The untold truth of Genevieve Gorder

You likely know Genevieve Gorder as the coveted design guru on Trading Spaces, the show that made her a household name in the early 2000s (and is set to bring back a flurry of nostalgia with a reboot). But the TV star has also appeared in more than 20 shows all over the world, even snagging two Emmy nominations. She's got some serious chops, which is why even the White House loves working with her.

While there were other talented designers on Trading Spaces during its epic run, Gorder's incredible success since it ended has been a standout. Her return to Trading Spaces revival no doubt played a role in reigniting fans' enthusiasm for the classic reality TV show. Gorder's influence in the design industry has been extraordinary, and her career is stronger than ever. We've done some deep digging, so let's really get to know this beautiful and talented design show queen.

Her career was shaped by this tragedy

Trading Spaces was something of an unexpected hit. Gorder told People that, while she knew the show "was lightning in a bottle," she was unprepared for its extraordinary success. Debuting on September 29, 2000, the show only saw modest ratings when it first aired, but by 2003 Trading Spaces was drawing in millions of viewers.

Unfortunately, there was a simple but heartbreaking reason for the spike in ratings: September 11. "Right after 9/11 everyone was staying home, and we didn't want to spend a lot of money on travel or home, so we became these people that you relied on for that entertainment," Gorder told AOL. She explained that, because of the show's original 4 p.m. time slot, kids were tuning into the show after school, getting hooked, and introducing Trading Spaces to their parents, which eventually earned the program a primetime slot. "It was the children who brought the show up," said Gorder.

Her totally unexpected secret talent

Gorder wowed Trading Spaces audiences in the early 2000s. She was only in her 20s, but the wunderkind proved to be a force to be reckoned with. She's been a formidable designer since her youth, but it turns out that design isn't her only major talent. The celeb is also a classically trained musician, having played the violin for decades — she even used to travel around the world performing.

While she may have exchanged what could have been a promising music career to become a designer, she hasn't completely abandoned that world. "Music is like food — it's oxygen," she told Sonos. "It's a basic need in life." 

Music also plays a large role in her job. Gorder said that design has a lot in common with music. "It's like a song," she said. "Where do you rest, where do you stand up, where do you dance? A home has to have all of that."

She attracted a very, er, specific subset of fans (who majorly creeped her out)

Fans who have seen Gorder on TV knows that she prefers to work barefoot. We feel ya, Gen! Anyone who's ever looked forward to kicking off their heels can relate, but Gorder's motive for going barefoot go beyond comfort. The real reason she always takes off her shoes on camera? She doesn't want to wreck them!

While this is practical and comfy, going barefoot on TV had some surprising challenges. "I had all kinds of offers to join foot-fetish clubs," Gorder revealed to StarTribune. When she first became famous, she attracted a lot of attention from foot fetishists who would send her long, detailed letters that creeped her out. Gorder was so alarmed by some of the letters that she kept a list of the people who sent them to her, just in case one of them turned into a stalker. If she ever turned up missing or dead, she wanted the police to have a list of suspects to work with.

The one word she uses to describe her decor, fashion and makeup style is...

Balance. While a flair for interior design doesn't necessarily always translate to fashion, Gorder applies her design aesthetic to her clothing with flawless results. She strives for balance in her outfits, just like she does with the spaces she decorates.

"I do it like I do my spaces," she told TODAY. "I like subtle pop. … It's all about balance," she said. Her love for balance also extends to makeup. Gorder said that you should pick one feature to accent, such as the lips, while keeping the eyes subtle. "One can't be banging while the other is going crazy too," she said.

Tailored clothing is also key. Gorder's personal preference is for "really tailored and really structured clothes, almost architectural." At the end of the day, though, it's all about getting in touch with your personal style and which clothes work for you. "It's about knowing that every trend doesn't work on everybody," said Gorder.

She says the most crucial part of any decor isn't a physical item

Every designer has their ideas on how to best decorate a space, and Gorder is no different. While she believes there are a few different things necessary to make a room the best that it can be, Gorder says that the most important element of all is lighting. "It can ruin a space, and it can make a space," she told Decorchick.com. "It's one of those underrated things."

Of course, a space needs more than just perfect lighting to make it truly perfect. Everyone's personal taste is different. Gorder told HudsonMOD that the ideal space should be tailored to a person, and for the colors "to have a family and a balance."

That being said, you shouldn't go overboard. Gorder added that one of the worst things people do is try to match everything in the room. Rather than matching, things in the room should instead complement each other. "Stop matching, and stop trying to line it up," said Gorder.

"I consider food a premium source of gasoline"

While Gorder isn't quite obsessed with healthy living, she's definitely health conscious and careful about what she eats. "I consider food a premium source of gasoline," she told NBC News. While she says she is "very, very careful" about the food she puts into her body, she does make an exception for coffee.

She said that she isn't "obsessive about food at all," but her diet is about making "peace with what works and what doesn't work" — and what doesn't work is gluten and dairy. She compared her body to a race car. "I've done a lot of work to figure out what foods give me the most power, energy and calm when I need it," she said. "Instead of taking supplements, or a class, I've figured out the simple ways to run my body so I can do everything I want to do." In addition to avoiding foods that don't work for her, Gorder likes to run to stay in shape.

Interior design wasn't her first career choice

Thanks to her impressive list of talents, it's a miracle that we've been graced with Gorder's interior design expertise at all. She's always been creative, and she knew she liked design, but she actually started off her career in graphic design, not interior design. She didn't even realize that rehabbing homes, like she had done with her family, was even "a job that designers did." She did, however, know that she wanted to design things for a living — ever since her very first college graphic design class.

"I was sitting outside taking notes on some of the things I had learned and I thought, 'This is what I am going to do for the rest of my life,' Gorder told NBC News. "I just knew… that I was a conductor of a visual symphony and I got that that was the place of a designer." A few years later, Gorder switched over to interior design, and the rest is history!

Her trick to make sure she doesn't get stuck in a boring rut

Gorder definitely has her dream career. She gets to do what she loves, and is a TV star on top of it. But her job has more perks than many people realize. Gorder takes design seriously, and travels at least once a year in order to find inspiration from other cultures. By traveling to at least one new country every year, Gorder exposes herself to new designs and keeps things fresh.

"As designers, it's absolutely necessary that we keep seeing, otherwise we stop creating new, and just create what we know over and over and over and it gets redundant, and you have a 'style,'" she told Decorchick.com. Gorder added that a good designer is able to adapt their talents to suit the needs of various clients, which requires her to keep her imagination stimulated. She also regularly visits museums and goes to new restaurants, hotels, and even coffee shops. "You have to because someone is always going to be doing something that you aren't," she said.

"You either have the eye or you don't"

While no one in her family is actually a professional designer, Gorder definitely inherited her talent from her mother and her grandmother. As a child, her family would restore old Victorian homes. "We would pick it apart and learn as we went," Gorder told HudsonMOD, adding that she "grew up refinishing and sanding."

Gorder refers to the house renovations as "a labor of love." The whole family pitched in, but it was her mother who really had "the eye." While her mother and grandmother were not interior designers themselves, they passed down the knowledge they gained from hands-on experience. Gorder said that interior design wasn't really a career option for her mother "in her time," but that she believes her mom would have made a great designer. These days, aspiring designers can just turn on the TV to see any number of design shows, but Gorder, her mother, and grandmother learned by doing. "You either have the eye or you don't," she said.

This was "the hardest thing I've ever had to do"

With so many years of design experience under her belt, you'd think that turning her own home into a work of art would be a snap. Not quite! In fact, Gorder said that renovating her own place was incredibly difficult. Putting even more pressure on the designer was the film crew who captured the remodel for a show documenting the project, called Genevieve's Renovation.

Gorder completely revamped her Manhattan apartment. "It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," she told OK!. "I've done whole towns. I've done cruise ships, hotels, blue jeans… But this project was probably the hardest one that I've ever taken on in my life because it's Manhattan — and Manhattan is the hardest client there is."

Knowing that it was her own money being poured into the home contributed to the stress. In the end, though, it was worth all the effort. "It definitely was the greatest thing I've ever accomplished because I get to reap the benefits too," said Gorder.