I am sure many of you have seen the recent promo’s for a new show on TLC called “Four Houses”. If you are from Dallas, you may recognize one of the contestants as the Big D’s own Meredith Grabham. She is hysterical on the commercials and as always looks stunning! Well the back story goes that I was scheduled to do the show and unfortunately production ended up being end of April, which happened to be about a week before Banks was born. Most of you know, this is the kind of thing I had been waiting for a long time. My dream is to be on TV in some capacity at some point (Lord knows how many times I have tried out for the Real World and Jeopardy. Clearly I am not slutty enough or smart enough apparently). After a long and really tough pregnancy, I knew there was no way I could shoot in their time frame and spend 10-12 hours a day for a week working on the show. The casting director was so sweet and we got to talking about Dallas and how I had so many great stylish friends here that may be interested. She asked if I was serious and did I have a name to suggest. Now, no one get offended here, because so many of you have amazing homes to showcase, but I had 100% no doubts on who to send their way, my dear friend Meredith Grabham. Meredith is truly one of the kindest, funniest and clearly most stylish people I know, which you will see on the show.
Meredith and I met shortly after I moved to Dallas and we had an instant connection. She and I get each other in a “yes, I- am- a- crazy- artist- type- who -speaks- her -mind- a- bit -too- much -for -a -traditonal -Southern -woman, but- still- insists- that- my- children -wear -smocked -clothes -and -big-bows -until -they- are -7” kind of way. So I called Meredith, half wanting to cry because I really wanted the opportunity and half thrilled for her because I knew she would rock this. Of course, she was super excited, and super nervous and I could hear her wheels turning in her mind about what needed to be changed in her house and how fast she could do it
Meredith’s episode will air this Monday and while we do not know the outcome yet, I can’t imagine that she did anything less than WIN! She was kind enough to write an entry detailing her fun experience on the show. Let’s go Team Golden Rhino! (You will understand the rhino reference after the show airs on Monday).
A Little Show Called ‘Four Houses… and a Golden Rhino’
(Which happens to be my golden rhino and one of my most prized possessions)
Mondays on TLC @ 9:00pm
Four personalities, four styles, four opinions, four ladies, four houses and a production crew… these are the ingredients for a whirlwind week and an unforgettable experience.
Here is the backstory. My name is Meredith Grabham. I am the mother of 3 sweet babies, the wife of a very patient man, a decorator and artist in ALL of my free time. I am very carefree and believe that you only live once, whatever comes your way, go for it!
So it all began as I was in a meeting with a new client, trying my best to figure out how to merge his southwest aesthetic with her modern sensibilities in one room and my phone rang. Of course I let it go, but it kept ringing, texts were dinging and I finally had to check. It was our very own Gypsy Soul, Kristen Dowd calling to say, “You’re either going to love me or hate me but I gave your number to a production company in New York. They’re filming a design show and looking for people for the Dallas show. You’re the only person I know crazy enough to do it.” I have to give Kristen all of the credit because they actually wanted to film her but she was expecting Banks to arrive any day, so she gave them my number. After a brief sweaty, excited, worried, doubtful, hopeful, panic attack followed by countless phone calls, Skype interviews, photo taking and sending, emails, crazy contract negotiations, worrying about all of the unknowns and figuring out who would take care of my babies during 5 full days of filming, they chose me to participate and I said yes.
It was surreal. After almost driving myself crazy with all of the details, lets be honest, hair and makeup and wardrobe were on the top of the list. Partially because I was trying to minimize looking like an idiot on television, partially because I wasn’t going to be able to completely redecorate and repaint my entire house the way I wanted to deep down in my heart, but also because I had zero information regarding what was about to happen to me, to my house, to my family and to the other 3 strangers I was soon to meet. What else could I do? I also have to add a disclaimer here about “reality “ TV. At this stage I know we are all very suspicious about how “real” all of this “reality” actually is. In this particular case it was painfully real! I mean, going in we knew nothing other than the premise of the show: 4 houses were going to be critiqued and judged by the fellow homeowners. The winner was going to get $10,000 and a spread in Elle Décor (later changed to Better Homes and Gardens)! They kept us very uninformed every step of the way. As annoying as it was, it did keep our initial opinions and reactions completely raw and unedited.
The first day of filming finally arrived. A car service arrived to take me to the first undisclosed location. As we headed west toward Harry Hines I got a little concerned and called my husband to send out a search party if I didn’t turn up. We drove and drove and drove. The driver knew less than I did about where we were going or why, which was even less reassuring. We finally arrived at a Starbucks, grabbed a quick grande-non-fat-three-pump-mocha, and a 12 year old (looking) production assistant whisked me into a big white VAN. I was really not happy about riding in a van with a 12 year old I didn’t know. There is way too much CSI and Law and Order at my house and I am officially scared of vans. I soon realized that they were doing this whisking because one of my competitors was arriving for her morning pick me and up and we weren’t allowed to see each other for any reason at all, again to preserve all judgment toward one another.
So we drive and drive some more. Followed by an hour or so of sitting and waiting and chit chatting in the van with the 12 year old aspiring director/screen play writer. Imagine all of the things we had to talk about. Thank goodness I’ve seen Dumb and Dumber. Anyway, after what felt like hours of waiting and fretting about my clothes wrinkling and my makeup melting off, we pull up to the entrance of the first home. A nice man with an English accent, a fanny pack and bags of gear appears out of nowhere. He has me step out of the van, put his hand down my shirt to put my mic on and they say, “Ok you’re ready. Walk up that hill and just say whatever comes to mind.” I so pleasantly reply, “What?! That hill!?? That huge rocky hill with no end in sight? In these shoes?“ They look at me like I’m some sort of crazy princess. A guy with a big camera appears on the horizon and they say, “Yeah, go.” And that’s how I was prepared for the first day of filming.
After that in depth initiation to filming a television show, the first home tour began. We all were allowed out of seclusion one at a time. First to critique the exterior of the home and to try to predict what we would find inside. Then we were to enter the home, and meet each other, all on camera of course. From that point on, mics were always recording and cameras were always rolling. We would tour a room or two, then stop for one on one interviews. If we weren’t in the middle of touring a room or doing an interview we were being “babysat” so that we didn’t discuss anything personal, reveal anything about our homes to each other, or talk about what we were seeing off camera… 15 hours a day, 5 days in a row.
At this point I was thinking, this is going to be a breeze! I have lots of opinions. I am acutely aware that some are good, and some are bad, but also that they are all pretty severe in one way or another. This is like a dream come true. I get to walk into a stranger’s home, while they are not there and just say whatever I want about whatever I want. Hold the phone! Boy was I wrong. This entire process proved to be one of the most difficult, thought provoking, self-exploratory, exhausting and emotional 5 days of my life. I didn’t take into account the feelings I would have for the other women or the fact that no one there knew me, or understood when I was serious or trying to be funny. They hardly knew my name. I didn’t think about how the other ladies would perceive me if I just let it rip about a pillow that really irked me, or a window treatment that I found hideous or the effect it would have on their opinions of my home. Most importantly I didn’t prepare for the fact that never in my life have I done what these nice people from New York City were asking me to do. I have never walked into any place and freely spouted out my unfiltered thoughts. Of course, the unfiltered thoughts are always there, but no one would ever dare say them. That would just be rude. Everyone knows that if you can’t say anything nice, you say nothing at all. Saying nothing at all really doesn’t work for TV producers, let me tell you.
On the flip side, was the day that my own home was the one being toured, critiqued, loved and hated. I didn’t have a clue how to prepare so I didn’t. The crew arrived and we promptly began our tour… after I got my mascara, lip gloss and shoes on. Of course I wasn’t ready on time. Another perfect example of the reality aspect is the way the “tour” proceeded. It was presented to me as if we were just going to practice in each room real quick. So, that’s exactly what I did. I just said something to practice and moved on. I realized too late that we were not practicing, that was it. Whatever I said, more horrifically all of the things I did not say were just going to be the way they were. Done. Too late. I have since lost hours of sleep over all of the things I should have said. Part of the premise of the show is being proud of your home. I am not a proud person at all. But I should have at least mentioned the things that are special about our home. Maybe the fact that our kitchen won a huge design award in Dallas would have been good to mention. Maybe the fact that my husband and I designed and built our home could have been mentioned. I would have loved to tell that our 3 kids ride their bikes around inside and I love it. Or I should have mentioned my strong feelings about decorating with children or the cool ways I ended up with some of my favorite things. Maybe how important art is to me…. the list never ends. I was like stunned or something. I don’t know what in the world happened. I know it wasn’t good though.
Water under the bridge. Better luck next time. What can you do?
Each day was basically the same. Car service, lots of driving, random Starbucks, van, more driving and waiting, get a mic, walk up to a house, critique, predict, go in, join the other three girls, do your best to be nice, then give the house scores on originality, livability and style. After a full day we would finally get home around 12 or 1am. As the days went by we all began to realize how different each of us were from each other and similar we were at the same time. We all had big personalities but the casting seemed to be almost more important than the homes themselves.
Finale day we all had the opportunity to kind of come clean and tell each other what we loved and hated about each other’s homes. That was very cathartic and a huge relief! We four girls really developed a bond throughout the intense 5 days. The crew was amazing, so kind and thoughtful. They were very patient and very encouraging. It felt like we were just warming up when it all ended. Right when we figured out how to say, “I hate red!” without making the girl who loves red cry, we all go our separate ways. Finale day comes and goes and boom! Cold turkey. Ripped the band-aid right off. Like it never happened.
Until this last week or two. Reality re-set in when I hear my voice saying something ridiculous and sassy on TV. Dear lord have mercy. I have zero recollection of what crazy things I said or did and I will see it for the first time with the rest of the world. I am petrified of what they’re going to show. Hundreds of hours of filming squeezed down into 45 minutes. So please forgive me in advance. I do typically try to be nice. ; ) I would love to tell all of the juicy details, but unfortunately I cannot. You’ll have to watch TLC Monday night, July 16th at 9:00pm.
We do not have official pics but here are a few that we caught from the television promotions!
Kristen and guest blogger Meredith