After the excruciating boredom that descended upon us during this season of Design Star, I wasn’t all that interested in pursuing a berth on the show again.  I looked at this season’s finalists–many with pretty amazing portfolios–and wondered, if they were this talented and were provided with painters and carpenters and weren’t shopping at Sears for bedding but still couldn’t routinely blow my skirt up with their work, is it even possible to do well on this show?  And if it’s not, why bother?  Especially if they are seemingly pre-selecting the winner season after season, it seems like there is little reason to–as Season 4 finalist NataLee Callahan pointed out on this blog–donate your time and make the sacrifices it takes to be on the show.  After all, if you are putting your business on hold for up to eight weeks–which means cutting off your income for the duration–and leaving your family and friends for what must seem like forever, you want to feel like you have a decent shot at the title and the show.  Amiright?

Less wood-centric living room from Mark Diaz' pre-Design Star portfolio.

Less wood-centric living room from Mark Diaz' pre-Design Star portfolio.

Woody Wood-dinner dining room designed by Mark Diaz for the "HGTV'd" challenge.

Wood overload dining room designed by Mark Diaz for the "HGTV'd" challenge.

But then a couple of weeks ago, casting agents emailed all of the design firms here in Austin–Room Fu included–to promote an open casting call being held at the Hyatt Regency on Barton Springs on the 9th, and I felt like I was being handed an opportunity on a silver platter.  Instead of driving to Dallas like last year, I could drive a few miles down the road and voila, I fell for the fantasy all over again.  I can claim my spot and wipe the floor with these people!

I answered the bazillion page questionnaire.  Printed up portions of my portfolio.  Hell, I even wrote up a resume, which…when you’re in business for yourself, is the weirdest exercise.  I just couldn’t take it seriously, since I know (knock wood) that I’ll never seek employment with another company again.  I didn’t know how to concisely describe my duties here at Room Fu.  Was tempted to write, “Ummm, everything.”

This year I didn’t go for BOOTITUDE.  I desperately need knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, which was aggravated by a time or two I slipped on a wet floor in those boots, so I went with some purple Converse sneaks instead.  They’re more my style anyway, although someday I do hope to regain my BOOTITUDE.  As for how this knee business might affect my shot at DS, I figured I would be golden by mid-January’s start of production if I have the surgery within the next month or so.

Before I arrived at the hotel, I got a call from Matt Locke (Season 3 runner-up) and a text from Trent Hultgren (Season 5 finalist), both wishing me good luck.  I was psyched to hear from them, and felt like I had tapped into some serious Design Star mojo.

Matt Locke and Trent Hultgren.

Matt Locke and Trent Hultgren.

Once I made it to the Hyatt, I hit the elevator to the top floor and signed in.  There were rows upon rows of people with their backs to the door in the waiting room, like I’d stumbled into a wedding or a church service.  Awkward.  I grabbed a chair behind one of the many blondes in the room.  She turned around, took one look at me, and said, “Oh my gawd, I read your blog!”

Hoo-rah, an omen.

“I just got through telling all these people about your blog,” she continued, motioning to a group of four or five other hopefuls sitting nearby.

AWESOME.  Keep talking.  Don’t let me interrupt.

Everyone’s chatting about how funny it is that there’s a sex clause in the application contract that prohibits the cast from having sex with each other.  Could I tell some stories on that score! “It doesn’t say anything about it being against the rules to sleep with someone in the production team,” someone points out.  The clause goes on to stipulate that HGTV and the production company are not to be held liable for anyone contracting STDs.  Classy!

Among this mini-group: a Morgan Fairchild look-alike frame designer from McKinney, Texas (my new blonde buddy), a strikingly handsome Christmas ornament designer (think Radko), an Austin designer who’d just moved back after a stint in New York City, and another cute blonde from somewhere (memory fades)…and sitting down the row from me, a dude just radiating freak.

Bieber hair, red tux shirt, black bow tie, glitter applied to the eyes, nail polish in a bloody hue, and a red vintage suitcase on the chair next to me.  I imagined something from Obscura inside the case.  Maybe a mirror framed in preserved severed fingers…or toenail art.

“You look like a magician,” I said.  “Where are you from?”


“All over,” Magician replies. “St. Louis, (town name), (town name), (town name).” Wasn’t paying close enough attention.  All I could think was


“What’s in the case?”  Can’t help myself.

Magician starts to unlock the case and opens it a crack, just like a stripper starts out with a peek. “Are you sure you wanna see?” he asks.

There ARE severed fingers in there!


“Sure, if you don’t mind showing me.”


“I have some miniature vanities that I made, and some art.”

Miniature vanities = pocket mirrors with pictures on the back.  Vintage photographs of explicit sex acts.

I wasn’t offended by it as much as I was struck by how wildly he had misread what HGTV might be looking for in an on-air personality.  Dude went on to say how he had debated whether it was such a hot idea to come to a casting session for Design Star when the show he really wanted to be on was Project Runway.

“What you should really go out for is Work of Art,” I told him, and explained the Bravo show’s premise.

“I’m actually perfect for the DIY network,” he said.


Dude went on to expand upon his love of seeing people’s shocked reactions to his work, including a salesgirl in an adult shop who thought his “vanities” were too racy for her clientele.

The more this dude talked, the more contrived he seemed.  Totally fakety-fake, if you ask me, like he was fabricating a character.  As most of you know, I have a low tolerance for bullsh*t, and after several minutes of him yammering on, all of my BS alarms were going off.  I wondered if these casting screeners would see the same thing I did.  Anyone with minimal knowledge of body language would’ve cracked up looking at me.  I had turned my chair around so my back was to him.  Without even being aware that I was doing it, I literally cut him off.

Claire came to throw her hat in the ring too.  We struck up a convo with a brunette Gwyneth Paltrow type, very willowy in a wispy, chic top. At 24, she possessed maturity beyond her years and a minimalist, monochromatic portfolio to match her outfit.  Dividing her time between New York City and Austin, she enjoys the exact “bi-coastal” lifestyle I aspire to have.  I’m glad she’s not pretentious about it.

I notice a woman pacing back and forth occasionally along the windows and briefly wonder if she’s spying on the crowd, assessing everyone’s “true” personalities, but this thought is interrupted by another stranger who recognizes me.

“Are you Robin?” A casually-dressed, tall and handsome young man with an easy smile stands before me.  Turns out he’s only 20 years old and has sent me his resume before.  He reminds me that he sent me a link to his blog and I remember how impressed I was with the photos of his own space.  I’d been flabbergasted…when I was 20, my room looked something like this:


…whereas this 20-year old’s pad looked similar to this:


I’m just talking style here…I can’t use his actual photos, so as to preserve anonymity.  I’m just saying, the taste level this “kid” has at such a young age is pretty amazing.  We keep talking and I’m impressed with how well-mannered and quietly charismatic he is.

Between this guy, brunette Gwyneth Paltrow, and Claire–who’s 27–I’m surrounded by twentysomethings who are upgrading my opinion of youngins.

It’s time for me to wait outside the main room for an opportunity to take my shot.  An applicant comes out after her interview and does some schtick for the casting agent checking people in.  Applicant continues her act for a few minutes and heads to the elevators.  I loathe being around people who are always “on” and it occurs to me that that’s what you’re going to get a lot of when you start passing out chances to be on TV.  Pacing woman makes a reappearance to chat with the check-in girl and based on their convo, I discover my instincts were right on target–she’s part of the casting team.  I feel good about that, because I felt like I was the only person who worked the whole room.

Finally, it’s my turn to do my thing and I’m nervous all of a sudden.  There are two women sitting at tables on opposing sides of the room and they could both pass for the love child of a perky cheerleader and a used car salesman.  There is so much high energy coming from them both, I start to cringe.


The one I’m chatting with asks me what my design background is, and I fill her in on how I got into this business.  She says, “I know interior designers work with many different styles, depending on the client…but what’s your personal style?”

I start to laugh.  “You really don’t care what my personal style is, do you?  Based on this season, they only seem interested in personalities.”

She seems surprised that I haven’t offered up a pat answer to her question.  “Of course we care about personalities but we’re looking for all sorts of people and your personal style is important too.”

It’s not that I’m gunning to be cast as the next season’s Omarosa. I’m not intending to be a bitch here, it just struck me as so absurd.  If there was any remote interest in style from the standpoint of the production team, we would actually see a good bit of it appear onscreen.  But we don’t, so there you go.  It’s a non-question.  A designer might express a different side of their style with each client’s home, but there are always consistent style elements displayed in a designer’s portfolio.  Since she is flipping through mine, that just seemed like a stupid question.

I don’t honestly remember what else she asked me…more of the same canned interview.  The equivalent of being asked “what are your strengths and weaknesses” during a corporate job interview.  Ask me something real.  Ask me something compelling–something that reveals both my design interests and my personality.  What has been your craziest inspiration when designing a room?  What’s the weirdest thing you’ve been asked to leave in a room and how did you deal with it?  What kind of show would you like to do if you were to win Design Star?  What makes you think you can pull off the challenges week after week?

That’s what you ask if you really give a crap about design for this little contest.

And that’s it, she told me they were going to look over everything that night and if they were interested, I would hear from them within 48 hours.  Pretty much the same scenario as last year.

Later that night?  I found out through the grapevine about two women who were called back for camera tests, so I obviously didn’t make the cut.  One of the women moving on in the process had an interesting look–I noticed her from across the room and thought to myself, “that is going to work well for her.”  She was dressed nicely but not Sunday-best, like so many in the room.  Her hair was like a modern spin on a Flock of Seagulls ‘do.  After I heard about her callback,  I looked up her work and was horrified.  Gaudy pillows with tassle-y trim and curlique letters out the ying-yang.  Very Donna Decorates Dallas.

One of the many ways Donna Moss destroys Dallas interiors.

One of the many ways Donna Moss destroys Dallas interiors on Donna Decorates Dallas.

The other woman I would describe as wearing a “church lady hat” that didn’t really mesh with her outfit.

church_lady_hatSo if that’s any indication of what we can expect from Season 7 of Design Star, I guess I should take it as a compliment that they didn’t select me, and I don’t see that we have much to look forward to as viewers.