Ordinary Lifestyles: Popular Media, Consumption and Taste

By David Bell; Joanne Hollows | Go to book overview

5 Home truths?

Ruth Holliday

The traces of the occupant … leave their impression on the
interior.

(Benjamin 1978: 155)

The explosion in home improvement programmes has been a remarkable phenomenon on British television. Looking through the television guide for the week I am writing, to take a typical example, there are no less than sixteen and a half hours of airtime given over to home improvement on terrestrial television alone, not including the large number of programmes aimed specifically at gardening. The shows range from the ‘high class’ (such as Grand Designs, where we get to watch someone building or renovating their home from scratch, or Sunday Homes and Gardens, a restful and upmarket magazine slot) to the Tow budget' – House Doctor and Selling Houses (which concentrate on how to present your house for maximum sale price), Changing Rooms (MDF heaven where two teams of neighbours make over a room in each other's home with the help of a designer); and Big Strong Boys and DIY SOS (where teams of specialists rescue deserving casualties of DIY). There are programmes aimed at improving one house to buy another more expensive one (such as Property Ladder, Safe as Houses and Trading Up), or giving advice on where to buy your home for maximum resale or rental value (Location, Location, Location and Relocation, Relocation) in the countryside (Escape to the Country) or abroad (A Place in the Sun). You can also reorganize your house and get rid of all that clutter (‘excess baggage’) with The Life Laundry. These programmes can effectively be split into two categories – interior decorating and house buying/selling – and both categories claim to add value to your home, either through its immediate sale or purchase, or through its future sales potential.

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the popularity of DIY programmes in the UK is a uniquely contemporary phenomenon. In fact, the first of their kind appeared in the early 1960s on the BBC (see Brunsdon 2004). Do it Yourself (1961) and Bucknell's House (1962–3) were both presented by Barry Bucknell, a respectable, skilled and besuited member of a family-owned building and electrical firm. Bucknell's style neatly fitted the BBC's remit to ‘educate and inform’ (although

-65-

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