Watching do-it-yourself programs on television lures viewers into a false sense of reality.

It all began, as most new projects do, on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I was channel surfing from the privacy of my unsightly den complete with pizza boxes from last evening’s gourmet meal and laundry–part folded and part needed to be folded.

I, like most women of this century, read decorating magazines with the hopes of becoming inspired to transform my messy home into a camera-ready designer showroom complete with custom drapes and the latest decorating trends.

Yet, the interior designer bug often infects me; it’s similar to a virus and unlike a bacterial infection. It will take some time to pass and must run its course.

This desire to decorate was a passing fancy inspired by free weekend cable programming. Cable channels, for reasons yet unknown to me except as a marketing tool, will often try to trick viewers into buying yet another cable package (as if nothing is on now) by showing channels that they haven’t purchased, for free.

For me, I purchased every cable news and movie package, but watching the DIY and Garden channels seemed more like work than fun.

There, on channel 398, was a show that caught my attention. It was an insipid do-it-yourself-type network, which aired nothing but show after show of how to make this or that, and oh, my favorite–let’s switch homes for two days and change our friend’s decor. Doesn’t that sound like fun?!

My designer style–I like to call it “Early Busy Woman”–has a few ground rules: Rule one, no busy walls. This includes, but is not limited to florals, stripes, funky colors, funky painting effects (airbrushing, rag rolling, stencils, etc.); rule two, no almost-wall-art. This look includes, but is not limited to, stamping and anything framed that could be mistaken for garbage and stickers; and rule three, no carpet and don’t dare think about painting the furniture or the hardwood floors. Period.

My dear friend Magnolia has her home entirely done in what I like to call “Hire a Designer and Pay Out The Ass For It.” Everything matches, everything was purchased from a showroom and everything is perfect, perfect, perfect.

And just for the hell of it, I put our names on a postcard to be considered to “trade spaces.”

Can you imagine it? I, dressed in some oversized button down orange cotton shirt wearing riding tights and Magnolia wearing a similar shirt, but in yellow and wearing a pair of fashionable khakis.

And we would each be given a designer that would lead us to creating a perfect paradise. Except if you watch those shows, you must realize that no one ever listens to the uneducated workers and the designer takes over the whole production. If the designer says “I see a purple heaven,” and the homeowner during the interview is on tape saying, “I like everything simple with nice lines and I’d really hate it if purple was used in any way.”

Well, purple it is!

At the end of the remodel, most homeowners are seen screaming and jumping and saying “O My God. It’s beautiful!” And crying because their dream room has been realized and made to look like something brilliant!

But understanding my dear friend Magnolia and if we’d switched houses for two days, the expected surprise look would be complete horror, anger and despair.

No jumping up and down, no hugging, no tears–of joy, that is. Just several “O My God”s and “How could you do this?”

I believe the producer would have to stop tape. Seeing two women hitting and spitting on each other would not do well for ratings or for the show.

Well, I take that back, ratings would soar. Violence sells.

The show could be refashioned into the “Jerry Springer” mold. It could be called “What the [expletive] did you do to my house!” Hair pulling, paint fights, it would be grand.

But what is more important, a TV show or friendship?

Our friendship would end. Especially when I give my designer buddy the green light to use purple burlap on Magnolia’s walls. The designer would try to sell his artistic decision by saying, “It’s the new wall covering.”

And Magnolia would probably choose some circa 1982 Laura Ashley number for my bedroom.

Her designer buddy would say, “She is caught in this minimalist period and we need to bring her out.”

Only Magnolia and Laura Ashley could even think about life with pink-striped wallpaper, a canopy four-poster bed and rose patterned pillows.


The designers’ inability to comprehend a suitable style by looking at current surroundings and our inability to say “Hell no!” would end our friendship–pure and simple.

But, watching the DIY programs allowed me to get some pinned-up designer frustrations off my chest, similar to a man yelling at the TV while watching a Cowboys game.

“Come on now! Who and the hell has time to make their own wallpaper designs for a 550 square-foot room. Just buy it!!”

“Yeah, right! I just so happen to have a fleur-de-lis stamp in my craft design kit so that I too can make the most unique wall etching with gold paint!”

This is cheaper than going to a therapist. And just think, this Freudian couch was not upholstered, but covered in an old pink and orange second-hand slipcover and our session was done in the privacy of a dreadfully simple split-level, with white walls. EndBlock