June 29, 2021

Interior Design, What You Don’t See On T.V.

Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and House Hunter’s are just a few of the popular reality TV series that are played on HGTV (Home & Garden Television). The producers and hosts of these shows make renovating look so effortless, quick, and easy. Interior Designers, Architects, and Contractors across the country generally agree that these types of shows give people inaccurate expectations and experiences.

To be completely honest, even as professionals in the industry, we find these shows entertaining too. Even though we know they’re impractical, they’re fun to indulge in. The issue arises when the “real” parts of designing and building are skipped over. As a professional Interior Designer, I’d like to share with you three things that will occur off-screen when remodeling or building a new home that we want you to be prepared for.

It’s OUR design, not just mine

On HGTV, it seems like the featured designers have total control over what happens on the project. There is little discussion about how the owners feel if they like the design, or how the space will function with their family dynamic. On the initial walkthrough of the homes, you will hear the designers talking about “their” plans for the space. In reality, we spend a lot of time in the pre-design phase getting to know you, your needs, and what you like. Each design we create is a collaborative process that’s unique to the project and client. It’s only after we’ve done our homework about the owner that we use our expertise to translate their ideas into a buildable set of plans.

I love getting to know my clients and seeing their personalities come out while designing. Everyone is different and has their own distinct aesthetic and needs. To get a clear understanding of each individual it requires effective communication and listening to one another. The projects with the best outcomes generally happen when a strong bond is built between a designer and client. Not trusting the process can make the project last longer and become more expensive. Designers have gone through formal education, work in the industry every day, and take the time, and effort needed to make sure nothing is missed on a client’s project. We want your project to be successful because we are all on the same team.

Teamwork and collaboration are vitally important to the design process because there is always more than one person working on the project. Our team consists of other designers, architects, engineers, and of course, the owner or client. We all bounce ideas around to one another to ensure the project can be successful and within the assigned budget and time frame. When there are several ideas on the table, the client should always get the final say. They are the ones investing in the project and ultimately have to live with it every day. This is why I want to give a friendly reminder, this is OUR design that we will all create together.


A good project takes time and patience. Transformations do not take a couple of afternoon shifts. It can be unrealistic and stressful when a client expects things to happen with the swish of a magic wand. Depending on the scope of work, it can take months just for the design development phase to complete. Once a project enters the construction phase, time frames may vary from weeks to months before a project is done. We understand that construction is hard to live or work through, but quality craftsmanship takes time. Interior designers are involved in a project from beginning to end and we are by your side to advocate for the design we created together. An important service we provide is construction administration. This is our opportunity to make sure everything goes to plan because the even best design can go awry if not managed correctly.

Here are just one of many examples from a contractor hired by HGTV “The homeowners picked some fancy Moroccan tile for the floors at some upscale NYC boutique and the host of the show decided it would look better without grout…which went about as well as you’d expect. Filming wrapped, and we were called back out a few weeks later to replace the fancy title that immediately chipped and became dangerous. We had to replace it with some boring tile.”

Then there was a couple who appeared on Love It or List It, that filed a lawsuit claiming that their floors were severely damaged by the makeover and that holes in the ductwork allowed animals to enter the home. The owners said the issues were caused because of a rushed job by the television show’s contractors. They had to hire their own crew after the filming was complete to fix mistakes made during production.

This is the problem with being hurried into last-minute decisions and pressured into building things quickly. It can lead to a careless-looking and even a dangerous finished product. We understand it is exciting for clients to be able to renovate their home or business, but please just be patient with the process and let’s get it done right the first time.


There are numerous costs associated with any type of building. Prices fluctuate depending on supply and demand, quality of materials, and where they are being shipped from. What HGTV leads you to believe is that major home renovations can be completed in a few weeks, for a couple of thousand dollars, with all of the materials from your local hardware store. Although that sounds great, it really is too good to be true.

Property Brothers is one of the programs guilty of showing lightning-fast renovations schedules and very low budgets. This is not the situation you’ll encounter unless you are looking for a shoddy result. “I plumbed a house that was getting an HGTV remodel. Long story short, they cut more corners than the contractors wanted to and that’s saying a lot. I would never buy a house remodeled on one of these shows.” -Plumber hired by HGTV.

Costs that most clients don’t consider are design changes during construction. This can be frustrating for designers, contractors, and clients. If changes are made during construction, like materials changes for example, a contractor has to issue a “change order” which requires approval from the designers. Architects and designers make the selections they do because of their knowledge and experience. It isn’t always as easy as “just swapping things out”. We go through a review process to make sure the substitution meets the necessary qualifications, which can be a time-consuming ordeal. After approval is made, the contractors have to return any materials to the manufacturer and order new materials. This sets projects back by weeks or even months. Before any construction documents are stamped and given to contractors, take time to review the plans to ensure they’re what you want.  Ask questions before the documents are finalized and materials are ordered. It will help you and the team avoid any headaches and stress down the road.

The one thing that HGTV did get right is the final reveal to our clients. On these TV shows, their reactions may be rehearsed, but in real life seeing a client’s excitement when they walk into their space for the first time is just amazing. It’s truly the best part of what I do. I love seeing their face light up at the sight of all their creativity, hard work, and dedication. It makes everything I do worth it.

As much as I want to say it is easy to throw a space together and everything will just magically fit and be aesthetically pleasing – that simply isn’t the case. Design inherently will have some hiccups and unavoidable issues that surface, but with an experienced team looking out for your best interest we can help ensure that the project is ultimately a success. There is so much beauty in the design process as a whole. Getting to know a group of individuals and intimately working with them toward a common goal is rewarding and should not be skipped over. HGTV and their shows aren’t all bad. They’re entertaining, have created a buzz and excitement about design, and brought new clients into the doors of firms all over the world. We just want to make sure that we let you know some of the “reality” that these reality TV shows leave out. Want to know more about what you could expect on an interior design or architecture project? Let’s talk!

Meagan Miller

– Meagan Miller, CWG Interior Designer