After almost 10 years off the air, TLC’s home-improvement hit is getting a fresh coat of paint. Trading Spaces joins the reboot craze sweeping television with a brand new season beginning April 7.
Original host Paige Davis is back, alongside many of the original designers and carpenters, as well as some new faces and a couple of tweaks to the format (higher budgets! Pop-up tents from the sponsors!). Davis also assures viewers that the show will feel familiar, sticking to its original concept of teaming up neighbors to swap rooms and make them over — with the help of some expert designers. “It’s like the TV version of comfort food,” she says.
EW caught up with Davis on what brought her back to the TLC hit, why now is the perfect moment for Trading Spaces to return to television, and why viewers are more design-savvy than ever before.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Reboot fever is a thing right now, but what was it that convinced you and the other original cast members to come back?
PAIGE DAVIS: I was desperate to do it. I love this show. I always have. I think I speak for our entire cast when I say that this show means a lot to us. Not only was it successful and it changed our careers, but we really did form a family doing this show. We really do get along and love each other very much, and it was a meaningful experience for all of us. I was really looking forward to working again with all of my friends. One of the best parts of the experience was to go back and shoot more episodes and find out that it wasn’t a fluke. We actually do have the chemistry and camaraderie we thought we had.
What was the timeline for getting this back on the air and reuniting the original cast?
I didn’t know anything about it until it was announced to the public. I called TLC right away and let them know I was very interested, and it would mean a lot to me to host it. I also told them that if they decided to go a different direction, and they wanted to do a whole new cast, that I was still available to them as a consultant or in any way. I told them that we would all feel that way. We all hold the show very dear, and we believe in it so much. So I just kind of offered myself up. It was soon after that I found everybody was on board, and I found out when we were going to start shooting the episodes. When I finally got the schedule, I found out we were indeed traveling the show, which I thought was great. One of the aspects of the show I loved so much was that we went all over the country, so when I got the schedule and found out we were going to be in Southern California and Atlanta and Baltimore, I thought, “Oh yes, that’s great, we’re going to be traveling the country again.” Because it was a big part of what made the show so successful. People who watched it felt like, “Oh, they might come to me.”
Why do you think this is a good moment for Trading Spaces to return?
There’s a nostalgic wave on television right now. There’s a lot of shows coming back, and I think it’s really terrific that TLC has jumped on that bandwagon. I know that fans have been asking for it forever. I get emails and comments from people, and tweets from people all the time saying, “When will there be a reunion? When will the show be coming back? We want it back.” With the kind of landscape of television right now, it is sort of ripe for our seed for sure. It’s great, it’s kind of like [saving] the best for last.
Do you think if you’d try to do it sooner than this it might not have come together in the same way?
Oh, who knows? I think fans would have been excited either way. Things work out the way they’re supposed to. If they tried to do it earlier, everyone might not have been available, and so, they may have postponed anyway. This is definitely the best possible time. It’s a nice 10-year mark that we’ve been off the air, so it’s a nice rounded anniversary, and everyone is available and was able to dedicate the time. It’s come together exactly as it should.
This is a show about camaraderie and teamwork. Given that now’s a very divided time in our country, do you feel this is an important moment for it to come back into the world?
Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s a difficult thing to talk about because our show is so fun and fresh and family-oriented. It’s full of so much camp and humor and joy. In truth, even in its first go-round, it witnessed its blossom right after a big tragedy in our country. It was right after 9/11, when people were staying home, when people were wanting to nest, wanting to be with their families. That kind of assisted in this sort of gigantic DIY boom that happened across the country. Frankly, in terms of the everyday Joe and Sue Smith across the country, our show really generated [that]. This go-round, it’s the same situation: Our country is very divided right now. There’s a lot of opinions and families are torn apart by some of the political stuff that’s happening in our country right now. It’s scary times; it’s weird times; it’s unique to our history at this moment. People are looking for comfort. Trading Spaces, similar to the other shows that are being brought back right now, it’s like the television version of comfort food. It’s like saying hello to an old friend that you’ve missed. There’s a lot of comfort in that. There’s a lot of solace in that. And a lot of trust that you’re going to deliver. I want to see something I know and I love at this very chaotic time in our history. People are longing for something that’s going to make them feel better and just let them forget for a little bit. Entertainment can be very informative in terms of documentaries, and art is definitely holding a mirror up to nature and all of those things, but you obviously want to turn on your television and have a good time and relax. Not only will it entertain you, but it will inspire you and it will make you want to do things in your home. One of the great things about Trading Spaces is not only is it inspirational, but because of the inherent time crunch and budget restrictions, it’s always very obtainable.
People are looking for the familiarity of the original show of course, but what are some new things fans (and newcomers to the series) can look forward to?
Mostly, the show is identical to what it was before, and fans will be very happy to witness that. The format is the same. We did raise the budget to reflect inflation because the budget was set over 20 years ago. It’s been doubled in fact, from $1,000 per room to $2,000 per room, which we hope still reflects an obtainable, relatable budget. The fancy television that we see nowadays is great, but as beautiful and gorgeous as those rooms are, it can be difficult for the everyday person to replicate without the funds to accomplish it. It’s nice to bite off and swallow something you can really chew — one room for starters, not an entire house, and a relatively obtainable budget for a majority of the country. But it has doubled, which is good. We need to be able to actually do something in the room. The other thing that’s a little different this go-round is each team will have their own carpenter as opposed to one carpenter being shared between them. There’s a neat little element that’s been added for our sponsors where they set up a tent. The neighbors go into the tent, and they choose any item that they want, and the designer must use it in the room. It’s a great tool because 1) it helps our sponsor with integration, and 2) it puts a little bit more power into the hands of the neighbor team. The concept of the show is that the neighbor gets to do what they want in their friends’ room. But by the sheer nature of the time constraint, the designer really shows up with the plans already complete, and the shopping is already complete, and there’s only so much say that a neighbor can have in the room. So I love that this is an opportunity for them to kind of force the designer into something they really want that they think their friends will like very much. It doesn’t come out of their $2,000 budget, so they’re free to choose any item they want. They can go as small as a vase or a lamp to as big as a rug or a chair. Whatever they think is going to work in the room. It adds a nice little piece of jeopardy because most of the time it works really beautifully, but there were a couple of times where the designer was like, “Oh dear.” Not that the item wasn’t amazing — all the items in the tent were fabulous — but it forces them to change their vision. They have a whole vision, and they might have to mix something up in order to accommodate what their team wants to do, so I like that it puts power in the hands of the neighbors.
In the 10 years that the show was off the air, design aesthetics and tastes have changed a lot. Was that something you noticed in the process?
Viewers, in general, are significantly more sophisticated and educated about design in a way they weren’t necessarily as much before. I’ve noticed that people have done a lot of work in their homes. Everybody’s homes kind of still look alike, but it used to be that everybody’s homes looked alike because they didn’t do anything. Now they all look alike because they all want to do gray and white. They were kind of going in and shaking people up a little bit, breaking people outside of their comfort zone with color, but you can really see the pride that people have been taking in their homes. It’s work they’ve done themselves, and it’s work they’ve done well. That was not really the case before. With Pinterest and all the home design shows, that’s all had a profound effect. Design is no longer just for the snobby elite. Everybody thought that to do something to your home, you had to hire some expensive interior designer. Now people are realizing, no, we can actually do it ourselves, and we can make our home rise up to meet us and greet us in a way. It’s like putting on a really nice outfit: You carry yourself differently. It’s no different than your home — you walk into your home, and if it looks really great and it’s special, your whole life feels a little more special. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
Trading Spaces begins Saturday, April 7 at 8 p.m. on TLC.