He likes warm wood floors. She prefers cool marble. He likes dark-colored painted walls. She prefers flower-flecked pastel wallpaper. He dreams of taxidermied animal heads mounted, clubby leather furniture, and plaid flannel curtains. She dreams of gold-framed botanical prints, overstuffed shabby chic furniture, and light lacy curtains. This married couple has zero in common design-wise. What to do? Get a divorce or get Michael Payne on the case. As founding host of Home & Garden Television's Designing for the Sexes, reconciling design differences is Payne's business. He shows up at a couple's doorstep, chats them up about what they love and hate, retreats to his studio to sketch out a plan, gets their approval, takes them on argument-filled shopping trips to pick out things like furniture and tile, and then voila! With an understated flourish (and in under 30 minutes), the room in question is transformed into a space they love.
However, not all of us are anxious to air our dirty design laundry on television. That's why the king of compromise has written Let's Ask Michael: 100 Practical Solutions for Interior Design Challenges, compiled from the thousands of questions he has received since the show's inception five years ago. (Payne makes a South Florida sojourn this week.) Colorful photos provide examples of what happens when you raise your bedroom ceiling and have to buy giant furniture to complement the enormous space or how you can load your home office up with animal prints and an African theme without crossing the line into tacky land.
The supremely smooth way Payne solves decorating dilemmas has made him a luminary among the HGTV-watching set. Let's just hope we never have to endure episodes of Celebrity Designing for the Sexes. Watching ordinary folk debating the merits of tile vs. carpeting is more than enough for us.
By Nina Korman