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Genevieve Gorder’s Top Decorating Tips

The famed interior designer and star on Trading Spaces talks HGTV’s reboot of the classic TV show and her best decor tricks

Since Trading Spaces debuted on HGTV back in 2000, the term “house swap” has had a whole new meaning. While the show’s concept – a pair of neighbors performing renovations on each other’s houses – was must-see TV, the idea of actually surrendering your home to the process would be daunting for most – unless of course you were guaranteed the services of Genevieve Gorder, one of the original designers and a fan favorite on Spaces, Post-Spaces, Gorder parlayed her popularity into HGTV stardom with shows like HGTV Star and Dear Genevieve.

Now, on the brink of the Trading Space’s 2018 reboot, Gorder is ready to make good on her legacy. But reuniting with fellow cast members like Paige Davis and Doug Wilson isn’t all she’s been up to. The star of her own ongoing show, HGTV’s Genevieve’s Renovation, Gorder’s DIY empire also includes forthcoming wallpaper and fabric collections. She’s also working on an under-wraps streaming show that, she says, is “all about home shares” like Airbnb and Home Away.

We sat with the designer for tips on making our homes perfect for the holidays, as well as sneak peeks for what to expect on Trading Spaces’s triumphant return. Below, catch a small dose of our conversation–and be sure to watch the full thing here.

What do you think would surprise readers most about a day in your life as a designer?

I don’t have an army that works with me—I don’t necessarily want one. I swell and shrink depending on what’s going on. We all have to build our teams, but I like to run real lean, with just a couple people, if I can, and barnacle onto the companies that need my help instead of coming in with an army. I like the smaller, more intimate socialization of a little company.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into interior design?

I think you can get into Interior Design at any age, and it’s something that you don’t have to have a huge degree to be great at. A lot of my closest friends are totally self-taught, but you have to be taught—you can’t come in only thinking, “I have good taste.” You have to know the history, and you have to know what’s been done and how it’s been done so that you can come in with a really active voice.

How is the 2018 version of Trading Spaces different than what we’ve seen before from the show?

I’ll start with the things that are the same, which is that all of our personalities and quirks and characters are all the same. It’s who we are, you can’t deny that. Whether we’re 20 or 40, it’s the same thing. The biggest change is what we have available to us now, compared to then. There’s a whole multibillion-dollar industry built on affordable design, now at your fingertips. Back then we didn’t have smartphones; we didn’t have GPS; we didn’t have Pinterest; we didn’t have any of these things when we did the show last time.

I think you’re going to see a lot of new product that you’ve never seen before, or we’ve never used on television before in a way that’s very curated. We are that much better at what we do, because we’ve been doing it that much longer. So, I think you’ll definitely get the 5.0 version of Trading Spaces with the sentimental sweetness because it’s a game, it’s lovely, and it’s not mean, typically.

With craft-based television shows like this, audiences can expect a certain degree of “Hollywood Magic.” Yet Trading Spaces is an exception to that. How?

Glue, paint, wood; all of these things have their own processes that you have to expect and you can’t produce. I can’t make glue dry faster. And I can’t make paint go on faster. It is what it ‘effing is.

So, you have to train producers to respect that, because that’s our industry. And we’re partial to it, too. We have to respect it, or it just doesn’t happen well. I think what most shows have that we don’t have, which we were so surprised after the first round, is there are ghost designers, there are lots of elves that come in and do the work—that is not this show. All six of us were trained on this ship. Coming into the next stages of our life, in designing on television, we were ninjas. Because we could do it all, and we expected people to watch us do it all. And we’ve never strayed from that. So I never have a ghost.

What is the first thing one should tackle when decorating for the holidays?

Scent is our most powerful sense that we have. When you smell something—like one of Air Wick’s limited edition seasonal scents—you’re taken back to your mom, to your first boyfriend, to that moment in school. It is so immediate. And so for holidays specifically, and I can’t communicate this on television, and I can’t give you the scent. I do this in every single space. I know my person, I know the room, and I give it a scent.

And after scent?

When I design décor for this time of year, it’s very thoughtful, strategic and fun. I use a lot of backyard goodies—which if you’re in New York, it’s tougher—but for dried goods we could still go out on the street, which I do. Bark, branches, leaves, all the dryness that we think of as, like, dead, is actually really pretty when you create an arrangement. So, embrace winter! We don’t need to hide from it, we don’t need to stalk up on groceries for it, it’s just winter. And you can definitely use its nature. When you infuse that with scent and with candle, it’s perfect.


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Main Image: Photography by Myrna Suarez