The Austin Chronicle

Spacing Out in Round Rock

The full transcript of interviews with the 'Trading Spaces' cast

By Kate X Messer and Cindy Widner, February 6, 2004, Screens

Welcome to the Chronicle Web extra full transcript of our interviews with the cast of Trading Spaces. Managing Editor Cindy Widner and I spent a blustery day in Round Rock. We interviewed hunky new carpenter Carter Oosterhouse, pert and perky hostess Paige Davis, two designers (supersweet native Texan Christi Proctor and our hero, "dastardly" Doug Wilson), and one set of homeowners.

We ran into some technical errors, but we have tried to mark where the tape gave us fits. Enjoy! – Kate X Messer

Carter Oosterhouse: [We regret that the tape begins with a load of garble, but we began by asking Carter what it was like to work on elaborate carpentry projects in the confines of a two-day TV shoot.] For the most part, being a carpenter, all we're doing is building – entertainment centers, beds – and with the show, we only have two days to build all this stuff. We don't have a whole lot of time to experiment. Every now and then, we're able to get creative, but we are still doing somebody's living room, somebody's bedroom that they have to live in. So granted, we try and keep it as fresh and as nice as we can – doesn't always work that way – but then when we're doing children's rooms on the family show, we're able to get a little more creative, and the juices are able to flow a little bit better. But still, like I said, we are limited, because we only have two days, and it is really tough. Literally, so many times, I have been so frustrated, because I wanted to do so much more. And I'm fairly new on this show. I've been on seven or eight months, so I've been saying, "C'mon let's do this; let's do that! Oh, it would be a great idea to do that." And then the designer is like, "Can't do it."

Austin Chronicle: Do you have a lot of background in building furniture and designing furniture?

CO: Well, I started out in construction when I was a little kid and ran the whole gamut, from framing a house to the finish. Then, when I moved back to L.A., I started getting more into finish work and carpentry work, and I've been out in California for about four years now. So yeah, and my brothers are actually carpenters.

AC: Where are you from?

CO: I'm from Michigan originally.

AC: How many brothers do you have?

CO: Two.

AC: And they all look like you, and they're all here working on the show?

CO: They don't usually, but they live here. And since we were coming into town, the guy who usually helps out, he's taking a break, so they asked if [my brothers] could help, and it just worked out, because they're both carpenters in Texas.

AC: That's crazy. You all have the same boots, too!

CO: I think he got those boots 'cause I got these. There's never a moment where they don't ... they're always able to rip on my ... or "give their views" on what I build.

AC: Give their views?

CO: Give their views.

AC: Or rip?

CO: Yeah, rip on what I do, since they can see it every week.

AC: Will you forgive me for objectifying you, but you're an incredibly hot guy. Do you have a lot of problems with homeowners hitting on you? It is a bit of a schtick on the show, but does it ever get nasty, like, "OK, we need to get out of here now?"

CO: Trying to think of something good – it never really gets too bad, you know [laughter], obviously it's a show, and everybody's doing their thing. I stay outside most of the time, and work out here, and the homeowners are sequestered in their houses.

AC: Yeah, they have to work.

CO: And it's weird, you know. I'm learning the ropes as I go, too.

AC: How many shows have you done?

CO: I've done like 35 now.

AC: Are you after carpenter-actor casting?

CO: I was, but now that I'm on this show, it's pretty much taken most of my time up.

AC: Do you think that if you're on this show for a long time, it's a good transition? Or do you think that it will limit your choices in acting?

CO: It's a hard transition to make, and it's really tough to make that jump. It's tough to get in there anyway. This definitely provides a foot in the door. Whether you can maneuver and get in the window while it's open and market yourself to be viable to the Hollywood community – it's tough, it's really tough. So you have to know if you've been on it long enough, if it's time to go, or if you need more time to be on it to get the exposure. I mean, nobody writes an instructional manual about this type of stuff.

AC: Finessing the transition from home show to future star?

CO: It's definitely tough. But right now, I've been on the show for seven to eight months, and I'm having so much fun. It's a blast. What other job do you get to go into random people's homes and just totally redo a room in their house, and then you leave and you go somewhere else? OK! I'm done with this!

AC: Sort of a two-night stand sort of thing. It occurs to me, just as unsolicited professional advice for your transition, there's probably going to be some more JFK Jr. epic movies.

CO: There you go!

AC: You're affable, you look like him, same demeanor – yeah, a JFK Jr. miniseries.

CO: Yeah! Well, I think I've spent five minutes in my bed since August.

AC: And George Clooney, too, when they do his biopic.

CO: Oh, [Carter uses a disc jockey voice] I'll get right on the phone with my agent!

AC: Yeah, you know, when E! does those celebrity interview fake documentaries –

CO: Yeah, that's the path to stardom.

AC: Hey, it's all about exposure. Thank you so much. We don't want to keep you too long, because you're the one actually working.

CO: Well thank you. And yeah, I know. But it's a good work out.

AC: You actually are working, and it's not like your stunt-double brothers are doing all the work. You're actually doing it.

CO: You know, you try and put some time in, as much as you can. And obviously the cast – we could get everything done, but the cameras slow everything down because of, "OK, set this up, set that up."

AC: Different angles.

CO: And when we're getting bogged down especially – it doesn't happen so much right now, so I can get as much work done as I can.

AC: Do you still find joy in this in your off time? Do you still build stuff?

CO: I do, when I'm at home. It's sort of, like, therapeutic. Because I don't have to worry about the pressure of –

AC: Two days, getting the plywood –

CO: Exactly. And a budget. It is so therapeutic just to be home, making something for yourself.

AC: The way you want to do it. What's your design aesthetic?

CO: I'm more modern; that's sort of what my home is.

AC: Yeah, capital M.

CO: I'm spending so much time here, so I'm not able to do a lot. Right now, I'm trying to become a homeowner, rather than a home renter, so I can do a lot more. That'll be the next step, but I'm still young.

AC: Since your brothers live here, do you have any particular thoughts about Austin? Do you get to do much when you are here?

CO: I love Austin. I have so much fun when I come down to visit. I come down here quite a bit, because they [motions to his look-alike brothers] work here. Some of my friends from school, in Michigan, moved down here because of my brothers, so we come here all the time and love it every time. It's like that movie that was shot here? Dazed and Confused!

AC: The Moon Tower!

CO: "Party at the Moon Tower!" Every time I come here, I drive around and recognize something different.

AC: "I keep getting older, and they keep staying the same age!" I was just relating to that.

CO: [laughter] [At this point Carter is called over to build things.] Thanks, y'all!

Austin Chronicle: So we're asking a couple of stock questions to all of you; we hope you don't mind. We want to find out, since you're in people's homes, having to go out to different places in each town and find things: What's the most heinous design trend going on in interiors these days?

Paige Davis: The most heinous thing I see when I walk into a house, which sends shivers up my spine, honestly has nothing to do with the design of the homeowners; it's the popcorn ceiling. I mean, we've dealt with them our whole lives. It's more common in some regions than others, although I'm not sure I could pinpoint or remember which regions it's more popular in. Every time I see a popcorn ceiling, I just think, "Oh no! What are we going to do with that?" And I'm always so happy when a designer says, "Oh, we're not touching that!"

AC: It's the nastiest stuff to get off!

PD: And I do think – this is probably the most typical, probably the most boring answer I could think of, but – in terms of people's homes and what they're doing across America, it's really more what they're not doing. Nobody's painting. We talk about that all the time, how paint is the easiest, least expensive way to change a room, and it's true. And you will see people put all kinds of love and attention into their rooms with window treatments and pillows and furniture and so many different things – area rugs, everything – and the walls are still so white. And it's not a choice; they just never painted it. I don't know if it's fear, or maybe time, but it really is the easiest, least expensive way to make a dramatic and wonderful change in your room, and nobody does it!

AC: How soon after a disaster room – when you are taping the end, and people are walking out of rooms screaming or crying – how long do you have to stick around? Are you pretty much like, "Cut! We're outta here!"?

PD: If people don't like the room, we certainly don't go screeching away. We will hang as long with the people who don't like it as we will with the people who do.

AC: Do you give them counseling?

PD: I definitely have turned into a counselor before, and I take it as a great honor, because it means that over the two days, they've grown to trust me, and I think that they also grow to really adore and love our crew and the designers, as well. In fact we've never had anybody who's participated on Trading Spaces that didn't like their room in the end who didn't also say, "I had the time of my life, and I would do it again." So, I think that's a real testament to our family atmosphere out here, and it's great. And, of course, we stick around regardless of what the outcome is, and sometimes it is awkward, and sometimes it's just great.

AC: What are your favorite places to shop around Central Texas and in Austin? Seems like you all have had experience here and have mentioned a few local places on the show.

PD: You mean furniture places? What's that store Sandra Bullock shops in all the time? The clothing store?

AC: Well, I know that when you did the Dixie Chicks episode, Hildi kept talking about South Congress.

PD: It's right over there by Whole Foods.

AC: Emeralds?

PD: Yeah!

AC: I didn't know she shopped there. One of my questions is why it seems like 90 percent of the houses are this kind of tract home, subdivision-style house.

PD: I do know that Banyan Productions is trying to mix that up as much as possible. I think that there's a very real reason why the homes tend to be similar that way. Obviously, it's two sets of neighbors trading houses, and that event is 100 percent real, and it's really going on. But there's also a television show being made, and there needs to be room for the catering truck, for all the stuff that goes on with the lights and the people. So the rooms have to be a certain size which usually indicates a certain kind of home. There's got to be room for the challenge itself, in terms of setting up an entire carpentry world, a sewing world that will often go in a garage, and what types of homes have garages? I think it's a very logistical situation, and I do also know that we go out of our way to try to find the older homes that will work and get ourselves in neighborhoods that aren't developed. And I think we're succeeding, actually.

AC: Like you're bringing design where it's needed most? A funky old neighborhood in Central Austin, generally people are buying those houses because they already have an idea of what they want to do with them.

PD: Yeah, I would go ahead and agree with that statement. It's stereotypical to say that, but I think it's true. But also, a lot of those older homes, and the more unique homes, they indeed inspire the designers. I do think the designers get a big kick out of pushing the envelope in the suburbs, but they also – in fact, I marvel at it, how they can come up with new rooms, over and over and over and over again – and so sometimes to give them a little inspiration, it's helpful.

AC: And what about yourself? What about your inspiration? I mean surely, because you're like a machine – in a good way! – do you ever feel burned-out?

PD: No, I really have not. I've become such a fan of the show myself, and shows definitely encouraged me. I want to go back home and start doing a lot of these things [in my own home that] I've seen on Trading Spaces. It's constantly rotating – the designers are always different; there's always a different pairing; there's always a different carpenter; there's always a different city. Every single time we trade spaces, there are four new people who have never ever been a part of the mix before. It always makes a difference somehow.

AC: Do you feel your own design aesthetic has changed or grown since working on the show? What are the things you feel more strongly about?

PD: I do think that I have grown more contemporary. I [had fallen] victim to that bohemian, bourgeois Pottery Barn catalog. I loved it so much, and my apartment in New York is really great. It's really nice, and it's just very predictable. You know, the living room is antique gold, and the bedroom is sage, and I just can't wait to mix that up.

AC: When do you think you'll get a chance?

PD: Yeah! [laughter] Your guess is as good as mine!

AC: Would you let these crews into your house?

PD: Absolutely.

AC: With the same budget?

PD: [laughter]

AC: What designer wouldn't you let into your home?

PD: I don't think there's a designer I wouldn't let in my house. But you know, the thing is, is that I do love all the designers very, very much. Now, would I trade spaces? That's a whole other thing. It's a big difference to allow someone to decorate a room with you. It's another thing to give up absolute control and have no say in it whatsoever. And there's so many people who come on Trading Spaces who for 15 years had no idea what to do with their room, and I guarantee you, the second we pull up, they know exactly what they would or would not do in that room! Things become very clear!

AC: And you help them in that way. You're helping them clarify. So obviously, the show is about democratizing design. And that seems to be more and more of a cultural trend, and there are more and more TV shows like that. There have been makeover shows – before and after. I'm just curious what you think about the trend.

PD: I think Trading Spaces really sets the bar for that. I'm really proud. I think that we sort of led the way for a whole new genre of television, and I think it's really exciting. I feel proud that we're sort of the Classic Coke version, and I think it's great. And I think that the imitation shows are awesome. I think it's really true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I think it says a lot about what we've done.

AC: It's extended on to the shows that aren't literally like it, like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

PD: Oh sure, all the makeover shows. Transformation television, you know, and TLC does it better than anyone else.

AC: Do you also feel like some of this effect goes beyond that culturally. Why things like the Michael Graves collection at Target –

PD: Absolutely. Home improvement, I mean, DIY was already growing tremendously, and then, not to be morbid, but September 11 happened, and everyone wants to nest. And I think that will feed it for a while. People want to stay home, they want to be with their families, they want to be in the safety of their home, and if they're going to spend that much time there, they want it to look nice and reflect who they are.

AC: Do you and Doug ever bust out with the Broadway tunes?

PD: [laughter] No, but Edward and I do. Edward and I are constantly singing show tunes. We will break out into the entire musical of Le Mis.

AC: That needs to be a bumper shot!

PD: We are always singing. Always singing! And I sang Paper Moon to Frank. We were in Atlantic City.

AC: Are you doing anything in theatre right now, or are you too busy with Trading Spaces?

PD: Not right now. I was able to do The Vagina Monologues on our last hiatus. I did the national tour, and I'm hoping to do Chicago this summer. I don't think it's going to work out, this schedule is so tight.

AC: Do you want to roll into film? Is that an aspiration?

PD: Sure! I mean, of course. I have all of the same goals and aspirations every actress has, but I am definitely having a wonderful time doing Trading Spaces, and when I can fit other things in, that's awesome! It's been great to try to do other things in between, but I'll be hosting all the rest of this season, I'll be hosting next season, you know. It's all good.

AC: Tell us about the rugby shirt.

PD: Oh! We shot the opening at the Austin Rugby Football club!

AC: Was one of the homeowners involved?

PD: Carter knows them; I think that was how we got it set up. It was close to the homes, so we went out there.

AC: It's very fetching.

PD: Well believe me, the rugby players look better in it.

Austin Chronicle: You're from Texas, right?

Christi Proctor: Yeah, I live in Waco.

AC: Were you doing interior design in Waco before you got this gig?

CP: I've been a designer for 15 years. Yeah, I'm home.

AC: What is the most heinous design trend you're seeing in interior design? What makes you cringe?

CP: In the world? What makes me cringe? Hoo-boy – I would have to say I am not contemporary, and the new trend right now is a retro kind of contemporary, and it just doesn't feel warm to me, it's not comfortable to me. I like fun juxtapositions and odd things. I like to mix antlers and china and that kind of stuff, but I always like my stuff cozy and comfortable and inviting. It just scares me when things are plastic and chrome, and there's no comfort involved.

AC: Too streamlined?

CP: Not even streamlined, just so much as it's not warm at all. It's one thing for an office, but for your home, where you're going to be every day, flopping with the kids, and the dogs and the kitty cats – I design for "at home," when you walk in, just how it feels – I want it to feel good.

AC: You've been on since this season's premiere?

CP: This is my first season.

AC: Have you had a disaster room yet?

CP: A disaster room? Where they didn't like it?

AC: One that's going to go on the reel later?

CP: Yeah, probably. I did a room in Kentucky, in Louisville – really neat family. And she said, "You know, we're here for the experience, I don't care. You know, we watch TV in this room, we watch movies, we're a movie family, blah blah." She said, "Do whatever; we need a change," and so I changed it. I did burnt paper sacks on the walls, painted tombstones, and made it Western. And she cried. But you know what? She loved it.

AC: Really. I was going to say, I was not onboard with that until I saw it at the end.

CP: You know, I get that in a lot of my designs. People will go, "[pause] We're not sure." And halfway through it, they'll be going, [makes blank face]. And then when I finish, "Ooohhh!" You know, that happens every time. But that's good, that makes for challenging TV.

AC: So do you think they react more generally, having watched the show before, they react with more "theme rooms"? Or is it kind of a mix?

CP: It's a mix. Yeah, it really is. I think the thing with that one was, you walk in this lady's house, and there were vines twisted all over the curtain rods with flowers, and bunny froufrou, you know, and I did this masculine den with burnt paper-sack paper and black silhouettes and Western – and she just, "Hurrrh!" You know. And everybody else in her whole family liked it, except for her. But she got her room.

AC: I'm of the theory that people cry at the end because they're exhausted.

CP: I think you're right. Think about it. You're two days. You've got 50 people moving out of your house, and you're in somebody else's, and you're watching them, thinking, "What are they doing to my house? They're trashing my house!" Which we tarp everything we stand on, the carpet, everything. And then, your two days of not knowing what Doug's gonna do, or Hildi, or me, or whoever –

AC: But especially Hildi!

CP: Yeah, and now Rick and everything, so there's no way to know, and you're flipping out, and you're away from your kids, you're away from your bed, and you can't change clothes, so, some of them are so – like I just finished a show in Birmingham, the woman nearly threw up at the reveal. [Christi makes hurling sound] She was so nervous!

AC: It's like the reality TV thing of, "This is my life, and if I don't react in that way, then I have to live with this forever."

CP: And they've signed up for this really fun thing!

AC: And – they throw up!

CP: And when they're going through it, they're saying, "Gosh, what was I thinking?"

AC: I think it definitely makes them exhausted!

CP: I think you're right. And that woman was absolutely exhausted. And with the family show, you're only allowed two kids on camera, and they had four.

AC: And they still had to deal with their other kids?

CP: And she wanted so bad to get her other kids in, and it broke her heart. And even up to the last minute before she came into the room, she was trying, you know, we couldn't. You couldn't. You can't have 12 people on camera. Twelve microphones, 12 – it's hard. The camera can't even pick up everybody; they had to be in the next room to get all those people in the shot.

AC: So it was like Sophie's Choice for the mom. She has to choose between her kids.

CP: Oh, she does? I will never watch that. Never.

AC: Would you be amenable to playing a free-association design game?

CP: Spmmmrrrrppph! Sure!

AC: I'm gonna name people on your show, and I'd like a one-word answer in terms of their design aesthetic – or just your first reaction.

CP: Oh my gosh, OK.

AC: Doug.

CP: I have a vision of what I'm thinking, I just can't put a word to it.

AC: You don't have to be diplomatic. You can say "off-the-record," too.

CP: In my experience, there's no such thing as "off-the-record." [laughter] No, no, no. I'm not thinking of anything bad, I'm just thinking –

AC: We can move on.

CP: Yeah, do another one first.

AC: Frank.

CP: Frank: Teddy bear.

AC: Hildi.

CP: How do I put this? Class ... but she also has no clue about kids. Know what I mean? A heart as big as gold. And she's now on Trading Spaces Family, and she's doing so great!

AC: Genevieve.

CP: Free spirit!

AC: Edward.

CP: Oh, genteel.

AC: Laurie?

CP: Oh, I'm thinking socialite, I'm thinking Junior League. Very Southern.

AC: Southern! I really like that kid's room she did with the green and pink flowers. Kia?

CP: Oh gosh, I think in colors. Her hair, the whole blond hair thing, I don't know. She is so – what's the word? Did you say Vern?

AC: Vern is next.

CP: Vern, I wanna say: a machine. He's a machine. Who am I missing? Oh, Barry!

AC: He's new. I saw the episode with the kitchen he did with the curvy lines.

CP: Barry is one of the nicest guys ever; what's the word for that? He's a sweetheart. Architect.

AC: Doug.

CP: Doug's sneaky.

AC: [laughter] Do you feel like your own personal aesthetics have morphed since you've started on the show?

CP: No. I grew up in a Southern Baptist minister's home with no money, and my mother and I were the garage-sale queens, designing-on-a-dime kinda queens. It was very much my lifestyle growing up. I feel like I've come home, because I had gotten off into the design world, and doing houses in the Caymans, and spending $2 million dollars on this, that, and the other. And now I'm back to the real world. I like it. I really like it.

AC: Were you working in Waco when you were designing?

CP: Yeah, I had a store with partners called Spice; [partner] Jennifer and I started that together. We're retail. So glad I'm out of [retail]. I still have my design business, but I have a girl who runs it for me at home.

AC: Are you still doing stuff in the Caymans, for business? CP: No, I'm through with my work with those particular clients, but I will do anything. I'll travel.

AC: It was mostly homes? CP: Yeah, residential, I'm mostly a residential designer.

AC: When do you all have hiatus?

CP: May. Maybe. Sometimes we don't get one.

AC: Have you done other episodes in Texas?

CP: This is my first. I'm very excited. I feel like I'm at home. My grandfather lives in Round Rock, my dad lives in Georgetown, my aunt and uncle live in Round Rock, my cousins live in Round Rock, so this is home. My mom's from Leander.

AC: As the new designer, what's the thing that surprised you the most on Trading Spaces, that you didn't expect?

CP: I didn't expect this much of a family atmosphere. It's amazing how much we all bond with each other, get along, and amazing how close we get to the families. We spend two days, two intense days together. It's really neat. Especially both shows: the family show, that's one crew, this is another crew, and it's like family. We practically live together. I was really surprised at how warm and loving – I know that sounds hokey – but there's not anybody on either of the sets that I don't like.

AC: How do you feel your room is coming along?

CP: You know what? I'm excited about it, but I can't wait for them to – because they don't see it yet. I can't wait for it to click.

AC: How much reconnaissance time do you get ahead of time?

CP: I think a couple of weeks. I can't come here; I get a tape of it. Recon!

AC: Do you shop much in Austin?

CP: I don't, only because I shop a lot in Dallas. The only reason I don't shop in Austin is because I don't know it as well. Dallas' World Trade Center, and the Design District. I like better to buy old fun, funky stuff, and I'm incorporating some of that in here.

Austin Chronicle: How's your room going?

Doug Wilson: Good! We've got a bit of an edgy show going. I'm causing lots of trouble.

AC: I was going to ask if you, at this point, are operating on sheer perversity [laughter]?

DW: Sheer perversity?

AC: Like, have you reached the point of, "How can I mess with people the most"?

DW: Well, you know what, it's just pushing the envelope of design. This is entertainment, it's television, and yeah, we're a design show; that's part of it. I try to split it 50-50. We're not Martha Stewart, we're Martha Stewart on acid. I come from an acting background. My background was originally in theatre, and even though I'm not necessarily acting, I'm embellishing and having fun and exaggerating my personality to make it interesting. And I think the viewers – that's what they want. They write to me and say, "We love it when you give it to the homeowners." It's fun to play the devilish decorator Doug, but I always try to give them something that's grounded in design. It may be unexpected, it may be over the top, but there are basic design principles that are the foundation for what I do, as well as for what Hildi does. I'll defend her to that. We're the gruesome twosome!

AC: Do you get competitive about who's the baddest?

DW: Not competitive. No, we challenge each other just to keep creating. And it's a good competition; it's not an "oh my God, she topped me," but it's good for the show, to keep it going, to keep it moving in an upward direction. We're at fourth season, and the ratings are still climbing. With our 100K episode, we spiked to like a nine. Normally, it's like a 7.2.

AC: With the 100-grand episode, do you have any second thoughts about what you did?

DW: Well, within the time, there are always things that you do different. I had to settle for Corian because I couldn't get marble in such a short order. It's just virtually impossible to send out, have marble cut, and brought back in two days, because they have to template it. So it's not something that can be premeasured and sent out. So given time, I wouldn't have used Corian, but it still looked great.

AC: And you don't regret stealing Laurie's stuff?

DW: I was like, "She's already done with that!" That just makes it fun. It's the subplots and things like that. You have to keep moving.

AC: Anticipating that your answer to this will be "everything," what's the most heinous design trend in family interior design?

DW: Heinous? All of these fake vines and foliage, just placed in random places, twisted around curtain rods, you know – of course I think I've offended millions, but ...

AC: And Frank! [laughter]

DW: At this stage in design, in what's becoming more available to the masses, is that we're finally getting decent product for value. And a lot of people, the only education they had on design was to go to the arts & crafts store and buy these kitschy things and tack them up on the wall, and that was interior design, that was decorating. And as a society, we have moved beyond that. Some people haven't caught up yet.

AC: Do you think it can go too far that way, though? If everything is like the Michael Graves-ification and IKEA-fication of America? More decent design at an affordable price, do you think that's going reach a point of saturation?

DW: Well, I think it's a blend of things. There are certain items that you don't want to buy cheap. Fabrics and things that are going to show wear right away. Carpets, you don't wanna go buy the cheap, cheap polyester carpet, because you walk on it three times and you've got a wear pattern. Things like that. But then, accessories and things – you don't know whether that lamp is $3,000 or $30.

AC: You might be keeping it for three years anyway.

DW: Yeah. Some high-end designers say, "Oh, this is something you'll have the rest of your life." You change. People change. We should revamp ourselves every 10 years. Evaluate: Who are we? What am I about? I think that our own personalities should be reflected in your home. It goes back to that idea of decorating by walking into a store and seeing what's there. Well, how many other people have done that? That's not who you are, but you saw it there, and you don't know any better. This show I think is showing people that there are other choices out there that are economical.

AC: In light of the shows you all have influenced and today's makeover frenzy, what do you feel Trading Spaces' future is going to be?

DW: We're going to continue to do the sexes shows and things like that. The show is going to continue to evolve. I'm constantly challenging production and the network, saying, "Let's do this, take it to here," so we'll just get evolved as need be.

AC: So the cast and designers have some input into those processes?

DW: Well, I don't know if we have that much input, necessarily. I think the input of influence that we do have is that the public becomes attached to us. And as we evolve as designers and individuals and personalities, the show is evolving, so it is something that is somewhat maybe uncontrollable in a way.

AC: Have you been shopping in Austin or in Central Texas much?

DW: Yeah. Garden Ridge, the Salvation Army, Saint Vincent de Paul stores. I got a couple of items: two lamps from the thrift store, at Salvation Army, two side tables and a chair from Saint Vincent de Paul. We try to utilize the local market. I don't like to buy too many things at any time. Our fabrics, they do just because I'm in New York City, I'm near the garment district.

AC: Oh, wait, do you mean St. Vincent de Paul's on South Congress?

DW: Yeah, Paul! Nice guy! When I do a room, in a location, if I can buy everything for the most part in the area, then it's true to our audience and our viewers, in that they, too, can go out and find these products in their back yard.

AC: And you're not just buying this stuff at places where everybody can buy at, like the big-box shopping centers.

DW: Yes, it's putting personality into it. If you just go buy at those places, then it's going to lack a personality. Get some age into it; get some patina in it.

AC: What about other than shopping? Do you have favorite things about Texas?

DW: Austin is one of my favorite cities. We've been here every season. That's the only city – was it season two? The Dixie Chicks episode? I did my "Time Flies" show; that was the first show here. And then, oh, some newspaper artwork, that was here last season, and now this season. This should be a very interesting show; I'm looking forward to this one. [He grins knowingly.]

AC: How do you feel the room is coming? [laughter]

DW: It a little rough around the edges right now.

AC: What are their reactions to it?

DW: Well, I can't reveal too much at this point, but there are definitely going to be a lot of surprises in this show.

AC: You guys should come downtown, and do some neighborhoods there.

DW: Yeah. I'm tired of these beige carpets and beige walls.

AC: I know you don't have anything to do with it, but there is a tendency toward the tract house.

DW: Well, look at how we set up. We've got the driveways –

AC: But there are many streets in Central Austin where you could do this: Like mine.

DW: Believe me, we have designers who say the same thing!

AC: We [Widner and Messer] want to trade spaces, but we live too far apart. Not like we are obsessive fans or anything ... Do you guys have obsessive fans? Hardcore fans?

DW: We call them "RFs," rabid fans.

AC: Do they follow you around, like the Dead?

DW: Oh yeah [laughter], I was doing a home-show circuit, and I had a group of them coming. I was in Fort Wayne, New York, Kansas City, and they all get together and show up.

AC: Inappropriate behavior?

DW: Not from them. They're like a fan club of mine, they're called the Triple D's: Divas Defending Doug. They have a Web site [], and they're on the Delphi forums. They're really nice people. They got tired of people on the TLC message board saying, "Oh Doug always does this," and they're like, "No he doesn't!" And all of the sudden they developed their own sort of club. So they're a lot of fun.

AC: Yeah, the horror and anticipation of "Oooh, Doug," could get to be tired. Most of the homeowners are happy.

DW: I know when I go in to do these rooms, in a way, I don't want the homeowners 100 percent on the board; I want conflict!

AC: Well, if you're doing design, there should be anyway.

DW: We have huge female demographics, in 25 to 45 or 55 whatever it is, but the male demographic keeps growing, and we need shows for that audience, to keep reeling them in, and that's why I do some of the things I do. [From] blowing up pictures of women in their skivvies to putting a car in the room, to more mechanical sort-of architectural things that guys seem to tune in for. Just trying to hit as many markets and demographics as we can.

AC: Do you guys get many directives like that?

DW: No, this is the best job in the world. Nobody, no producer or exec, has ever told me what to do; you need to go this way more or that way more. It's just all my own. Now I can't speak for the rest of the cast. You know, it's supposed to be reality-based, even though it's more factual entertainment. We all know reality is forced, it's production. So, in order to have the network give direction would impose upon that.

AC: Despite the limitations of time and cash, is there anything you're really itching to do that just hasn't really felt right to do yet?

DW: I have done, in my little notepad of ideas, all of my big ideas. There's nothing that I'm itching to do. Some of these shows just happen. What I'm doing in this show just sort of happened. People are gonna tune in. It wasn't preplanned; it just grew. And the idea grew. And somebody said something, and ... "hmm"... I can work with that!

AC: You need to grow a mustache so you can wax it and twirl it!

DW: Snidely Whiplash!

The Homeowners: Dewayne & Laura Sowers

Austin Chronicle: When you signed up for it, what were you thinking? How did you all arrive at the decision to go for it?

Laura Sowers: Well, I'm just a huge Trading Spaces fan. I watch it every time it's on. Never missed a show. We're risk takers; we're not scared of change or anything.

AC: Or Doug?

LS: We had no idea that we would ever be picked. The moment I heard Doug was in my house, I was scared to death.

Dewayne Sowers: It's been two years since we signed up!

AC: Wow. How old is this development?

DS: Two years.

AC: Is this one of the developments where they put you with a designer, or a design section that you can talk to about tile and carpets? Did you have any leverage for choosing that stuff when your home was being built?

DS: Actually, we bought the house after it was already built. It was already finished when we bought it.

AC: At that point, did you immediately want to start doing things with it? Were you inspired by Trading Spaces?

LS: Yes. Oh yes, definitely. Our dining room is ruby-red rouge; it's really pretty and dark.

DS: We painted our spare bedroom yellow, our master bedroom and bathroom is blue, and then we painted our dining room.

LS: I sent him out for gold paint, and he brought back red rouge.

DS: Our living room is chocolate.

AC: It sounds like Doug is actually the perfect person for your house. He's big into the chocolate browns, and hey, warm colors in the dining room is very appetizing.

LS: Yeah, I love it. We get little ideas, and he [hubby] does all the woodworking, so we get ideas from the show.

AC: Do you feel apprehensive, knowing that you could be over there working on your own house? How does that feel? Would you rather be in your own house doing that?

LS: I would, but it's different; it's something that you never get the chance to do again. It's a fun time and a great experience.

DS: It's kind of different than I like working, but I don't like doing my own stuff. You always seem to put it off in your own house, but for other people it's different.

AC: How does it feel knowing that all these people are coming through here, with national TV in your home?

DS: Nine o'clock yesterday morning, they'd taken over our house; they were like, "We're here: This is our house."

LS: Leave the door open!

DS: Like last night and tonight, the doors had to be left open for the security guards to come in and out and do what they had to do.

LS: It's weird. We've lived here for two years, and we have never met some of these neighbors until now. They're coming up, saying, "Hi, I'm your neighbor!" "Where do you live?" "Over there!" You've never known these people, and they're coming up, "Hi!"

AC: I never thought about that. The show comes to town, and all of a sudden, you have a community. How do you feel about that?

LS: We were hoping the rain would run them all off today [laughter], but apparently not. It's a different feeling from what we've ever experienced.

DS: On this side of the street, this side of the block always gets together for the Fourth of July, and we have block parties on this side. But you hardly ever see the people on the other side of the block. And now you see everybody.

AC: Any obvious reason for that? Proximity? People just happen to know each other?

LS: I think so. I think so.

AC: Have you found with all these fans coming to get a look, are you going to bond with some of these people over your fandom for the show? Maybe some watching parties?

LS: I'd say maybe watching parties.

AC: At least the episode with you guys. What do you all do?

LS: I'm a nurse here in Austin at a neurology office.

DS: I'm a manager for an automotive company.

AC: Well, it's such a sweet show, because it's not just these outside people coming into people's lives; they make it feel like they're a part of it.

DS: What's neat now is that they've expanded to do the family version, and on Saturday mornings, they have the Boys Versus Girls. That's pretty cool.

AC: It seems like people really get into the show in a way that's personal.

DS: Our neighbors [the ones with whom they traded], they had never watched the show until we recruited them to be on the show.

AC: Oh, man. Really?

DS: They had no idea what they were getting into.

AC: Do they now? [laughter]

DS: They had no idea who the designers were before we talked them into doing it. They had only watched bits and pieces.

AC: Well, good luck with the rest of the room! I bet y'all have homework tonight!

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