There’s a touching moment in Wednesday night’s episode of HGTV’s “Build Me Up,” in which interior designer Orlando Soria brings Eileen, a Huntington Beach single mom whose son is preparing to leave for college, to tears.
“I feel revived,” she said upon viewing her newly remodeled digs. “You’ve literally changed my life. I’m so excited for the next 20 years.”
Following a month of grim COVID-19 headlines for California, Soria’s new home-improvement series is an uplifting breath of fresh air much like John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” and the “Queer Eye” reboot. For Soria’s show is less about a quirky host and more about homeowners who are navigating difficult life changes.
“It’s nice to turn on the TV and see someone doing nice things for someone,” Soria said. “Interior design is fun, but people want more out of TV. They want an emotional pull. I have always used interior design as a conduit to talk about people’s emotional lives.”
In a recent interview, Soria discussed the new reality series, which was filmed in Southern California over several months before the coronavirus hit, and why interior design matters, especially now that we are all quarantined at home.
What was your inspiration for the show?
Our show is about using the power of interior design to heal and move forward and shed a new light on life. What I’m trying to do for these people is figure out how their personality puts an imprint on their homes. It was an outgrowth from my previous show, “Unspouse My House,” which came from my own life. I was going through a breakup and got laid off from my job. I found myself moving into a new space and the only thing that was bringing me joy was designing my space and thinking about what I would do there in the future. That really helped me. I thought it would be great to do this for other people.
Why does interior design matter?
It makes people feel good and shows care for themselves and other people.
You really tap into who these people are. How can homeowners do the same?
There was an extensive psychological process in the way we chose the guests. I learned about their trauma, what their past was, what their goals are. Eileen, for example, was very neat and tidy. She told us she takes her trash out every night. I could tell from her personality that she would like shimmery tile; she loved dressing up and jewelry. Sarah is young and trendy and likes Midcentury Modern design so I knew that we should go with a youthful, trendy, fresh vibe for her. That is one of the more difficult things — getting their personality right and applying it to their home space.
What would you say to someone who has lost their job due to COVID, is tired of looking at the same four walls and wants an update?
No. 1 tip if you are laid off or stressed about money: Do it yourself. I went to the nursery and planted Sarah’s front yard myself. Paint does wonders, even if it just gets rid of scuffs. You will see a lot of really fun paint tricks in the shows. It’s a great way to get excited about your space and show some pride. I see homes as living organisms that you have to feed like a plant. Maybe it’s a fresh tea towel? Try switching out cabinet hardware or purchase a new rug. I just swapped out my bedding, and it made me feel like I have a fresh new bed. Even organizing helps. I was broke for all of my 20s, and I still had beautiful things. I was always moving art from one room to another. That has always been one of my goals: how to do things on a budget.
Your show touches on painful memories that are recalled in our physical spaces. Any advice for homeowners who may have suffered a loss and want to refresh their space?
I think it depends on the type of loss. Sometimes you need an outside energy to come in. There’s an episode later in the season where I showed Cory, whose husband died, her master bedroom. She said she couldn’t see it herself. She and her husband moved into the house, and then he got sick. Her friends were so excited to help her. It’s important to bring in your friends and family and get other people to help you see your home in a new way.
How has interior design changed because of COVID-19?
There is so much you can do virtually. I feel like my time is being used so much more efficiently now. I can connect with clients online, and if I do have to go to a house, we all wear masks.
How are you coping with quarantine?
I have gone crazy with gardening during quarantine. You can have anything you want delivered now. You can order plants on Amazon or look on Instagram and DM shops, and they will deliver or do a contact-free pickup. I love Greenwood Shop in Valley Village. I’ve been buying a lot of pots from AllModern and Amazon. It’s a fun thing you can do without leaving your house. My olive tree is very happy and can take full sun. I gave Sarah clippings from a euphorbia that I’ve been growing since I was 16. It grew so big that I couldn’t pick it up anymore, so I chopped it up into a million pieces, and I gave her one for every member of her family.
“Build Me Up” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV.