Last August, Peaks Island resident Lynne Richard taped an episode of TLC’s “While You Were Out” at her home. The show, which featured a “pretty flamboyant” redo of her dining room, aired Friday, Oct. 10.
For those who don’t know the show, “While You Were Out” operates on the element of surprise. While one homeowner is away for a couple of days the other homeowner and the WYWO crew redecorate one room in the house on a budget of $1,500. The absent homeowner returns to what is hopefully a big surprise. In this case, Richard wanted to surprise her husband, Steve.
It began in June with a spontaneous reply to a website posting by WYWO producers. “It really was an impulsive decision. My husband and I like to play tricks on each other. It seemed like a really good trick to play,” she explained. According to Richard, the WYWO producers were particularly keen on finding an island resident to do the show because they were interested in the “drama and tension” of being a boat ride away from the mainland. Richard’s home was chosen along with homes in Bath and Sanford.
When Richard got the news, she was told the crew would be coming Aug. 14-16. She then had to figure out how to get rid of Steve for a couple of days.
She and the producers settled on a boat trip with one of Steve’s buddies who works for the Audubon Society. Steve was told the Society needed footage of Casco Bay.
Designer Mark Montano decided on an Old England meets New England theme for the Richards’ dining room. And yes, the unveiling of the design at the beginning of the show really is the first time the homeowner sees what is in store. “He really did stick to what I envisioned,” said Richard. In fact, Montano was inspired by a 1932 painting the Richards had in the room done by Steve’s uncle. “He loved Steve’s uncle’s painting,” she said. “He used it as inspiration for the design and the colors in the room.”
In Richard’s own words, the dining room is decorated “kind of over-the-top, bordering on gaudy.” But, “we really do like the room,” she said. “A dining room to me is a place where you invite people over to have fun. I think it has a good sense of humor.”
As for Steve, “yes,” he said, “it was a surprise. When I got back into the driveway everything was normal, but I knew [what was going on] when she said ‘I have something to show you.’ ” (For those who don’t watch the show, this is the standard line surprisers use on surprisees.) “I like the room,” Steve continued. “It is funky, definitely a designer room, a room with a story.”
Apparently the experience is not over. Now, says Richard, “visitors drive by, pointing out our house. It has become known as “The While You Were Out House.”