Of all the classic HGTV shows — Room by Room with Matt Fox and Shari Hiller in their matching pleated khakis! Joan Steffend on Decorating Cents and her 1,001 ideas for decorating with cutlery! — we have a soft spot for Designers’ Challenge, in which three designers presented their mood boards to a client, and then the winning decorator would shepherd the design to completion. It all felt sophisticated compared to the hijinks over on TLC’s Trading Spaces, and c’mon, a pre-rose ceremony Chris Harrison was the host.
14. Mission: Organization
Part of a wave of decluttering shows from the early 2000s, Mission: Organization was the most no-nonsense of the bunch, offering 22 minutes of Zen courtesy of a label gun, plastic bins, lazy Susans and peg boards. Admittedly, it had limited appeal — specifically to those of us who approach The Container Store as if it were a holy shrine.
13. Kitchen Cousins
Anthony Carrino and John Colaneri, down-to-earth cousins from New Jersey, focused on older homes rather than cookie-cutter houses, resulting in an eye-catching blend of contemporary kitchen design with vintage touches, and often in tight spaces.
12. Tiny House Hunters
The aggravation factor in watching the potential homebuyers is a major part of the fun. (Of course there isn’t a washer and dryer. If you wanted a washer and dryer, maybe you should look at houses that are larger than, say, an actual washer and dryer.) But the self-delusion is totally matched by the gee-whiz factor of these clever constructions.
11. Designed to Sell
The success of this makeover show about strategic improvements to boost chances on the real estate market is due almost entirely to the charmed chemistry of hosts Clive Pearse and Lisa LaPorta. Get these kids a sitcom.
10. Selling New York
Not a whole lot of selling seemed to get done on this high-end real estate show, but who cared when you got to peek inside some of the ritziest homes in New York? (Okay, maybe the sellers cared.)
We were particularly partial to mother-daughter real estate team Michele Kleier and Samantha Kleier-Forbes, who offered the most brutal advice and threw the most over-the-top open houses.
9. The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie
This pocket-sized landscape architect from Down Under had huge ideas for remaking blah backyards. Inspired by his foreign travels (and just skirting cultural appropriation), the makeovers usually involved an unusual water feature, lots of gorgeous wood planking and vertical gardens — and probably an enormous budget.
8. Holmes on Homes
Anyone with a reno-from-hell story can relate to this show, in which homeowners turn to tell-it-like-it-is general contractor Mike Holmes to fix botched jobs. It’s one of the few HGTV shows that leaves you feeling smarter for having watched it.
7. Love It or List It
AKA Love to Hate-Watch It. This show about a dueling designer (Hillary Farr) and real estate agent (David Visentin) couldn’t get more formulaic, but the bitchiness quotient is off the charts, notably when Hillary discovers some unseen (but not entirely unpredictable) problem —mold, outdated wiring, a broken furnace—that will require her to scale back plans on her already minuscule budget, and the homeowners go ballistic. This is the HGTV equivalent of the WWE.
6. Flip or Flop
The stakes are high, and so is the drama on Tarek and Christina El Moussa’s house-flipping show (and that was before we knew about the behind-the-scenes drama).
This is one of the more warts-and-all shows in the HGTV lineup, and that’s not just because of the inevitable dead rodents or leaking sewage lines. Because the financials are a big part of the show, the California couple offer the most insight on how to get bang for your buck.
Five new Flip or Flop franchises are coming to HGTV, starting with Flip or Flop Vegas on April 6 at 9 p.m.
5. House Hunters
What we’ve learned from the granddaddy of real estate shows: A marriage can’t survive without double sinks, everyone loves to entertain, and no one seems to realize that wall colors are not structural to a house. Yet we can’t stop watching, probably because it gives us plenty of opportunity to do what we love best: judge. Judge the current homeowners’ design choices. Just the prospective buyers’ priorities, and, most of all, judge their relationship, nicely frayed by the 25-minute mark.
Who’s the alpha and who’s gonna cave? And then — ding-dong! — it’s time for another episode.
4. House Hunters International
It’s House Hunters but with better views, teeny-tiny bathrooms and even more out-of-touch-with-reality expectations! What’s not to love?
3. Sarah’s House
In this Canadian import (and its offshoots including Sarah’s Cottage), Toronto designer Sarah Richardson and her adorable sidekick Tommy Smythe transform a single house over each season, and it’s always drop-dead gorgeous. Think luxe fabrics, fabulous tile and repurposed vintage furniture. This is pure aspirational design. And who doesn’t love to hear Canadians pronounce the word “house”?
2. Property Brothers
Twins Jonathan and Drew Scott have created a mini-empire on HGTV (the sixth season of Buying and Selling premieres later this month), and it’s easy to see why: They’re incredibly charismatic (they’re both former models), they deliver as promised, and they turn some seriously fugly homes into showplaces — albeit all variations on the same sleek, clean-lined, open-concept theme.
1. Fixer Upper
Y’all saw this coming, right? Chip and Joanna Gaines are relationship goals and design goals all wrapped up HGTV’s most consistently entertaining hour. Their homes are always covetable, even if Joanna leans a bit too heavily on shiplap and vintage signage, and Chip can always be counted on to tear off his shirt to show off his dad bod or eat a random dead insect. They truly seem to love each other, and to love pleasing their clients as opposed to themselves.
Our collective enthusiasm for shiplap, twins in toolbelts and vicarious house-hunting shows no sign of abating, so HGTV has ordered nine new titles for 2017 (including five franchises of its popular Flip or Flop), not to mention new episodes of 28 current series. Since its debut in 1994, the network has evolved from folksy DIY and decorating-on-the-cheap to a mix of personality-driven programming and real estates shows for every possible taste and price point. Here are our 15 favorites from the current lineup and days gone by.
Was your favorite show left off the list? Let us know in the comments!