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Ryan Brown pits 'Spouse vs. House' on TLC

May 17, 2011 |  7:16 am

Ryan small

Interior designer Ryan Brown, the easygoing counterpart to high-strung house flipper Jeff Lewis on Bravo's "Flipping Out," is playing the nice guy again, this time on his own show. "Spouse vs. House," which airs on TLC, is a multilayered hour of renovation and couples therapy: A husband and wife are given $25,000 to redo three rooms. The husband provides the sweat equity, doing the work himself, while the wife moves out of the house and his life (they have no contact for three weeks) and hopes the results aren't ghastly. 

But, wait. Brown, whose own residence was the subject of a 2009 Los Angeles Times photo tour, selects one of the existing rooms and re-creates it to scale in a set called the Dollhouse. The replica room and its contents are spray-painted white, above.

The designer then has a consultation and shopping trip with the wife. (Some items come from Ryan Brown Style, the designer's recently launched online store.) Then the husband visits the Dollhouse and has the opportunity to use ideas and buy items for the real room back home. Finally -- phew! -- the couple are reunited in the dramatic DIY reveal. (If TLC is looking for a follow-up next season, might we suggest letting the wives run the renovation and sending the men shopping?)

Most guys have two thoughts going into the projects, Brown said in an email: demolition and the big screen. "They grab a sledgehammer, the testosterone kicks in, and they start tearing things apart without even really coming up with a plan," Brown said. "The other thought seems to be, 'How big of a TV can I get in here?' " 

Brown also noticed that, with the number of design shows on TV, men are much more educated about design than in years past. (One of the cutest parts of the show: When the husbands speak decorator language and get stoked about wallpaper.) The biggest surprise over the six episodes, Brown said, was watching the wives change through the process.

"They started off shell-shocked about having to move out of their homes, but as the weeks progressed, they really enjoyed working on the Dollhouse," he said. "These women are not the type that has a ton on money and time to design a dream room. The show gave them the opportunity to express their creativity and realize that they could actually design a beautiful room. They became women with confidence, which to me is way more important than how the house turned out."

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credit: Ann Summa / TLC

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