Trading Spaces

'Trading Spaces' Tidbits: Lessons from Our Favorite TV Designers

Photo Credit: TLC

Photo Credit: TLC

While I've always been interested and invested in interior design on some level (i.e.,I would redecorate my room as often as my mom/budget would allow in middle school), there's no doubt that the debut of Trading Spaces on TLC in 2000 was a big moment for me and millions across the country (and later around the world).

As a junior at Georgetown University, TLC was always on in our dorms and living rooms (can't forget A Baby Story and A Wedding Story, too), and Trading Spaces had a great role in making interior decorating accessible. Fast forward to today where stores likes Home Goods  and Wayfair and platforms like Houzz and Pinterest help individuals pull together their perfect space or, at the least, articulate their vision to a decorator or designer.

Little did I know in 2000, that I would be working for the company responsible for TLC and Trading Spaces two short years later. Over 14 years, I worked my way to VP and also had a chance to meet a range of talent, including a few of the original designers. With the return of the series earlier this month, I thought it would be fun (and informative) to reflect on a few design lessons we can gleam from the cast (and that often come up as I'm consulting with clients).

Photo Credits:, &

Photo Credits:, &

Vern Yip: Timeless Design Doesn't Have to Be Boring
While there were always designers you loved to hate, I found myself drawn primarily to Vern Yip's work. Last month, I had a chance to meet Vern (again) at the Washington Design Center's Spring Market, where he gave the keynote, and his approach to timeless design remains. Trends will come and go, but classic lines, patterns and finishes aren't the opposite of "on trend." When creating a space, bigger spends are best spent on furniture and accessories that will pass the test of time. Layer lower cost, trendier pieces on top of those (think an accent table or decorative object) if you want to be "of the moment"...then you won't feel guilty when you want to move on.

Laurie Smith: Beautiful Fabrics Can Elevate Any Space
Laurie Smith was well known for spending the largest portion of her limited budgets on fabrics, adding color and pattern through silks and other luxe textiles. Throw pillows are a great way to update a space, whether a living room, bedroom or dining nook and you can find new and vintage fabrics to make custom pillows or search your favorite store for pre-made covers that make a statement through color, texture, pattern or special details like trim, fringe and beading. 

Genevieve Gorder: Fun is Part of Function
When choosing someone to partner with on your space, you want to have good communication and good energy, and Genevieve Gorder definitely always (and still has) both. Gorder always brought an energy to the rooms she designed not taking herself or the task at hand too seriously. Your home should bring you ditch that expensive white sofa that you hover over when guests sit down with wine and find furniture and accessories that are stylish and livable.

Were you a fan of the original Trading Spaces and/or are you watching the reboot? If so, what are the tidbits you've taken away and from whom?

Amber Harris is the owner of At Home DC, an interior decorator and a licensed real estate agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties working with clients in DC, Maryland and Virginia.