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4-Letter Word: HGTV

Feb. 24, 2016

Our editor-at-large has a guilty pleasure

I have a confession to make, and it’s a bad one, so brace yourselves: I watch reality design shows on HGTV.

I know, I know: it’s wrong for so many reasons. It’s an oversimplification of the complex nature of the work that design practitioners do on a daily basis. The shows are a cheap veneer of the incredibly rich and inspiring work of designers that we profile and whose work appears in the pages of the magazine.

I’m sorry. I really am.

But as I’ve stated in the past, I’m an absolute sucker for renovation projects. So when Tuesday evening rolls around and it’s time for a new episode of HGTV’s hit show Fixer Upper, you can bet I’m parked on the couch with a bowl of ice cream watching Chip and Joanna Gaines bring some outdated Texas homes back to life. Honestly, who on earth can resist Chip’s comical antics and Joanna’s love of shiplap?

Sure, the contemporary farmhouse décor chockful of rustic charm with their open floor plans, reclaimed wood floors and furniture, and updated fixtures can get predictable. I’ll concede that. But what never gets old to me is seeing the complete transformation of some dilapidated house into a warm and inviting home right out of the pages of Country Living.

On the other hand, I’ve also been sucked into watching Ellen’s Design Challenge, and I have to say I’m not happy about it, as my wife can attest. Although I’m curious as to the process by which the contestants on the show fabricate their pieces of furniture—some of which are inspired, others that are decidedly not—what I have disdain for is the fact that it’s a contest with unrealistic time constraints.

I’ve never visited a furniture manufacturing facility in my day (and I’ve been to a few) where people were running around frantically like chickens with their heads cut off in an attempt to throw a couch together. It just isn’t how furniture is made. Not to my knowledge anyway.

That’s not to say design contests are bad, per se. We sponsor our own for design students, in fact. Recognizing and celebrating good design is something we ought to do.

At the end of the day, I guess I rationalize my interest in some of these shows and contests by the fact that they are at least spurring interest in design as a whole and bringing it to the masses. How accurately they depict reality leaves something to be desired, sure, but as interest and awareness grow, doesn’t the opportunity for education open up with them?

About the Author

Robert Nieminen | Chief Content Director

Robert Nieminen is the Chief Content Director of Architectural Products, BUILDINGS and i+s, sister publications of Smart Buildings Technology. He is an award-winning writer with more than 20 years of experience reporting on the architecture and design industry.

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