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Trading Spaces

In theater, this would be tech week. We’d be spending hours together not sleeping much, convinced that this will be the time it doesn’t all come together opening night. But it’s already “in the can” and simply waiting patiently for the correct date and time to go on. And it got into its can completely without me. We shot over a hundred hours of tape between two houses. They’ll make 44 minutes of show out of that. Actually “they” is Jamie, and she already has. And I have no idea what it will be like. I trust her, but I feel so removed from the processes that shape our episode, that it doesn’t feel like “ours” to me.

But my house does. Laurie flew over the bar I’d worried we’d set too high, and our new room expresses who we are better than we could have. From tying the house more firmly to its site to choosing paint to match the red from my wedding dress, I know that Laurie made that room for me personally. That room made this show about us. Which is part of what made our experience with Hildi so frustrating. Our focus, working on Jill’s house, was Jill, and our desire to make something nice for her. I didn’t feel like Hildi ever understood or considered Jill the way we were understood and considered by Laurie, which put us in the awkward position of working against Hildi to advocate for Jill. It’s not a radical idea to think that a designer should reference the needs and tastes of the person who will inhabit their creations. We lobbied for that with Hildi, even not knowing moving the results could be till I saw Jill, Joy, Kelly, Amy and Laurie did in our house. It’s an incredible gift to feel understood- to see yourself reflected through the work of another.

And as weird as the thing with Hildi was, it ended up working out OK. Jill loves her room. After the taping, I tracked the idea of mosiacing the fireplace to having seen Hildi do it on an old Trading Spaces episode, so the room was certainly not without her creative contribution and Carter, without a designer to design for him, stepped into the creative void, researched Indian temples and drew his own. I was blown away by how invested he was. In fact, everyone who worked on the show- from the scouts who came to interview us as part of the selection process, to the producers who guided us through scenes, to the sound and camera guys to the production assistants, were all dynamic, professional, unusual people. I think it’ll feel weird to watch the show without them, they were so much of the experience of making it.

It’s strange. I never really forgot the camera was there, but as I got to know the guys behind it, I forgot what it represents- the hundred-times-the- number of people I’ve ever met in my life who will only know me through it as I was being for my friend behind the camera and the guy behind him whose job was to tell me everything I did was great- only maybe a little bit more. So I suspect I’ll end up watching not myself, but a caricature of myself: Me-as- TV-character gets angry, Me-as-TV-character goes up the ladder too fast and cries too easily. Still, I didn’t do the show to learn who I was as a TV character. I did it for the experience of making a TV show and doing the renovation work. For me, it was about getting a weekend to hang out with my husband and a chance to make something pretty for a friend. I did it to shaking stuff up, to introduce a little chaos into my fairly stable life. The night it was over, when we finally got to bed, I woke myself up laughing. Twice. I slept ten hours a night the next three nights.

The whole thing feels a little like being an astronaut might. We’re strapped into this expensive, giant, moving thing, with everyone acting as though we’re the center of it all, and yet all the movement is originating outside us. The direction is being set by someone else, the machinary is complex, the language is technical and the reasons behind what we’re asked to do are arcane or obscure. I never felt like I wasn’t being myself, but it was me in the middle of a lot of stuff I didn’t understand with several tons of highly volatile gas at my back. It’s all about you, but it’s really not about you. The attention feels weird because it doesn’t feel earned, and the coffee drinkers want to talk to you when you run out to Starbucks in the only fifteen minutes you have off set the whole weekend because you’re still wearing the smock and battery pack. I’m interesting to them because I’m on TV, not because I’ve actually done something worthy. So let me take you on a little tour of my rocket ship to spread the attention around:

The Greenwood School
where Egan and Isa met, and where Carter and Amy Winn worked their magic.

Jaya
where we got the beautiful teak table, wall carving and amazing lamp for Jill’s living room.

Mercury
Cool local Austin boutique which set us up with our amazing chairs, coral and lamps.

Molly
her two portraits of Skye were moved from the bedroom into the living room by Laurie to highlight their beauty. Molly does amazing custom soul portraits and spiritual art.

DogmaFree prayer candles
Skye’s handmade soywax prayer candles showed up in our house and in Jill’s.

Ecowise
Austin’s authentic earth-friendly everything store- source of our low VOC expresso brown ceiling paint.

Amma
Living Hindu saint, Jill’s spiritual teacher, and living room focal point

Make Poverty History
Source of Skye’s white bracelet, powerful organization doing critical work

Keep Austin Weird
Um, we’re doing our part

John Henry Mason
Local artist doing beautiful things with old oil drums

Robert & Shana Parkeharrison
Photographers whose work we added to the room on the bounce back.

Greg Delaney
Another Austin artist- maker of the cool pin Skye’s wearing

 

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