A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this show models creativity and hard work rather than consumerism. Despite frequent mentions of the series sponsor, much of what's actually used is refurbished from thrift store finds, made by hand, or built using inexpensive materials. People develop camaraderie as they tackle projects they've never tried before, and the main messages are "you can do it," "give it a try," and "design doesn't have to be expensive." Designers sometimes ignore makoverees' requests, which can lead to disappointment, but most are excited by their new rooms.
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What's the story?
Based on BBC's Changing Rooms, TRADING SPACES is the little home makeover show that became a big hit, carrying TLC upward with it and inspiring legions of copycat series. In each episode, two pairs of friends trade places to redo one room in each other's home on a $1,000 budget. Aided and abetted by one designer and one carpenter per home, they demolish, paint, purchase, refurbish, and accessorize for two days. Meanwhile, they have no idea what's happening at their own home.
Is it any good?
Part of the fun is in seeing all of the clever ways a room can be made dramatically different with just $1,000 (or $2,000, if the featured friends happen to choose the secret bonus budget room). Perhaps even more fun are all the crazy antics, minor mistakes, and major fiascos that sometimes happen, especially when designers Hildi Santo Tomas or Doug Wilson really let loose. Santo Tomas is notorious for using unusual materials; in various homes, she has (permanently) affixed cardboard, silk flowers, and hay to the walls (sometimes to the dismay of the homeowners). And Wilson once designed a bedroom using a prison theme. Designers Frank Bielic, Laurie Hickson-Smith, and Genevieve Gorder are less outrageous, and the telegenic carpenters (Carter Oosterhouse, Faber Dewar, Amy Wynn Pastor, and others) seem to build armoires, tables, beds, and kitchen cabinets in the twinkle of an eye. Through all of this, the pairs of friends tackle many feats they never imagined themselves doing: using power tools, slip-covering sofas, and staining shelves until the wee hours.
At the end of the show, each pair of friends goes back home to find out how their room turned out. Sometimes it's awful (in their eyes), and sometimes it's absolutely stunning. Whether the reaction is a meltdown or squeals of delight, viewers can enjoy comparing their own responses to those on TV. A mini-epilogue, filmed two weeks later, shows how the homeowners are actually living in the room and what they've changed since the Trading Spaces team rolled out of town. Aside from the occasional tension caused by bad reactions to the new rooms, there's nothing objectionable here.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how they would make over rooms in their own homes (how would you spend the $1,000?), creative ways they might do it, and what aspects of family members' personality or interests would be reflected. Is it important for a person's room(s) to represent him or her? Why? What do people gain from such an environment? Is it all about status? What's the difference between decorating for the sake of status and making your space personally enjoyable?
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