“For the experienced do-it-yourselfer, there’s “Freeform Furniture,” in which a furniture designer, Amy Devers, dressed in T-shirt and jeans in a stark shop setting, conforms wood to her will with buzz, circular, horizontal and vertical saws, and shares tricks like edge banding. The exhausted viewer will at least better appreciate why furniture sold in stores costs so much.”
Quick, Hide Fido: The DIY Network Does Barkitecture
Published: January 29, 2006
By COELI CARR
DO it yourself!” used to be little more than a perky, if wishful, reaction to shoddy workmanship by outside contractors. If you wanted the job done right, you donned a tool belt, often unwillingly, to ensure a good outcome. Today, that exhortation is more like a clarion call to people with itchy fingers on a glue gun or hammer, folks who cannot bear to leave dormant one sequin, piece of felt, swatch of silk, skein of yam or chunk of wood or metal that could become the germ of some handmade masterpiece.
Nowhere are these do-it-yourself proclivities more coddled than on the DIY Network, the cable channel that just celebrated its sixth anniversary and currently beams about 50 different programs to 35 million homes. Homes whose exteriors, interiors, gardens and other bits of square footage scream out for improvement. In the good old days, some people seemed to regard home improvement as a casual hobby, but on DIY every project is a model of relentless, upbeat and even brutal efficiency, no matter what the end product.
On some of DIY’s new programs, the can-do agenda serves whimsy, like the show that extolls the principles of “Barkitecture.” Each show tracks a family that adopts a dog, which then gets a new doghouse designed in a style befitting its breed. Kenny Alfonso, a co-host and a carpenter, erects these miniature houses with lightning speed, whether a log cabin for the all-American golden retriever Copper, or a double-wide aluminum travel-trailer for two canines named Casey and Oreo who had a sad pre-adoption life on the road. It’s enough to inspire viewers to populate these magnificent little edifices with tiny humans.
Another kind of efficiency is directed toward the affordable and practical. Carrying this banner is “Material Girls,” in which the three perky, often giggly, female co-hosts – seamstress, upholsterer, interior designer – overhaul environments with fabric. This is the land of curtains, covered objects, bedspreads decorated with big flower appliques, homemade headboards (“a little batting, a little plywood”) and a sewing machine, which the hosts insist the real-life subjects use.
For the experienced do-it-yourselfer, there’s “Freeform Furniture,” in which a furniture designer, Amy Devers, dressed in T-shirt and jeans in a stark shop setting, conforms wood to her will with buzz, circular, horizontal and vertical saws, and shares tricks like edge banding. The exhausted viewer will at least better appreciate why furniture sold in stores costs so much.
The logical explanation for this merciless pace, of course, is that programs need to get from idea to finished product within the time constraints of the broadcast. DIY offers superb instruction and is hands-on friendly, with hosts frequently reminding viewers that complete directions are available on the Web (diynetwork.com).
But there’s something to be said about an industriousness so instantly rewarding and mesmerizing that a person with no interest in home improvement can watch, not with glazed eyes but with awe. Chalk it up to the network’s dirt- and sawdust-free idyll, where edges come out straight and fingers are unthreatened by dismemberment, a viewing experience more akin to gauzy future commitment than to in-the-moment immersion. It’s a lot like watching yoga rather than unrolling a mat and getting all sweaty with it.
Don’t confuse this with meditating on the void, however. DIY is as anti-Zen as it gets: start with bare space and fill it up.