anne_mikolay_2012_120Like many homeowners, I learn quite a bit from HGTV and DIY networks. Thanks to Nicole Curtis on Rehab Addict, I mustered the confidence to beautifully refinish an antique headboard, and I regularly glean fresh ideas from garden shows like Yard Crashers. Programs like House Hunters and Property Virgins remind me what I do and do not like in a home, and Design Star shows me how to think outside the box. Most especially, however, home and garden television has taught me I am apparently “design challenged”.

For example, on a recent episode of Design Star, a competing designer chose a ghastly chartreuse sofa for celebrity judge Kim Kardashian’s office. While Kardashian loved the color and style, it looked to me like one of those couches 1950s housewives covered in plastic, a definite eyesore. Still another design contestant rose to the challenge – literally – and made a contemporary fashion statement of sorts by suspending a sofa from the ceiling. The judges praised the designer’s ability to boldly utilize the ordinary in an extraordinary way; to me, the hanging sofa was a truly weird conversation piece.  Home buyers on House Hunters and Property Virgins regularly annoy me when they declare perfectly acceptable kitchens or bathrooms “total gut jobs”. Apparently, I am totally out of touch with what is considered vital and tasteful in a kitchen and bath. Since when do we all need gourmet kitchens and bathrooms with double sinks and skylights? Sure, I’d like to have a wee bit more room in my bathroom and a nice island in my 1980s kitchen, but I’m not going to cry because I don’t. I have a place to “go” and a place to cook, so it’s all good.

The HGTV program that has drilled home (pun intended!) my lack of design skills is Million Dollar Rooms starring Carter Oosterhouse (Tuesday, HGTV, 8:30 pm), a showcase for high-end design and luxury living. A throwback to the 1980s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (minus Robin Leach’s annoying voice), Million Dollar Rooms grants viewers access to exclusive, expensive homes allegedly reflecting supreme taste. Obviously, taste is highly personal (or perhaps I don’t have any). I laughed at the luxury living room with a fish tank occupying an entire wall. Pardon me if I don’t want to live in an aquarium with huge, fish eyes staring at me. I wasn’t the least bit impressed (okay, maybe a wee bit) by the expansive pool located on the top floor of some wealthy individual’s apartment. If the pool cracks, look out below. Tsunami! The foyer featuring a winding, glass staircase was amusing, as was the huge ballroom/garage housing a priceless car collection in Florida. Far too practical to appreciate such lavish indulgence, I regard Million Dollar Rooms as an homage to excess and greed rather than a design lesson in exquisite taste.

HGTV and DIY designers would tear my home apart! They would detest my beige sofa (bland), neutral walls (not bold enough), and family photographs (too personal). They would reposition my dogs’ pillows from the middle of the family room floor, where the pups can see and be seen, to a less intrusive spot. They would pack away the tissue paper floral bouquet my son made for me in grade school and the stuffed chihuahua my best friend sent me from Mississippi. Ditto for my mother’s duck planter from the Five and Dime and my hand-sketched Winnie the Pooh on the wall in the hallway. Interior designers would surely tell me my coffee table needs some accent pieces (guess they don’t know dogs chew accent pieces) and splashes of color to bring warmth to the room (an afghan does that well enough for me). 

Home and garden programming is educational and fun, but for me, the interior design skills it promotes are a bit lofty and unattainable. Call me design challenged, but you can keep your wall of fish and glass staircase. My home will never be a showcase. It’s where I live.

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Anne Mikolay

Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...