By Design

Cookie cutter design is boring

by Patricia Cove
Posted 8/10/23

What did all those DIYers ever do before HGTV?

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By Design

Cookie cutter design is boring


What did all those DIYers ever do before HGTV? So many friends and often clients will remark about a segment or a product highlighted on one of its shows, and how it could be incorporated in their design plan. I always make it a point to research the segment, only to learn that the featured idea or item was only mentioned in passing and would never work inside the project being highlighted.

I mention this because at HGTV's inception, many years ago, I had been contacted by an HGTV producer in search of a host for one of their new shows. I was provided with a "design topic" that would be the main idea behind an audition for this new show's host.

Since HGTV was a new concept, and having the crazy idea that I could run a restoration design firm and be a TV show host all at the same time, I spent the next week in total preparation for my audition. I wrote and rewrote my script. I memorized and rememorized each line. I revised and re-revised my introduction, and I agonized over what I would wear. 

The day of the audition, I was a mess, and became even more of a mess upon arriving at the studio, only to learn that my "design topic presentation" had been reformulated into an "interview" about macrame wall hangings. 

Needless to say, I did not get that job.

I relay this story because I soon realized that although being an HGTV host may require some inherent knowledge about construction and design, what they are really looking for are entertainers, and the combination of both is what has made HGTV successful - at least up until now.

Which brings me to the crux of this story. A few weeks ago, I read with interest an article entitled:

"HGTV is making our homes boring, and us sad." Even before reading the article, I had a pretty good idea of what was coming. 

If you have even seen just a few HGTV programs, you are familiar with the premise. The first block shows the unfortunate state of a space, "dated" decor, odd wall colors, and owners who are begging for a total makeover. Enter the program host(s) shaking their heads in disbelief, and bringing the promise of total transformation.

The article then asks of the reader, what happens when people consider how their own homes might fare under this type of scrutiny? All you have to do is visit a Pottery Barn or a Restoration Hardware to discover the answer. People have become so hesitant to express their own design aesthetic that interiors have become predictable in the most boring of directions. All spaces are painted in the same dull hue. All furnishings are styled in the same linear forms, with coverings in the most basic of solid, sometimes nubby, fabrics.

There are two reasons for all of this sameness – resale value and a fear of not fitting in. Owners are watching HGTV, dissecting their interiors, and feeling uneasy about design decisions that were once meaningful to them. Or, they are so worried about resale value that they reject creating spaces that reflect their own individual tastes, even if they have no intent of moving.

HGTV came into existence more than 25 years ago. It surely has given millions of people ideas about how to transform their environments. But it also has the potential to create FOMO (fear of missing out) within less confident individuals, and potential panic about how much it would cost to homogenize spaces that once expressed their individual personalities.

So, here are a few takeaways:

Continue to enjoy your favorite HGTV programs.

Paint your walls in your favorite colors.

Place your great aunt's floral ottoman in the center of your living room.

Don't over prepare for your HGTV host audition.

But, most of all, just because you see something on TV doesn't make it right for you or your home. Have the confidence to approach each design project with your own personality and lifestyle in mind. Only then will your project be a reflection of you, and ultimately a success.

Patricia Cove is Principal of Architectural Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill, and can be reached through her website: