HGTV Design Star, Season 4: Episode 3, White Room Challenge Recap

HGTV Design Star, Season 4: Episode 3, White Room Challenge Recap

The Infamous (and Borderline Boring Because We’ve Seen it So Often) White Room Challenge

So let me get this straight. If I go on Design Star and really jack things up so it’s obvious I’m a complete Design Star Fail, I can stay on the show. (Especially if I flirt with host Clive Pearse during the shopping excursion.) However, if I’m just one of the random folks who made it onto the show simply to give the judges someone to fire, then they’ll just pick a random week to kick me to the curb and piss off all the viewers at home who were sold the concept of a design competition.

Okay, got it.

Nathan’s and Dan’s rooms are the only redeeming qualities of this entire episode.

Nathan – Initially, the idea of Nathan’s milk paint wall treatment put me off my feed. All I could think was “rancid,” but the resulting texture was a great effect and after I heard he mixed it with primer, I wasn’t so grossed out. His orange-slice chandelier was inspired and chic. The graffiti on his sofa was slightly on the trite side, but since all of his text was from the heart, I loved it. After David Bromstad’s graphic use of pet products to create a faux rug in his Season 1 white room design, every subsequent graphic treatment of similar materials looks like nothing new. Ironically, Nathan’s monochromatic solution felt more successful to me than the other designers’. The thing I loved most about Nathan’s room was that I could look at it and forget that this was a grocery challenge. It appeared that the chandelier just happened to be created from oranges…it didn’t scream that it was designed that way because of a materials requirement. To me, that’s what separates his room from the rest. This photo doesn’t do this room justice. Nate is the winner in my book this week.

Dan—Strokes of genius all around. The cord wood table legs and mosaics on the wall were awesome. While I didn’t feel like I was looking at an expensive room (thought that was a stretch, judges), I did love the natural materials juxtaposed with smooth, contemporary surfaces. The upside-down bowl light–another great-looking piece. The apples were somewhat predictable but at the end of the day, very pretty. Overall, my pick for second place.


Antonio—Antonio’s a set designer by trade and the white room challenge is a set. So we’ll see something supercool from Antonio, right? If you felt the same way, didn’t we get crapped on this week? An unexpected suck-up move, appropriating the Design Star show palette. A compelling, although not terribly inventive, wall treatment that leads your eye to nowhere. Mounds of Fruit Loops are…what, exactly? A toy wagon in the corner holding watermelons? At least it looked a hell of a lot better than Lonni’s, but it didn’t wow me. Antonio, you no longer get to gripe about what you can and can’t do in a group project because this was your opportunity to show you were more than a contractor and you kinda blew it.

Jen—While I agreed with the judges’ assessment that Jen’s color palette was a bit sucky, I did think her wall graphics were okay. Another decent idea to wrap the table with the Asian packaging materials, although it was a bit krafty-with-a-“K.” She at least displayed some ideas, whereas Lonni…well, we’ll get to her in a minute. Maybe if Jen had spent the $500 remaining in her budget, she might’ve survived this week. The fact that she was the only designer to create chairs out of table bits showed tons more ingenuity than some of the other misadventures.


Tashica—Surprisingly, I would’ve bumped Tashica into the mediocre category if she hadn’t ripped off Rob’s backlit-coffee-table-on-the-wall idea from Season 2. A blatant lift from any HGTV show would’ve been bad enough. A blatant rip-off from the same show that just happens to be a design competition with the supposition being that the winner is some crazy talented designer? Pret-ty lame. Based on this act and the previous two episodes, I can’t help but wonder…did she start painting her couch first or did she spy Nathan scribbling on his journal-sofa and think, oh—good idea!

JasonBuckwheat (you saw his judging sequence hairdo, right?) started out with a decent idea to weave some art out of brightly-colored dog food packaging. Then he painted it all one color, because apparently, he likes to crap on his own ideas. And speaking of crap, his urine and feces color palette should have a big, black “DON’T” rectangle over it. (Actually, it looks better when you’re not viewing it on TV.) I’m looking at him and thinking, when are we going to see anything remotely as cool as your furniture designs?

JanyWest Elm called and they want their wall graphics back. Lame color palette. If I weren’t supplied with photos, I’d have to rewind the show just to remind myself of her room’s design because I’ve already forgotten everything else about it. Probably not a good sign.

Torie—Candice, let us know when you and your amazing design sensibility are ready to rejoin us, because all week when we saw the promos of you saying, “this is a crazy good room!” we expected something that would knock us out. Torie’s room just doesn’t rate this kind of high praise. Tacky wall color combo. Uninspired monolithic bookcase covered with trash bags and stuck in the dead center of the wall (a design fundamentals no-no). Thought the napkin wall art might’ve worked if it’d covered the entire wall, but a few random swirls just looked cheap to me. If I’d been the teenager she designed this space for, I’d never be able to invite the cool girls over if I ever wanted them to acknowledge me in the hallways at school again. Torie, if you meant for your whole room to look like a giant va-jay-jay, then good job! (Pink hips, black bookcase umm, “personal area,” swirly pubes…what else am I supposed to think?)

Lonni—Finally, we have Ms. Monotone’s room, and she literally put on her thinking cap—too bad it didn’t work! The plastic cups on the wall might’ve been okay, but it wasn’t all that inventive. The fact that they ended up on the floor must’ve been horrible for her, sure. But this is the time for all good design stars to pull something creative out of their butts. Ms. Monotone evidently can’t work around the stick that is firmly lodged up hers. Her solution? Two green walls, striped canvas art, and a few apples on the table. Why exactly does this warrant her a second chance?

What gives here? Everyone who’s been reading my Design Star recaps knows that I’m not the one out there championing Jen, but this was not the week she deserved to go home. This was the week Lonni should have gotten the boot. There’s no conceivably valid excuse for her retention unless they just wanted Melissa Joan Hart to keep watching the show.

This season smacks of rule-by-producers and/or misguided marketing folks forever chasing the 18-25 demographic. How else do you explain the emphasis on drama and not on design? They’ve forgotten their core viewers. Especially in this day and age when we don’t have any magazines left to read (other than ReadyMade, my personal fave), we’re starved for true design excellence in TV programming. Too bad we’re getting more schlock, but I guess that’ll make next week’s double elimination pretty sweet.

Next up: my exclusive interview with Jen Guerin. Find out what was missing from her room that might’ve saved her.


  1. frogponder August 3, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    Looking forward to Jen's interview! I love the white room challenge but always want them to have more time and resources as I think they can all come up with stellar results.

  2. Eric August 3, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Did you notice that EVERY SINGLE ONE of them has the sofa smack dab in the middle of the back wall? It almost seems like it was bolted down in place. This is the first season I've watched so I'm wondering if past seasons have had the same issue?

  3. Room Fu August 3, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Yeah, I started to write about that but then it is supposed to be designed for TV and presumably they need a good camera angle. However, here's the best alteration of furniture placement in the history of the show: (Created by Todd Davis, during Season 2.)

  4. Eric August 4, 2009 at 3:25 am

    I didn't think about camera angle. I guess that makes more sense. Wonder if anyone had moved the sofa and they made them move it back. That's a pretty creative solution from season 2. The three frames on the right wall seem out of character with the rest though. And while it is certainly creative, it's not practical. (I had that thought too about all the food stuffs. Milk, produce,etc. The challenge is obviously more conceptual than practical.) It's real easy to sit back and pick someone else's work apart. Which brings me to another thought…while watching shows like this or Top Design, Top Chef, Project Runway, etc…I think about the judges comments and I always want a short follow up segment that shows how the judges would solve the same problem with which the contestants are being put to task. I'm getting a little bit of that with Top Chef Masters. Seeing some of the heavy hitters under the same challenges as their lesser peers and also coming up short is a great illustration of how reality show challenges are anything but real. Although if it really were a more realistic set of parameters to work with it'd probably be far less entertaining to watch.

    So Guru, I challenge you! Let's see how you would solve these Design Star challenges. Obviously, it's not the same since you aren't on the show, we can't see a real life 3D solution, but how about a rendering or photoshop mock up? I realize with working and writing a blog and having a kid it's a pretty ridiculous challenge to present you with. But maybe consider it as part of next season's coverage. ; )

  5. Room Fu August 5, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Would LOVE to. Just as soon as they start making more hours in the day. Or as soon as they pay me 🙂

Leave A Comment