Jany Lee took time out between flights in a DC airport lounge to chat with me yesterday about her elimination from HGTV’s Design Star. But first, she wanted to talk about me. And like most people, I’m usually all for that.


“I’ve been reading your blog! I actually found it before the show started. I don’t know how I found it but I started reading it and thought it was interesting, your comments! Some of them are so “off,” but it’s funny how you word them.”

Then Jany reminds me that I called her white room challenge color palette “lame.” Which, she says, she found “hilarious.” Because, evidently she’s a bit warped that way.

Since they could call Jany’s flight at any minute, I couldn’t let her just drone on and on, complimenting my blog right and left, as so many are prone to do. (“So many = my mom.) At some point my Jany Interview had to circle back to Jany.

When I saw that you and Torie were shopping together, I thought you’d be two peas in a pod after pairing up during the first challenge. Why do you think you didn’t gel as much this time around? I think at that point we were under a lot of pressure because we had to design an entire garage and knock it out in one shopping trip. We just didn’t agree on what the clients were looking for. During our shopping trip, Torie never once mentioned to me that things were going a little slow or that we needed to speed it up, but when it came to elimination in front of the judges, she pushed me under the bus and claimed that I was slowing us down with decision making. I felt I had to defend myself, so I told them our slow speed also had to do with the fact that Torie’s style and my style were just off. We weren’t agreeing on a lot of the different items…that kind of delayed the process. Unfortunately they only showed me talking about her and didn’t show her talking about me so it just made it look like I was throwing her under the bus. That’s okay, it’s all part of TV, it’s all part of editing. I’m going to have fun with this and not get too serious about it.

Did you have a chance to patch things up afterwards? Not really! (As Jany laughed at this, I had the distinct impression she doesn’t care to.) I also felt there was one incident during elimination where Torie mentioned something that was completely untrue and I thought she was lying about it, which I didn’t respect at all.

Was it the desk thing? There was the desk thing but also during elimination, she told the judges that the guys at Sears told us we couldn’t put together the elliptical machine. In reality, they never said that. They just told us it required a lot of humans and a lot of time. She said little things like that that I felt were incorrect but I wasn’t planning to say anything about it during elimination. I’m not that kind of person. I just want to design and do well and be happy, but when someone tries to push me under the bus I’m definitely not going to let them just walk all over me. After that, because I got eliminated, I haven’t had a chance to talk to her. So no, we haven’t had a chance to patch anything up yet at this point. (Do I smell a potential Grudge Match?)

Torie and Lonni both expressed on-air that they didn’t want to be on Tashica’s team. Did you feel the same way? I did. I like to be quiet and do my work and get it done as fast as I can rather than telling people, “Oh, I can do this, I can do that,” and disappointing them in the end. With Tashica, I think that was her issue. She talked a lot and said she could do so much, but with Tashica that wasn’t always the case. She had great ideas…she’s a talented designer. Part of being a good designer is that she needs to execute. That’s where she fell short.

Why did you choose “respect” as your theme for the white room challenge? (Because seriously, that about as cheeseball as “Team Heart.”) That room was sort of a reflection of me. I wanted to send a message that it’s an important thing that a lot of people forget and lose sight of, especially when they’re under a lot of pressure and under a lot of stress. (Perhaps this was a little message in a bottle for another contestant?)

How is designing in Dallas different than designing in Toronto? The style in Dallas is a lot more traditional (read: boring) than in Toronto. In Dallas, it’s a lot of very formal rooms. They love their old-world, traditional, historical design. (Exactly. Boring. Except for my Dallas-area clients.) Which is great! I love and appreciate all different types of design. Candice Olson is a good example of Toronto design. She’s not so contemporary or so traditional. She’s sort of eclectic with her designs and is very representational of what is happening in Toronto. I’m trying to bring that to Dallas. I think that there’s a very small group of people who do like that kind of style in Dallas, but I’m trying to open up the doors to the rest of the community. (Gosh, if you can’t find clients in Dallas who like Candice’s brand of design, I don’t think you’re looking hard enough.)

Out of the two cities, which do you prefer as a designer? (Jany verbally cringes.) I’m so interested to see how you take this and turn it around! (Who, me?) I’m going to say Dallas because I think it’s more of a challenge. (“I’m going to say…” = this is a big, fat lie but it’s what my peeps need to hear.) Because they’re so traditional, for me to go in there and open up their minds to new ideas, mix different styles and show them it doesn’t have to be so formal. You don’t have to have the matching bedroom set. The matching side tables to the headboard to the armoire to the dresser. You can mix different colors, different shades of colors. For me, that’s a lot more fun and more challenging.

That’s such a cop-out! “Tell my Dallas clients that I love them the best!” Well, that’s true, I’ll be interested to see how you word it. (Okay, here’s my take on the situation: Jany’s worried that her gun-toting, Amer’ca-loving Dallas clients will personally escort her to the Canadian border if she admits she likes Toronto better. How’s that?)

What made you decide to change career tracks from economics to design? For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed and attracted to anything that has to do with design. I was raised in a very traditional Asian family so when I wanted to pursue an artistic career path, my parents discouraged me. That’s very typical of an Asian family. They believe that going with a formal education rather than a creative path is the safer and better thing to do. So I went to a prestigious university in Canada and graduated with an honors degree, worked in a brokerage firm for about five years and hated every minute of it. I woke up not wanting to go to work, cried in the bathrooms every few months, just because I didn’t enjoy working there. Eventually it got to me, I just realized that life is not just about working and making money and being financially successful. There’s a whole oth
er aspect of life. You need to be happy and creatively inspired. You need to be constantly growing as a person and I never thought that working in that industry was for me. I gave that up and started my own interior design company in Toronto and eventually I had to close it because I moved down to Dallas for my husband. But it was a good move. Eventually it got me to Design Star!

Aside from designing a sushi restaurant back in Canada, Jany’s currently working on two residential projects in Dallas.

Next Monday I’ll interview the next designer eliminated from Design Star. And I swear to gawd I’m defecting from Blogger if they don’t fix this photo problem, STAT.