THE CADIGAN-SCOTT FAMILY, LIVERMORE, CALIF.
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on ABC

Having lost both their parents to heart problems 14 days apart in 2003, the blended family of eight siblings ages 13 to 23 were in need of help when ABC's hit show came calling. "The shingles were falling off the house," says Kelli-Ann Cadigan, 19, an assistant restaurant manager. "The lawn was dead. The windows were so molded over you couldn't see out of them." The renovations nearly doubled the original square footage to 2,200 square feet, creating eight separate bedrooms for the first time. As a result, "this actually brought us closer," says Janice Scott, 22, a pharmacy clerk. "We're no longer in everyone else's business."

Still, the new home took some getting used to. At first, "I hated it," says Kelli-Ann. "I thought it was ugly. It was too modern for my taste. I'm not into the whole ritzy-snobby thing." There were emotional stresses as well. "Part of me wants that house back," says Janice. "I think about how my parents' room used to be." And yet, she adds, "my parents would love it if they were around."

DIANE AND BRYAN SCHWARTZ, AUSTIN
Trading Spaces on TLC

The couple say they grew nervous when they spotted Hildi Santo Tomàs, the Trading Spaces designer notorious for her outlandish ideas, on the day taping began in November '02. Says Diane: "I told my husband, 'Honey, this is not going to be good.'"

From their perspective, it wasn't: They wound up taking one month and $5,000 of their own money to undo Santo Tomás's vision, which included 4,000 wine labels plastered on the walls. The Schwartzes—who say they told producers that they don't allow alcohol in their home—were not impressed. (Responds Santo Tomás, who says it was too late to change the design after learning of the Schwartzes' preferences: "I think 90 percent of America would have liked the room, and I overlooked the 10 percent that abstains from drinking alcohol.") Meanwhile, the neighbors with whom they traded spaces, Laura and Steve Macias, were worried—especially because they loved their room. Still, after the cameras left, "Steve helped me take it all down," says Bryan, 32, an associate church pastor.

These days, "it's painful for us to watch Trading Spaces," says Diane, 32, a stay-at-home mom of four. Nonetheless, "we had some good laughs," says Carol Klein, Diane's mom. "Like when Hildi threw out what she called 'poofy curtains.' I said, 'My goodness! I made those!'"

SUZY AND RYAN STONE, CHICAGO
Surprise by Design on the Discovery Channel

When Suzy envisioned a makeover of the bedroom she shares with husband Ryan, a native Coloradan who loves all things white and snowy, she pictured "ski lodge, warm, fireplace." What she got was popcorn hanging from the ceiling (to simulate falling snow), tree branches nailed to the walls and an itchy faux-fur bedspread that looked like "a dead polar bear," says Suzy, 30, who calls the renovations undertaken by the show "very cool. They just weren't practical." For starters the rustic wood bench the crew created "molded in like two weeks," says Suzy, a guidance counselor. "There's still a brown circle on our carpet [from the fresh-cut wood]." Then there were the logs anchored on the ceiling and draped in muslin. "It covered the light fixture," says Ryan, 27, "so if the bulb burned out it was next to impossible to change it." Lastly the couple removed the birch branches from the walls and spackled what Ryan, a financial analyst, says were "probably 400 to 600 nail holes." The upside? The Stones have winter plans for the wood. Says Suzy: "We're using it for our fireplace."

Michelle Tauber. Ellen Piligian in Birmingham, Mich., Anna Macias Aguayo in Dallas and Alison Singh Gee and Ulrica Wihlborg in L.A.

  • Contributors:
  • Ellen Piligian,
  • Anna Macias Aguayo,
  • Alison Singh Gee,
  • Ulrica Wihlborg.