How Not to Decorate

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
How Not to Decorate TV Poster Image
Snide UK designers turn garish into gorgeous.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The hosts often make condescending comments about their subjects' unusual/outdated behavior and rarely take the subjects' feelings into consideration.


Verbal disagreements can sometimes get heated.


Occasional uses of "hell" and "bitch" are audible; "s--t" is bleeped.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that most kids probably won't be drawn to this British decorating series. The hosts can be very condescending when they talk about people's unusual and outdated décor, often making their quips in the homeowners' presence. Disagreements can get heated, and, for the most part, the designers totally disregard the non-professionals' feelings. Expect occasional strong language (the worst is bleeped).

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What's the story?

In HOW NOT TO DECORATE, British designers Justin Ryan and Colin McAllister transform décor-challenged homes throughout the United Kingdom into aesthetic and functional masterpieces they hope the homeowners will love. As each episode begins, cameras follow Ryan and McAllister through the homes as they comment on what they see. Often the outdated and otherwise questionable décor they find (homemade, margarine-hued textured walls or a garish fireplace carved out of concrete, for example) leaves them dismayed. Once they've taken it all in, the duo tours the home again, this time with owners, who attempt to explain the reasoning behind the \"offensive\" design aspects. Then Ryan and McAllister head to the drawing board to devise a game plan for bringing some style to the house. Once the work is done, the duo waits a month before sending in a camera crew to see how the owners have adjusted to their revamped space.

Is it any good?

This fast-paced series is full of fun design ideas that might motivate viewers to make changes in their own homes. But the hosts' overly judgmental attitudes toward the homeowners' decorating tastes ("That's fake bad taste -- it's not even good enough to be real bad taste," for example) is hardly inspiring.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why shows about houses and design makeovers are so popular. Who's the target audience for these shows? Do you think viewers learn anything useful from these programs, or is it mostly just vicarious living? What kinds of reality shows do you like? Why? Families can also discuss the subjectivity of art and design. Is there a "right" and "wrong" way to express yourself through art? How do people's personalities affect what they like when it comes to art and design? What else can influence those opinions?

TV details

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