think of it as a "home improvement" show. I think it's more about people adapting to change. It's a human drama show, honestly. I think what keeps people watching over and over and over again is that the question is always looming, "will they like it or not?"
And what will Frank or Doug or Hilda...what will they come up with for this room?
Oh sure, I mean it's astounding every time. Honestly, in my opinion it's a miracle every time. For them to actually get finished in two days and I marvel every time that these designers could come up with yet again something else that could be done in that time and that budget. It's extremely impressive.
How much time do they get to look at a room and come up with a design? We don't see that part on TV.
They really only see the room the day before. They're given specs of the room and they've seen pictures and they're been given measurements but they only see the room the day that all of the stuff is being set up. We have what's called a "Day 0" that happens before the actual two days of the challenge itself, the day 1 and the day 2. The designers are there when the equipment is being set up and they see the room then and make any adjustments that they need to make. They come prepared with a concept and a plan for the shear necessity of saving time because we need to be able to start in the morning of day 1; they can't be thinking with the neighbors about what they're going to do. So that afternoon and evening of day 0 they are in the process of actually getting supplies ready for the room.
Is that when they go out and do their shopping?
Yeah, they'll bring some things with them but of course the paint and the wood and all of those types of supplies are all purchased after they get here.
So what's your shooting schedule like? Do you go from one city to another, or do you go home for a couple of days rest?
Well, we'll do three episodes in a row and then there will probably be a couple of days rest while the truck travels to the next city.
Do you have groupies that follow you from city to city?
We haven't had that happen yet <laughs>. We have groupies that sit out on the sidewalk for hours and hours and hours and just watch.
Do you entertain them at all?
Yeah, sure, we go out and talk to them as much as we can. There's definitely a lot of work to be done so it can be difficult.
What would you say is your most memorable episode?
I definitely have a great time in Hollywood with the Woolaby Ave episode; those homeowners were truly fun and funny and I definitely think it was one of our all-time favorites. That was last season, this season we had an episode in Austin, TX and there was a very funny writer/comedian/actor on the show and he really just kept us in stitches. All of the episodes are special in some way or another and sometimes an episode is special to me just because I have family nearby. My sister was a production assistant on all of the episodes in Arizona that we did this season. She's a stage manager and she loves any kind of behind-the-scenes anything, so she came on board as a production assistant in the Arizona episodes when she was visiting me, so that was great. I look back on the Arizona episodes and I just love them because my sister was there. So there are all kinds of personal reasons why I might like an episode but they are all unique and fun and because it's always a rotating set of designers, it's never always the same two with each other. It's always a different mix. I'm on every episode and I feel sort of like the eye of the hurricane, with designers and carpenters and homeowners swirling around me.
Have you seen the DVD yet?
I have not seen it.
It's very good.
I hope fans will really like it.
I'm sure they will. I'm a new fan to the show and I really enjoyed it because I can go back and look at some of the episodes I missed, while also seeing bits and pieces from some of the episodes that I watched.
Do you have any plans to do a reunion special where you go back to some of the homes you've been to and see if they're still the same?
They're already doing some mini spots that run on TLC between the commercials on there. They have some homeowners that they've gone back to and you get to see them today and they talk about how their room is and what they kept or didn't keep. So they've been doing a little bit of that on the network already.
Guess I missed that.
They're pretty random. You'll see them.
I guess it's a little bonus for Trading Spaces fans that also watch other shows on the network.
So, do you think we'll have another DVD down the road?
I don't know, maybe. That would be great. It would be nice to have a bunch of them.
Alright Paige, thanks for doing the interview.
Thank you very much and have a great day.
If you want more information on Trading Spaces, visit the website for the show where you'll find information on the cast and crew, how to be on the show, homeowner updates as well as photo galleries of the rooms before, and after the show.
If you'd like more information on Paige Davis, the host of Trading Spaces, you can visit her website at PaigeDavis.com.