Joco Diversions

Home design trends demolish confidence

Jonathan (left) and Drew Scott, are the stars of HGTV’s “Property Brothers.” They appeared at the 2017 Greater Kansas City Home Show at Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City in 2017.
Jonathan (left) and Drew Scott, are the stars of HGTV’s “Property Brothers.” They appeared at the 2017 Greater Kansas City Home Show at Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City in 2017. File photo

She took a sledgehammer to our kitchen backsplash.

My chin dropped. I couldn’t believe it. With each thud and crack, I flashed back to a decade ago. I remembered the decision angst my husband and I experienced when we selected our tiles.

We had lugged dozens of samples home to hold against the cabinetry. It took a lot of head tilting and squinting to find something we thought would work.

All along we had been cool with our final choice; we never looked back. Our updated backsplash had blended into our lives almost unnoticed, like the proverbial wallpaper.

Until sledgehammer lady showed up. She kept swinging away, heavy metal to travertine. I flinched with every thwack.

Luckily, this whole disturbing scene unfolded on my TV. The crumbled tiles were not mine, but they sure looked similar. According to the show’s star, the backdrop behind my coffee maker is apparently dated and wrong for today’s “with it” homeowner.

Blame it on the icy winter, but somehow a case of cabin fever led me to stumble upon HGTV. And now I’m worried about my cabin because it does not have subway tiles. Or a pasta pot faucet over the stove.

Consider me equally hooked on/appalled by HGTV, the home of reality type renovation shows like “Property Brothers,” “Flip This House,” “Love or List It” and “Insult a Homeowner.”

That last one I made up, only because I have noticed a common thread in these addictive shows. Even the fun, affable property twins can get a little catty critiquing “fixer upper” homes in their “before” state.

When they snicker at rooms they proclaim to be as design-disconnected as a wall phone, I can’t help but think, “Whoa, diplomacy, please. Real people actually lived there before. This might be the very gingham palace where Aunt Myrna lovingly baked countless Bundt cakes.” (But then, curiously, I often agree with the show hosts. Kill the breakfast nook!)

I will admit the property brothers in particular are absolute princes when they deal face-to-face with emotional house hunters. It’s the ghosts of Sears catalogers past who bear the brunt of their brutal take downs. As well as viewers like me who recognize features within their own homes getting hauled out to dumpsters.

I suppose constant mockery and swinging axes are the things that make good television drama. But I still gasp at the relentless hammering of insults, and especially the wastefulness. I see large, beautiful slabs of granite smashed to pieces because the hue doesn’t work with today’s colorless palettes. Can’t such things be donated instead of destroyed?

It seems today everything must be gray or white with a certain clean line aesthetic. If it’s anything else, grab your safety goggles and hack away. Every home now requires the floor plan of a warehouse. If I had a dime for each time a host or guest on that network utters “open concept,” I’d short-circuit a million Coinstar machines.

Lately I find myself bumbling around the house, grimacing from room to room, questioning past choices. These walls are too dark. I’ll paint them white. No, wait, they shouldn’t even be there. Where’s the sledgehammer?

Then I calm down and realize HGTV is missing something. A home’s look is usually not an instant thing. It can’t be easily changed like a new outfit or hairstyle. It’s a slowly built monument of decisions its occupants make over months and years and even decades. Every dwelling is a history book of effort, well-intentioned nesting and desperate squinting. Lots and lots of squinting.

Pardon my spindles, but I think home design, like fashion, is mostly arbitrary. Every choice we make today is destined to be laughed at 10 or 20 years down the road.

I don’t believe my backsplash is a punchline. Yet. I’m keeping it.

Reach Denise Snodell at or on Twitter @DeniseSnodell