Today’s cuppa: English breakfast tea
It’s early on a late-March Thursday morning in Van Nuys, Calif., and Thom Filicia is fueling with coffee inside a trailer situated in a Salvation Army parking lot, not far from a doughnut shop.
Such is the glamorous life of a reality-TV designer.
He’s working through a two-episode week for his new Style Network series “Tacky House,” premiering Wednesday, April 21, at 11 p.m. (ET). “Clean House” designer Mark Brunetz was the host for the pilot special, but Filicia (“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” “Dress My Nest”) takes over for the series, in which he answers a cry for design help.
“When you think of tacky,” he says, “a lot of people think of the proverbial plastic on furniture. That’s what everyone thinks. There are so many different types of tacky that it’s funny. When I tell people they’re on ‘Tacky House,” they’re like, ‘What?’ But it could be worse. Tacky’s much better than boring or lame. At least tacky’s fun, and you’re taking a risk and having fun with it.
“We had someone who lived in a 1970s castle — talk about tacky. Then we had a woman who loved leopard. Her whole house, her car, are leopard. There’s a woman believes in leprechauns and thinks she is part leprechaun.”
(BTW, the “leopard lady” is in the premiere episode.)
In order to be on the show, the person has to be annoying, worrying or otherwise unsettling a friend, family member or loved one with his or her, shall we say, unique design sense.
“I’m not saying (the room is tacky),” says Filicia, “the husband or wife or best friend is. The person who turns them in is saying it’s tacky. I’m just saying, ‘Hey, look, I think it’s a little wacky, but I think tacky is better than boring or dull.’
“The way I approach the guidance, I always say to the people, ‘Look, your house should tell your story.’ To me, it really should. It’s not really about judging them. It’s assessing them to find out what it is that makes them tick, while they’re in this situation.”
In the case of this particular homeowner, a schoolteacher, she can’t bear to put her many accessories — purses, shoes, jewelry, etc. — behind closed doors, feeling it may somehow hurt their, er, feelings.
“It’s a little fantasy for her,” says Filicia. “She also has a fiance who understands. He plays with it a little but, but also, he says, ‘This is silly.’ Her fiance can’t take the room anymore. It’s a problem. For him, it’s a relief, because he’s just like, ‘I can’t take it any longer.’
“It’s always been a best friend or a husband or a wife who’s just like, ‘You know what, it’s overshadowing the person that I really care about.’ In the beginning, it’s fun and tacky and kitschy, and then it just starts to build into something more.”
That’s where Filicia comes in — with the help of design coordinator Kelly Edwards (“Design on a Dime”) and project manager Jared Dostie (“Rate My Space”) — not to squash the person’s individuality or imagination, but to wrestle it into a more workable form.
“My goal,” he says, “is to make it so that outsiders and insiders alike will look at it and go, ‘This is awesome. I like it. I get it. It makes sense. This is fun. This is appropriate and cool and interesting, and it totally tells your story.’ That’s really what it is.
“I’m not so much about taking away their tackiness, but maybe more about refining it.”