The One Valuable Lesson I Learned from HGTV

Does anyone else have a love/hate relationship with HGTV? Ever since I got hooked on Christopher Lowell’s show ages ago and took his advice to hang a sheet on my bedroom wall as decor (don’t ask, I have no idea) I’ve dipped in and out of home and design shows. After swearing off the genre for months I’ll find myself watching again. Weeks will go by in a blur of binges, usually around the time we’re planning a big change to our own home situation. They both entertain and infuriate me with their formulaic and predictable format: The people want an open concept with all the trimmings and their eye-popping budget isn’t enough to get what they want. Renovation hijinks ensue, they go over budget–whoopsie!–and presumably live happily ever after in their home that looks like every other home on every other show.

As annoying as the shows can be, they do know how to lure us in with that promise of a dramatic before and after that we, too, could accomplish if only we had a perky host to lend a hand (and no pesky budget limitations). And yeah, once in a while there are fun and clever ideas to be gleaned from the shows. But I had a total HGTV epiphany during my most recent round of renovation binging.

Heading into our own double reno–a full kitchen and bath tear-out and remodel–my husband and I caught “Brother vs. Brother” on Hulu and were quickly hooked. Starring handsome, dorky twins Drew and Jonathan Scott of “Property Brothers” fame, this series’ premise is dueling renovations. The execution changed from season to season, but the general idea remained the same: Who renovates better?

Each episode took us into regular people’s homes that served as a canvas for the brothers and their teams to work their magic. Some were truly atrocious. Others seemed to be recently renovated by the homeowners and were basically fine. No matter what, though, every single house was cause for scorn from some aspiring designer/contractor/realtor/whatever. Even updated houses with reasonably on-trend furnishings and colors were apparently offensive. In the team would parade and immediately the avalanche of critique launched.

This isn’t unique to “Brother vs. Brother” (which I actually really got into watching!). I can’t think of a single HGTV show where people don’t find the homes they traipse through revolting. Don’t you feel bad for the people who live there when they see these shows?

The moral of the story, I’ve decided, is this: No matter what you do, haters gonna hate. Every decision you make about your home’s design has to be weighed against what the next inhabitant might think about it, particularly if you plan to sell it in the next few years. The weight of this unknown buyer’s response can cause decision paralysis, and at minimum can lead you to throttle your own style.

Well you know what? Buyers be damned. Even if I chose the tamest, most influencer-approved color schemes and fixtures and tiles for our renovations, somebody would hate it. I won’t be happy in a house that I design for an imaginary buyer. And if they’re bound to find something wrong no matter what I do, I’m going to go all out and have fun with it.

So I painted my kitchen black, from baseboard to crown and everything in between. I got a fire engine red range and tore out floor to ceiling pantries in exchange for love-it-or-hate-it open shelving. I picked a trendy bathroom tile that could very well go out of fashion in the time we live here because I like it right now.

If I learned anything from HGTV it’s that you can’t please everyone, and everyone can find something to hate in your house. But you can sure make choices that will make you happy, so, thanks HGTV, that’s what I’m doing.

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