Genevieve Gorder





Television host and interior designer

Born July 26, 1974, in Minneapolis, MN; daughter of Diana Drake. Education: Attended Lewis & Clark College, c. 1992-94; earned degree from the School of Visual Arts (New York City).

Addresses: Office —c/o Town Haul, Discovery Communications, One Discovery Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Career

Graphic design internship with MTV, c. 1994, and permanent position; Duffy Design, Inc., New York City, c. 1998-2000; appeared on Trading Spaces, TLC, 2000-04; host of Town Haul, 2005—.

Sidelights

Genevieve Gorder attained unlikely fame as one of six designers on the popular interior-design makeover series, Trading Spaces, on the cable channel TLC. Trained in the graphic arts, not as an interior designer, Gorder hesitated before taking the job offer back in 2000, as she told Palm Beach Post writer Heather Graulich. "They asked me if I want to do this interior design show, and I said no," Gorder said, "because I thought interior design was just super chumpy, you know? Like old ladies with chintz and big hair and bad perfume—totally Designing Women ; and I was so not that." Gorder's on-screen personality was such a hit with viewers, however, that she went on to host her own show on TLC, Town Haul, which debuted in 2005.

Genevieve Gorder

Born in 1974, Gorder is a native of Minneapolis, and grew up in the southern section of the city, home to some of the area's oldest housing stock. Her parents bought an old Victorian home, and renovated it themselves, and Gorder became a skilled helper in their projects at an early age. She was the eldest of three children in her family, and the only daughter, and attended the Clara Barton Open School. In her teens, she proved to be a talented violinist, and also played soccer during her years at Minneapolis South High School. Gorder's parents encouraged their children to explore the world, and she spent a year as an exchange student in Barcelona, Spain, which led to a decision to major in international affairs at Lewis & Clark College, an Oregon liberal-arts school.

During Gorder's second year at Lewis & Clark, however, she took a graphic design course, and discovered she loved it. After changing her major, she entered a collage she had made in a competition for an internship at MTV in New York City, and won one of the highly coveted posts. When the stint was over, MTV offered her a job, and she took it and relocated to the city permanently. She eventually earned her design degree from New York's School of Visual Arts, and went on to work in the New York City office of a Minneapolis graphic-arts firm, Duffy Design, where her projects included work for the FAO Schwartz toy-store empire and the label for a new brand of Tanqueray gin.

Given her background in graphic design, Gorder was surprised when someone from Ross Productions contacted her and offered her a tryout for a new reality-TV show. Ross was a Tennessee-based outfit that was planning a series in which neighbors got a chance to redecorate a room in another family's home, and vice versa. "To this day I have no idea how they got my name," Gorder told Star Tribune journalist Rosalind Bentley. "I was like, 'Yeah, I'll come for the audition, but I'm not moving to Tennessee.'"

Gorder won a spot as one of six interior designers on Trading Spaces, which began airing on TLC in 2000. She was known for working barefoot, a quirk of hers, and for freshening up a room on a budget with smartly framed black and white photography prints. She also created more daring looks for some rooms that were unveiled at each episode's climactic moment, called the "reveal." In some cases, the surprised homeowners were not always thrilled by the results. As Bentley noted in the Star Tribune, there had been some "doozies," including an entirely black room, but "until designer Hilda Santo-Tomas glued hay all over a family's living room walls, Gorder created what was arguably one of the most audacious designs: She covered a bedroom wall in moss and built nightstands out of chicken wire."

Thanks to such stunts, Trading Spaces garnered a cult following, and became the highest rated TLC show in 2002. Gorder was unnerved to find that fans soon began recognizing her in public. Once, she submitted a call-in diary to Steve Marsh of MPLS-St. Paul Magazine in which she revealed the details of one typically hectic week during the show's accelerated taping season. At one point, she and the other cast members discovered that a few hundred fans were waiting outside for them. "I'm hiding behind the door," she told Marsh. "They all want us to sign autographs. They show up on set. It's been a crazy day. They'll find out on the news or on the radio where we're at and then they'll wait for us all day." Later in the article, Gorder said that she and her fellow cast members had to be secreted out of their hiding place inside large garbage cans with the help of the local police force.

Gorder actually wound up reprising the infamous wall of moss—which was faux moss, not real—for several new clients in and around New York City, where she took side projects during the Trading Spaces hiatuses. By 2003, with the show's popularity appearing to have peaked, Gorder was ready to move on, and this time became a co-creator of her own show, Town Haul, which had its TLC debut in early 2005. The concept was a bit different: Gorder and her team would descend upon a small town and re-do some of its landmarks and businesses. Along with a landscaper, carpenter, and general contractor, Gorder juggled a number of potentially risky reality-television pitfalls, including citizen consensus and zoning codes. Over six episodes in each town, they fixed up a local business or two, came up with a community-friendly new gathering place, and helped out a local resident in need—creating a wheelchair-accessible apartment for one man in Jefferson, New York, for example. The show received mixed reviews, both from viewers and citizens of the towns visited.

Gorder's own home is in New York City, where she has a Tribeca loft. In early 2005, she became engaged to her boyfriend of two years, former TLC Junkyard Wars host Tyler Harcott, who went on to host The Complex: Malibu, on the FOX network. She liked the fact that Town Haul relied more on a dogooder ethos than the shock factor of seeing what one's neighbor did to a kitchen or living room. "These are small communities across the country that all of us at one point came from," Gorder noted in an interview with the New York Post, "and they're slowly disappearing. They're all jewels. We just have to make sure they're cleaned up and shined."

Sources

MPLS-St. Paul Magazine, December 2002, p. 42.

New York Post, April 3, 2005, p. 109.

New York Times, January 16, 2005, p. AR22.

Palm Beach Post, March 22, 2003, p. 1D.

Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), January 22, 2005, p. E1.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), May 2, 2002, p. 1E.

U.S. News & World Report, October 21, 2002, p. 12.

—Carol Brennan



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