Monday, June 14, 2010

Designing TV

As the stereo is always on in a bachelor's house, the TV is always on in mine. Once the dinner is made, the beverage glass full and the mail skimmed through, I plop down to do my usual multi-tasking with the computer on my lap and the remote control at arms length. The DVR is always programmed to record my favorite shows and once I look that over, I am usually scanning through for whatever favorite movie might be on.

Years ago I was an HGTV fan. That was when Mary Emmerling did her country show every morning and right after that Joe Ruggiano would walk us through some amazing interiors from around the globe. On Sunday nights they also had a show called The Good Life where they interviewed people who left their routine corporate lives to follow their artistic dreams. That show usually left me in tears as I was fantasizing for the day I wanted to open my own store. Ah, to dream... But then somewhere between Trading Spaces and Design on a Dime, something went awry. Suddenly TV hosts became anyone next door and the "You can do it!" mantra ran amuck (and the results even more tragic!). From American Idol to Design Star I know you are with me when you stare at the TV and say, "How did that person get on this show?" Such is not the case of my favorite must-see-TV, Sarah's House.

I discovered Canadian designer Sarah Richardson years ago hosting her first show on the Fine Living channel called Room Service. The show was good enough with Sarah starring solo showing small room makeovers and a few how-to projects. Her style was clean and fresh and she had a pleasant ease on camera. Then a few years later she and her design team launched a new show called Design, Inc. where you could see the work of an interior design company handling larger makeovers and some serious remodeling projects. This year I stumbled upon Sarah's House and it blew everything else she had done out with the bathwater.

The after picture of her 60's style split ranch complete with new windows and landscaping.

The side entrance from the car port!

The Canadian HGTV seems to have it going on with hosts like Sarah, Candice Olson and also my new favorite Mike Holmes of Holmes on Homes. Who wouldn't want this guy to build your dream home? The production value is so much better than our U.S. versions and the talent seems to be, well, real TALENT! Professionals with good, polished skills and education in their craft. What a concept!

What I learned: A soft pink accent color looks fresh and modern
when mixed with tan, not white.

Sarah's House (season# 2) starts with Sarah searching for a house to buy and renovate. Each episode walks us through a stage of the process one area at a time. First we see her finding the right property and hiring the contractor. Then, each episode tells the story of the design concept, construction and decor of that room; whether landscaping or backyard pool, living room or kitchen, laundry room or car port. From tear down to rebuild we watch her deal with unforeseen construction problems and quick solutions. But the real fun begins when Sarah and her design partner Tommy start the pretty side of interior design as they find fabrics for inspiration, hunt for antiques for furnishings and gather the usual cool objects to complete her trademark style. Unlike Candice Olson who uses all new materials, Sarah and Tommy love to dig for antiques and unusual lighting fixtures and their comic banter while shopping is also fun to watch. I am also jealous as hell as how they have such a plethora of facilities to choose from: the perfect upholsterer to not only recover but spray paint any piece, the cabinet maker to transform that vanity into a sink and someone else who can make any object into a lamp. But, she is an interior designer and you must have an arsenal of craftsmen at your fingertips if you want to serve your customer.

What I learned: Using a lighter color cabinet on top and a darker color on the bottom
helps warm up the kitchen and make it seems less utilitarian.

Although she uses a lot of vintage objects her aesthetic is clean and modern and more importantly: finished. She (like Candice) polishes her work to the nth degree. There is no crafty shtick going on here: no ridiculous paint colors or using glue guns instead of sewing machines. She's a pro and it shows and these are the how-to lessons the viewing public need to learn. She's a supporter of using the best quality where it counts (windows, floors, plumbing, tile) and cutting costs on some cosmetics (pre-fab cabinets, inexpensive fabrics). She is constantly concerned with the budget and openly talks about it on camera (in Canadian dollars) and for the last episode of each series she brings back the real estate agent to reprice the property to see if she could list it for more than she put into it. All in all, entertaining, stylish and so educational.

What I loved: A nursery with adult colors!

What I learned: Use the more expensive tile on one wall.

What I learned: Good design should be everywhere.
Don't overlook any room you use a lot.

What I learned: Resell value can be added everywhere.

BUT THEN! In her 3rd series she redoes a country house on 50 acres and another version of Sarah's style shines. The before and afters are amazing and watching how she and Tommy design the space honoring the country style but with her modern spin is really wonderful to see.

What I learned: Pay more to replace any original exterior design. (New windows).

What I learned: Unmatched chandeliers make a boring space fabulous.

What I learned: Build out a wall to add needed closet space.

What I learned: The salvaged barn wood ceiling adds texture and
wood strips help break up the wall height.

What I learned: Antique dark rugs look great with fresh white furniture
and the washed wood ceiling helps to keep it modern.

What I learned: Use the color grey somewhere if you have stainless appliances.

What I learned: The right fabric can create the right emotion.

The shot above from a restaurant design Sarah did.
What I learned: Home Depot chandeliers!

Now as I was gathering pictures for this post it looks like series #4 has been shot and will air soon: Sarah's Cottage! Set the DVR as I think you'll love it.