Coaching HGTV…

Today on the radio program I was able to articulate something I’ve been sensing for some time; Is HGTV and other design programming becoming all too formulaic? And has the real message of why and how we design to improve our lives been lost in a consumer carnival of false reinvention, reruns and redundant creative outcomes? Despite the ratings…have we grown a bit tired of the same old design shows?


To explore this question I recently sat down with my team to take a straw poll of sorts. My team is comprised of people who think differently from one another on many subjects. Diverse in both age and economics…they always surprise and challenge me with new perspectives. Admittedly, the sample size is ridiculously small I know, but still…I wonder if the rest of you may be feeling the same way? So, this week I solicited their opinion for this blog and my radio show. All I can say is that I was both amazed and intrigued by the discussion. Having appeared on one of those shows the feedback has been very interesting. Although people loved the episode…a resounding number of them wanted more content. Hmmm.

A quick story. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Candice Olsen, and hear her thoughts on her design approach and television experiences. One thing from that encounter has really stuck with me. I remember her saying that when she was approached to do a design show, one of her fears was that the entertainment content would in some way trump or clown the authentic process of design. The real work. In other words, she was concerned that a television show, would not allow her to demonstrate what she really goes through to build amazing and personal spaces for her clients. And honestly, to her credit…her shows have always tried to show how design solves real lifestyle problems wrapped with great style. I respect her for not only saying that…but having the guts to share that with us. Which brings me right to the point. Where’s the CONTENT? All I can say is that from my creative seat here at The Design Coach, the process of design and decision-making is dramatic, exciting and informative enough, that it does not fit into a formula! And you know what…that’s what we all LOVE about art and design. It’s never the same! And every client, situation and project is different. Showcase that wonderful world, with the right content and the right “guide” and some production company will be filling a void that clearly exists in original AND informative design programming. But only if…they’re courageous enough to break from monotonous, matrix of current design television construct.

So folks, the radio show from this morning will be loaded onto my site on Tuesday. I encourage you to listen and react. I think it’s time we had this conversation. That being said, for what it’s worth…here are six ways HGTV and other design shows could improve the content of their programming NOW! Listen, I too love what HGTV and other design programming has meant to me personally, and the awareness of design as a whole…but beyond the personalities and the promotions…should be a purpose!

Here goes…

  • Show more of the how the designer & the client arrived at the actual decision. Why did they rule out certain options? The editing process is the most difficult and interesting part of my job. Not only is it preloaded with dramatic discussions regarding budget, taste and function…but the personal opinions, quirks and requests are entertaining. In the end, people know that design is both a human and a creative exercise…and they want to see their struggles reflected in the programming. So…don’t edit the editing! The journey of design is as important as the destination.
  • There are way too many couples with no kids featured on these shows! We need some balance. News flash from flyover country…we breed. Shocking I know. There is nothing more fun, entertaining or again…dramatic…than trying to design for families. Their lives are hectic, complex and evolving…and we’re all just trying to make it work! And, don’t just show us the hosts families! Show us everyday families trying to find common ground with each other on the design of their homes and their lifestyles!


  • More conversations with the contractors, design talent and clients to show actual problem-solving. The contractors and the artisans are the creative SUPERHEROES who really make design happen. Showcase them! And I don’t mean contractors turned show hosts! People who are actively practicing their trade NOW! One of the biggest deficits I see is how homeowners communicate, or don’t communicate effectively with their contractors. What a huge opportunity to demonstrate the best and worst ways to get the job done.

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  • Show us how to make it personal…not just beautiful. How many times can we keep seeing the same design solutions with a different host or client? Can’t we do better? One of the best things about this business is that EVERY client is different, and the world of design is too diverse for the same solutions to appear in multiple shows. Take us to the finish line…and show us how to complete a room, not just build great spaces. And if you’re in need to new ideas…we know an army of creatives that will light your audiences hair on fire!
  • Celebrate the best design vendors and manufacturers in our business! I am so privileged to work with some of the most amazing resources and people on the planet. Why are those artisans and influencers who really drive the design landscape, so difficult to find in today’s popular programing? How fun it is to be able to explore the constant creativity of our industry from the comfort of your home? Moving on…
  • Less formulas. We’re on to you. And if you want to keep us…a combination content and charisma will keep us coming back. Caricature is fun…but thin, and not very fulfilling. You only have ½ the equation. It’s time we all recognize that there’s a difference between candy and real desert.

Next, seven shows HGTV or another network should contract to produce NOW! Ok, these are working titles…and I’m not saying they’re perfect…and I would love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to see!

Here’s mine…

  • He said, SHE shed: Husband vs. Wife design a She-Shed and a Man Cave for each other. Each work with a designer and contracting team to build these spaces. How well do they know each other? How will they turn out? What special touches can they include that make it a true labor of love. Or, where did it go horribly wrong? I could go on forever.
  • Design Deconstruct: Show us the amazing reveal at the beginning of the show!!! Then, show us how you got there! I just had a women today say one of her take-aways from my radio show this morning was that the networks rarely show HOW the client arrived that design decision. This IS what it’s all about. Design junkies and casual enthusiasts alike LOVE shows that inform and entertain.
  • Accessories in Action: So many people cannot afford to remodel, but still want to refresh their interiors. Mixing your new and old accessories creatively is a huge challenge for so many! Can’t you show us how to do that?! At The Design Coach we do it everyday! Take us shopping with you and show us how buy and place the elements that make your house a home! And not just those you find at a fly market, fix and flip.
  • What am I going to do with that?!!: Inherited pieces the design team can reinvent and repurpose into a client’s existing or new design. This happens to us ALL the time. Even Candice Olsen has to work around recliners the husbands insist on keeping. SO DO WE!!! From taxidermy to beer can collections…show us how to stylishly and creatively use the unwanted, the uncommon, and under-appreciated. Real design is more of a quilt than new bedspread…show us how to stitch it together.
  • Field Tripping: Take us on field/road trips and showcase and interview the people, manufacturers and industry influencers who are changing and defining today’s design! Seriously, this is a no brainer. Who doesn’t like a road trip?!
  • You’ve got to be kidding me?: Have kids draw on paper their dream room…and have the best design talent and/or celebrity designers pull it off on a budget! Have the kids help, there’s a million philanthropic angles here, and nothing more entertaining than dreaming with kids.
  • The Fantastic 5: The budget is 5K. That’s it!! Not everyone can afford to remodel and real design is about prioritizing and getting the most out of the money you spend. It’s not about how much you spend, but where you spend it! Show me, teach me…don’t just “makeover me happy.” That’s not a thing. But it sounded good.

I could go on all day. And you know what, when I come up with a few more…I’ll just keep throwing them out there. Messages in a digital bottle. Fifteen plus years as an artist, contractor, retailer and design professional have taught me many things. None more true, or important, than maybe the real mission of my business, is to not only inspire my clients to create personal and meaningful interiors…but to coach the industry, and those who influence it, from my perspective in the trenches of design. Please join the discussion, we love HGTV and design programming so much…but we need to talk.