“Fixer to Fabulous:” let’s fix it, please!

The cast of "Fixer to Fabulous." Photo from HGTV.com.

Over spring break, Easter break and my time missing in action, I had the pleasure of watching HGTV. The Home & Garden Television programs would help fill the time when visiting my Grandma and as I was yearning for something with a little more spice than a talk show. I enjoyed watching these programs, which feature couples and other individuals joining together to beautify the homes of various families. It was also nice when my Grandma would join in for a couple of episodes and it would be a calming afternoon.

However, as it went from one program to another, I realized that all of these houses looked the same. There was the rare opportunity where a singular space in the house would have some personality, such as a bar in a couple’s home that featured artifacts and other trinkets from their travels abroad. It was a really fun room, but it was the exception, not the norm. From “Fixer to Fabulous” to “Home Town,” the two shows that dominated my HGTV afternoons, the houses looked the same—extremely clean with color reserved as a splash to add some character. The real highlights would be the furniture pieces, such as custom kitchenware and things of significance, that helped to bring some personality and warmth to the space. One of the few elements to add personality was a watercolor painting of the house. It reminded me of a larger issue: the commerciality of blandness.

In our capitalist society, and with the current craziness of the housing market, blandness sells. It’s clean, it’s safe and it gives people a sense of belonging while not overwhelming them. This is not to say the designers and other individuals behind these projects are bland, but they have to play by the rules of the current market. This can also be seen with our current hotel and hospitality industry, as major companies, even Disney, move towards neutral colors and simple flooring to make spaces feel cleaner. It’s discouraging that all of these hotels in various locations are now hard to differentiate between when comparing photos.

Those who are lucky enough to own a home are greeted with a space that they can exist in, rather than a space that inspires them and allows for expression in unique and fundamental ways. People should not just have to rely on a singular furniture piece to have a moment of inspiration and character. As a maximalist, I yearn for a space to tell a story, to feel alive, utilizing whatever elements we may have, including postcards, LED strip lights, print photos and more. 

Another show I watched during the same timeframe was the “Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge,” a competitive show that highlighted couples from both HGTV and the Food Network as they ultimately designed the Barbie Dreamhouse. It was quite a fun show and had great corporate synergy, as it premiered this past summer, just in time for “Barbie” (2023). The designers created beautiful spaces and while I do have some problems with the show, such as the division of spaces within the house, I thoroughly enjoyed the explosion of color and design choices throughout the house. 

Now I am not saying that we have to be as extravagant as Barbie, but we do not have to be trapped in the same commerciality depicted in the regular HGTV programming. Rebecca Robeson is one of my favorite interior designers as she navigates both of these levels in a fun and dynamic way. My favorite videos of hers are her Christmas displays, which she starts setting up in October. Robeson’s designs are relative to current trends, but she also varies her design styles to match her clients and the overall vibes of her different projects. It is a pleasure to watch her YouTube channel, beyond just the holiday season, and to see how much she cares for each project and has a beautiful blend of being clean while letting her personality run wild.

While this is definitely not the most pressing issue in the housing industry, especially with the rise of unhoused individuals, the fluctuation of Airbnb and inflation in the market, it highlights how the owners of these properties should not feel confined by the current trends. Do we want a house with neutral colors and a couple paintings just because other people have the same? Or do we want to create a home that highlights our voice? Let’s not allow capitalism to dictate what our spaces look like by granting pops of personality and color to take full control.

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Johnny '24 is a Theatre and Media and Communication double major at 'Berg. He loves to highlight the voices of artists across campus and to showcase the wide variety of events at Muhlenberg. He likes to think he is funny, but that is up for debate.


  1. To see ‘Fixer to Fabulous’ that is not boring to look at, check out the Italia version which restores a more than 300-year-old Tuscan house.


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