Ask John Gidding
Can we downsize without downgrading our lifestyle? How can I make a small space look bigger—without spending big bucks?
Fans of HGTV’s Curb Appeal: The Block can pose their own design dilemmas and quality-of-life questions to John Gidding when the star designer appears at the 2011 Buffalo Home & Garden Show.
The Ivy League idea man, who holds degrees from Yale’s School of Architecture and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, will be on stage during the second weekend of the Home Show, which runs March 4–6 and 11–13 at the Buffalo Convention Center.
The Home Show’s theme, The Little Big House, focuses on efficient living and doing more with less, in a nod to current economic conditions. It dovetails nicely with what is seen on Gidding’s TV show—as well as the design ideas revealed in his many appearances on other programs, from the Today Show to Live With Regis and Kelly, as well as frequent personal appearances at home shows and design seminars across the country, and magazine stories that display his design work.
The HGTV program features three different makeovers on each episode, big and little, with design tips in a wide price range, from a twenty-dollar tweak to a project that costs two thousand dollars. In a recent telephone interview, Gidding, who worked as an architect in New York City, recalled “spending obscene amounts of money on stupid things like faucets.
”Now he appreciates what two thousand bucks can buy, with a little creativity and thoughtful design behind the dollars. He finds himself “in a curious intersection of high design and popular culture,” and said he’s learned a lot from talking to people about their needs and desires.
“There are a lot of preconceived notions about what a dream house should look like, so it’s easy to end up with a long unfulfilled wish list,” he said. His job is to help people realize possibility, without dashing a dream.
If anything, the recession has been an opportunity for his continuing creative development. Via online seminars like a recent one called “The Upside of Downsizing,” Gidding reveals how to maximize the utility of smaller spaces. “There are things you can do to make it feel like you are in a bigger space,” he said. “A recession teaches us the value of money, to respect its use … with easy but high-impact design techniques.”
He also preaches the maintenance creed, not always a sexy sell, but critical in keeping up old houses—the particular charm of cities like Buffalo. It is one of his pet peeves, he said, when gutters are left to fall down and wood rot sets in. “Part of our job is to show people how to maintain their properties.
”On his travels, Gidding makes a point of connecting with local talent and products. One episode of his show featured steel sourced from a West Coast mill, the project of young entrepreneurs working with local materials. He has focused on building communities through his television work. “On Curb Appeal, we discover what a neighborhood feels like, and how we can improve it. We’re also involved with many charities, and make a bigger impact that way.”
At this point, John Gidding is grateful for his success and not looking much further ahead. “HGTV is a great home for me right now,” he said.
He enjoys traveling, an opportunity for inspiration. Every year he returns to his hometown of Istanbul, Turkey, where his mother, a native who married an American basketball player who became his dad, still lives. Gidding is modest about his exotic upbringing, saying simply that art was the only subject he was ever good at, and that’s how he drifted into architecture. When he got into an American university for college, “It felt like coming home.
”Now he helps people come home to places that reflect a simple and sturdy American design ethic. Come March, he’ll be in Buffalo to take your questions on how to get there. In the meantime, see his website, www.johngidding.com.
Maria Scrivani is a Buffalo-based writer with an interest in people who make a difference in their community.