Behind the scenes of TLC's ''While You Were Out.'' Designer Stephen Saint-Onge tells why this show won't drive contestants to tears a la ''Trading Spaces''
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Stephen Saint-Onge, While You Were Out

While You Were Out

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  • TV Show
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  • The Learning Channel
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”While You Were Out,” TLC’s spin-off of the ever-popular design show ”Trading Spaces,” is about to do some remodeling of the network’s schedule. The daytime series, which lets homeowners surprise one family member with a room makeover, makes its debut in a prime-time slot this Saturday, Sept. 21, at 10 p.m. EW.com talked to ”While You Were Out” designer Stephen Saint-Onge about the show’s ugliest rooms, weepy contestants, and the best way to hide those hideous booby prizes.

What has been your greatest accomplishment on the show?
There was this blue and white striped room we did for one husband. The show became a journey of learning more and more about this guy from bits of information his wife gave me, and then working that into the design. The room eventually resembled a lake house that he grew up in. When he walked in to the room, he started to cry with happiness. He grabbed his wife and was literally shaking. He noticed every single detail, and it was really moving. You want to recreate that feeling for people.

Do you worry about getting the dreaded ”I hate it” reaction we’ve seen on ”Trading Spaces”?
The reason I wanted to be associated with this show is because you can get information from one of the partners about the other person. It’s not that you can’t go wrong, but having that information makes your job so much easier. And yes, sometimes the spouse’s likes and dislikes will creep into the design, but that’s okay. They both have to live there.

Have you ever had to incorporate something ugly into a room to pacify a homeowner?
In the blue and white striped room I mentioned, there was a dark wood vanity. When I saw it on the video, I simply assumed we’d paint it. But it turned out to be the husband’s grandmother’s, and it meant more to him than anything else he owned. Maybe some other program would have said, hey, we’re changing it. But I decided to add some elements to help it blend in without altering it in any way. You have to put yourself in these peoples’ shoes. I wouldn’t have wanted someone to make a bigger change.

You’ve worked with male and female homeowners. Are men tougher?
I was working with one husband to design a room for his wife, and he really had no idea what her tastes were. It was interesting, because he seemed to rely on how I was feeling about the project to form an opinion. Finally he said to me, ”I’m a numbers guy, and I have no idea how to visualize any of this at all.”

Off the show, you have a roster of celebrity clients such as Rosie O’Donnell. What’s the biggest difference between designing for the rich and famous and working on TLC’s shoestring budget?
Obviously the budget is different, but the thing that might surprise people is that celebrities have the same needs and concerns. Everyone wants their house to be comfortable and inviting for their family.

When the clock is ticking, do you ever have to fight the urge to bite the heads off of your teammates?
On one of the first shows, the host kept coming up to me and saying, ”Are you panicking? I really can’t see this coming together.” And I just kept saying, ”You have to believe. If you don’t believe, you’re not going to see it, and I don’t want to hear it.” The bottom line is, I know it’s going to get done, and I’m not letting anyone come home to an unfinished room.

Where can fans of the show find the best goodies to decorate on the cheap?
People always call me Mr. Home Depot because I’m always there. In one room we used copper plumbing as an accessory, and it showed how accessories can be made of something you don’t usually think of. And it’s so cheap, if you end up hating it, you can always get rid of it.

While You Were Out
type
  • TV Show
rating
genre
network
  • The Learning Channel

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