Television host/producer and home products designer Genevieve Gorder will be the keynote speaker at this year’s International Window Covers Expo, taking place March 8 to 10 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville. To get a glimpse into her world and what she will discuss at this year’s event, Window Fashion VISIONeditor-in-chief Sophia Bennett asked Genevieve a wide range of questions about how she got started with television, what she’s working on now and what trends she sees in modern window coverings. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell me a little about your childhood and how it influenced the person you are today.
I grew up in Minneapolis renovating houses with my family. My parents were young when they had me—my mom was 20 and my dad was 24. There weren’t a lot of funds, but we came from a very creative family of musicians and artists and painters and dancers. And what was happening in the 1980s in a lot of these Midwestern towns was there was a big flight to the suburbs, which left a vacancy in these old cities with incredible housing. So my parents could buy houses these turn-of-the-century Victorians and Four Squares and other houses for basically nothing, and we trained ourselves on how to recover the past from these old beauties.
We have an incredible architectural stock in Minnesota, where houses have to weather literally 120 degrees of temperature variance. Things are built very well and they’re meant to last. But the 1960s and ‘70s had done a number on these places. There was a lot of bad paint, wallpaper, linoleum, Formica and other things that had to be removed in order to return a house to its full glory. That was the side job for my family. They had full-time jobs during the day and that’s what we did all night.
As a kid I was just raised in this, so it was like a school and I didn’t even know it. As soon as all of us kids got out of the house we knew how to make a home immediately and we absolutely did it. Even if we had $200-a-month apartments, it was like, how do we make this legit?
Did you always know you’d become a designer, given that you had so much experience with creative work and home renovation as a child?
I thought I was going to go into international affairs and be a diplomat. I had been an exchange student and I speak several languages. But when I started at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, I knew right away I wasn’t going to go into international relations. It’s much less sociological and anthropological and much more business and political, which is not my forte. I found design through a series of classes and it was really a key moment in my life, where at 17 I knew exactly what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life. I’ve been a designer professionally ever since. I moved to New York, finished art school at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and worked as a designer throughout my college years at MTV.
Is the MTV connection how you got started as a television host?
It was never my intention to be on air, but as a very young company, often producers would just scour the halls and say, “Hey, can you come be on this show? We need an extra person.” I would do that often, but I wasn’t thinking, “This is my job.” My job was a designer.
I worked at Duffy, a very well-known design firm, for several years after that. At the time “Trading Spaces” was scouting and they were looking at designers who had won awards that year. I’d won a bunch of awards for my work on the label of a bottle called Tanqueray Ten (a brand of gin) that got all this attention. The producers of “Trading Spaces” called me at my desk and asked me if I was interested in auditioning for the show and I said, “No thanks.” It sounded like it was a job being offered to me in Tennessee, which is a place I didn’t want to move to from Manhattan. And I didn’t want to just do interiors because I was at a job where I was doing all kinds of design and it was very glamorous. TV wasn’t interesting to me until they showed me what the show was. It was based off an English hit called “Changing Rooms,” and it was exactly what I’d done as a kid with my family. It was making design approachable and affordable and understandable so everyone felt like they deserved it. So they flew me down to Tennessee, and they picked six of us, and there started my TV career.
I know you’ve finished the first season of the “Trading Spaces” reboot and are filming the second. What else is keeping you busy now?
There’s a series for Bravo which is not even titled yet, which will air in 2019. It’s really exciting. I’ve been wanting to work with Bravo for quite some time.
There’s also “Stay Here Now.” The first season is done and the second season is coming. Netflix has been pushing the bar on so many levels in lifestyle. I wanted to do something that was a bit more edgy, a bit more cerebral. We’ve raised generations at this point on design television and it’s time to give them those next levels that they’re craving and that they’re educated enough to watch. Food got permission to get really cool. They do aspirational food shows all the time and we don’t think about it. But there aren’t many aspirational home shows. They’re about budget and time, and it’s been the same way since they started 20 years ago.
“Stay Here Now” is about AirBnB, the art of travel, and how we can use our home as a business endeavor in this new travel landscape. It’s the biggest asset that we have, so why not use it to our advantage if we can? There are now 400 million homeshares and it’s growing every day. We’re educating a huge amount of people on how to do it correctly and how to make the most out of it. The show has been a crazy hit. I had no idea that it would go this bananas, but I’m very excited about it. Season two is going to take us to places all over the world and hopefully create a treasure map of places to visit.
What do you believe are the big trends in window coverings right now?
What I’m seeing most often is less is more. Of course, this varies regionally. In the South you’re going to tend to see a lot more fabric than you will in the north. Coastally you’re going to see even less. I’m seeing a resurgence in the roman blind in every sort of custom fabric people can fathom. I don’t see a lot of heavy swagging or a lot of rod pockets. I don’t see the tabs anymore. I’m seeing more clean lines. There are more diaphanous fabrics, the lighter and more translucent the better, paired with a solar shade so people don’t have to be committed to a heavy fabric to have the light-blocking quality that we all think heavy fabric affords us.
There are a lot of hardware trends as well. Like we are in the rest of the house, we’re dipping heavily into the brasses and golds and less into the shiny chromes. Black is back, especially matte black. I’m also seeing a change in how we hang. For decades we were hanging right above the window or on the millwork or framework, which is a no-no in my mind. I’ve been trying for years to push people up the wall to give the illusion of grander windows. I’m seeing that more casually in every home I go into.
What are you most looking forward to at the International Window Coverings Expo?
I’ve never been to this expo so I’m expecting to have my mind blown! I’m a full-on home nerd, and when I go into specialties in a hardcore way I feel like I can get much further in-depth that I can when I go to a home show or market. I expect to come out with a full deck of cards that I can start teaching the rest of the country about.