As the 1990s and 2000s make a comeback in the form of TV, film, and fashion, we can’t help but be nostalgic about original home improvement shows that paved the way for so many of today’s reality home shows. 

The most notable of these classic shows is TLC’s Trading Spaces. The premise is simple: two sets of neighbours swap homes and transform a room in two days with a budget of $1,000 using the help of expert designers. This format made the show, which ran from 2000 to 2009 before its 2018 reboot, a huge hit. 

Trading Spaces’ successful results inspired a generation of reno enthusiasts to try their hand at updating their own spaces, but sometimes left homeowners shocked and even in tears. 

While it may seem like these things were done intentionally for shock value, host Paige Davis said that wasn’t the case at all.

“We do try to push the envelope and a lot of our designers do that more than others,” she said in a 2019 interview. “But we’re not trying to force a negative reaction by any stretch of the imagination.”

From an upside-down living room to a horror-themed kitchen, let’s take a trip down memory lane to relive some of the most memorable designs from the show. 

The Upside-Down Room

1. Topsy-turvy theme

In one episode, the designers flipped the script on functionality and revealed a black room with furniture hung upside down from the ceiling. 

At one point, someone said “having the chairs on the ceiling really opens up the room.” Some people really do just see things as the glass half full. 

The worst Trading Spaces Fireplace Makeover

2. Fireplace flop

Perhaps the most iconic fail in the show’s history, these homeowners made two things very clear: don’t get rid of the brick fireplace and avoid brown tones. Instead of coming up with a solution for a room that maintained some of its original character, the designer ignored the brief and created a room that literally made one of the owners cry. The brick fireplace was turned into a sleek, white-tiled mantle, while the entire room was full of brown. Understandably, owner Pam excused herself to cry in the hallway. 

A couple on Trading Spaces reacts to their living roomImage via Tenor

“She was actually trying to do the polite thing, which was leave and not throw a fit and not get angry,” Davis recalled in an interview with TV Insider. “But I’m standing there with her husband, and you can hear her sobbing in the hallway. It’s very disconcerting. This was really in the very beginning days of reality television when it was truly real.”

Trading Space's beach-themed living space

3. Sandy shock

Having your toes in the sand is a great feeling when you’re at the beach. So you can imagine the shock a homeowner got when their living room was transformed into an indoor beach-themed space with real sand! The designers completed the room with striped yellow and red wall coverings. In case you were wondering, no, they didn’t incorporate a water element nor tropical refreshments. 

When the couple walked in for the big reveal, the husband immediately knew something was off. He almost refused to open his eyes, which was probably for the best. By the end, everyone was laughing about the absurdity of what was in front of them.

Design flaws in Trading Spaces

4. Hay horror

When your home makeover involves hay, it surely must be a prank, right? Nope! The show’s designers didn’t skimp on bold themes to entertain viewers—at times, to the disappointment of the homeowners. In one episode, they chose to cover the walls of a child’s playroom with hay, accented by a pink ceiling. 

As for the homeowners, they just kept repeating in disbelief, “it’s straw,” to which the host replied, “I’m glad you could tell it was straw, because we weren’t sure you’d even know what it was,” as if that was an option. 

The hay was removed within 24 hours. According to the couple, it took five people about 17 hours to remove it all. The neighbours did feel bad about the mishap, saying they weren’t really given much of a choice. 

Horror Kitchen - Trading Spaces

5. Gorier than Gotham 

Who needs a bright-hued accent wall when you can capture attention with blood splatter? The designers behind this look outdid themselves by turning a normal kitchen into what looked like the site of a gory homicide. In addition to all red paint and window treatments, the Trading Spaces star hung up a coffin-shaped spice rack and a blood-soaked white sheet as an “art installation.” 

If you want to see even more cringe-worthy rooms, you can check out the full video below. 

If you’re thinking of overhauling a room in your home, get in touch with a professional to help you create a plan for an outcome you’ll be happy with. In the meantime, we’d love to know what room you consider to be the worst!


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