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Is a Surprise Home Makeover Ever a Good Idea?

  • March 26, 2023

There’s an infamous episode of Trading Spaces, an early-2000s home-renovation show, where a contestant, Pam Herrick, is caught in a state of distress over the transformation of her living room. In the iconic series, a set of neighbors are tasked with redecorating a room in the other pair’s home, which, surprise surprise, doesn’t always turn out too well. As soon as the homeowner opens her eyes in the reveal scene, you know what’s coming—there’s the obvious anguish on her face as she nervously writhes her fingers. “She’s not happy, she’s really not happy,” her husband says as she respectfully excuses herself to another room. Then, seconds later, the sobs begin. The emotional reaction earned her an appropriate—albeit not overly creative—nickname: Crying Pam. If not for the fact that this happened in 2002, she likely would’ve been turned into a meme.

All laughter aside, I deeply resonate with Crying Pam. Though she was a willing participant on the TV show, I don’t know if there’s anything more terrifying than a surprise home makeover—at least in the world of design. The thought of coming home to my room completely changed, my things all gone, and my stuff rearranged in a way that I would never conceive is almost too much for my type A heart to handle. And while the trope makes for juicy TV (even in instances with joyful reveals), it feels like quintessential reality programming: something we pass off as genuine when everyone watching at home knows it would never actually happen.

The Honduras home of Sarahi’s mom prior to the surprise <a href=home makeover.” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/m1.DbIIPTzWdUDgIMSOWcA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTEyNTY-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/architectural_digest_422/967f20049be28d49ea169cde7c00d9e5″/

The Honduras home of Sarahi’s mom prior to the surprise home makeover.

Photo: Sarahi Mena

And yet, surprise home makeovers for the plebeians like myself seem to have taken over with unusual fervor. Over the past

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