Most Inspiring Design TV Shows
You'd be amazed that today's design shows can give you new ideas for your own business.
When it comes to design and decorating shows on television, I'm something of a connoisseur. During an eight year stint in New York City in the '90s, I cut my teeth on the genre by watching every home improvement show I could get my eyeballs on. After moving back to Texas, I graduated to TLC's Trading Spaces and Sell This House on A&E. I sat awestruck through whole seasons of Debbie Travis' Facelift, eagerly anticipated Thom Felicia's makeovers on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and found Robert and Cortney Novogratz's lone season of 9 by Design completely amazeballs. What do I watch for design inspiration now?
Secrets From a Stylist (HGTV)
Hands down, Secrets From a Stylist is my favorite design show currently airing on television. Former magazine stylist and Design Star winner Emily Henderson begins each episode by giving the couples she works with a "style diagnostic," presenting them with various options of seemingly unrelated objects like teapots or telephones to draw out their inner design preferences. Taking these inclinations into consideration, Emily reveals the made over space decorated in one person's style, then she sends the clients off again and revamps the room, incorporating elements of the other person's tastes to create a look that fully merges the couple's diverse styles. Her work tends to be elegantly quirky, beautifully composed, and feels both expensive and livable—a really tough combination to pull off. Although she doesn't aggressively push her clients to be bold for boldness' sake, she swiftly ushers them past their decorating fears into design nirvana. (Photos courtesy of HGTV.)
Color Splash (HGTV)
I really respond to color, and true to its name, Color Splash really brings it where color’s concerned. Host David Bromstad—the inaugural Design Star winner—tends to work in bold contrasts and graphic details, combining colors and materials in uniquely appealing ways. Even when David's working with more conservative clients, his rooms never wallow in bland tradition. He manages to bridge the gap between those homeowners' earth toned inclinations and a more modern, colorful aesthetic. When he's paired with more daring clients? Then you really see some thrilling design escapades. Either way, David's work is very clean, streamlined, saturated and cool. (Photos courtesy of Gawker and David Bromstad.)
The Antonio Treatment (HGTV)
HGTV viewers tend to have very strong feelings about Antonio Ballatore and his show The Antonio Treatment. They either love it or they hate it, and I am firmly ensconced in the first camp. Some designers may push the envelope...Antonio gnashes that sucker with his teeth until it's nothing but paper pulp. The former set designer and Design Star winner's penchant for risk-taking and flair for the theatrical tend to amp up the spaces he designs. No technique, material, color or object is off the table—he boldly goes where no designer has gone before. The most casually confident designer on television, I admire Antonio's carefree attitude and his ability to Just. Do. It. (Photos courtesy of Everything is Art and HGTV.)
House Hunters International (HGTV)
Not only do I enjoy the voyeuristic appeal of seeing the interiors of strangers' homes, I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the cultural norms of other countries, where home decorating is concerned. Europeans and the Japanese have much more experience designing for small spaces, so their kitchens and bathrooms tend to showcase space-saving features that are ahead of the curve. Brits inspire me to be more playful with color and decorating details. Scandinavians show us the merits of minimal living. Tropical locations tend to feature the beautiful grain of exotic (to us) hardwoods. Watching House Hunters International is like a 30-minute escape from the everyday. (Photo © 2011, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.)
Design on a Dime (HGTV)
Did you just scrunch up your nose thinking about the cheesy decorating projects that ran rampant on previous seasons of Design on a Dime? While the show still features plenty of DIY art projects, there's very little resemblance between this iteration and seasons past. Design Star finalist Casey Noble engagingly hosts this revamped budget-friendly show, but now the budget is a more realistic $2500 per episode. Casey's rooms tend toward sunny dispositions, and that cheerful lightheartedness reminds me why many of us got into this business in the first place—for the fun of it! (Photos © 2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.)
Flipping Out (Bravo TV)
There's no better guilty pleasure for an interior designer than to watch Jeff Lewis on Flipping Out. His designs are consistently beautiful, upscale, and much more Zen-like than you would expect from someone with nearly crippling OCD. Ever made your design assistant don a hazmat suit and wear it in public for a day as punishment for a screw-up? Bought your maid plastic surgery procedures? Had your project-manager-slash-aspiring-actress adopt the voice and persona of a no-nonsense brute named Deb when a difficult call has to be made to a subcontractor or a slow-paying client? Jeff Lewis has, and that's why you watch. (Photos courtesy of Bravo TV.)
Rogier van der Heide: Why Light Needs Darkness (TED)
While not a television show per se, this short video on TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) from lighting architect Rogier van der Heide offers a whole new perspective into lighting design. He put the concepts he discusses into practice for 2011's Super Bowl halftime show, designing costumes for the Black Eyed Peas' electrifying performance. (Photos courtesy of ArtMag and TED.)
Robin Callan is the founder of Room Fu, a Best of Austin award-winning interior design firm and long-time defender of affordable design. Her blog, Fu for Thought, features steals and deals, design-related musings, and interviews with celebrity designers.