How many times have you watched a home-renovation show and, when the time came for the big reveal, wished that the owners were greeted by gaudy hideousness instead of the lush room they’d been expecting? Well, it had to happen eventually, and real-life home renovators Neil Davies and Jay Purvis are the guys who are bringing the concept to life in Fine Living‘s new series The Fix, premiering in a sneak preview April 1, but beginning in its regular time slot April 7.
It’s a simple premise. Davies and Purvis meet the homeowners and interview them about the vision for their new bedroom, basement or whatever room is to be tackled. Then when the homeowners leave, the mayhem begins. But these two don’t simply ignore their victims’ suggestions and create an atrocity. They listen very carefully to their clients’ wishes and — in a manner of speaking — give them exactly what they ask for. Mention a “Zen” bedroom and you’re likely to end up with a pebble garden. Want to “bring the outdoors in”? They might carpet your living room with fresh sod.
In fact, it’s nebulous suggestions like these, spurred on by the deluge of home-makeover shows in recent years, that drove these two British-bred Canadian designers to take up this particular challenge — that and their admitted penchant for getting a rise out of people. “For so long, the homeowner was always giving us a hard time,” Purvis explains. “Changing their minds, saying they didn’t like this, or didn’t like that, or there was a misunderstanding. So now it was our turn, basically, to get our own back on the homeowner and say, ‘Well, this is actually what you said. And we gave it to you.’ … It works up a lot of homeowners, that’s for sure.”
Working up the homeowners is the name of the game here, in true Candid Camera fashion, and these guys approach it like a sport. But there’s a reason they can get away with it all, as Davies explains. “We were never going to be worried with how upset they got, because we knew that no matter how angry you get, we’re going to make this nice again,” he says. That’s the upside of the deal for the homeowners — after the gag is pulled off, the boys, with the help of a designer, do the room over once more for a “proper” reveal. For the owners, it’s a balm after the aggravation visited upon them after the prank. For Davies and Purvis, it’s a license to be as savage as they feel they need to be. “Whatever levels we could take them to [make them] completely hate us, it was fun,” Davies continues, explaining that their tactics are consistent with their background. “You have to remember where we’re from,” he says. “We grew up in a world where if you go out to dinner and you wear your grandmother’s Christmas present — she bought you a sweater and it’s bad — we’ll take the mickey out of you all night. You’ve just got to learn to be able to take it and give it.”
Purvis agrees, describing the shameless lengths they’ll go to get the reaction they want, when they need to. “There have been so many horrible things I’ve said,” he laughs. “We’ve insulted people’s wives. We’ve talked about their weight. We’ve said, ‘So you’re getting married. You going to join the gym?’ And the fat guys turn around and say, ‘Yeah, I’ve joined the gym.’ ‘Not you — your wife.’ … They don’t expect it, and being English, I think we can get away with it.”
And yes, when they push these poor folks really hard, things do get out of hand. “It’s gotten physical a few times,” Purvis says. “There have been some pushes and ‘Get the hell out of my house,’ ‘That guy’s an @#$%! — was he really coming on to my wife??'”
Most often, Davies and Purvis leave their victims on good terms and with the best of hopes for them. But they do admit that there have been a few couples who they hoped would take to heart a little more sincerely what they’re in part trying to convey through this series. “There are people out there, the yuppie type — they have the whole facade, and they’ve got the 2.3 children and they’ve got this, they’ve got that, and it’s all about them.” Davies says. “This is where I say to people, ‘You must try to look at life a little less seriously.’ That’s all. ‘Because it’s not about what you have. It’s about you.’ Wherever you bought your paint or your furniture, it doesn’t change who you are. That’s basically all I try to say to anybody — try not to ever really change who you are, because you can’t. Materialistic things don’t make you better or worse as a person.”