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December 27, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

It was summer 1999 when I first jumped on the televised interior design/home improvement bandwagon. The person who took me there was an effeminate balding man named Christopher Lowell.

For one hour every weekday I escaped into a world of sisal rugs, core doors and "tablescapes" (Christopher's word for table settings with pizzazz).

The things that man can do with raffia! It boggles the mind.

Since then, Christopher's humble "Interior Motives" program has become one of the most popular shows on the Discovery Channel and with those kind of ratings came an inflated budget, glossier set and new name ("The Christopher Lowell Show," naturally).

While I still worship at the altar of Christopher, I've widened my scope as my cable service here in El Centro expanded. In addition to being a devoted fan of the Home and Garden Television station, my new obsession is TLC's "Trading Spaces."

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On the show, homeowners agree to swap houses for two days with their neighbors and redecorate one room in each home with the help of a professional designer and carpenter.

The key that makes this show so fun is the designers.

Walk into just about any middle-class house and I guarantee you 99 percent of the time the place needs decorating help.

Take my apartment, for instance. I've got duct tape holding together a pleather couch that's older than I am. My husband's growing collection of bobble-headed figures (a couple Boston Red Sox players, a devil and Mr. T so far) sit next to framed prints of turn-of-the-century French commercial posters.

The average person just doesn't know how to decorate. Professional designers have the creativity and know-how to come up with amazing stuff. They dare to use colors the rest of us run from. Red walls! It's madness, but it works.

Well, most of the time.

Some people are mortified when they come home and see what's been done. One man looked ready to kill the wacky designer who painted his living room walls harlequin-style with two shades of purple. The series of white hand statues on the mantle failed to endear themselves to anyone but the designer who chose them.

I don't understand how anyone could be angry with the results. Sure, the new lamp is ugly but it's 10 times better than the one you had before. And besides that, the $1,000 budget that each team has is supplied by the production company behind TLC. It's free! Quit your whining.

"Trading Spaces" is on every day at varying times with new episodes typically shown on Saturday nights. More information about the show, such as how to get on it, can be found at www.tlc.com

>>Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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