HGTV vs. REALITY: 5 Tips from an Industry Insider

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Home design and improvement are hot topics for reality television and HGTV stars like Chip and Joanna Gaines have influenced trends and created an audience of design fanatics around the world. While the shows can be inspiring and educational, there’s often more than meets the viewer’s eye in how projects are completed. Caryn O’Sullivan, owner of Drapery Street, presented a recent Designer On Call workshop on “HGTV vs. Reality” to help us make sense of it all. While no home project is without some challenges, Caryn shared her 5 key tips to complete a room like the stars on HGTV.

1. Map Out Your Budget & Timeline

Arming yourself with a great team and having realistic expectations for the timeline and budget are good starting points for any project. The professionals on TV have years of experience and always hit the design out of the park. In the real world, it can be challenging to find the design professional or contractor who is a good fit for your personality and will meet timeline and budget expectations.

The projects you see on television shows are under very strict production timelines so workers are scheduled and contracted one after the other. In reality, it takes some careful planning and organization to schedule the plumber, electrician, drywall finisher, painter, inspector, etc., and there are often gaps in between each tradesman due to their own work schedules. Understanding that there may be time between each step of a project helps to limit scheduling frustrations. In regards to budgets, the reality show project budget may not account for all room details like blinds, decorative trim, hardware and lighting and create the impression that a project can be completed for less than market rate.

modern bathroom
Clear expectations for your timeline and budget help a project to run smoothly. Don’t forget to account for important details like window treatments and artwork.

2. Follow a Space Plan

TV shows have expert space planners spending hours of time staging a space and determining the right furniture scale and floor plan. Ask yourself how the room feels and how it should function. Furniture retailers and designers can be helpful to you in this process.

A solid space plan and appropriate scale are key to creating a space that feels great.

3. Learn from Experience

The best way to tackle a new project is to complete one room at a time. Go from the planning stage through to the last detail before moving on to a new space. This way, you build experience as you go. Another way to gain valuable experience is to get referrals for professionals that can provide valuable insight. Also, learn how to navigate trends. For example, certain patterns (i.e. Greek key and herringbone) are best incorporated in small ways for longevity.

Functionality can also inform your design decisions. Can’t decide between short or long drapery rods? Let functionality be your guide. If you do not intend to close the drapes, do not spend extra money on longer rods and more fabric. The same logic dictates another popular trend: barn doors. If a barn door provides a necessary function in your space, go for it. If its just for aesthetic, consider whether it still makes sense.

Simple tricks of the trade like raising your drapery height can elevate the lines of the room.

4. Feature One Custom Item in Each Room

Create a unique detail in each room to avoid a generic feel. You want your living space to reflect you, not the vignette from a catalog or showroom. Use details and accessories in ways that represent your style. Examples include accent pillow fabric, artwork, or an impactful stone on a fireplace.

drapery street green draperies
Custom draperies create a beautiful statement in this room.

5. Build Your Team

Get referrals! On HGTV, the homeowners have the best team at their disposal. Ask someone who can help you assemble your team and remember, you get what you pay for. When interviewing contractors and vendors, be wary of contractors who offer an estimate far below other quotes. Get connected with a professional builder or remodeler who has a team, stands behind their work and is consistently in alignment with how you work. Start with the first professional in the process, perhaps the designer or remodeler, and build from there. Often, they have other artisans that can do the subsequent jobs. Here’s a quick list of items to check and important questions to ask when you think you’ve found the right partner:

Hiring Check-List:

Questions to Ask

  1. Do they have experience on your job type?
  2. Will a supervisor be on site if your job is extensive?
  3. How are problems addressed in the process?
  4. Are there warranties, and what is covered under them?

To Do

  • Have an attorney with home improvement experience look over the contract before you sign.
  • Make sure your agreement has a balanced payment schedule.
When in doubt, enlist the help of a professional to help guide your project.

Having the proper expectations and knowing when to utilize the advice and talent of a professional will make your next project successful. It’s not as easy as it looks on TV. Armed with the right information, you’ll be well on our way to a fantastic outcome! Looking for an expert for your next project? Contact the professionals at Drapery Street and browse designer portfolios here.

About Drapery Street

Caryn O’Sullivan, owner

Drapery Street is a design boutique that offers a beautifully curated assortment of one-of-a-kind fabrics and custom design resources.  This creative workshop engages the customer in a personal design process that is organized to deliver beautiful interiors that suit each unique taste and lifestyle.  By focusing on design expertise, friendly and personal creative consultation and curated style inspiration, Drapery Street appeals to shoppers with different tastes, incomes, and styles of living.

Monday – Thursday: 10 AM – 6 PM
Friday: 10 AM – 5 PM, Saturday 10 AM – 3 PM