Whether it’s a run-down space or a vintage piece of furniture, Paige Rien can see the beauty (and potential) in it all. That’s why the designer of HGTV’s Hidden Potential and Curb Appeal has designed a beautiful life for herself with her husband Francis and two small boys while creating beautiful spaces both on TV and for clients alike. We spoke with Paige about sustainable décor, incorporating the beauty of your home into your kids’ rooms, and why there is a fabulous interior designer inside of everyone.
Were you always into design?
I’ve always been someone who loves space and moving things around. As a child, I would spend hours in my room moving furniture. I would arrange stuffed animals in pyramid, and then in a circle! In college, I was studying architecture at Brown University. I met my husband, and we shared a passion for houses. We were living in a little apartment, and then we bought this ramshackle of a house in Washington DC. That’s when I knew it was love!
What was the house like?
It needed structural work; it had a hole in the floor! We took this historical structure down to the studs and reformulated it so that we could live there. My husband has this fancy degree, but I know that he would be happy being a contractor. He loves nothing more than working on houses. And since the first house, we’ve bought other houses and worked on them.
It seems like you found your perfect match! Now, how did you get involved with HGTV?
Francis and I decided after a trip to Italy trip that we didn’t want to go back to corporate America. We had normal 9-5 jobs that had helped pay for the mortgages. I had worked for the Discovery Network and also worked in magazine advertising. A lot of my friends would ask me for design advice, but I didn’t have confidence that I could make it into a business. But then we said, “Let’s go for it!”
Around the same time, a lot of the home television shows were starting to become popular. Trading Spaces was really hot. I heard about an audition for Curb Appeal and it was to be the host. I didn’t have any real experience to be a TV host, but one thing my parents taught me was to not be afraid. I was too naïve to be nervous! I may not have had TV experience, but I did know how to use a nail gun; I had probably used it that day!
And it was still in your purse.
Right! [laughs] I’m sure that I still had drywall dust on my arm. I got called back for more auditions, and then they decided they wanted a man! [laughs] I was invited to design for the episodes, which I loved. By being a designer, I got to be very creative as opposed to being the host. After that, I worked on QVC, and I learned how to work on camera at 3 A.M.! Then Hidden Potential came along. They invited me to be the second designer on the show.
I love Hidden Potential. My favorite part is when you reveal the design by flipping open the laptop!
[laughs] It really shows people how space can be used beyond what they’re seeing. It gives them an idea of what they can really do in the space.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Constantly changing, constantly evolving. I think having children has forced it to change a bit, to open itself up. At the baseline, it’s a mix of old and new, comfortable and colorful and very personal. I love old things, I have an old soul. I love new things, too. I love when every piece has a story.
What do you say to people who say, “I have no style”?
It’s not true. Everybody has a story and a personal journey. People should focus more on what’s important to them on their journey and finding beauty in that. Then, they will have more success than trying to copy a magazine.
I think people get intimidated by a blank canvas.
I personally like living in a house in process. I like to watch it evolve. My approach is to collect things over time. In this country, we’re so impatient. These self-imposed deadlines force you to make choices before you’re ready.
Let’s talk about your boys’ rooms. The baby’s room is sooo Zen.
It is very Zen. It was inspired by a trip to the aquarium. We came up to an exhibit of a school of fish. They just kept swimming around and around in the tank, and it was so peaceful. I wanted it to be calming for me, too.
The nursery is as much a room for you as it is for Baby.
You have a lot to do in a nursery. You have to be able to parent a new baby in there. That means I need certain lighting, and I want a room that makes me feel good and that I am happy moving around in. After all, the baby doesn’t care!
I love the felt school of fish on the walls.
The school of fish was the foundation for the nursery. I wanted it to be big and colorful and beautiful. I used felt to make them, when I was almost ready to deliver! I wanted it to have a certain texture, to be earthy and not too perfect. Something very popular in modern design right now is vinyl appliqué, but I wanted to do it myself. Vinyl has a certain compromise with air quality. I wanted to do something more organic. When we brought the baby home from the hospital, he would stare at the fish. It would catch his eye and it made me feel good that it was something that I had created. And my older son’s room was inspired by the circus. I wanted something bright and colorful, because that’s his personality. He’s a spitfire. I wanted the room to have boyishness but not be so BOY.
I like your take on kids’ rooms in general. Let’s talk about that.
Kids’ rooms should fit in with the rest of the house. If you like a certain type of décor, carry it into their bedroom, and make it part of their aesthetic. You can have a beautiful home, room after room, and then Dora takes over!
The rule is that I want to be able to take out any piece of furniture and use it in any other part of the house. It’s all about sustainability. I’m frugal; I’m about as frugal as they get. If I buy something that has limited use, I don’t like it. The pieces in my home are usable in other rooms. In the baby’s room, the dresser came from craigslist. I don’t believe in changing tables; their usage is limited, and besides, at six foot one, I’m too tall to use them. The one thing that I do love in the nursery is the crib. It’s made of bamboo, and a friend of mine designed it. It has a nice grain. When the baby was first born, I would go into his room in the middle of the night. I would nurse him and stare at the grain! I would think, “That is such a cool grain!” [laughs] It was mesmerizing. The rocker reminds me of a smoking chair. It’s like a Mad Men/cool baby nursery!
What are you working on now?
I’m writing a book about design. It’s about how you can make the space work within your own home without feeling burdened by the rules of interior design. In this economy, it’s very difficult to move. The idea of a starter home has melted away. People are becoming more realistic and working with what they have. If they look at their own life, their trips, their passions, it’s all right there. Be inspired by your own life and you will become the best source of ideas. And it will be interesting, chic and beautiful.