Fifteen years ago, in October of 2000, TLC aired the first episode of “Trading Spaces.”
I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the most frightening home makeovers we saw on that show during its run (look away now if you’re squeamish!).
How many of these do you remember?
Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links that may earn me commission.
6 of the Worst “Trading Spaces” Makeovers
1. Beach Tent Living Room
These lucky homeowners got a “relaxing beach cabana” for a living room with river sand on the floor.
2. The Upside-Down Room
They painted the room black and hung the furniture from the ceiling.
There’s a great line from the episode about how “Having the chairs up there really opens up the room.”
3. A Caribbean Kitchen
Doug decided that what this white kitchen needed was some “Caribbean flair.”
4. The Flower Bathroom
More than 7,000 silk flowers were stapled to the walls, and the cabinets and moldings were painted gold.
5. “Horror Show Kitchen”
The kitchen was painted blood red and a tarp “art project” was hung on the wall:
The coffin spice rack was a special touch, too:
6. “Hay House”
The homeowners wanted a family-friendly living room, so Hildi glued straw to the walls.
They also put pink-colored sheetrock mud on the ceilings…
… and covered up the original fireplace and windows.
Designer Hildi Santo-Tomas:
Let’s face it, one of the worst culprits and gleeful destroyer-of-rooms on the show was Hildi Santo-Tomas, pictured here wearing what must have been left over from the bathroom makeover above.
She created a mosaic mural of herself on one homeowner’s wall:
Designer Doug Wilson:
Image courtesy Andy Dehnart, Reality Blurred
Designer Doug Wilson was another one you could count on to mess up a perfectly nice room. His jail-themed “Prisoner of Love” bedroom would have made my list of the worst makeovers if I could have found a photo or video of it!
And who could forget the fireplace makeover that upset the homeowner so much that she had to leave the room to cry off-camera?
They only thing they asked? Please don’t touch the brick.
Which was a mistake, because of course that meant it would be the first thing to go!
I watched videos of the show on TLC.com to get these screenshots.
You can read a fun “behind the scenes of the show with Doug” article on Reality Blurred. He and Hildi both understood what their roles on the show were and went for it.
If it weren’t for them, we probably wouldn’t still be talking about the show all these years later!
For a real trip down Memory Lane, check out The Best of Trading Spaces on DVD (Amazon affiliate link):
And Trading Spaces – They Hated It (Amazon affiliate):
Was this one of your favorite shows to “hate watch” back in the day, too?
I was a faithful viewer from the beginning. Anyone else remember the original host, Alex McLeod?
Laurie Smith’s rooms were usually my favorites. Which makeovers do you remember as being the worst? I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few!
Jen @ Restore + Style says
Oh my! I forgot just how bad some of these rooms turned out… I totally remember watching the upside down room thinking how bizarre it was – and that was when I was maybe 12 years old? How in the heck could a full blown adult not known that was a horrendous idea!?
They were joking, right?
I never really “got” this show because I was always wondering if it was some sort of a joke – but was never sure. I felt so sorry for some of these couples. I remember one woman crying…and many looked like they wanted to. The worst one I can remember is a kitchen done by Vern Kipp. It was horrendous. Each cabinet was painted a different primary color. I was so sick for that couple. I hope the couples are paid well for the use of their homes so they can tear it all out once the crew leaves.
I loved trading spaces…and I do remember Alex McLeod. Paige was very sweet, too. Genevieve, Laurie, Vern…I loved them. ALthough, I also loved the beadboard fireplace piece by Doug…and I need to figure out how to recreate it to cover up a gross faux stone treatment in my own house. 🙂
Yeah, I have to say I actually liked the new fireplace he came up with for them, even though that poor homeowner didn’t! 🙂
Amy Deedle says
I remember just about all of these episodes (except the one with the furniture on the ceiling). I, however, liked the Caribbean kitchen. My vote for some of the worst rooms was the college fraternity makeover that Doug did and the bedroom makeover by Frank where the headboard was a giant pair of lips!!! I also shudder to remember a room by Hildy where she painted the home owner’s couches pink.
As I recall, the homeowner liked the Caribbean kitchen, too. I always thought he seemed a little disappointed when they weren’t shocked or upset by a reveal, though. Ha. Oh, my gosh, I forgot about those couches she painted. Didn’t they get rained on or something overnight? It was pretty awful!
the lip headboard was at my neighbors’ house! They were SO PISSED and it all fell apart right away. I mean, the homeowner is kind of a sourpuss anyway, but she totally had a reason to be mad at that. hideous!
*sorry – it’s Vern Yipp
Wow! Thanks for the memories. I had forgotten some of the crazy things they did on this show. I hated the straw walls and felt bad for the family and also did not like the moss wall that Genevieve did in a bedroom. I always thought Hildi tried too hard to be outrageous and that Doug was a smug jerk. I did enjoy the show and occasionally they actually did something nice.
I searched everywhere for photos of that moss wall. I remember some people liked it, but it made me itch just thinking about it. I would’ve included it if I could’ve tracked down the video. That was a classic! 🙂
Nadine Hackman says
I never watch HGTV anymore. There are hardly any gardening shows, and none of the shows seem to be about things I can do myself at home.
I remember seeing all of these as well. It makes me sick to see the beautiful windows all boarded up in the room with the straw. The homeowners certainly had to know the risks of allowing some of the designers, such as Hilde and Doug in their homes!
Thanks for bringing back the memories Julia!
As soon as I saw the headline I knew Hildi’s straw wall room would be in there. Some of the designers were okay, but I’d never let any of them do a room in my house. I like to decorate too much to give up the job, plus I’m pretty particular. Trading Spaces was fun, but I much preferred the British version, Changing Rooms. Now that was a fun show. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen was the designer you didn’t want to get on that one.
I used to watch “Changing Rooms,” too, and loved it! It was fun to see different kinds of houses getting transformed.
Ranell Morris says
I loved trading spaces! I would let Laurie, Frank, and Vern in my house. Two of the terrible ones I remember were when Genevieve tore up brand new carpet, gave the guy a concrete floor and put all that moss on the walls, and when Hildy took a beautiful expensive dining room and painted it yellow. My favorites were the ones where they paid off the mortgages, and the 100,000 dollar ones.
[email protected] says
I remember that stapled flower on the wall episode vividly. All I could think while watching it was how awful it was going to be to repair the damage to those walls… Hildi was AWFUL. I didn’t like any of her designs. Vern & Genevieve were awesome. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
Oh, man, can you imagine what it was like to pull all those flowers back out of the walls and then fill all the holes? Ugh. What a job!
I always imagined how dusty and/or moldy that flower wall would get. Hildi was AWFUL>
These redo’s are all, in a couple of words, FRICKIN’ UGLY!!!!!!!!
Brandon @ Southgate says
I so wish that show were still on! I enjoyed it so much. I actually really liked Doug’s “fireplace room” and hope it grew on the owners…it was a huge improvement over what it had been.
As for Hildi…maybe too many years among paint fumes?
There was one I remember them painting a piano bright yellow. So wrong.
Ann Newell says
I loved Trading Spaces and Alex way more than Page. Does anyone remember “Surprise by Design”? I also loved that show. Can’t remember the hosts names, but the guy was bald and wore sunglasses on his head and the gal was a pretty little blond. Probably remember as soon as I hit the “send” button! Wish they were both still on.
Oh, my gosh, I LOVED that show. It was Robert Verdi and Rebecca Cole who hosted it, and they cracked me up. I totally forgot about it until you mentioned it, Ann!
Cynthia Lambert says
I couldn’t bear to watch that show after the second episode. Dreadful! None of them knew what they were doing. You would have to be crazy to turn your house over to them. In fact, there are only one or two decorators on telly who actually know something about decorating. Candice Olsen is one. The rest are complete hacks.
We had Changing Rooms here in Australia. I always felt the crew were in on a joke that the families didn’t get.
The rooms were fairly terrible but nothing on what you’ve shown here.
The minute I read your blog post title, I remembered vividly the circus tent/sand makeover and the straw on the walls. I also remember telling my husband that if approached by HGTV, he was to never let these designers near our home – they were terrible!!!
I remember Alex! Loved her FAR more than Paige Davis. I hated every one of Kia’s rooms—WTH was up with wallpaper border in EVERY effing room?
Asheville Girl says
What a fun post about a fun show! The horror of these rooms! I do miss trading Spaces as well as Surprise by Design, Candice Olsen, Curb Appeal, and Changing Rooms. I also liked the show where the host (Jane something?) used a color wheel made of found things to help the homeowner determine what palette they were drawn to, and then would design the room around the colors. She was the original mood board creator! I wish HGTV hadn’t gone so off the rails and eliminated all of the variety they used to offer in both scope and format. I went from being a total HGTV addict to not having watched a single show in almost two years. It’s just so excruciatingly repetitive, I can’t stand it anymore. Now I get my house fix from you, Julia! You’re the best!
Colour Confidential with Jane Lockhart
I remember that one! Thanks for reminding us who hosted that, Nicole.
I also remember the gal with the color wheel………….any one remember her name? I loved all the shows that have been mentioned. Wish they were back. Really getting tired of House Hunters, International, Off the Grid, Big Sky something, Little Houses….are you kidding me? And don’t get me started on Love it or List It. I am waiting for new Fixer Upper that is supposed to begin in December.
I totally remember the silk flowers and the straw walls! There was one episode where Genevieve Gorder was doing a kitchen and the floor was uneven, so she “leveled it” with old magazines underneath stick-on vinyl tiles. I don’t remember what the room ended up looking like, but I sure remember thinking how horrible that was, and that it obviously wouldn’t last. But maybe that was a good thing!
She leveled it with magazines? Oh, my. I didn’t remember that one!
Carole R says
Thanks for reminding me how much I hated that show.
Marissa Mercready says
Besides all the disaster rooms mentioned in previous comments, the one room that comes to my mind was one that Kia designed….she transformed a room that looked like a cemetery…she had that fake grass as carpet, etc….does anyone remember that episode? That still stands out as one of the worst designs I’ve ever seen!
Oh, wow, I can’t believe I forgot about that one! The graveyard theme was crazy!
Sue K says
This was a favorite show, still miss it. Before I even read this article, I knew most of the dreadful photos were going to be Hildi’s creations. My favorite rooms usually came from Vern or Genevieve.
I always hated everything that Hildy did. Every project was horrible and she seemed not to care about what the homeowners thought about the finished design. I would have sobbed my heart out if I came home to one of her disasters (oops, designs).
The only designer I would have ever trusted was Vern Yip. He had such a clean elegant style and he really took into consideration what would make the homeowners happy.
Hildi’s room for the pastor’s family made out of wine labels goes there. I think the family was Baptist. They were good sports, but really? I would let Vern or Laurie design my rooms. But hey were actual interior designers. Frank was an arts/crafts guy. Genevieve was okay…I just didn’t like her aesthetic usually.
The wine-label kitchen for a family that didn’t drink was a classic. Hildi was a master at making mischief like that, wasn’t she?
That family was in People magazine talking about how they had to gut their kitchen after Hilde finished with it. They were highly offended by her. If I recall correctly they told Hilde they didn’t drink and she came up with the wine label idea. Such a waste of time and money. I agree with an earlier commenter about only trusting certain people to do anything in my home. There are two: 1) Candice Olson and 2) Nate Berkus.
Oh Horrors! I saw a couple of these, but missed some truly atrocious ones like the flower bathroom and the upside down room. Yikes! The one that really stood out in my memory was the fireplace by Doug, who I dubbed “Smug Doug” because of his condescending and ugly attitude toward his crying victim (the homeowner.) After that show I couldn’t watch another one with him in it. Most, if not all of the makeovers looked cheap to me owing to their budget limits, so I can’t say I really miss the show.
I LOVED Trading Spaces but some of those rooms were just horrendous! Remember the record covered wall room? Or how about when one of the designers painted all the kitchen appliances matte black? Vern Yip was my favorite. I would have welcomed his designs.
Alie B says
I enjoyed both your post and the comments that followed it, Julia! 🙂 I loved this show, although most of the designs were totally outrageous, and not well constructed. I always had the feeling that the designers came to the homes with designs and materials already established, as there never seemed to be any correlation between the designs and the people who lived in the home. I remember the Doug/fireplace episode. The original fireplace was not touched. They just built the new façade around it. I actually really liked that room and couldn’t understand why they were so upset. My favorite characters were Genevieve, who I thought was adorable, and Paige, who seemed to provide heart to the show.
You never knew how people would react, did you? There were always surprises. Like the couple who got the “Horror Story Kitchen” flipped over it. They thought it was hilarious and went with it. But I remember one woman HATED a (very tasteful) bedroom Laurie gave her because she thought the starburst mirror over the bed was weird (this was before starburst mirrors were everywhere and she’d never seen one before, apparently). The fireplace was another situation like that. Even though it was still intact behind the facade, and was actually one of the better rooms Doug had ever designed on the show, the homeowner couldn’t get past it.
Alie B says
Yes! I remember the episode with the starburst mirror. What’s the big deal? So you sell the mirror on Kijiji and buy something you do like! The homeowner in that episode obviously hadn’t seen the episodes you showcased above! ha!
I remember that! The walls were painted “parchment”! I think the homeowners might have been pissed about that, too.
Why in the name of all things holy would anyone agree to be on this show? I definitely feel bad for the people who got really upset and stuff, but wouldn’t you know what you are getting into?
I feel like people’s homes and living spaces aren’t something that should be treated as a joke, and I feel like a lot of these makeovers were done in more of a mean-spirited way and without any consideration for the homeowner’s wishes (wine labels for a family that doesn’t drink? not cool at all).
Ann N says
Does anyone know where the designers from Trading Spaces are doing now? I know Vern and Genevieve have/had programs on HGTV, but was curious about the others.
Laurie went on to do features for Better Homes and Gardens, but that was in the era before blogging.
The silk flower bathroom was the one that stood out for me…I remember thinking how could you ever clean that bathroom. Ugh, Gag! What a disaster!
Do you remember Angelo Surmeleis and Debbie Travis? They both said they put 100,000 into their rooms. Debbie said it was like winning the lotto if she came to your house. I loved Angelo. His show was called Rate My Space. Every time I look at the Houzz app it reminds me of him and the show.
I do remember them! I wonder what happened to them and their shows?
Oh, I haven’t thought about that show in years. I hated that Hildi seemed to have no concern for the mess she was leaving. It wasn’t just that the designs were horrible, it was that fixing them would cost the homeowner’s time and $$$$. Can you imagine trying to salvage those plaster walls covered in straw or, like you mentioned, having to completely re-do the drywall on that flower bathroom? Those two came to mind first, but then also the wine label kitchen for the non-drinking family. I loved Laurie and Vern and usually felt they took the owner’s style/lifestyle into account. BTW, I somehow missed the cabana room with a SAND floor?!? I see Hilde was the culprit on that one as well. I seem to remember reading something about her and her very high-end European style in her own home filled with antiques, and always felt like it was especially cruel joke that she was doing these things to average homeowners who probably didn’t have the resources to fix them after she left.
I’ve heard that the show often paid homeowners to have rooms “fixed” when they were particularly bad, but it still would have been a lot of time, mess and hassle!
Fifteen years!? Has it really been that long? Wow. I used to love watching shows on TLC. Do you remember While You Were Out? That was a fun one, too. Sadly, I never watch TLC anymore, as it has become more of a freak show than a learning channel. As for Trading Spaces, I always liked Frank. He seemed like a genuinely nice person. He and his wife are needle art designers for a company called Mosey and Me.
You forgot her pink feather room. God help the owners if they had allergies!
I am curious what people with some of these awful rooms, pour sand on my floor and contract or not you are gonna clean that crap out, did afterwards? I feel like Hildi went out of her way to do nothing remotely livable to be avant garde.
Apparently the hay room was not a hit. I read on Buzzfeed: “Needless to say, the homeowners were not happy with the end result. The removal took 17 hours and was reportedly paid for by the production company.” I am sure their lawyers loved that one.
Vern Yip did a nice job, but I couldn’t watch the show after the vinyl records on the wall episode. Such a waste of time and materials to deliberately make a client unhappy. I can’t imagine why anyone would agree to be on that show.
Nancy Hood says
I was such a fan of that show!! AND SO GLAD THEY NEVER DECORATED MY HOUSE!! Now, if Joanna Gaines would come to Alabama and decorate our homes 🙂
Miss Mustard Seed says
Do you remember when Frank made an oversized version of Paige’s lips into a headboard? He was always fun, but that was pretty bad!
Ha! I loved that show. Good times…
Miss Mustard Seed says
Oh! And I just remember the one that had turf on the floor and the bed looked like a grave!
I wish I could find photos or the video of that one. It was a Trading Spaces classic! Ha.
I remember an episode with Hildi when the homeowners had a little schoolroom in their basement. They said they had just painted the whole basement white to bring in as much light as possible. Hildi then painted everything a dark royal blue. She outlined white squares all over the room. It looked like a million blacked out windows. The homeowners were speechless. I felt so bad for them.
Hildi was pretty cruel. I remember a ‘cardboard room’ that was pretty bad too. They used industrial glue to attach cardboard to the walls and cathedral ceiling and then added cardboard furniture. I do remember a dining room painted black that was quite shocking at the time, but now is pretty common and accepted 🙂
The Prisoner of Love was in my best friend’s neighborhood and was destroyed by the time the show aired. Our local paper, the Columbus Dispatch, couldn’t even get a photo of it. It’s was gone that quickly 🙂 awful show. I had forgotten. Won’t be able to sleep tonight.
Ann N says
I don’t remember The Prisoner of Love Show. Could you explain further? Thanks
Ann–That’s the one where Doug decided to turn a couple’s master bedroom into a jail cell. I seem to remember there was a mural of prisoners on the wall and everything!
Ann N says
Oh, wow, I don’t remember that one……..but there were/are plenty of other awful ones!
The episode I remember had the home owner share the story about a piece of furniture that had been in her family forever…1700s forever. The other couple cut it into different pieces. I remember the home owner crying. Broke my heart and I don’t think I watched another episode.
Vern Yip. Always classy.
Oh, my goodness, I loved this show! It started when I was a teenager, and I sorely miss it. I remember feeling so bad for the couples who would work tirelessly on their neighbor’s house with Vern and then go home to a Hildi mess.
Linda Z says
Oh, good times on that show!! I remember thinking that I would never let them in my home, because I was too afraid I would get Hildi, and with some of the others, you just didn’t know what you would get!! Remember when Genevieve did a bedroom with moss all over a wall?? Can you imagine how that must have smelled?? I’ve seen some of her more recent shows, and I like the way her design style has evolved. My favorite on Trading Spaces was Laurie… I liked almost all her rooms.
I remember the episode where the couple had just stripped all the woodwork in their craftsman. Doug ended up painting the whole room white including the woodwork. He covered the hardwoods with white panels….like some shows today you would never want the designer touch your house….bathroom crashers is a great example…many times they make the bathroom bigger by shrinking bedrooms or merger 2 bathrooms into one big over the top room.
I always loved what Vern did. All of the others were hit-and-miss propositions. I remember a room with lots of cardboard that was pretty hideous too. It’s like watching a train wreck, you can’t turn away. LOL My husband could NOT watch that shop; made him absolutely crazy! (He was a builder at the time.)
Lisa T. From NC says
Remember the one where Hildi painted a family’s small living room black and then nailed unpainted skinny wood boards (1x 2s ?) every 6 inches or so all around the room. It sort of made it look like an unfinished attic. Sad, wasteful and mean.
I loved the show though. The hosts were always great. I really liked Page. It was such a gamble. There were just enough cool rooms for people to be optimistic about their chances of getting a nice makeover.
Thanks for the memories! I was a BIG fan, and got my husband to watch it too.
I always thought Hilde & Doug were so mean-spirited. Hated most of their rooms–you highlighted many here. I remember Hilde’s “Tiffany” room where she painted everything robin’s egg blue, then spray-painted “bows” on the walls. Ugh.
I usually liked Vern and Laurie’s rooms, but Laurie was waaay over reliant on a yellow/gold palette. Genevieve had some winners, too.
Would love you to give the same treatment (an update) to Curb Appeal–loved that show, too.
Just don’t watch HGTV or TLC’s home shows anymore. Would love to know which you feel are *worth* tuning in to… 😉
I agree, would love to have Julia’s opinion on Curb Appeal and other shows
Hildy’s were the worst!!! I almost always liked Laurie’s & Vern’s.
Jo Anne says
I loved this show. I always thought that Hildi & Doug were hired to do controversial rooms. After all, people love to watch a wreck! However, I did love on room Doug did. He painted the walls a bright turquoise color and then used a projector to project a pagoda motif onto he walls…then he traced the motif in white onto the walls. I loved most of Vern’s rooms.
I do remember Alex. Watched the show from the beginning and I guess though the others were entertaining….Laurie was my favorite. That show started it all for me. I also enjoyed watching the British version which I believe was first.