Carter Oosterhouse returns to ‘Trading Spaces’ roots
Michigan’s favorite carpenter Carter Oosterhouse has had his face splashed all over television for the last decade, hosting everything from home improvement shows to ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight.” He also has a winery in Traverse City and even a mattress line with his wife, actress Amy Smart.
But to this day, Oosterhouse, who grew up in Traverse City and still spends his summers there, said he’s most known for one show, even though it went off the air in 2008: TLC’s hugely popular “Trading Spaces.”
“It’s always ‘Aren’t you that guy on “Trading Spaces?” ’ It’s just amazing how that show instilled such a moment in time,” said Oosterhouse, 41.
And it’s a moment in time that’s about to return to TV as TLC reboots “Trading Spaces” with much of the original cast when it premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday. Along with Oosterhouse, the show will feature designers Doug Wilson, Frank Bielec, Genevieve Gorder and Hildi Santo-Tomas, along with carpenter Ty Pennington and host Paige Davis. There also will be some new designers.
Considered one of the first home improvement reality TV shows ever, setting the bar for an entire genre of DIY shows that followed in its path, the reboot is something Oosterhouse is “very, very excited” about — and grateful for.
“It’s just so unbelievable and ridiculous and awesome all at the same time,” he said by phone from California last week. “It’s been so long and we all get to come back to work together. Who has that opportunity? Not many. But we’re very, very fortunate.”
Oosterhouse said he got a call from TLC about a year ago about the reboot, though there were a couple of different “Trading Spaces” revival ideas pitched over the years since the original show ended in 2008. Some had new faces mixed with some, but not all, of the original cast. With every call, he said, there seemed to be “more legitimacy.”
“I personally didn’t want to do it unless the whole crew was back,” he said, “and a lot of us were in the same boat. We wanted to make sure the team was all back together and working together.”
And they are. Reconnecting with his old “Trading Spaces” castmates earlier this year — shows were filmed in Los Angeles, Baltimore and Atlanta — Oosterhouse wondered how it would go and if there would be egos at all. There weren’t.
“It took a split second and everything fell into place like it was 10 years ago,” Oosterhouse said. “We connected, we talked about our families and our lives. Some of us still kept in touch. It felt really good to be back in the swing of things.”
The concept is essentially the same as the original show. Two families swap homes and have 48 hours to transform a room with the help of a designer and carpenter. The only big difference is this time around they’ll have a $2,000 budget, double what they had during the show’s original run.
“I’m glad they didn’t change anything because that was like Design 101 for us,” said Oosterhouse. “That’s where we really honed our skills and learned how to be resourceful.”
And each designer has their own viewpoint, Oosterhouse said.
“You work with Genevieve one day and you’re singing and listening to hip-hop. And then the next day you’re working with Hildi and she has some Parisian fabric that she’s bringing out,” he said. “Or you work with Frank and it’s chickens on a wall. You have to accommodate the designer that you’re with, and they all keep you on your toes, just like they did from the very beginning.”
All the right points
Oosterhouse said he believed one of the reasons “Trading Spaces” resonated with so many during its original run, which started in 2000, is because it gave viewers design and the chance to have an opinion about it.
“And to make the stakes even higher, it put two couples in the middle of it. And they had to show their emotions, so there was that drama factor,” he said. “It just hit on all the right points.”
But it was how the cast interacted with one another that really made the show shine. Oosterhouse joined the cast in its fourth season.
“It was just a great group that knew how to work together, knew how to have their differences and that came out in the end to make a great TV show,” he said. “And that was extremely important.”
There have been some bumps leading up to the “Trading Spaces” revival.
In December, a former makeup artist on the show accused Oosterhouse of sexual harassment during its original run. Oosterhouse denied the allegations in a statement to People magazine, saying he had a relationship with his accuser, but it was “100-percent consensual.”
In January, TLC officials said they investigated the accusations and felt “very comfortable” with Oosterhouse staying on the show, according to Variety.
Outside of TV, Oosterhouse has never forgotten his northern Michigan roots.
He, Smart and their 15-month-old daughter, Flora, spend their summers in Traverse City to help out with the winery he co-founded with his brother more than eight years ago, Bonobo Winery, on Old Mission Peninsula. It’s won awards in various wine competitions for its Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.
“We try to be back in Traverse when it’s warmer, and that’s our busy season,” Oosterhouse said. “It’s all hands on deck” during the summer.
Oosterhouse said the beauty of Traverse City — aside from its awesome food, wine and microbrew scene —— is it’s the kind of place where you can be totally busy or just floating on the water solo. He has a century-old farmhouse there that he’s been renovating for several years.
“You can have a lot of excitement with your social schedule completely full, but at the same time you can be completely relaxed and floating on the water all day long and not be bothered,” he said. “That’s the cool thing about the area. You have the juxtaposition between the two.”
On the home front, Flora, his daughter, has started talking and has about five words, including “Da Da.”
“She’s great,” he said. “She’s so wonderful. Just seeing her evolve into a little person has definitely been one of the highlights of my life. She’s just really fun.”
And with his wife, they’ve launched an eco-friendly mattress line called SmartHouse that they would like to eventually expand into furniture and home decor. The mattresses, only available online, are manufactured in Grand Ledge.
“It’s 100-percent Michigan made,” said Oosterhouse. “You spend a third of your life on your mattress, and my wife and I wanted to create something that would be comfortable, affordable and eco-friendly and that’s what these are in a big way. We sleep on it every night and it’s the best mattress I’ve ever had.”
One day, Oosterhouse said, he’d love to work on a project in Detroit. He said he’s been in contact with dPOP CEO Melissa Price and eventually there will be some sort of collaboration.
Oosterhouse said it’s been amazing to see the city’s renaissance and regrowth over the years.
“It’s so crazy what is happening in Detroit, which is so amazing,” said Oosterhouse, who will be in North Carolina for Saturday’s premiere, then back in Traverse City in about two months.
“There are so many cool things that are happening. I hope to get my hands on something soon. The energy in Detroit right now is pretty impressive.”
8 p.m. Saturday