How to: Get on a home makeover show
Every night on TV, families just like yours get rooms in their homes decorated by top design professionals, often for free. Chances are, you've seen these shows and wondered, why not me? Sue Skinner of SMS Concepts -- the Toronto agency that casts families for shows like Colour Confidential and My Parents' House -- gives STYLE AT HOME the inside scoop on winning the home-makeover lottery.
1 Target a show
“Visit the websites,” says Sue Skinner of SMS concepts. HGTV, W Network, Life Network and Prime are key. “Look in the Homes section of the papers, the commuter papers and your community paper for ads.” And watch the show. “It's not just about the before and after,” Sue says. “It's about the family. Who are they? Why are they in this mess?”
2 Sell yourself
The application is critical. “Really tell us the story. Be forthcoming, frank and articulate. Make us laugh. Grab our attention,” says Sue. “There should be tension -- not Jerry Springer tension, but a conflict of some sort. He's conservative, she wants bright pink; that kind of thing.”
3 Take great photos
Most applications require photos so the designers can see the space. Take wide shots -- north, south, east and west (so you get a picture of every wall in the room). “Pictures should be in colour and taken with the lights on,” says Sue. And taking a minute to tidy things up isn't a bad idea, either. “The before shot can look tired and outdated; that's kind of the point,” she says. “But if the room is so cluttered you can't see the floor or the couch, forget it.”
4 If at first you don't succeed...
There are plenty of reasons why you might not get the green light on your first application. “There may be only 13 or 26 episodes, and the show can cover only so many basements and kitchens,” Sue says. Increase your odds by giving the show second and third choice rooms, as well as picking rooms large enough to hold all the crew (sound, camera, and production people), directors, hosts and equipment that come with a project. Generally, rooms should be at least 12 by 14 feet.
5 Be patient
“You should typically get a response to your query within 10 days,” says Sue, but it could be more than a month before you get the final OK. And if you are chosen, remember this: “Shooting could take place during the week or on weekends, and it will disrupt your life,” she says. But in the end, it's worth it. “These rooms are sometimes worth $30,000; being asked to contribute $5,000 is still a bargain!” as that would never cover the cost of the design team's time and expertise. Changes are meant to be dramatic and often include new flooring, custom window coverings, crown mouldings, top-of-the-line or custom-made furniture, new carpets and accessories. One more benefit: a chatty design team and regular coffee breaks offers the chance to learn some dos and don'ts about decorating the rest of your house.