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  • Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

    HGTV’s Design Star Season 6: Jersey Shore B&B

    Last night’s episode of Design Star featured a few good ideas and a whole lot of suckage.  Take this room for instance, which judge Vern Yip referred to as “the best room I’ve seen in all six years of Design Star.”




    Best room in Design Star history? Seriously? If it is, HGTV ought to have canceled the show long ago.  I would call this room–designed by Meg Caswell, Karl Sponholtz, and Mark Diaz–a decent effort, at best.  It doesn’t even rate “best room of the season” so far. I would give that trophy to Karl Sponholtz and Kellie Clements for their winning room during the first challenge.

    There are some good points to the room.  Karl’s chair rail detail is smart and resourceful.  He doesn’t have to be persnickety about straight lines and we have a nice abstraction of waves on a beach.  The coral couch is a bold statement that is pleasing in the space, and the faux greenery running up the wall beside the TV is interesting.  Other than that, the whole room feels hodgepodge and DIY. Hate the rug on top of rug and the dinky little clock over the fireplace in the media area. Hate the schlumpy bedmaking and the jumbo collection of Sears-inspired pillows on the white bed. Loathe the cabinet-next-to-dresser thing happening near the bay window. Neither piece relates to each other in any way, shape, or form.

    Most of all, I despise Meg’s fabric selection for the headboard:


    Looks like something you’d dig out of the clearance bin at Joann Fabrics.  Fug-ly. But since it has all of the colors in the room’s palette, Meg wins the effing challenge.

    Which is shocking considering how Leslie Ezelle brilliantly repurposed the backsides of ugly rugs into this great-looking, modern art over the bed in the room she designed with Tyler Wisler:


    Or Tyler’s fun cane chair redo:





    After last week’s revelation that Vern is shilling bedding the color of organ meat, his aesthetic opinion hardly carries any value. Still, if you were a finalist from a previous season, what would you think of Vern’s remark?  NataLee Callahan said, “Best room of all 6 seasons? Really? I liked it, but…” Fellow Season 4 finalist Jason Champion concurred: “I screamed, ‘Asshole!’”

    In case you are new to Design Star, let me break it down for you:

    Top 5 Rooms that Beat the Pants Off Vern’s Pick

    1. Matt Locke and Mikey Verdugo’s bedroom design from Season 3:

    This bedroom features Matt’s ingenious bed design which allows private sleeping quarters for five people.  You can only see four beds?  The fifth one is in the loft/canopy!  Not only is this bed crazy cool, the whole room looks fresh, restful, finished, modern, and luxurious.  This has always been my benchmark for “best room on Design Star.”

    2. Emily Henderson’s masculine living room design from Season 5′s final challenge:

    Emily’s living room, inspired by fellow finalist Tom Vecchione, is a super chic take on masculine design. Like Tom, the room is refined, sophisticated and modern, with enough antique elements to keep the look personal.

    3. David Bromstad’s Zen-Inspired Glass Box from Season 1:



    Rather than creating a random room inside his glass box, David used the black frames of the architecture of the box as inspiration for his final design of the season. Using black and strong graphic details in the overall design effectively creates a harmonious space, making it appear as if David designed the glass box structure as well as the interior.

    4. Todd Davis’ crazy white box design from Season 2:


    Todd’s conceptual design is hands-down the most creative solution to the recurring white box challenge. HGTV totally ripped it off for their on-air promos for Season 6.

    5. Nathan Galui and Dan Vickery’s Season 4 dining room design:

    Despite the sauna-esque wall beyond the dining area, the paint treatment rocks and the whole room screams drama.  Love the mix of natural elements and stark modern details.

    Back to last night’s episode, there were some things that were even worse than Meg’s headboard…


    Cathy Hobbs and Kevin Grace’s bed-in-a-bag styling sucked enough, but then they threw in a few more random pillows for a look that says, “I have no idea if I’m going for casual or elegant, sophisticated or retro.” It’s ironic that Cathyrosa bitches about how Kevin will never be able to finish his headboards and then leaves her own stupid second chair rail incomplete.  I’m ready for her to go home, especially after seeing next week’s promos where she’s not getting along with her next design partner–a trend that makes her unwatchable. The wall color is atrocious. It’s so saccharine-sweet it makes the whole room look like a cartoon.  Cathyrosa’s lamp is ugly and Kevin’s floor is a wreck.  Whitewashing the wood is a nice idea, but Kevin executes it poorly.  If you’d like to recreate this look at home, sand first, paint second, then apply two to three coats of polyurethane and your whitewashed floor will be hard as nails.


    No one seems to be able to accessorize with pillows very well on this show.  Bret Ritter’s headboard attempt falls apart and he ends up going home for putting white squares of plywood on the wall for a very unappealing, uncomfortable look.  Had he embellished the squares in some way, he might have saved himself, but in truth he shouldn’t have even been cast in the first place.  Kellie Clements throws some half-ass paintings together for wall art…she seems to be running out of steam, which bums me out.

    Regardless of the outcome, all of the rooms look a helluva lot better than their “before” pictures.  Based on these shots, it’s a wonder the innkeepers ever registered a single guest:









    The mind reels.

    In honor of Paula Deen’s appearance as a guest judge during next week’s Sears kitchen catalog challenge, I’ll be making some of her recipes for dinner next Monday night:

    Chicken stuffed with prosciutto and fontina.

    Chicken stuffed with prosciutto and fontina.


    Maple-glazed salmon with pineapple salsa.

    Maple-glazed salmon with pineapple salsa.

    Or maybe I’ll just pick this up and call it a day…


    Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

    HGTV’s Design Star Season 6: White Room Challenge!


    Last night’s episode of HGTV’s Design Star featured the iconic white room challenge.  Although this challenge can get a tad tired at times, I love that it presents all of the finalists with an even playing field and the fact that it’s an individual challenge.  No one can coast with the benefit of a better partner–each survives based on their own merits. If you don’t know the drill, each designer gets three white walls and an identical set of white Ikea furniture, then they are carted off to a non-home-décor store to purchase supplies to trick out their space.  This season the designers have a whopping budget of $1,200 to shop at Restaurant Depot, and they’re told that the rooms do not need to be functional.  In previous seasons, the designers were also limited to two gallons of paint…it doesn’t appear that there was a paint restriction this year.

    I’ll cut right to it, I thought Tyler Wisler’s room was a shoo-in for the win:

    Tyler Wisler's white room challenge design.

    Tyler Wisler's white room challenge design. All photos © 2011, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

    Tyler Wisler's inventive water bottle lounge chair.

    Tyler Wisler's inventive water bottle lounge chair.

    Tyler’s design is true to his portfolio.  He eschews all of his supplied furniture in favor of a more minimalist look, featuring a self-made lounge chair created out of luminescent water bottles and draped with his futon’s mattress pad.  The most original element of the entire episode, you could conceivably see something like this piece celebrated in a design exhibit at an art museum, like recycled cardboard chairs have in the past.  For that alone, I would’ve given Tyler the figurative trophy this week.  I also applaud the way his dynamic paint treatment completes his composition and keeps the single lounge chair from feeling lonesome.  Great job!

    Mark Diaz’ design is 100% high drama:

    Mark Diaz' white room challenge design.

    Mark Diaz' white room challenge design.

    Detail of Mark Diaz' futon-turned-airplane.

    Detail of Mark's futon-turned-airplane.

    Mark bases his entire room design around his grandfather’s stint in the Air Force, and that personal passion for the subject matter propels his creation past the remaining competition.  The designers who struggle with this challenge don’t have the same well of inspiration to draw from—and it is really obvious.  The futon-turned-airplane is an inventive, playful touch.  Although the Captain America-ish wall mural is certainly eye-catching, it’s too reminiscent of Antonio Ballatore’s offering during Season 4’s white room episode to win, in my book.

    Antonio Ballatores Season 4 design for the white room challenge.

    Antonio Ballatore's Season 4 design for the white room challenge.

    Sneaking up behind Mark is Kevin Grace’s design:

    Kevin Grace's white room challenge design.

    Kevin Grace's white room challenge design.

    Love Kevin's wall-mounted cabinets, made from the slats of his futon frame.

    Love Kevin's wall-mounted cabinets, made from the slats of his futon frame.

    Kevin's supercute mop head rugs.

    Kevin's supercute mop head rugs.

    Since Kevin’s a Chicago window dresser, I am most anxious to see what he does for this challenge, and he doesn’t disappoint.  While we’ve seen stuff stuck on a wall in these challenges before, this is the most successful use of this type of decorative treatment because it is both cra-cra and restrained all at once.  The single color keeps it chic.  So totally love the mop head shag rugs, which would be a fun element in reality, not just fantasyland.  Love the color palette Kevin selects this week, and am really digging his personality. If Design Star were high school, Kevin would win “Class Clown.”

    Karl Sponholtz’ design ranks fourth for me:

    Karl Sponholtz' white room challenge design.

    Karl Sponholtz' white room challenge design.

    Detail of Karl's paint treatment.

    Detail of Karl's paint treatment.

    Karl is really crafting some amazing color palettes, although these wonky photos do a poor job of illustrating that.  Both this week and last, he’s not depending on current trends, he’s creating combinations that feel different, modern, fresh, and inspiring.  As a lover of color, I am a big fan of his work so far.  Karl’s white room design certainly looks good, and I appreciate the fact that all of the color blocks and outlines flow right off the wall onto the floor and furniture seamlessly.  However, the rigidity of the design and its hyper-controlled feeling are what put Karl into the middle of the pack.  While everything looks flawless (didn’t I peg a penchant for perfectionism?!), there’s no zing.

    Coming in fifth place is Kellie Clements’ white room:

    Kellie Clements' white room challenge design.

    Kellie Clements' white room challenge design.

    Kellie's Hollywood Regency side table made from salt shakers, pizza pans, and paint cans.

    Kellie's Hollywood Regency side table made from salt shakers, pizza pans, and paint cans.

    Judging by Kellie’s HGTV portfolio, horizontal stripes on a wall are her go-to design element, so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing them again here.  While I do like the effect, if you’re going to do that on a TV design show, your stripes need some extra pizzazz to make them feel current and different from what we’ve seen a thousand times over.  Give me some kind of textural element inside the stripes, or some wackadoo color combination that shouldn’t work but does.  Aside from that, Kellie’s use of salt shakers to create a crystal-like effect on her side table is so genius.

    In sixth place, Bret Ritter’s “Martha Stewart Industrial” room design:

    Bret Ritter's white room challenge.

    Bret Ritter's white room challenge.

    I get Bret’s reference to graffiti artists “going bombing,” but this so reminds me of the suitcase on the bed in last week’s episode—don’t invite the judges to tell you that you’ve bombed!  The color distribution is cool but there’s not really much to chat about other than the bold graphics on the wall.

    Then there are a few rooms that, frankly, aren’t interesting enough to write home about but aren’t lame enough to be sent home for…

    If Doug(ie) Hines used to be a graffiti artist back in the day, I’d much rather see his work on the walls than some homage to Keith Haring:

    Doug Hines' white room challenge design.

    Doug Hines' white room challenge design.

    Cathy Hobbs’s mosaic spice floor looks more like it was inspired by The Flintstones rather than Barcelona:

    Cathy Hobbs' white room challenge design.

    Cathy Hobbs' white room challenge design.

    Leslie Ezelle’s wordy wall rip off of Season 4 finalist Nathan Galui’s wordy sofa is sadly the best part of this hot mess:

    Leslie Ezelle's white room challenge design.

    Leslie Ezelle's white room challenge design.

    Nathan Galuis design for Season 4s white room challenge.

    Nathan Galui's design for Season 4's white room challenge.

    Which leaves Meg Caswell and J Allen in the bottom of the pack, for good reason.

    Meg’s color palette is just a total travesty:

    Meg Caswell's white room challenge design.

    Meg Caswell's white room challenge design.

    Detail of Meg's coffee ground shadows.

    Detail of Meg's coffee ground shadows.

    The coffee ground shadows Meg creates under the furniture is an awesome touch, and the mop string embellishments on the console are pretty great too, but I agree with guest judge Thom Filicia that Meg’s coffee table is not the only thing broken about the space.  Besides the gawd awful color palette, the mirror over the console doesn’t suit the scale of the wall and the chairs in the corner seem awkward in relation to the rest of the room. Overall: no likee. Meg cries in the evaluation room though, so she gets to stay.

    J Allen is sent packing for her fruit stand blue room:

    J Allen's white room challenge design.

    J Allen's white room challenge design.

    Closeup of J's flooring detail.

    Closeup of J's flooring detail.

    It’s a pretty shade of blue, and I do like the circles on the floor, but J’s fireplace ended up sucking and the rest of her room is completely lame.  “I feel like this creative mind is really young,” Thom says when he views J’s space. “It needs to sort of grow.” Considering J’s eleven years as a professional interior designer, this doesn’t seem to be a quality she can really fix at this point.  J also flubbed her camera challenge this week, so she’s a natural choice for elimination.

    Things I wish someone had done:

    - A kitchen

    - Stand the futon frame up and weave something through its slats, turning it into a room divider, an exaggerated headboard, or an art piece

    - Spent their $1,200 budget—it doesn’t look like anyone even came remotely close

    What I wanna know about next week’s episode:

    What judge Genevieve Gorder is referring to when she says something is “the color of organ meat.”  And Jeb wants to know…which organ?

    Monday, August 23rd, 2010

    Design Star Sightings

    Emily Henderson, Matt Locke, Casey Noble, Lonni Paul, and Nathan Galui

    Emily Henderson, Matt Locke, Casey Noble, Lonni Paul, and Nathan Galui

    Making appearances last night at Design Star Emily Henderson’s Hollywood viewing party: Matt Locke (Season 3 runner-up), Casey Noble (Season 5), Lonni Paul (Season 4), and Nathan Galui (Season 4), who just moved to LA to start a new gig as design producer for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.  According to Matt, LA designtestant Courtland Bascon was a no-show.  Loyal to boyfriend castmate Michael Moeller until the end, eh?

    At a commercial break, Matt saw Casey and went over to say hello to her.  “She had no idea who I was,” Matt said.  “I introduced myself and she had that blank stare.  It’s true–there are contestants who never watched the show!”  About Casey, Matt said, “In person she’s drop-dead gorgeous and smaller–everyone looks smaller in person.  She’s just unbelievably pretty.”

    According to Matt, there was booing when Nina appeared onscreen, and “polite silence” when Michael appeared.  “I think everybody there was onboard with Team Emily,” he said. “Nobody wished Michael any harm, but when Emily was on, there was all this cheering and it was so fun.  At the end, they put Emily up on the bar and she gave the cutest speech.”

    Matt’s been a longtime member of Team Emily himself.  “Personally, I thought her on-camera presentation was really good.  She’s super cute and had some really nice design moments.  I thought that hanging light was the design standout of the whole season.”

    “Michael was good too,” Matt went on to say.  “The way they put the show together…they gave him all these opportunities to be snarky and then put them on.  I think that wasn’t in his favor.  Overall, he did have a good presentation at the end.”

    But the celeb sighting that really rocked Matt’s world was star of the stage and screen, Megan Hilty.  “I love her,” Matt gushed. “She’s as gorgeous as they come.  I got kind of star-struck with her.”

    Monday, July 19th, 2010

    HGTV’s Design Star Season 5 Episode 5: Firemen’s Bawl

    L to R: Emily Henderson, Stacey Cohen, Courtland Bascon, and Nina Ferrer suit up for a fire drill.

    L to R: Emily Henderson, Stacey Cohen, Courtland Bascon, and Nina Ferrer suit up for a fire drill.

    THE CHALLENGE: Design a common space for real firefighters in a real firehouse.  Each designer must incorporate one signature element into the team design.  But first, step into this flame-retardant outfit and let us torch you for television!

    Now THIS is the Mark Burnett spin on Design Star we’ve all been waiting for!

    BLUE TEAM: Alex Sanchez, Casey Noble, Emily, & Michael Moeller design a room for Squad 18 in the West Village.

    The Blue Team's room, before the makeover.

    The blue team's room, before the makeover.

    The Blue Team's makeover, featuring Alex's mural, Emily's coffee table, and Michael's desk/TV stand designs.

    The blue team's makeover, featuring Alex''s mural, Emily's coffee table, and Michael's desk/TV stand designs.

    Casey Noble's fireman-inspired artwork.

    Casey's fireman-inspired artwork.

    No surprise, Michael is bitchy again this week.  “Everyone who has worked with Alex is saying, ‘Why is he here?’” Michael confesses.  “He doesn’t bring a lot of design to the table.  I don’t need snoozers.  I need strong team members.”  We all have our needs, Michael.  Alex needs a teammate who doesn’t haul off and shoot himself in the thumb with a nail gun and Courtland just needs to nail you.  (But that is sooooo last episode, because this week Courtland reveals that he is very, very manly.  He’s a man’s man!)  Alex not only constructs Michael’s desk-slash-TV-stand, but also paints a—gasp!—mural on the wall.  A mural!  How very unusual for this season! Except Alex’s mural actually works in this situation because its simple, graphic style coordinates with Casey’s art piece featuring the silhouette of a fireman and Emily’s FDNY-themed coffee table.   They put together a room that is equal parts fun, touching and cohesive, albeit a tad on the stark side.  The unfortunate combination of supershiny black leather furniture, a lack of natural lighting, and the total absence of plant life does not do them any favors in the warmth department.  I’d also love to see them bring in something that reflects the historical nature of the neighborhood and the building.

    RED TEAM: Courtland, Nina, Stacey & Tom Vecchione design two small rooms for Engine Company 5 on the Lower East Side.

    The Red Team's "man cave," before the makeover.

    The red team's "man cave," before the makeover.

    The Red Team's "man cave," redesign, featuring Stacey Cohen's thrilling #5 plaque concept.

    The red team's "man cave," redesign, featuring Stacey's thrilling #5 plaque concept and Nina's oversized furniture selections.

    The Red Team's "man cave," featuring Courtland Bascon's entertainment center.

    Courtland's entertainment center.

    Stacey Cohen adds a brass desk lamp to the equation, inspired by a fireman's pole.

    Stacey adds a brass desk lamp to the equation, inspired by a fireman's pole.

    The Red Team's workout room, before the makeover.

    The red team's workout room, before the makeover.

    The Red Team's workout room makeover.

    After: Nina's Braille cork installation.

    Nina wants to make a space for firefighters to come back to that says, “You made it through another day!” She’s thinking “spa” and “Braille mural,” because nothing says, “pride, commitment and service” like a facial and Braille made out of cork.  You’d have to be blind not to see it! To Courtland’s utter horror, Tom wants to start tearing down walls, but settles for eliminating acoustic tiles to expose the building’s original tin ceiling.  This is all well and good until we see that the grid for the dropped ceiling stays, presumably to support the fugly fluorescents dangling below the tin.  Tom paints the ceiling the “goth mosh pit” color of black, which–judge Candice Olson implies–provokes the emotional response of death.  Despite thinking she “knew exactly what they wanted,” Nina orders furniture out of scale with the room, including the tease of a recliner that doesn’t have enough clearance space to recline.  “I truly believe my design idea is the best,” she continues.  “I’m better than the group and they can learn from me.”

    Oh good grief.  Does she ever stop with the self-aggrandizement?

    Stacey decides to play up the Engine Company #5 thing and makes a wooden plaque with a “5” on it.  That is, Stacey talks about it, but when it comes to the actual cutting out of the number and the painting and assembling of the plaque, Courtland is the dude with the saw, paintbrush and the glue.  It’s a dumpy little kindergarten crafts thing that would’ve stolen the show if it’d had some scale to it.  Vern likes it and wants to marry it, so the kid stays in the picture!  Courtland also fashions an entertainment center from what looks like the charred remains of a burned-out building.  The pine paneling thing didn’t work last season and it doesn’t work this season…but it positively reeks of Courtland’s masculinity! Stacey puts her elitist foot in her mouth, saying Nina’s Braille cork extravaganza is “something that is for, like, intellectuals in a downtown gallery. Not fire company 5 on the Lower East Side.”  Like, because they’re too stupid to, like, “get” art, Stacey?

    Dan Vickery and Nathan Galui used pine plank paneling for their first challenge last season, which came off looking very "sauna."

    Dan Vickery and Nathan Galui used pine plank paneling for their first challenge last season, which came off looking very "sauna."

    In the end, the red team’s designs still feel very institutional.  There’s no wow factor anywhere and there’s absolutely no sense of transformation.  The floors could have at least used a good scrubbing.  The workout room doesn’t look like anything changed other than the appearance of a lot of equipment shoved into the space.

    WINNER: The Blue Team


    Vern tells the red team, “The reason you’re standing here today is that we felt like you turned in a big, fat zero.  When we walked through that space, we were so angry.  I have not been that disappointed in so long.  I don’t know how that much talent comes together collectively and produces that.”

    “Give them a space that calms the visual chaos,” Candice points out.  “Don’t add to it.”

    Courtland wants to apologize to each and every one of the judges.  Which is just weird and brown noser-y.

    BOTTOM 2: Nina & Courtland

    Cue the video reels and Courtland is so uncomfortable watching himself on camera that I feel every ounce of his dread and embarrassment. Nina’s presentation is very Nina-y.  I’m an artist! But this is not Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, this is Design Star and the bullying muralist finally gets the boot.

    “I think I was eliminated,” says Nina, “because I did artwork and didn’t really push for design.  But I know I’m a really strong designer and I know that I have what it takes to have a show.  I have a lot of charisma and a lot of personality and a lot of people can’t handle that.  In my life and in my world?  I’m living in The Nina Show.”

    The wha?

    Vern tells the remaining red team members, “Stacey, Courtland, Tom…get out of here!”  like he’s suddenly channeling Gordon Ramsay.  That kind of dismissal might work for Hell’s Kitchen, but it’s the nail on the coffin where Vern’s public image is concerned.

    There’s a certain karmic charm to the idea of Courtland going head-to-head with Nina and winning, after she manipulated the judges against him in the first episode.  Way to go, Universe.

    Coming up tomorrow: I’ll post this morning’s interview with delusional castoff Nina Ferrer, who evidently thinks her you-know-what doesn’t stink.

    Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

    HGTV Design Star Castoff Interviews

    It’s finally official–I’ll be interviewing Season 5 contestants of HGTV’s Design Star after they’re booted from the show each week!  If you can’t wait for the season to start, you can satisfy your Design Star jones by reading up on the interviews I conducted last season with all of the finalists and judges:

    Candice Olson (Judge)  The last thing I expected this stunning, refined, polished (albeit funny) woman to open up about…would be boobs. And nudity.


    Vern Yip (Judge): Vern dishes on what he doesn’t want to see Design Star contestants do.


    Genevieve Gorder (Judge): Dear Genevieve chats about pretentious interior designers and shopping at discount stores.


    Antonio Ballatore (Winner): HGTV’s first bad boy.  (You can also read my other interview with Antonio here.)


    Dan Vickery (2nd Place)


    Lonni Paul (3rd Place)

    Torie Halbert (4th Place)


    Jason Champion (5th Place)


    Nathan Galui (6th Place)


    Jany Lee (7th Place)


    Tashica Morgan (8th Place)


    Jan Guerin (9th Place)


    Amy Sklar (10th Place)


    NataLee Callahan (11th Place)


    Season 5 of HGTV’s Design Star premiers Sunday June 13th at 9pm Central.

    Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

    Update: HGTV Design Star Finalist Nathan Galui


    WHITE LOGOHGTV Design Star season four finalist Nathan Galui is launching his new endeavor, Mesh Studio, tomorrow with a grand opening party in West Palm Beach, Florida.  Located in the heart of downtown, the gallery-slash-retail space will showcase emerging artists from all genres of art and design, including painting, photography, furniture, and fashion.

    The party will feature performances by graffiti and tattoo artists and music via DJ, as well as a signature Mesh Cocktail.  If you want to get inked in more ways than one, this sounds like the party for you.

    Fellow Floridian and Design Star finalist, Jason Champion, will also be exhibiting some of his work at Mesh, so it’ll be quite the family affair.  I’ll catch up with both guys after the dust settles, to find out what’s been going on since they left the show.  So check back for more juicy tidbits!

    Mesh Studio Grand Opening
    Thursday, March 25, 2010
    410 Evernia Street, Suite 117
    West Palm Beach, Florida 33401

    Friday, March 12th, 2010

    Catching Up with HGTV’s Antonio Ballatore


    I cracked open a hole in my schedule to catch up with HGTV’s Design Star Season 4 winner Antonio Ballatore about his upcoming season of The Antonio Treatment. Viewers seem to either love or hate Antonio—there aren’t many people in the gray area.  No matter which side of the fence you fall on, there’s something for you to see this Sunday…as you’ll find out below.

    In what ways has your life changed since you became a Design Star? I have more friends on Facebook!  Besides more people coming up to me and stuff like that, it’s pretty much the same.  I’ve been working pretty hard the past six months on the show and haven’t really had much time to really soak it in and go out and do much.

    What can we expect from your first season? I think people will definitely find it entertaining and inspiring.  You’ll see me grow as a designer throughout the episodes.  We do commercial spaces, a bar, a retail clothing space, a hotel room, and all these random people’s houses.  It’s definitely a fun show.  The whole thing that I’m trying to get across is just to inspire people to do something a little bit different.  Use different materials, think outside the box.  Paint things different colors.  Personalize it and customize it.  I’m not trying to be Mr. Interior Designer 2010.  I just want to inspire people and have fun.  And entertain!


    L to R: Timbo, Antonio, Greg, Hooper, and Billy (Slim).

    Have you made any tweaks to the show since that sneak peek aired on New Year’s Day? Yes, definitely.  The first episode was almost like a pilot.  That first show was centered more around reality and following me around and not really around the design.  The new show is definitely more of a design show.  I kind of liked the reality element—it made The Antonio Treatment feel different from other shows. Well, it’s not so much “less” reality, but there’s more emphasis on the designs and how I come up with all of that, rather than me and my guys just running around like crazy.  Less footage of you in your car? Yeah, exactly.

    Have you ever thought of making over the Jersey Shore house or designing the next Real World house for MTV? Yeah, well, I lived through that in the ‘80s and I made it out alive—I don’t think I’m ever going back!  When we lived in New York, me and my buddies used to go down every summer.  The Jersey Shore was like the spot in the summer—and the Guidos were the same back then!  I would love to see you put the smackdown on The Situation. I don’t know if I could handle those guys!  The whole “Situation” thing scares me.  It’d probably be fun though.

    Have any of the Design Star judges or your co-competitors given you any feedback on your show? Yeah, I’ve talked to Jason (Champion) and Jany (Lee) and Torie (Halbert).  Everybody’s pretty stoked for me.  (Well, maybe not Dan Vickery, your runner-up on Design Star.) They’re happy that I’m going for it.

    With your music background, did you get to pick your show’s theme song? No, you’d think I would, wouldn’t you?  There’s a lot that’s out of my hands as far as the music and editing goes.  Which reminds me of something I want to talk to you about.  That Nathan (Galui) couch thing? I got so pissed about that because I went directly to the camera two or three times and gave Nathan big-time credit.  I dedicated it to him, I was gonna try to call him on the show, and it all got edited out.  But as far as Lonni’s wallpaper?  I was making custom wallpaper before Lonni (Paul) even hung a piece of wallpaper!  Well, she definitely didn’t invent custom wallpaper.  It was just that the two instances were so close together, timing-wise, that it seemed very “reminiscent.” Yeah, well.  I give credit where credit is due!

    You had a few musicians visit during the New Year’s Day episode. Will you have other celebs make appearances during the regular season? Yeah, on the first episode, with Mario Lopez, a big guest comes in who’s pretty amazing.  Each week on the show, we’ll have different guest artists, whether it’s photographers, musicians, painters, sculptors…all kinds of crazy people every week.  Dan (Smith), from L.A. Ink, comes in to help me with a kid’s nursery.  Dan’s a tattoo artist—so a baby nursery is something you wouldn’t think he would do.  There are a lot of things like that throughout the episodes.  As we got deeper and deeper into the episodes, a bigger and bigger element of the show was exposing these really cool artists that do out-of-the-ordinary things.

    As a Texan, I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the fact that you recently posted a link to a Willie Nelson song on your Facebook page.  I wouldn’t have figured you for a Willie fan! Are you kiddin’?  The first show I ever saw in my life—when I was twelve years old—was Johnny Cash at the Playboy Club in Vernon, New Jersey.  I’m a huge country fan.  Hank Williams, Johnny Paycheck, George Jones…I love all that stuff.  Timbo (Gruse), one of my main guys on my crew, has a really great country band that tours all over the world, called Speedbuggy.  He plays on one of the episodes.  That’s another funny thing too—throughout the season, we started bringing our instruments out more and more and Timbo would write country songs a lot.  I don’t know if it will make the final cut, but we did a lot of jammin’ and had a lot of fun.


    So after your buddy split his hand open on that first episode (Greg Gatti, a.k.a., Frankenfinger), did the legal team crack down on y’all to start wearing protective gear? Yeah, definitely!  We went into that first episode just goin’ all out, but then we re-evaluated, took a step back.  At least we got it out of the way the first episode and he’s all healed up and good now.  It just makes for a funny story.  We all made (safety) more of a plan after that—we didn’t want anyone getting hurt.  It was more than just the legal department.  It was more about us looking out for each other.  We’re all buddies.  Me and Greg go back to when we were kids.  (Jacob) Hooper, my main wingman, we’re friends twelve, thirteen years.  Timbo was on the last episode of Design Star, he was one of the main carpenters on that.  We became a really tight crew. Looking back, I really miss everybody and can’t wait to start it up again.

    You mentioned on Facebook that you’d lost 35 pounds.  How’d you do it? Chicken cutlets and a trainer (Basic Training PFC’s Sean Khoda)!  I was eating so many chicken cutlets I was ready to snap.  I couldn’t take it!  I turned 40, was recently singleI was looking at myself on camera and was like, “I’ve got to get it together!”  So HGTV didn’t ask you to drop a few? No, not even close.  That was all me.  Plus, I knew what the schedule was going to be like.  I knew I needed to be in a little better shape to be able to handle it.  We were doing eighteen-hour days for almost sixteen weeks.  We were pretty beat up during the whole thing.  So do you recommend the chicken cutlet diet? No-o-o. I don’t recommend that!  I got a trainer and I just really worked hard.  I did a lot of cardio and have a couple of friends who train in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), so I would go roll with them and get some exercise in.  I felt the best I have in years, so it was good.  I took Tae Kwon Do about ten years ago and I agree, I’ve never been in better shape…I just couldn’t progress to the part where you actually started hitting people. Yeah, no, I don’t like any of that either—although on this first episode with Mario, we get in the ring and we go at it full force.  He lit me up pretty quick!  For all the Antonio haters out there, they better tune in for this one!  They’re gonna love it!

    So, what about your love life?  You’re recently single? I really haven’t had any time to lock anything down.  Me and Chewie (Ballatore’s dog) need some love over here!  Cue the Facebook fans.

    Do you have any advice for the next round of Design Star hopefuls? Yeah, just be yourself, try to be original and be ready for the hard work, because it’s not easy!  With Mark Burnett in the picture, what do you think will be different? I don’t know, but I’m excited to see where he takes it and what his vision is on it.  (I think I know a little something about his vision on it—part of one of my predictions has already come true!) You know it’s going to be good.  He’s going to take it to another level.  Hopefully I’ll get invited on it!  At least let me come in and mess with the people!  What kind of task would you throw at them if you got to hand down a challenge? Well, I’ll tell you…I wouldn’t throw the kitchen challenge at them.  I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.  That was the one that cracked me.

    Wait— I’ve got a challenge for them.  They can sit in front of a bunch of bloggers—see how they take it!

    The first season of HGTV’s The Antonio Treatment will premiere this Sunday, March 14th, with back-to-back episodes starting at 10pm EST / 9pm CST. I’ll post my review(s) by mid-week too, so check back!

    Photos courtesy of Antonio Ballatore.

    Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

    HGTV's Design Star: Torie Halbert Interview

    Torie Halbert's introduction to the Design Star cast.

    Torie Halbert's introduction to the Design Star cast.

    I had a chance to catch up with Torie Halbert, the latest designer to be eliminated from HGTV’s Design Star. Torie was embarrassed of her Texas accent until she heard my twang. Then she didn’t feel so bad.

    Knowing that Amy got the boot as team leader, why did you volunteer to be the team captain on this challenge? For a few weeks I was playing it safe and just kind of thought, why not? I do exteriors but not so much the landscaping. I select stucco finish and stone, front doors and windows, roofing, all of that—I make all of those selections with my buyers. I was hoping that would come into play. I just stood up for it and said I’m gonna sink or swim.

    It looked like Dan was going to own up to his little gaffe but then he threw you under the bus. Were you surprised by that? No one wants to own up to making a purchase like that. It was something that he decided on his own and I just don’t think he wanted to take the blame for it.

    Did you think that Antonio usurped your role as leader? Antonio has a lot more experience doing those backyard projects. I don’t necessarily spec sod, concrete, or plants. Antonio had more experience with that and he did take the lead on a lot of it but I kind of knew that was going to happen. It wasn’t quite the way it was portrayed on TV–like I was just following him around. Everyone was talking and had input.

    It appeared that you were more nervous during your hosting segment than you were when you were presenting Carina’s room in the last episode. What made you more nervous this time around? For one, I had completely lost all of my endurance. I had no energy. After we finished the entire yard, we took turns doing our hosting. I tried and tried to have energy and be myself but it didn’t come as easy to me as I would have thought. We had 45 seconds and three chances to get it all right. That’s a lot of pressure!

    During your exit interview, you said you already had your show mapped out, down to the font you’d use for the logo. Tell me about it. It was really just Dan and I who talked about the big plans we had. We’d planned the music, how it was going to be, and where we were going to do it. My show was going to be about taking design elements from million dollar homes and showing people how to achieve those ritzy, upscale finishes on a budget. I wanted to call it “Designing to the T.”

    And since you already knew the font you wanted to use for the show, what was it? I love Papyrus. I use that on my signature on my emails and my company letterhead. (Ouch. Thousands of graphic designers around the world have just emitted an audible groan.)

    So you think you two were the only ones who really wanted the show and the others just wanted the opportunity to be on TV? Absolutely. I think Dan and I wanted to win more than anyone. Hopefully Dan did win…I don’t know. I think he’s really talented and I’m really impressed with everything he does. I think he’s a great designer and has a lot of potential. I hope he wins. (Antonio’s the only one I would actually tune in to watch. I know, surprise!)

    Let’s go back to the beginning of the season. At what point did they tell you that you were going to have to face off against two other designers for a shot at the show? I had been in LA for four days doing the shots that you see at the beginning of the show. They came to my room the night before our first day of taping and said, “Here’s the deal. You’re not on the show.” I thought, “Is this some kind of joke?” They said, “You’re going to have to be voted in against two others,” and I said, “If it’s all the same to you guys, I’ll just go home now.” I didn’t feel like I was going to be the one voted in. They encouraged me to stay and show the rest of the cast my personality. (So as not to let all that expensive photography and show intro taping go to waste.) I didn’t want to go at it like, “I’m the best and I’ve done everything,” because I haven’t done everything, really. I design custom homes and model homes, but I had no idea who I was up against. I tried to show them I’d be a team player, that I wasn’t there to push everyone out of the way. I didn’t want go home and tell everyone I didn’t even get into the house! I got all but four votes—that was pretty cool. I was really surprised, it was truly surreal. (I’d call that whole trickster thing borderline abusive. I guess HGTV is fully embracing the dark side of reality TV, which parallels Genevieve Gorder’s experience with TLC.)

    How did they feed you? (Weird question, I know. But I’ve never been one to shy away from being weird. ) Before we all went, we were asked to make a list of our favorite foods and everything we loved to eat, specifically. When we got there, that kitchen was jam-packed with so much food, you could not imagine. We had anything and everything our hearts’ desired and if there was anything we wanted that wasn’t there, all we had to do was write it on a list and when we got home that evening, it was there. So after about a week or so, we all got pretty smart. We started asking for inch-thick ribeyes and really good stuff! Especially Jason, he was like, “oh heck, I’m making the list today!” Jason and Lonni cooked up some great dinners. We actually ate in that dining room a lot.

    I was going to ask who your favorite designer was, but I guess your answer would be Dan. Dan’s my favorite, but Nathan is probably next to him. He is the most genuine person on the show. I loved him from the first day. He came up to me and said, “I voted for you—I was a fan!” I thought a lot of him. I think he’s going to go far. (Me too!)

    How did you survive being cut off from the world so long? That was hard, because I have a thirteen-year old daughter and I’m a single mom. I missed her very much. Most of the time, you’re focused on what you’re doing and what’s coming next. I didn’t get to talk to her on Easter and that bothered me. Not knowing how she was and what was going on was hard. When I was in home improvement stores, people noticed my accent and asked where I was from. I’d tell them, “Houston, Texas,” and then ask, “So…what’s going on in Houston?” I got really upset because one guy said it was storming and flooding there horribly—the worst flood they’ve had in years! I was automatically envisioning my brand-new home under water. I went to the producers and asked them to call my family to check on everything. We’d just ask people in stores for information, because…how else were we going to get it?

    That’s really smart! We didn’t know anything that was going on. When I got eliminated and flew out of LA the next morning, I had a three-hour layover in Phoenix. I was watching TV in the airport, and they were talking about swine flu. I’d been gone over a month when all of that came out, so I didn’t know anything about it. I asked the people sitting next to me, “What is this swine flu? Do you know about the swine flu?” They looked at me like I was crazy. They were like, “Where have you been, in a cave?” (I would’ve been inclined to say, “I’ve been incarcerated.” With the lockdown they put on these folks, it’s not far from the truth.)

    Did anyone attempt to fix NataLee and Tashica’s bedroom after the first episode wrapped and you were just living there? Oh no, girl—it stayed like that! Dan, Lonni, Nate and Tashica all slept under those comforters that were cut up in half! I was so happy to be in a finished room that had carpet and was comfortable! Antonio and I shared a room the whole time. He actually asked to share a room with Jany and I. Jason had a double bed, so when he left, Antonio called dibs on Jason’s room. He wanted that big double bed! But yeah, we were roommates. He washed my clothes for me and he was a pretty good roommate, actually!

    Tell me about the pageants. When did you start, and what was your crowning achievement? I was in my first pageant when I was almost five and I won Little Miss Fort Worth. I did pageants until I was 23, mostly in rodeo pageants. I won Miss American Rodeo, Miss Southern States Rodeo. I competed in Miss Texas USA. I won Miss Texas Elite. My daughter’s won unbelievable pageants. She’s met Kenny Chesney four times, George Strait, Clay Walker (who?), Rascal Flats…so she’s gotten to do a lot of stuff with the rodeo pageants she’s won. I loved it. Mom never pushed me. I’m glad I did it. I got a lot of scholarships. (I can’t help it, I’m still skeeved by that whole thing. But I never looked this good in an evening gown…)

    Competing for Miss Texas in 1995

    Competing for Miss Texas in 1995

    Rodeo Queen!

    Rodeo Queen!

    What are you working on these days? I’m working on a $1.2 million home in South Houston. I have another $1.7 million home I’m working on for a European ambassador. So those are keeping me busy. I have my own company, but I primarily design for a custom builder in Sugarland. I’ve been really busy with shows and stuff. I’ve been on Great Day Houston three times, did the morning news. I’ve done some write-ups for the Houston Chronicle. I just found out yesterday that Houston Modern Luxury magazine has named me one of Houston’s Most Dynamic Women for 2009. There will be a spread in the October issue. Calling me yesterday couldn’t have come at a better time, after getting eliminated from Design Star!

    Friday, August 21st, 2009

    Preview: Furniture by Nathan Galui!

    I know what you’re thinking. FINALLY, she’s writing about Design Star contestant Nathan Galui‘s upcoming furniture line and not just bragging about how she and Nate are “like this” or teasing you about showing you. Occasionally, I do put my money where my mouth is. Or if not my money (because nothing’s priced or available yet), then my “pen,” as it were.

    So I’ll do a little show and tell, because gawd knows you are just going to scroll past my powerful prose to see the pics anyway. I’ll just sit here and wait while you do that.

    Fo-Coco Mirror

    Fo-Coco Mirror

    Pillside Table

    Pillside Table (glass shelf in the center)

    Hexagon Side Table

    Hexagon Side Table

    Undulating Pier Table

    Undulating Pier Table

    Okay, I was just blown away when I got the pics. I know these are some simple pieces, but I love simple pieces and the world’s not quite maxxed out yet on simple furniture. I was impressed when I saw Nathan’s work because this is the kind of thing I expected to see him do on Design Star, based on the incredible style we saw in his audition video.  His furniture is really unique without bashing you over the head with novelty. And if this is his first go at manufacturing his own line, I would say Nate has a very fun and exciting career ahead.  Who needs Design Star when you have talent like this?

    You’ll be able to purchase these babies directly from Nate via his upcoming Mesh Studio in West Palm Beach (expected to open late November/early December), and also online, as soon as his website is live (prospective launch is late October).  There isn’t any pricing info yet but I’ll definitely share when it’s available.

    Yea, Nate!

    Design Star junkies, check back Monday for my recap of Sunday night’s episode of Design Star, as well as my interview with that night’s eliminated designer!

    Friday, August 21st, 2009

    New Project Runway and Top Chef!

    New seasons of Top Chef and Project Runway started this week, and neither has a whole hell of a lot to do with interior design, unless you could say that cooking happens in the kitchen and fashion design is still design related.  Cooking doesn’t happen in my kitchen–only reheating happens in that place with the sink and heating appliance live–and no one looking at me on my best day would call me a fashion expert.  But dang, I’m still obsessed. 

    However, I’m burnt for the day and it’s been a busy workweek, so chatting about either show will have to wait until perhaps tomorrow or Saturday.  In the meantime, if you’re fans of both or either, what do you think of the new lineups?

    Also on the roster for tomorrow or Saturday: Design Star‘s Nathan Galui has shared some photos of his developing furniture line, and y’all…it is SO AWESOME.  So you’re definitely going to want to check back for that.

    I do apologize for being a little too overblown work-wise this week to dish responsibly, but promise there will be loads of new content for the weekend.  And if you’re in the ATX like me, you know you’re not going to be outside searing your retinas in this heat, so it’ll be nice to have something new to read, no?