Arts & Culture » The B-List

Trade spaces with me



I've never really lifted a hammer. Nor have I screwed a screw (minus the driver), sawed a board or glued a stick -- oh, wait, there was that pathetic matchstick cross I made in church camp, but I'd hardly count that as industrious. Fire is rarely industrious.

Still, my midday booze slump is heightened by home-improvement reality shows, the kind TLC, HGTV and the Discovery Channel hawk as educational. I don't think I'm alone in saying that nobody really follows the informational lead. I tend to think that watching someone else do it means that you don't actually have to do it at all. And, no, an orange room with doily-sponge designs on the wall doesn't reek of practicality, no matter how gay you are.

Not gay, but certainly friendly to the gay eye, is "Trading Spaces" newbie Carter Oosterhouse, he of chiseled bone structure and burly build. Predictably, he's been cornered by the Southern Women's Show circuit (last week, Alabama! This week, Orlando!), under the guise of DIY home tipping, but really because he looks good. He's on the phone with me from a "Trading Spaces" work site up north, and I'm pretending that he's my boyfriend. Just like his audiences are pretending to work on their crappy houses.


"Uh, hey."

OK, whatever. Anyway, the now-crowded market of designers and carpenters on TV has produced its necessary boredom-ring of Internet love, with Oooooosterhouse already garnering a significant number of big-Oklahoma-lady fan sites. It must be flattening flattering.

"Yeah-heh-heh-ah," he giggles unflatteningly, er, unflatteringly. "I don't know. I'm just taking it step by step."

Step No. 1: Bury your head in shame. Step No. 2: Rinse, repeat.

"When I was first brought onto the show, it was definitely very interesting." He says "definitely" the first of 3,000 times. "I just got thrown right into the mix. Now, as things are progressing, basically my main focus is on getting the job done. That's definitely the main focus of mine right now. The fan sites, and the websites, it's amazing! Whenever I would search my name before, it would be like a 10K here, a half-marathon there, a bitty triathlon, or some sports activity."

Me? A series of arrests for being just this fabulous, and interviews with people like you.

"But now, "Trading Spaces" is a phenomenon of few equals, and so are you!" I flirt, cheaply.

"It definitely is," he definitelies again. "Not so much in New York or in L.A., and I live in L.A. But when you step outside of there, you definitely see it. When I go back home to Michigan, where I grew up, if people don't watch the show, they definitely know about it."

"So, um, you're something of a sex symbol. How does that feel?"

"That's a little bit odd, too. It's weird, you know," he channels Britney. "This is the God's honest truth, when people say that, and I hear that, it just kind of goes in one ear and out the other."

No kidding. "You're sexy and you're single." I take off my shirt.

"Yeah. Single people inquire about that, you know, instead of inquiring about what I do. It's like, 'So, you're single!'" he falls in my lair. "It's irrelevant."

Let's talk irrelevance, then. With "Trading Spaces" now branching out into both prime time and family editions, not to mention the knockoffs, there's a glut of regular people turning their houses into unlivable East Village lounge rooms. But "Trading Spaces" houses the most potential conflict, with unsuspecting neighbors switching properties and redesigning at will. Keeping up with the Joneses is fast becoming fucking with the Joneses. Do people ever get upset?

"What I always say to the homeowners is, 'Give your God's honest opinion.'" Oh, her again. "Tell us what you really think. If you don't like it, say you don't like it. But it's got to be just an overwhelming experience in and of itself to walk into your own house blindfolded, which you haven't been in for two days."

Been there.

"Once you open your eyes, there's two camera operators, lights, and your house has been totally redesigned." I slip him my address. "People who don't like it tend to be more hesitant. And then after the cameras go off they'll say, 'Oh, I really don't like it.'"

"And do you fix it?"

"Well, the people definitely know what they're getting into." Enough already. "So it's definitely, like, the whole experience of the show is being with your family, sequestered in a home. It's definitely really family time."

I'm definitely going to throw up. Especially when I learn that Carter was featured in a "Playboy Erotic Fantasies" video. He came to L.A. to be an actor, you know. Win big, mama's fallen angel.

"I went out there for the summer time, me and a buddy." He starts to turn me on. "And we did that extra thing where you call in -- we just wanted to get some L.A. experience. Next thing I know, I get called in to be an extra in the video. I mean, I was a college guy, so it was pretty awesome."


"Then the video didn't come out for years, and right before I got this job the video came out. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, the timing!' I have to say it's a good conversation piece."

"Were you nude?" I hold a shotgun in my own mouth.

"No, I was in the background. That's why I don't understand why my name got put in it."

I pull the question out that's been hanging in my head like a chad (or Biff, or Bubba) for the entire interview. This, I feel, is what makes me so great:

"So, um, if you were a tool, what kind of tool would you be?"

"Ha, ha, ha. I've never had that question asked!" he tools. "Um, I would probably be ... oh, geez ... I would have to say a router. Because it makes everything so beautiful, regardless of what it is."

I may just have a chance.

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