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HomeHomes
Published: Wednesday, 3/3/2004

Inside 'Spaces'

BY RHONDA B. SEWELL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In Trading Spaces, neighbors swap homes and redo rooms with help of decorators and $1,000.

Paige Davis' book takes readers through the TV series' third season.

Trading Spaces, now in its fourth season, airs at 4 p.m. weekdays; noon, 8, 9, and 11 p.m. Saturdays, and noon Sundays on TLC.

Paige Davis is trying to catch her breath.

The host of the Learning Channel's popular Trading Spaces show is handling a home-improvement disaster in the residence of a New Orleans couple where an episode is being filmed.

"A two-gallon can of white paint soaked through the tarp onto the linoleum and we're all trying to get the paint out of the linoleum's grout with both hands," says Davis, panting from the crisis.

Although viewers of the show - in which neighbors swap homes for 48 hours and redo rooms with the help of decorators and a $1,000 budget - most likely won't see any reference to the mishap, readers of Davis' new book will learn about just such behind-the-scenes events.

Paige by Paige: A Year of Trading Spaces (Meredith Books, $19.95) takes readers on a journey through the show's third season - from Cumberland, Maine, to Philadelphia - giving details about the show's production that TV viewers never see.

Now in its fourth season, Trading Spaces, which airs at 4 p.m. weekdays; noon, 8, 9, and 11 p.m. Saturdays, and noon Sundays on TLC, attracts 18 million viewers a week. It has inspired spin-offs such as a family version and a kids version, and has helped the 34-year-old Davis carve a niche for herself in the home-improvement world. The show's perky 5-foot, 7-inch host is often seen promoting products in home decor magazines and TV commercials.

In an interview after the paint disaster, Davis talked about her role in Trading Spaces, her book, and her own design ideas.

"One of the attractions of the show is the cast of characters and who we are," she says. "We're almost like a soap opera cast of people. There's these different designers and carpenters with their own personalities in the eye of the storm and I rotate around them trying to keep everyone on budget and I act as a time-keeper to keep things moving."

Davis is modest during the interview, frequently diverting attention to other Trading Spaces personalities. Still, she is very aware of her popularity and the fact that she is a role model for girls and young women. "I take my job very seriously and I don't want to come across as this nagging, annoying voice who is overbearing and perky," she says.

Davis is not afraid to give her opinions and to scold designers when they lose their focus or fall behind schedule.

"I hope I'm seen as someone who is speaking her mind and just being herself," she says. "Girls are always told to be polite, and I'm rarely polite."

Davis, who is frequently seen wearing stretch denim jeans on the show, says she respects her crew's ability to create and design, and she hopes the book reflects her true relationship with the show's crew.

"I hope when people read it, they view it also as a tribute not only to the cast, but also to the crew, cameramen, the grips, the production assistants, and everyone who puts these shows together ... there's an incredible amount of commitment and that's why Trading Spaces is so successful," she says.

Davis, whose full name is Mindy Paige Davis, is married to Broadway producer Patrick Page. (He is on the national tour of The Lion King.) She was born in Philadelphia, and was reared in several states, including Virginia, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. She is a graduate of the Meadow School of Arts at Southern Methodist University.

Before landing the Trading Spaces role, she says her television experience was limited to a few commercials. Growing up, her passion was dance and theater. She has long been involved in performing arts groups, and eventually toured with the Beach Boys, and landed a spot in the national tour of Beauty and the Beast. She has also danced with the Broadway production of Chicago.

She tried out for the Trading Spaces job after a friend at Banyan Productions, producer of TLC/Discovery, informed her that the company was looking for a host of a new show.

"When I was tipped off, I soon started the process of begging," she says. "My background didn't reflect any television experience, and I kept writing letters to them. I didn't want 'no' for an answer.

"I thought [host of Trading Spaces] would be a really good opportunity, even though it was further down the dial than anything I had ever done before," Davis says.

Her own interior design style, she says, is more in line with the show's designers, Hilda Santo-Tomas and Douglas Wilson. Davis adds that Trading Spaces has dramatically affected her own style choices.

"My apartment was very Pottery Barn, which translates into predictable," she says. "Now it's much more bold because of Doug and Hilda's impact on me."



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