Now that Trading Spaces has become one of TV’s guiltier pleasures, what have 27.6 million Space addicts meant to the show’s galloping group of designers off screen? A definite spike in phone calls, according to Atlanta-based designer Vern Yip, who, in addition to Laurie Smith, Doug Wilson, and Hilda Santo Tomas, runs his own design business. (Frank Bielec runs a crafts company; Genevieve Gorder runs a graphic-design firm.) ”Every day I have about 30 voice-mails from people who have found my number who would like to hire me,” says Yip, who has worked with budgets as high as $4 million. All the attention has Gorder wondering, ”What are we? Actors, designers, what?” We wondered too, so we did a bit of a background check.
FRANK BIELEC HIS PAST Bielec, 50ish, worked as an elementary school teacher and florist. FUN FACT Runs Mosey N Me, a crafts company in Katy, Tex., with his wife. CLAIM TO FAME Obsessed with painting. Also, shares his home with 12 rescued sugar gliders (squirrel-like creatures).
GENEVIEVE GORDER HER PAST Gorder, 27, worked as a graphic artist for MTV. HER FUTURE Look for this New Yorker’s designs on Tanqueray 10 gin bottles, on a blue-jeans line, and on greeting cards (available at Barneys NY). CLAIM TO FAME Moss walls in a San Diego apartment. How was she to know the tenants had allergies?
LAURIE SMITH HER PAST This Mississippi-based mom-to-be studied theater and broadcast journalism. Later worked at an ad agency writing press sheets for professional wrestling (FYI: Hulk Hogan prefers to be called Terry, if you don’t mind). CLAIM TO FAME Fabric-fond Smith, 33, has a tendency to blow her budget on silk.
HILDA SANTO TOMAS HER PAST Atlanta-based Tomas, 41, lived in Washington, D.C., where she ran political campaigns and worked as a stockbroker. HER FUTURE Getting hitched in Paris. CLAIM TO FAME The daredevil known for gluing straw onto a wall fesses that ”if [the homeowners] knew what they wanted, we wouldn’t be there.”
DOUG WILSON HIS PAST After college, New Yorker Wilson, 37, worked as a handyman. FUN FACT He still holds his junior high high-jump record (did we mention the school closed after he graduated?). CLAIM TO FAME The self-proclaimed ”bitch” of the bunch lists Liza Minnelli as a previous client.
VERN YIP HIS PAST Backed out of medical school to earn his master’s in architecture and management; Yip, 33, later worked for an architectural firm. FUN FACT Thinks tearing up carpets and painting walls is ”good to get your aggression out.” CLAIM TO FAME Coming in on a dime. He’s gone over budget only once