What Home Improvement Shows Get Wrong

According to the home improvement show star Drew Scott of Property Brothers fame

I still don’t see why any normal human, living a real life, would want to live in a tiny house, a glorified tool shed, often propped up on a trailer, sitting in a parking lot.


And frankly, neither does Drew Scott, co-host and co-twin of the HGTV home improvement show, Property Brothers. During the 48 hours I spent with the duo for a recent profile, I sat down with Drew, and his fiancee and creative director, Linda Phan, to discuss some of my more pressing questions about HGTV’s role in the average American consumer’s life–and how their Scott Living brand of home furnishings responds.

Drew Scott and Linda Phan [Photo: Sonia Recchia/WireImage/Getty Images]
You’ve been on HGTV America since 2011. That means, anytime someone flips on the TV, they might be watching a kitchen renovation that’s six years behind interior design trends, which then inspires them to makeover their home with a dated style. Do you think that you actually slow interior design trends in the process?

Drew Scott: With our shows, aside from Jonathan and my hair over the years, there’s nothing else you can really tell to indicate changing eras of design. A lot of people watch one of our very first episodes and think, ‘That’s great, I totally want to do that in my house!’

What you see out there sold in stores, and on some TV shows, it is not what the latest trend is, or the latest that’s happening in design. And so, there is a bit of a battle sometimes, that people might fall back into thinking, ‘This is something I really like, but it is quite dated.’ Or they want to add a certain feature or use certain color palettes because they want to sell their home for top dollar, but they’re actually a little bit [from] a couple seasons ago.

There’s good and bad there. We like to be starting a trend, on the forefront of it. That’s why we work with companies like Fashion Snoops, to make sure we’re on the pulse of that and we can help shape where it’s going. But with that in mind, you also have to realize, with the average American out there, they’re not on top of what the latest things are. A lot of them do like what’s been happening over the past few years here. So there are certain things that are pushing that cutting-edge trend, and there are certain things we incorporate that have been around for a while.

Linda Phan: Lowe’s is a good example. With Scott Living working with different vendors, we’ve learned certain outlets have different trend schedules. Like when we’re designing for Lowe’s, they know their consumers are about two years behind current trends so we have to [aim for that].


DS: I think there are certain [elements] that are relatable still. But then there are certain things that may have been past design trends that you really shouldn’t still do. And that mainly comes down to material. For example now, a big thing is using color again. Burgundy, earthy greens, blues. Mixing colors as well. Many people think you have to stay to one palette. Mixing metals is another big thing. A lot of people think they should use chrome or brushed nickel everywhere. Now, the number one metal is brushed brass–and then mixing in golds and chrome. It looks amazing! But unless you’re someone on top of trends, you might think, ‘Mixed metals? What’s happening?’

You inspire many people to flip houses. Yet that impulse ruined a lot of people financially during the last real estate bubble. Do you feel a responsibility to your viewers? Do you worry about getting people involved in that world who don’t have your business acumen?

DS: The toughest thing is people who want to be those weekend warriors tackling that big project at their house, thinking they can do it because they’ve watched one of our shows.

That’s your bigger concern–bigger than flipping?

DS: That, but also flipping, I don’t like it. If someone tries to get into flipping and they don’t know what they’re doing, one, they’re going to blow their budget, and spend where they shouldn’t spend their money. But my biggest concern there is, if you don’t have any idea what you’re doing and try to renovate a house, you’re gonna do some stuff that’s not to code and have some family who doesn’t know [move in]. And that family could be in a house that burns down

So on our shows, you watch a lot of shows, they say ‘I’m doing this!’ But on our shows, all of our shows, we always hit home saying, ‘If you don’t know what you’re doing, bring in a professional.’


What do you think of tiny houses?

DS: I don’t like them. The reason I don’t like them is, of the majority of tiny houses, I’ve only seen a couple that are to code. The way these tiny houses are built, nothing is to code. And that bugs me because it’s a safety concern. Building codes are there for a reason. It’s for the safety of you and future homeowners. And a lot of these tiny houses, for as much as people are trying to save space, are not very functional. They’re terribly nonfunctional.

You’re trying to have your bathroom, kitchen, and bed all in one area? Great. But the way they try to compact things makes them nonfunctional. How is that making your life better? Just because you’re in a tiny space to try to save a bit of money, it’s a headache, and every day you come home and hit your head on the same beam. If it were done right, and I’ve seen a few small space designs that were done right, and the way they utilize the walls and structure, that’s great. Keeping it functional for a family and saving money? That’s great.

Any tiny design show, people watch it because it’s different. But at the end of the day, most people are like, ‘I would never do that!’

This interview has been condensed and edited.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach