Friday, December 4, 2015


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Last week I came across this piece of paper. I had drawn my ideal home--this is when I was in high school--and I had a nook for a piano, and a library, and a dance area and music. And it was funny, because I was realizing that was what I've created here--and I'm very, very happy.
-Callie Kimball, Small Space, Big Style (Season 1, Episode 8)
HGTV is a network whose shows focus almost exclusively on lost souls who believe they will find happiness in granite countertops, vaulted ceilings, stainless appliances, hardwood floors, open concepts, brushed bar pull hardware, custom cabinets, gas stoves with red knobs, man caves, theater rooms, gigantic yards, dramatic entrances--basically, anything that looks shiny.

The show which forces the "almost exclusively" into that entirely accurate description of HGTV? A seemingly little-known show called Small Space, Big Style (SSBS). On its face, viewings by visitors of the 408 have missed the saving graces of SSBS in absolutely breathtaking ways--focusing instead on how "HGTV just forces the gay issue," "you don't really need a dishwasher," and "they'll just want a bigger space in a few months anyway," the ambient feedback has illustrated that sometimes even the best of things need to be spelled out. Like this. 

So here it is. Aside from SSBS, the message of every show on HGTV is that happiness is only found in that which you do not yet possess, that only money can make a house a home, and that you are entitled to be an asshole about what you want as long as you've conned a bank into loaning you the money that you claim is your own. The dressing on that message varies from one show to another, but the message is essentially the same.

SSBS, however, is the antithesis of that message. The homeowners on SSBS love their homes. They have maximized their spaces. A few of them may be free spirits, hippies, overly-focused artists, or any number of other oddballs, but they are happy with what they have.

Read that again: SSBS shows homeowners who are happy with what they have. 

Not people who are searching for happiness.

People who are happy now. 

This is on HGTV.

If that isn't enough of a punch in the gut to dislodge at least a little bit of cynicism, that's just too bad. Because SSBS is story after story after story about individuals who took a tiny piece of land, or a house that no one else wanted, or a space that simply stirred some part of their imagination into action, and made every square foot of their property into a place where they want to live. It isn't that the homeowners on SSBS don't want all of the finer things shown on other HGTV shows, but rather that they have chosen to be happy without them. And while some of the spaces (and individuals) may be impractical, almost every story is inspiring in ways that no other show on HGTV--or any channel, for that matter--is.

SSBS is a show for people who don't believe that peace and happiness are things which can only be found over some distant horizon, but rather that those things are only found by people who choose to find them in the present. Above all, it's a show for and about people who have decided to succeed on their own terms. Who doesn't want to look around their home and say to themselves, "I love living here!"? SSBS is a show that inspires you to do whatever it takes to do just that.

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