Two new FYI Network shows bring big-time design to small spaces

  • Article by: LISA LIDDANE , Orange County Register
  • Updated: July 22, 2014 - 2:57 PM

“Rowhouse Showdown” is FYI Network’s latest entrant into the crowded design show field.

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Carter Oosterhouse is host of FYI’s “Rowhouse Showdown.”

Photo: Zach Dilgard • FYI Network,

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“When good design happens, you just don’t notice it,” said Kathy Kuo, New York-based interior designer. Good design — sometimes deemed the je ne sais quois of interior design and architecture — is the intent behind two series airing Wednesday nights on FYI network and now available online at fyi.tv.

“Rowhouse Showdown” joins “Tiny House Nation” among the renovation and design shows that are part of the summer launch of the rebranded FYI Network, formerly known as Bio. FYI, a division of A+E Networks, stands for “for your imagination, inspiration and innovation” and focuses on four categories: food, style, relationships and homes.

The two new entrants are diving into a crowded pool filled with firmly established shows from HGTV, DIY, TLC and Bravo, but Gena McCarthy, senior vice president of programming at FYI and an executive producer for both shows, contends that her network intends to capture the attention of a younger audience than that of the other networks — viewers with a median age of 40, primarily Gen X and Gen Y, who are big users of social media.

“They look for creative inspiration in Pinterest, Etsy and Houzz.com,” McCarthy said.

“Some of the things that we think are relevant to this audience include how to get their first foot on the property ladder,” she said. The network looked closely at the lifestyles that its target viewers were interested in, such as the small-house movement, thrift style and things that are organic, recycled or authentic, she said.

‘Rowhouse Showdown’

Host: Carter Oosterhouse

Premise: Three two-person design and renovation teams compete for $50,000 and a feature on Dwell magazine’s website. The teams live together while transforming dilapidated homes with similar rundown conditions in distressed neighborhoods — one or two rooms at a time. Think walls with peeling paint or graffiti, broken or worn-out floors, dust and detritus. This season, the homes are in Cincinnati, and the judges are Cincinnati home developer Jim Bronzie and New York designer Kathy Kuo.

What to expect: In the premiere, we’re introduced to the three teams. Dan and Katie say they’re all about modern meets traditional (moditional?). Ted and Krys call their aesthetic “lumberjack sexy,” but when they try to explain exactly what it entails, let’s just say the other teams were more than amused. Geoff and Josh tout their “coastal elegance” style, which makes us wonder how they would translate that into the urban vibe of Cincinnati.

The take-home: We find out just how scale and proportion are important, especially when it comes to big furniture in a modestly sized room. Tip: If you’re going to buy a sofa, put painter’s tape to mark the area with the footprint of the sofa and walk around it to get an idea of whether your choice is too big, too small or just right. Use medium-size mirrors carefully. One often is enough — a group of three in different styles and sizes can look strange.

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