‘Trading Spaces” Genevieve Gorder on the Most Common Design Mistake She Sees—And How to Fix It

published Oct 26, 2018
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(Image credit: Heather Ainsworth/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

Genevieve Gorder is having a great year. The “Trading Spaces” OG not only returned for the design show’s revival (and its upcoming season two), but she also had a new series, “Stay Here,” premiere on Netflix in August. Plus, she got married in Morocco—one of her favorite places—in September.

We sat down with Gorder to chat about all things design (and design TV), how you can bring personality to your space with her free class via T.J. Maxx’s The Maxx You Project, why you should “ban the beige,” and more. [This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Apartment Therapy: I know you probably can’t give too much away but what are the biggest differences behind the scenes of the “Trading Spaces” reboot versus the original?

Genevieve Gorder: At this point in all of our careers we are just so much more fluid and experienced that it’s even more fun. Plus, we have access to so many more things that are affordable and made for this price range now in today’s market that we didn’t have in 2000 to 2005. Because we’re all so much better, we can make it all bigger. It’s been really fun just to be “back in the band” again, because we’ve all been solo singers for the last so many years. I didn’t know how that would feel until we all got back together, but we just cry all the time and support each other. We’re a team.

AT: Do you have an all-time favorite room from the show?

GG: Oh, my God, I look at the rooms that we did back then and I’m like, wait, why? Then I see what we were wearing and I think the same thing and so I can’t be too hard on us. Then I look at the houses before we did anything and think, okay, we were all doing some really weird stuff.

The moss room was one of my favorite rooms. I thought that was so much fun. I loved the Moroccan bedroom I did for the 12-year-old back in the day, I think that was in 2001. Now, I just adore the bedroom I did out of 4x4s with brass wallpaper. That was fun and it made a couple feel like they deserved something beautiful and you don’t have to spend a lot to do that.

AT: What is the Maxx You Project? Why is it important for home to be “uniquely you?”

GG: I feel like your home can “get stuck” more often than other kinds of design. It’s the most expensive, it’s the hardest to give permission to get cool, and why is that? Probably because traditionally, it’s people’s biggest investment in life.

What I often find as a designer is that people just copy something they’ve seen on page whatever of whatever catalog, or they’re so overwhelmed with all the options and the amount of money that it costs to do that they do nothing at all. But when our homes are authentically you, they’re that one space that you’re allowed to control the entire planet, and life is better. I don’t know why we ever doubt that, you know, that when our bedside table is close to the hand that needs to touch the snooze button, it feels better.

We compromise ourselves so often, thinking that if we are authentic to self that maybe we won’t be as successful, yet when we see other women doing it, T.J. Maxx found that 75 percent say that they’re more inspired to be more true to themselves. We want to create a community online where women can just go and learn and hopefully be inspired. My masterclass, “How To Design a Uniquely-You Space,” is a series of questions on how to approach your home instead of, “just do this, here you go.”

AT: I watched a couple of the modules and I love in one of them that you’re telling people to ban the beige.

GG: I love beige. I love all colors equally, but for some reason, we think beige is safe, right? I totally get light neutrals throughout the home. But, nobody says beige is their favorite color—ever. It’s why I have a job. No one asks me to come over when their home has beautiful color and balance and a palette that works really well. They call me when their house is beige.

(Image credit: Cristopher Nolasco/Netflix)

AT: You also have a new show on Netflix—Stay Here—and it’s about designing vacation rentals. What’s important about designing those specifically, and how does that differ from designing your primary home?

GG: I would say it’s depersonalizing the space when it comes to short-term rentals. I don’t want the clutter of regular life. I want it to be clean. I do want the warmth of home though to come through in those vignettes of accessories. Give me a sense of where I am and how is that paired with other things—what kind of wine are we drinking and what’s the chocolate that’s made down the street. Give me an authentic experience. In your primary home, what I’m talking about in this master class is getting to know yourself better. In the short-term rentals, it’s getting to know the geography of where you are and to lead with that voice first.

AT: What’s the most common design mistake that you see and how do you suggest people fix it?

GG: For short-term rentals, the most common mistake is too much stuff. It’s too homey, I think you live in it when I’m not there and it doesn’t feel good.

For home in general, I would say the necessity to match everything is something I don’t quite understand. Matching the curtain to the couch to the pillow and thinking that that’s the formula of what design is. It’s complementing a thing, not the matching of things. We get sold a box of matchy-matchy but it’s not how we want to live. We don’t match our pants to our shoe, to our socks, to our headbands because no one would think that looked great, but at home, we do it.

We just want to be safe because we don’t want to devalue the investment. You live in only one place at time, so make it yours while you’re there. Live fully and beautifully. Make your life tangible through things (but not too many things!).

AT: Congrats on your recent wedding in Morocco! What about the country inspires you?

GG: It’s absolute design porn; Morocco is a treasure chest—you don’t need to do anything, you just show up and those pictures are so pretty. Part of why I go there all the time is because it just feeds me as a designer. My whole house is absolutely infused with Morocco through the doors, all the tassels, the fabric, the rugs. I definitely want to live in a riad for the rest of my life [laughs]. I keep trying to like recreate it in every house I live in.