TANGENT Hostess trades in her job for remodeled life

By Megan Sexton

Knight Ridder Newspapers

For many, Paige Davis was the face of "Trading Spaces," the megahit on TLC that spawned dozens of other home-improvement and decorating shows.

Davis left the show earlier this year when it moved to a "host-less" format. But that doesn't mean the actress who had previously appeared on Broadway in "Beauty and the Beast" and "Chicago" hasn't been busy.

We caught up with her by phone recently to see what she has been up to since leaving "Trading Spaces."


On what she's doing now:

She's staying busy developing new shows, "and it looks like I'll be doing some contributing work on the Dr. Phil show. ....We have some fun activities planned for people who have written in. I really can't say more than that."

She's also done regional theater and is playing Roxie in the musical "Chicago" in Chicago (from Nov. 22-Dec. 4 in Chicago).

Davis is involved in charity work, including Operation Backpack, which raised awareness and school supplies for more than 11,000 children.

"Time to hang out has really been a true joy and it's been at a premium over the last four years of my life. I've had some time to be with my husband (stage actor Patrick Page). He has taken a leave of absence from the 'Lion King' (on Broadway) to play Othello in D.C. I get to come down here with him and I can fly in and out of D.C. when I need to work. It's been a very, very, very special time for the two of us and our little dog."

On no longer being the host of 'Trading Spaces':

"I miss my friends very much. And I loved doing the show. I'm not ashamed to say I was extremely proud of what we did and of the market we made. I was really proud of the amount of commitment everybody brought to the show each day.

"If you went behind the scenes, what was very obvious, there wasn't one person -- not a cameraman or a decorator or a producer -- who wasn't giving 200 percent every minute of the day. That level of camaraderie and work was great. I knew it would end eventually. Even 'M*A*S*H' ended. But I definitely miss it."


On what she learned about human nature during 'Trading Spaces':

"I learned that people aren't as willing to change as they think they are. For the most part, 98 percent of the people (who had rooms redecorated) were ecstatically happy. But going through the experience, I saw the intense connection people have to home and what that really, really means to people.

"That stupid, ugly couch their baby threw up on or where that daughter had an intimate talk with her mom. Whether it's ugly or disgusting, everything in a home has a memory.

"... Even people who willingly will part with it, they have that little shudder. People would say, 'I didn't know I'd feel that."'

On what she learned about people:

"Not to be too sappy, but ... people across our country -- regardless of north, south, east or west or socioeconomic level -- we are all so much more alike than we are unalike ... Everybody has the same feelings and emotions. ... I've looked through more photo albums and scrapbooks around America than probably anybody. And we've all got the same stuff. We all have the same second-year birthday-party picture of our kids. We all go through the same experiences. We're bonded by a shared journey of life.

"... And 62 percent of America has the same shower curtain. That navy -- dark green -- maroon one."

On the unhappy homeowners on 'Trading Spaces':


"What I found most interesting, the people who were most upset -- memorably upset -- were never the people who had the really bizarre makeovers. It wasn't the movie theater room. It wasn't the feathers on the wall. It was the color brown. ... or (covering up) a fireplace.

"It didn't have anything to do with what design eventually ended up there... . It was the level of change you were willing to accept."

On home-improvement television:

"We really sort of set the bar. It was a catalyst for a whole new genre of reality home-improvement television.

"(People watched 'Trading Spaces') to see a group of people having fun. It was two designers and a carpenter, but clearly it was a rotating group of friends... . Like 'Cheers' or 'M*A*S*H', people want to identify with a group. You want to feel as if those people are in your home."

On watching other home-improvement shows:

"I watch a lot of them out of curiosity. Like everybody else in the country, I love 'Extreme Makeover Home Edition.' We're all extremely proud of Ty (Pennington, the former 'Trading Spaces' carpenter who now hosts his own show).

"I love 'Surprised by Design' and 'Clean Sweep.' That's me. I could have hosted that show. I am all about the discarding and cleaning out."

On what she learned about her own home while working on 'Trading Spaces':

"I learned how to be more brave from 'Trading Spaces.' It's all a process. You can tear something all apart and it looks like it's not going to be OK, but it's all OK.... I learned not to be afraid of color. I was a sucker for the whole Pottery Barn wave. There's nothing wrong with Pottery Barn. It's all comforting and warm and inviting. But all the antique gold living rooms and sage bedrooms ... there are so many more colors out there."

On the decor in her apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan:

"My house was done by (interior designer) Nate Berkus (a regular on the Oprah Winfrey show). He pushed the edge with some of our furniture. There's a lot of bright orange in our house."

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