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  • Tracy Struthers

HGTV Vs. Reality In Todays Home Renovations.

Fixer Upper / Joanna Gaines

Let's be honest, if you love home design - you have likely binge-watched a Studio McGee or Fixer Upper with Chip and Joanna Gaines. I have been known to engage in full seasons of decor shows on lazy Sunday afternoons myself. More than ever now, we are more connected but at the same time more isolated at home. This pandemic has made us re-evaluate our spaces, how we feel about them, and ways to make them function better.

I give props and huge respect to Shea McGee and Joanna Gaines who along with their visionary husbands, have built empires starting from the bare grassroots. There is a similarity between these shows with leading ladies that are both naturally talented self-taught designers. They both worked hard from very humble beginnings to become HGTV stars that launched their brand of interior design nationwide, to employ hundreds of support staff of professional designers, or hired local interior design firms to design and execute the spaces for which they get credit. Very few of the homes on these shows, are designed solely by the host themselves, but instead by these design teams that were taught the formula to the aesthetic. But that's why we watch right? We want to be wowed by the spaces they create, and not pay so much attention to how it gets done, and the process behind it.

I point this out, as an observation - that what you see on television is in fact, entertainment, and slightly skewed from reality. We see homes being designed in expert timing with unlimited budgets, with cameras following them through their 'daily lives". What we see are spotless homes, polite well behaved children with no attitude problems, and girls in designer dresses with huge bows in their hair. Certainly doesn't depict what a day in the life of The Struthers Home looked like. Might I also add that both ladies were pregnant during a full season of their shows, that looked great for their whole term (on the show), but appeared fresh and rested after they delivered...c'mon! I think Shea's baby girl came into the world with a bow in HER HAIR! All kidding aside, we must remember that both of these shows that showcase seemingly stress-free easy lives with beautiful homes they design are precisely why we watch, to begin with because it is captivating and so different than our everyday.

Studio McGee

I can't tell you how many times, after meeting with homeowners about designing their space, I have heard:

"Oh my god, I love Studio McGee, I watched every one of their shows! I need to

hire you to design my house like that!".

Frequently for my company, homeowners can be quite disappointed when the cost of design and renovations, plus supplies don't marry up to their expectations or timelines. I can't help but sigh when I am asked to provide the same experience as what is seen on television, from my design business. "Can I do a quick zoom call with you and show you my home, and then you provide a 3D design of what the designs could be?". This is how I know that homeowners' views have been skewed because the process involves so much more detail and communication. I sometimes feel like a couples counselor when deciding on the size of the walk-in closet, or a therapist, with I ask questions like "So how does this space really make you feel?" There is just so much we need to know to create a space that functions well for your life, but also aligns with our vision and your budget.

Everything, especially nowadays, takes longer and costs much more than it ever has. Not accounting for the unbillable hours I don't charge for, it takes time to transfer the vision I create of the space and turn it into an actionable design. Normally, I might spend anywhere from 3-5 months up to 2-3 years on a given project. That is certainly not depicted on a 30-minute show. That is just the design part of the process when working on a full home, this doesn't account for the actual cost of executing it.

Fixer Upper

Chip Gaines, in a show I watched recently, breaks down the cost to an excited, young couple who opted to buy a used home that needed significant work because the cost of newer ones was unattainable. Chip says "Your all-in budget is $300,000, and your home cost $250,000, so that gives you a healthy budget of $50,000 for us to do your home"

You would for sure say, sign me up!

Let me break this down for you:

- The labor is free. The homeowners pay nothing for construction labor and interior design services so the cost of the renovation is significantly less. Sometimes (and likely more often than we know), the production company personally pays for the show's renovation, even when there is "Oh no there are issues with the wiring or plumbing" that will cost more money than the original quote.

- Suppliers and Manufacturers get featured on TV, so they will often donate products, appliances, and furniture to use for the show. The people who buy these houses are making out like bandits as they’re getting thousands of dollars worth of furniture and quality materials from lighting to the tile. They wouldn't be able to get their homes fully furnished this way, if not for the show.

When perceptions are off when it comes to design, home renovations, and new furnishings, very often than not, makes for disappointing news I regularly have to break to new clients.

I am happy for shows like this on HGTV because it creates an appetite for a design that I am so passionate about. We as homeowners and consumers need to be mindful to not covet what we see on TV, to then be disappointed in our own homes. We need to understand that times are challenging and that we, our trades, and supply chains are all working our hardest to deliver the best service and products we can. I can identify having the optimal paint color, the ideal shade of a couch, and the most fitting stain for flooring are extremely important when looking at your spaces as a whole. I also know that with good communication, a firm understanding of the reality of home renovation, and patience, we as a team are going to make your space, truly incredible.

Happy 2022, and here's to more great designs.

Tracy x


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