Best TV Shows for Home Improvement and Design Inspiration

When it comes to home improvement and décor, sometimes all you need is a little inspiration. Luckily, there are plenty of TV shows that do just that, dispensing practical advice on home improvement and helping you design your dream home.

The following five shows are my favorite sources of inspiration and advice.

Best TV Show For Home Improvement Inspiration: Moving Up

This show is pure genius. Every week, Moving Up features three families. Family #1 purchases the home of Family #2, Family # 2 purchases the home of Family #3, and Family #3 purchases a mansion in the Seychelles, a penthouse apartment in the sky or, more often, downsizes into a condo on a golf course somewhere.

Families #2 and #3 are shown living happily in their old homes, showing off their houses’ finer attributes and pointing out improvements and decorating coups which make them particularly proud. For example, “It took me seventeen days to do the tiling in our lime green bathroom.” Or, “I gave birth to my eighth child right here, on the dining room table. I would be crushed if the new owners painted over the reproduction of the Sistine Chapel my oldest frescoed on the dining room ceiling!”

The owners are then shown wistfully packing up their belongings and brushing tears out of their eyes as moving vans haul off the remnants of their old lives. But not for long! After the commercial break, it’s moving day, and before you know it Wife #2 is seen heading to the dining room with a can of white paint, and Husband #1 is shown taking the stairs two at a time, sledgehammer in hand and an ominous look in his eyes.

This is when things get inspiring. The couples are filmed working on their new homes, renovating, decorating and doing their best to make their new houses into their dream homes. Host Doug Wilson drops by from time to time to see how things are going and provide the couples with advice and support. Detailed instructions for some of his most popular projects can be seen here.

Finally, it’s three months later and time for the big reveal. Doug Wilson shows up at the new homes of Families #1 and #2. The proud new owners show him around, talking about what they have done to the house and how much they love it. Then– and this is the genius part– Doug whips out a portable DVD player and the new owners, plus we viewers at home, get to see what the old owners really think of what they’ve done to their beloved homes.

Don’t watch Moving Up just for the humorous one-liners and potential melt-downs as Doug Wilson shows the previous owners around what used to be their home. There is plenty of that, but there are a lot of good home improvement tips and practical decorating advice, too.

Moving Up airs Saturdays at 10 pm ET / 9 pm central on TLC. The new season of Moving Up starts Saturday, September 12.

Best Interactive TV Show for Green Home Design Inspiration: Blog Cabin

According to the DIY Network, “Blog Cabin is a groundbreaking multimedia experience based on a very simple idea: You Design It, We Build It, You Could Win It!”

Amy Matthews leads a talented team of DIY hosts and other specialists on Blog Cabin as they build an eco-friendly dream getaway cabin in the woods. The cabins features and specifications were voted on by the shows viewers on Blog Cabin’s very active website and forums online, starting in February 2009. There is a decided emphasis on Green principles such as the use of sustainable material and all the Blog Cabins built so far have been energy efficient.

In addition to the weekly show, which runs August through October, Amy Matthews maintains a very detailed blog chronicling the entire process, and the specialist contractors, guest hosts and experts guest blog. The blogging does not stop there: viewers are encouraged to set up a blog of their own on the site.

Blog Cabin is inspiring, informative and fun to watch, and the website has a wealth of information on eco-friendly design and How-to projects from the show. The show covers all aspects of home design and decorating, from pouring the foundation to choosing a color for the sofa.

At the end of each series, one lucky viewer will win the cabin in DIY Network’s online sweepstakes. You can enter to win the Blog Cabin 2009 on the DIY Blog Cabin site; the winner will be announced in November.

Blog Cabin can be seen on DIY Network Thursdays at 9 pm ET / 8 pm Central.

Best TV Show for Budget Home Décor Inspiration: Design on a Dime

The premise of Design on a Dime is simple: one room, one thousand bucks, go!

The design team is full of clever ideas, and I really like how they emphasize repurposing items the owners already own. The hosts purchase other items second hand and show the owners and the viewers at home how to fix up bargain fines to make them even better than the original. This is also a great show to watch if want some help with how to arrange your furniture.

HGTV’s Design on a Dime can be seen Saturdays.

Best TV Show for Eclectic Home Design Inspiration: Dear Genevieve

HGTV’s Dear Genevieve is another interactive TV show. Viewers upload pictures and questions to the Dear Genevieve website and, if they are lucky, the lovely Genevieve Gorder will show up at their houses to help them out in person.

Genevieve has a funky style, and she manages to be clever and creative without losing sight of the fact that real people need to live with her designs on a day to day basis. She’s also good a rescuing viewers’ projects that probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

Dear Genevieve airs Saturdays at 8:30 pm ET / 7:30 pm Central on HGTV.

Best TV Show for All Around Design Inspiration: HGTV Design Star

HGTV’s Design Star is the Next Food Network Star of the home improvement shows, with the victor winning his or her own TV show on HGTV. The challenges are varied, with the contestants asked to design anything from a plain white room to a kitchen to a little girls bedroom, so there’s something for everyone. You don’t learn as much from this show as I might like, but a contestant is eliminated every week, so the reality show drama makes up for the lack of educational appeal.

Candice Olson, Genevieve Gordon and Vern Yip judge the Design Star contestants, and Clive Pearse serves dual roles as a host and mentor. The designs are judged “as they appear on TV” which makes sense, I suppose, given that HGTV is looking for new TV shows and people to host them. The designers are truly talented, though, and they do toss out a morsel of design wisdom every now and again, so Design Star is well worth watching.

The season finale of Design Star will be seen this Sunday, September 13, at 10:00 pm eastern / 9:00 pm central.

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