Paige Davis put the perky in home improvement back in 2000 as the host of “Trading Spaces.” But that show went off the air a decade ago, and, locally, Davis became known as the spokeswoman for RC Willey.
That gig has ended and “Trading Spaces” is returning to TLC, with Davis back as its host. But she still has a soft spot in her heart — and a sense of humor — about her local fame with the Utah-based home furnishings chain.
Davis’ husband, actor Patrick Page, spent six seasons with the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City and also starred in several Pioneer Theatre Company productions in Salt Lake City.
“His friends used to tease him, ’Patrick Page, he’s a big star — in Utah,’” Davis said with a laugh. “So RC Willey came along and my family always teased me. ‘Oh, Paige, she’s a big star — in Utah.‘”
(And Nevada, Northern California and Idaho, RC Willey’s other locations.)
“It makes me laugh when people recognize me from those commercials,” said Davis, who’s returning to the national stage on Saturday when “Trading Spaces” begins airing new episodes for the first time since 2008.
“We’re once again bringing interior design and home improvement and décor back into the hands of people in a relatable and obtainable way,” Davis said. “But not sacrificing any of the entertainment value and fun.”
The format is unchanged. Two pairs of neighbors, each teamed with a designer, will have two days and a limited budget — $2,000 — to redo a room in the others’ house.
“It’s still the same show you loved,” Davis said. “And a lot of the same people.”
In addition to Davis, designers Frank Bielec, Genevieve Gorder, Hildi Santo-Tomas, Laurie Smith, Doug Wilson and Vern Yip all return for the revival, along with original carpenters Carter Oosterhouse and Ty Pennington.
“I make fun of them because I was still in high school” when the show aired originally, said Brett Tudor, one of the new carpenters. “It’s like being adopted into a highly dysfunctional family.”
Tudor and Joanie Dodd are the new carpenters; John Gidding, Kahi Lee and Sabrina Soto — all familiar faces with plenty of HGTV experience — are the new designers.
And, according to the returning stars, the new cast members fit into what Davis called the “bizarre, kind of lightning-in-a-bottle chemistry.”
Twice the price
The biggest change is that the budget has been doubled, from $1,000 to $2,000 per room.
“I think $2,000 still really isn’t that much,” Pennington said. “I mean, it’s a challenge, but it’s nice that we’ve got a bump.”
Davis pointed out the original $1,000 budget was established in 2000. And she thinks $2,000 “still represents a manageable and tangible budget for people who are looking to redo rooms in their home.”
Yip said that’s “still a small, very difficult budget to work with.” But it is, at least, a somewhat realistic amount for most viewers, who can take ideas from parts of room makeovers and spend considerably less.
“To put together $2,000 is a big deal for most of us. And to get it done within 48 hours when you have a family to take care of is a big deal,” he said. “So to be able to say, yes, you can do it and do it well for $2,000 in 48 hours is a super important concept.”
Complaints from the carpenters
If it often seemed like the “Trading Spaces” designers expected miracles from the carpenters, well, they did, according to Pennington.
“They would usually leave, like, 40 bucks for us to build five pieces of furniture,” he said.
So he’s glad the overall budget has been doubled. “Now we have 80 bucks.”
And if it seemed like some of the designers were divas, well, that was also true.
“I remember having to have a conversation with Doug [Wilson] saying, ‘Doug, I work with you, not for you. You understand that, right?‘” Pennington said. “He still doesn’t understand.”
Pennington, by the way, doesn’t just return to “Trading Spaces” as a carpenter — he’s a designer in one episode.
Back to basics
You can certainly argue that “Trading Spaces” — which was the Americanization of the British show “Changing Rooms” — inspired a lot of the home design/remodeling shows on TV today.
“‘Trading Spaces’ was a catalyst for an entire new genre of television,” Davis said. “One that even catapulted a different network than our own.”
You could also argue that HGTV has evolved into a channel filled with big-budget shows that feature makeovers that cost tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I think what ‘Trading Spaces’ did so well,” Davis said, “was put the idea of interior design and home décor and DIY in the hands of everyday, ordinary people who don’t have a ton of money. And also might not have the expertise.”
And unlike a lot of reality shows, “Trading Spaces” is, well, real. They really do have two days and $2,000 to get everything done.
“Paige is a stickler,” said Soto. “If we are not done by that second day, it’s too bad. We’re still going to reveal that room. So this is what makes being on ‘Trading Spaces’ completely different than any other design shows.”
They do occasionally go over budget, but not by much. One of the designers in the first of the new episodes spent $2,000.24 — and that’s revealed in the episode.
They hated it
The majority of the homeowners are happy with their made-over rooms. But not all of them.
“We had one homeowner tackle her friend over the color brown,” Davis recalled. “I mean, tackled her to the floor à la ‘Jerry Springer’ and start screaming.”
And then there was the infamous fireplace episode, in which a homeowner who will forever be known as “Crying Pam” was upset about a façade placed over her fireplace.
“I think she was actually trying to do the polite thing, which was leave and not throw a fit and not get angry,” Davis said. “But I’m standing there with her husband and you can hear her sobbing in the hallway, and it’s very disconcerting.”
Yikes! It’s Hildi!
“Trading Spaces” has always had designers you love and designers you love to hate.
Santo-Tomas often falls into the latter category. She glued straw to the walls of one room, stapled 7,000 silk flowers to the walls of another, created a mosaic mural of her own face and attached furniture to the ceiling — among other bizarre things. She was infamously unconcerned that some homeowners have children, creating rooms entirely unfit for kids.
Santo-Tomas said she believes the show is about “helping the viewers and the homeowners think out of the box.” She doesn’t expect viewers to emulate her crazier rooms, “but by my hanging the furniture on the ceiling, you might paint that one wall red that you were afraid to do.”
She’s one of the designers in the first new episode, and her design is … controversial.
Take that, ‘Fixer Upper’
The “Trading Spaces” designers were asked if there are any current design trends they would try to avoid.
“Like shiplap?” Soto quickly replied.
“I don’t want to hear shiplap ever again,” Wilson added.
If you’ve ever seen Joanna Gaines on the hit HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” you know exactly what Soto was talking about and whom she was talking to.
Along those lines, Davis said, “One of the best things about ‘Trading Spaces’ is the designers never focused on any trend.”
“We couldn’t afford to,” Wilson interjected.
“Trading Spaces” returns on Saturday
TLC will air a 24-hour marathon of episodes from the original series from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Saturday.
A two-hour reunion special is set for Saturday at 7 p.m.
The first new episode is Saturday at 9 p.m. when designers Hildi Santo-Tomas and Doug Wilson, along with carpenters Ty Pennington and Carter Oosterhouse, work with two sisters/next-door neighbors and their husbands.