The Untold Truth Of HGTV's Dear Genevieve

Dear Genevieve ended in 2013 after six successful seasons. However, despite the countless remodels, Dear Genevieve could be one of those HGTV shows you totally forgot about

During the 2000s, Trading Spaces carved out a whole new niche in the home design genre. However, Trading Spaces also introduced viewers to Genevieve Gorder, a Manhattan-based designer with an eye for style and a charismatic enthusiasm that completely enchanted viewers. Fortunately, when Trading Spaces ended its initial eight-season run in 2009, fans soon learned they hadn't seen the last of Gorder — one of HGTV's biggest stars.

The same year Trading Spaces ended, Gorder emerged with a whole new show featuring her as the star: HGTV's Dear Genevieve, which boasted a unique premise that brought Gorger's design talents to the forefront. Each episode began with Gorder reading a letter from a viewer, asking for her help to redesign a room or specific area in that person's home. The result: a full-on makeover, with the homeowner experiencing the big reveal at the episode's end. Of course, there's plenty more to discover about this hit home design show. Here's the untold truth of HGTV's Dear Genevieve.

Genevieve Gorder remained on HGTV after Dear Genevieve was cancelled

When HGTV's Dear Genevieve was cancelled in 2013 after a six-season run, the network was not done with host Genevieve Gorder.

In 2014, the year after Dear Genevieve's cancellation, Gordeer was tapped to host a new HGTV series, Genevieve's Renovation. According to HGTV's synopsis, the new series chronicled Gorder's "biggest project yet" as she renovated her Manhattan home, knocking down walls and taking over a space next door as she transformed her small 1850s-era apartment into a whole new space. 

While Genevieve's Renovation only lasted for a single season, HGTV continued to utilize the talents of the Dear Genevieve host by bringing her on as a judge in its home decor competition series Design Star. In an interview with Room FU, Gorder declared that being a judge on Design Star was a wonderful time. "It was the best job EVER," Gorder revealed. As she explained, this was because — unlike her experience on Dear Genevieve — "you're not there trying to convince someone that it's [okay] to paint their living room."

The reason why Dear Genevieve sourced decor items from Canada

When HGTV's Dear Genevieve host Genevieve Gorder redesigned spaces at the behest of homeowners, many of the items utilized in those projects came from north of the border. In an interview with The Toronto Star, Gorder explained why she decided to source home decor items and material from Canada.

At the time, Gorder was married to Canadian Tyler Harcott, host of TLC's Junkyard Wars (the couple divorced in 2013, reported People). As a result, she became a frequent visitor to Canada, explaining to The Toronto Star that when she traveled there she tended to stock up. "[I] source pretty heavy and bring back what I can because I can get more for the dollar," Gorder revealed. In fact, the host admitted to visiting Canada "a number of times" in order to find items to use in some Dear Genevieve makeover projects.

She singled out one company in particular, Toronto-based Gus, as her favorite — telling The Toronto Star, "[They sell] modern furniture, a lot of upholstered goods and accessories, that I've used on a couple of episodes [of Dear Genevieve] where I've done a more contemporary esthetic."

Why HGTV execs saw Genevieve Gorder as "a future star on the network" after Dear Genevieve

The premiere of HGTV's Dear Genevieve did not go unnoticed by viewers. According to Multichannel News, the first episode of Genevieve Gorder's first-ever solo series attracted solid ratings, with the debut attracting two million viewers. A second episode aired immediately after, seen by 1.57 million. Subsequent episodes hovered between 809,000 average viewers to about 1.15 million, which Multichannel News described as being "on par" with similar HGTV fare airing in primetime. 

"She's doing OK," Jon Steinlauf, senior vice president of ad sales at HGTV parent Scripps Networks, jokingly told Multichannel News at the start of the series, noting that the network had big plans for the former Trading Spaces designer. "We see her as a future star on the network," Steinlauf revealed. He continued, saying, "Genevieve is being launched aggressively right now."

In an interview for website 6sqft, Gorder expressed humility and gratitude for the people who let her into their houses to welcome her design skills. "When you get invited into someone's home, you truly understand where you are in the world," she explained. Added Gorder, "So, I treat it with great respect."

Homeowners loved the experience of appearing on Dear Genevieve

Season 1 of HGTV's Dear Genevieve featured James and Theresa Sellinger of Sparta, New Jersey – and the couple later shared their experience with a local newspaper. As Theresa Sellinger told the Township Journal, having a portion of their home redesigned by Genevieve Gorder didn't just result in whole new space, it was also an incredibly educational experience for the couple. 

"I learned practical things like, how to remove wallpaper, but also about the most important part of design, which is more than beauty," she explained. Added Sellinger, "It's about the function of a room."

As the Township Journal pointed out, Gorder would typically tell the people she worked with on Dear Genevieve that "function drives design," and would even personally meet with the homeowners to get a handle on how they were planning to use the room she'd be redesigning. While giving the Sellingers' kitchen a makeover, Gorder offered high praise. "Theresa is so passionate about what she does and spends 90 percent of her time in the kitchen," Gorder explained, proving she'd taken the time to truly know her clients.

Dear Genevieve's top design tips

Viewers of HGTV's Dear Genevieve learned a lot about design over the course of the show's six seasons, and host Genevieve Gorder had much advice to share. In an interview with Vermont Maturity Magazine, she detailed some of the top design tips from the show.

For one, she reminded readers that paint is an inexpensive way to transform a room, and one that can easily be changed later. Gorder also recommended adding what she called "pauses" to a space, which she described as "vignettes of personal items that make you stop and pause to look at them," such as a grouping of family photos. Other tips included mixing vintage pieces with modern ones, as well as adding accessories to help transform a space. As she explained, "instant impact" could be achieved by simply displaying an eye-catching sculpture on a table or even placing a bouquet of fresh flowers in a vase. Accessories such as these, she said, "are like last-minute additions of jewelry to your outfit."

The top tip she offered was both simple yet profound. "Concentrate on making your home a beautiful place," she advised. Added Gorder, "After all, it's a refuge."

There was no formula for Dear Genevieve's redesigns

On HGTV's Dear Genevieve, host Genevieve Gorder treated every space she was tasked with redesigning as a unique entity unto itself. In an interview with the Cloth Paper Scissors website, Gorder expanded on this idea, revealing she didn't have a "formula" that guided her redesigns. "Each space I design is looked at as a whole, an individual sculpture," the HGTV star told the website. One thing's for sure — Gorder's dedication proves Dear Genevieve wasn't one of those totally fake HGTV shows!

Approaching a project, Gorder revealed, usually begins by asking homeowners a series of questions about the space that are of a more emotional nature — such as how the space will "breathe" or what kind of statement the room or area is trying to make. While there are always other concerns of a more practical nature that need to be taken into consideration, Gorder explained that those will typically enter the picture later in the redesign process. 

"The technical aspects of design are always present and playing equally in spaces but that is not the eye I use first," Gorder said. This HGTV host follows her own rules!

What TV critics had to say about Dear Genevieve

When Dear Genevieve made its HGTV debut, some television critics weighed in with their opinions of the new series. Writing for The New York Daily News, critic David Hinckley enjoyed the fact that the show "deliberately [thought] small," focusing on one particular concern — usually one that viewers would find relatable. While Hinckley believed the actual renovation part of Dear Genevieve would "probably only interest hard-core HGTV addicts," he conceded that "almost everyone has a bad situation somewhere," and Gorder definitely had solutions to offer.

The New York Times' Neil Genzlinger had a slightly different take, describing the show as "the latest offensive in Genevieve Gorder's campaign to remodel every home in the United States to suit her personal tastes." 

Genzlinger also questioned what kind of audience the show was aiming for, given that it wasn't a typical "do-it-yourself show," as the work was done by professional contractors and designers. According to Genzlinger, that meant that "anyone who can actually afford to undertake projects like this can also afford a designer to plan them, and thus has no need for input from a TV chatterbox." 

The philosophy that guided Dear Genevieve

Over the course of HGTV's Dear Genevieve, Genevieve Gorder tackled a diverse array of projects, utilizing a wide range of styles and design influences along the way. In an interview with USA Today, Gorder joked about being "some kind of design octopus."

Moving from one unique design project to a completely different one, she explained, kept her creatively fulfilled. "I've done just about every kind of design possible, and I continue to diversify so I don't get bored," she said. As she explained, she found it important to not become locked into one style or design esthetic. "Being nimble is key," she said.

Not only did that philosophy guide the redesigns she undertook for Dear Genevieve, it has also led to some atypical opportunities, such as being asked to design interior spaces for Vineyard Valley, a puzzle-driven video game. "It was so wildly fun to stretch and flex differently," she said of bringing her design skills from the real world to a virtual one.

A guest designer shared her experience with Dear Genevieve

One episode from HGTVs Dear Genevieve Season 1 involved transforming a "boring backyard" into an Asian-inspired outdoor oasis. 

For that particular episode, host Genevieve Gorder enlisted Judy Ogden of Ogden's Design and Plantings to be the guest designer, shaping the landscaping aspects of the project. Ogden wrote about her experience with the show on her company's website, outlining some of the obstacles the property presented. Among these, she wrote, were limited light, an erosion problem, as well as a "monstrous warping stone wall" that needed to be addressed. 

Design projects that appear on home renovation TV shows typically move at a fast pace, and Ogden confirmed that was likewise the case with Dear Genevieve. "A few short weeks of planning and then a whirlwind three days of installation," she wrote, describing the experience she had with the show's first outdoor episode. As Ogden explained, the project included such additions as a newly built deck, new plantings, and features meant to attract songbirds to the new "zen retreat." Still despite the challenges that needed to overcome, Ogden described her experience on Dear Genevieve as "a fun adventure."

A contest winner received a Dear Genevieve design consultation

One Dear Genevieve redesign project didn't originate with a fan letter to Genevieve Gorder — instead, it originated from a contest. 

Dear Genevieve fan Joy Klinkenberg received a visit from Gorder at her home in July 2014, where the HGTV host offered an in-person design consultation (via the Elmira Star-Gazette). As the newspaper explained, this consultation was Klinkenberg's grand prize for winning the Sunrun Brilliant Design Sweepstakes. As a result, Gorder spent the entire day with Klinkenberg, with the two "exchanging ideas" as Gorder offered her design perspective on Klinkenberg's home. "You have to ask a lot of questions [and] get to know your client," Gorder explained to the Elmira Star-Gazette.

As the contest's winner, Klinkenberg could choose three rooms in her home to receive the Dear Genevieve design treatment. She ultimately selected her kitchen, living room and master bedroom, sharing such concerns as outdated DIY renovations and the home's low ceilings, while seeking advice on where to place furniture. "Joy has a blank slate, which is the most fun thing to decorate," Gorder said of tackling the project. 

The personal style that Genevieve Gorder brought to Dear Genevieve

Throughout HGTV's Dear Genevieve's six-season run, host Genevieve Gorder added an array of unique design touches that reflected her own personal style. In an interview with 6sqft, she shared details of some of her design influences, including the ones that went into designing her own home. 

"I would say there's definitely an American classic, pre-war classic [feel to my home]," she said of her Manhattan home. She described the interior decor as "ancient global," stemming from her love of "ancient fabrics" from such far-flung locales as Morocco, North Africa and the Middle East. As a result, she explained, "you'll see a lot of brass, a lot of hamam plates and the low tables and poofs," which she described as "a more languid way" of relaxing than is offered with European or American furnishings.

When it comes to artwork and decor objects, she admitted to being "very sentimental" when it comes to what she chooses to display. Calling her residence "this church that is my house," Gorder revealed that visitors are greeted by an array of objects intent on "telling a story" about who she really is.