ICON Winter 2014 : Page 32
Reviewer: Sybil Jane Barrido Reviewer: Steffany Hollingsworth By Victoria L. Valentine For generations, America’s guilty pleasure has been television and today’s preferred mode is binge watching. HGTV is happy to oblige, scheduling daily marathons of Property Brothers, Love It or List It, Fixer Upper, and the perennially popular House Hunters , which has delivered ratings gold to the basic cable network since the program was introduced in 1999. 32 icon winter/14 the magazine of the american society of interior designers
Can Design Television Be Both Entertaining And Authentic?
Victoria L. Valentine
For generations, America's guilty pleasure has been television and today's preferred mode is binge watching. HGTV is happy to oblige, scheduling daily marathons of Property Brothers, Love It or List It, Fixer Upper, and the perennially popular House Hunters, which has delivered ratings gold to the basic cable network since the program was introduced in 1999.
ASID Research shows that after hours of watching, the average consumer's opinion of design television becomes more positive. For interior designers, the opposite is true. While the programs introduce consumers to the possibilities of design, rarely do they reflect the profession and process accurately, which is frustrating.
Mentioning the education, licensing, and certification of TV designers appears to be off limits. Timelines are reduced. Budgets are rarely transparent. The extensive research, space planning, materials review, consultation with trades and contractors, and many modifications necessary to arrive at final design concepts that meet the specific needs and requirements of each client are hardly broached.
This disconnect has been on the radar of the American Society of Interior Designers and its members for years. ASID is engaging with HGTV to determine ways to collaborate and build a mutually beneficial relationship.
The process is ongoing and, as a part of the effort, ASID conducted an online research survey in September and October to gauge consumer opinion of interior designers and HGTV as well as designer perceptions of the network and viewer understanding of the designer-client relationship. Four hundred consumers and more than 250 ASID members participated, and the findings reveal areas of great disparity and agreement.
The survey found that 82 percent of consumers who watch HGTV weekly think HGTV makes design more accessible, and an even greater percentage of interior designers who watch HGTV weekly (93 percent) agreed. This common ground is far more important than the points of departure. To shed more light on these views, we asked two design veterans if it is possible for interior design television to be both entertaining and authentic. They responded by sharing their own experiences, their opinions on the strengths and shortfalls of the programs, and ways the genre could better serve both consumers and interior designers.
Based in Santa Fe, Steffany Hollingsworth is a New Mexico licensed interior designer and principal at HVL Interiors. A California-certified interior designer, Sybil Jane Barrido is a principal at SjvD Design in Long Beach. Both recently served on the ASID Board of Directors.
Behind-the- Scenes Insight
Steffany Hollingsworth appeared on Designers' Challenge in April 2007. The HGTV show, which is no longer on the air, focused on homeowners deciding among three designers to hire for a residential project — redesigning their kitchen or master bedroom, for example. Hollingsworth's episode involved converting a garage into an art studio. Her design wasn't selected, but she appreciated the behind-the-scenes exposure. She says, "It wasn't a bad experience, but you saw how so much of it is smoke and mirrors."
A Barometer for Expertise?
Sybil Jane Barrido was recently reminded how influential design shows are when she was working with a retired widow who was adapting her home so she could age in place. "As we were reviewing modifications to the kitchen and keeping specific elements that were reminders of her husband, we talked about materials, color, and the impact of increasing the square footage of the kitchen," says Barrido. "At that point she said to me, 'You really do know what you're talking about.'" The client was comfortable with Barrido's recommendations because they echoed those of an HGTV designer the client watched regularly.
Reality Is a Good Thing
Million Dollar Decorators on Bravo drew Hollingsworth's attention a couple of times. She was compelled by the episodes featuring interior and textile designer Kathryn M. Ireland because the client-designer interactions rang true. "They really struggled. There were miscommunications about what the client was expecting with some materials and how long the project was going to take. There was some discord and disharmony. She thought she might be let go or maybe she even wanted to be off the project, and it showed all of that. That really happens sometimes," Hollingsworth says.
The Big Reveal
"Design is a process, and there is a back and forth. It is very much a dialogue. It's never here's a room and here's my budget and show it to me when it's finished. That seems to happen a fair amount on these shows," says Hollingsworth. "It's a myth that there is complete license handed over to designers, and they can do whatever they want. Then, there is this big reveal and the client is thrilled. If that happened, I doubt the client would be thrilled with everything like they act like they are. Those are the kind of false realities that I think are problematic."
"Design television creates the impression that design is interesting. Design is something that people are talking about. What it's done is create the conversation that there is a future in design, so students are interested in wanting to learn more. In that sense, design TV has opened the doors to a new group of students who otherwise may not have been influenced by design at all," says Barrido.
Designer Pitches Producers
Hollingsworth suggests expanding programming beyond residential design. Why not show more commercial design and a whole span of projects, she asks. Healthcare and workplace design, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations, resiliency, sustainability, and post-occupancy evaluations are all at the forefront of interior design and, yet, these issues are generally ignored on television.
An Opportunity for Dialogue
"We can take these shows as a negative reflection on the work that we do, but one of the things they do is open up the conversation. We can articulate the differences, our education and credentials to clients," say Barrido. "I think you can take that information and spin it — the images they see in the magazines and everything they see on the reality TV shows — and work it to your advantage. With your knowledge and experience, garner their understanding and their trust and turn the conversation so it actually aids the design process."
Victoria L. Valentine is a Washington, D. C.-based journalist and editorial consultant who writes frequently about art, culture, and design.