In April, Paige Davis returns to TLC to host the revival of the neighbors’ room swap, Trading Spaces. The show, once produced by Philadelphia’s Banyan Productions, has been off the air since 2008. But before the comeback comes back, Davis herself is coming back to the place she was born, or close to it — Oaks, for this weekend’s Philly Home + Garden Show.
Davis was born in our burbs and lived here for the first four years of her life. She will make three appearances at the suburban showcase. She’ll be there to publicize the new version of the old show. She’ll offer photo ops, autographs, possibly hugs — but definitely not design tips. In the 10 years since the original Trading Spaces went off the air, its effervescent host has dabbled in other successful shelter shows. She even had her Manhattan apartment made over by a major celebrity designer.
But Davis will be the first to admit: She hasn’t caught the decorating, design, or carpentry bug. Instead, she spent most of the past decade returning to her first love — the stage. She’s had starring roles on Broadway and in big-deal regional productions. All in all, she’s had quite a go of it. Still, when she heard the Trading Spaces gang was getting back together, she wanted in. According to Davis, Ty Pennington, Hildi Santo-Tomas, and the cast felt the same way. Here, she talks about the way it was, the time in between, and the way it’s gonna be again. (Hint: A whole lot like it was before.)
Trading Spaces is back. You’re all back. How?
It was fate. If anyone from our original cast had been doing a show for a competing network, they might not have been available. We were all available. I think it’s great. When we had the reunion special, it was so exciting. It was the best to see everybody again.
Back in the day, you guys did seem like a big, boisterous family.
I speak for the entire cast and everyone who worked on the show, including the people at Banyan: [The original Trading Spaces] was a very exciting time in our lives. It catapulted many of us to careers in the home genre. It bonded us very much.
Coming together now, again, it’s exactly the same. We describe ourselves more like family than friends. I don’t mean that in a maudlin way: We really are more like brothers and sisters. We know each other’s strengths and weakness. We tease each other in ways only siblings can do.
And that’s something you … wanted to do again?
I don’t think any of us had to think very hard about the decision to do the show again. I didn’t have to think hard at all. I reached out to TLC immediately said, ‘You know I want to host it, right?’
Can you summarize your past 10 years?
I hosted two other shows in the home genre: Home & Family on the Hallmark Channel and Home Made Simple for OWN, which I was nominated for an Emmy for.
In addition to that, I’ve done a tremendous amount of theater. I did Boeing-Boeing on Broadway, which won the best revival Tony [in 2008]. I’ve played Roxie in Chicago off and on since 1998 and done a lot of cool regional theater. I premiered a new play for Mark St. Germain [Dancing Lessons], and was in the first regional production for the Broadway show, An Act of God, which originally starred Jim Parsons, then Sean Hayes. I was the first woman to play God.
All the while, were you watching reality home TV just … explode?
I’ve definitely seen how much the genre has grown. Trading Spaces was a catalyst for an entire new genre of television. That is something that has been humbling and exciting.
With so much competition, how will the new Trading Spaces stand out?
Nostalgia. If we bring this show back in its original format and give the fans what they want, there will be a powerful wave of nostalgia that will be greater than any design tip we can offer.
Then, there’s format, the level of jeopardy that comes from Trading Spaces: Will they finish on time? Will they finish under the budget? Will the homeowners like the room? If the homeowners don’t like the room, will the friendship between the neighbors withstand? Our show offers humor, fun, a great deal of how-to info and takeaway.
We were the first design show that put the tools in the hands of the homeowner as opposed to an expert only. Trading Spaces made interior design accessible and relatable. It told people they could do it — and in a little bit of time and with a small budget.
We also told them interior design and decoration wasn’t just for the upper echelon. It was for everyone. It was for people to take pride in their designs and take risk.
Has it changed your own interest in design?
Well, my home was designed by Nate Berkus for the OWN show. Oprah turned the tables on me. I got kicked out and had no say in what would happen. Patrick [Page, her husband] and our dog, Sophie, we had to leave. We came back two weeks later, and the whole thing was beautifully done. It’s still exactly the same. It hasn’t changed. This was, my gosh, over 12 years ago.
When I come to the home shows, it’s to talk about Trading Spaces, not my home.
So, how’s the new show different?
Trading Spaces was never about trends, and it won’t be this time around. There are changes: Each episode will have two carpenters as opposed to one. TLC is hoping the designers can push the envelope of the rooms, as opposed to having a carpenter to go back and forth. The budget is still very low and only meant to accommodate inflation. Instead of $1,000 for each room, it’s $2,000.
Another small change is we have a sponsored element, where the neighboring team chooses an item to go in the room. It’s a fast little thing, but it’s very nice because it puts more power into the hands of the neighbors.
Somehow, the show is remembered for less successful trades? Can fans expect those too?
Those clips get played over and over again. People tell me all the time, ‘I loved it when they [the homeowners] hated it.’ It’s like rubbernecking. But it was rare, so rare. They were quite literally hundreds of rooms, up to 70 episodes per season. I don’t need all my fingers and toes to count how many times they hated it.
But, there will be some epic fails?
They are not all happy endings. That’s quintessential Trading Spaces — always a variety of emotions. Anybody I ever met from an old season, even if they were not as happy with their room in the end, they’re all happy they had the experience.
Paige Davis at the Philadelphia Home + Garden Show
- 6 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Greater Philadelphia Expo Center at Oaks, 100 Station Ave., Oaks, phillyhomeandgarden.com.