HGTV Design Star: Season 4, Episode 5: Military Makeovers

HGTV Design Star: Season 4, Episode 5: Military Makeovers

In this hump-season episode of HGTV’s Design Star, the six remaining designers are challenged with making over living spaces for two of our nation’s military families living in drab Navy housing. There’s a little piece of my heart in this particular challenge, since one of my brothers–an active duty Chief Petty Officer in the Navy–has served his own tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. As far as I’m concerned, they could show a whole season devoted to makeovers for military families and I’d never get tired of seeing that. Just pass me the dang tissues and don’t make fun of me when I cry.

The Olson House: Antonio, Dan, Torie
The Olsons have one parent serving a tour in Afghanistan and two children who require twice-daily therapy sessions for autism. If they hadn’t made it onto this show, surely Deserving Design would’ve eventually come a’ callin’.

The Olsons' living room was pretty bland before Antonio rolled into town.

The Olsons' living room was pretty bland before Antonio rolled into town.

Andrea Olson tells the designers she likes browns and beiges and other Earth tones. Torie takes this statement to mean Andrea hates all other colors in the spectrum and will foam at the mouth if her rooms aren’t tan. Pageant Girl becomes hell-bent on surrounding the rooms in beige and caramel. Can we not give this poor woman with the two autistic babies and a husband in Afghanistan some color on the walls? But hey, all Torie knows how to design are impersonal model homes, what do you expect? Dan is no better, giving us that mopey expression he’s becoming famous for, as he proves he’s also not much of a designer if he is supporting Torie on this point. Lucky for the Olson family, Antonio is on the scene and refuses to bring tan paint into the house. (“I’ll be glad to go home right now for not painting something tan on a Navy base!”)

The Olsons' new living room.

The Olsons' new living room.

I almost think he didn’t go far enough though, as everything in the space (aside from the green sectional) is one of two shades of blue. I’m positively aching for some pop of a complimentary color to jazz up the space, but that should fall more on Torie since she’s the one who did all the shopping.

Now the Olsons have a dedicated spot for therapy sessions.

Now the Olsons have a dedicated spot for therapy sessions.

I’m hating on the desk design. Love the design of the nightstands they’ve hidden under the desktop, but there’s absolutely no cohesion between the style of the nightstands and the desktop itself. If those tables are the same ones I’ve seen locally at Collectic Home, they’re not file-friendly. You’ve just gotta have some file drawers at the desk, yo.

The Maldonado House: Jason, Lonni, Nathan
The Maldonados also have three kiddos and need to incorporate a lot of different functional areas into the space. They request a makeover with a modern style. Will they get it?

The Maldonados' barren living room, pre-makeover.

The Maldonados' barren living room, pre-makeover.

Lordy, where do I start with this makeover? It’s an improvement, yes, but the Maldonados are left holding the bag when it comes to bringing functionality into the space.

The Maldonados' new living and dining areas.

The Maldonados' new living and dining areas.

The curtain panels at the windows are stationary, and I’d be fine with that if there was some sort of shade or blind under them–people do appreciate their privacy. These poor folks are going to have to resort to reinstalling the vertical blinds unless they go out and purchase something for their military housing that they won’t likely be able to take with them when they’re stationed somewhere else. The judges busted Jason on this, saying he should’ve been able to stick a dowel rod in place if he couldn’t find a curtain rod to mount inside the cornice boxes. Right-o.

I didn’t quite understand why Jason bought a traditional dining set to replace the Maldonados’ existing traditional dining set. Their original furniture seemed like it was in good condition…to replace it with something similar seemed like a useless waste of money.

Lonni's chevron pattern kept her in the game.

Lonni's chevron pattern kept her in the game.

When Lonni started talking about her idea for painting a chevron pattern on the wall, my first thought was, does this guy really want to think about his job when he gets home at the end of the day? I asked my brother this question and he was pretty emphatic about it. “Oh, hell no.” However, I came around a bit when it was all said and done because it became more of a pattern than an emblem. But still.

And I loathe the barenaked window on that wall. The next time someone asks me, “Why do I need window treatments,” I’ll just point to this picture. The wall treatment screams “formal” and the bare window says, “tar paper shack.” If you couldn’t find something off-the-shelf to fit the window, Jason, there are a hundred simple things you could do with a yard of fabric.

Nathan's ill-fated entertainment center.

Nathan's ill-fated entertainment center.

Ahh, Nathan’s main project: the dreaded entertainment center. Nathan got pounded by the judges for not doing closed storage. I don’t personally take such an issue with that. As long as there are colorful storage containers (which there were), I think this prevents you from getting a big monochromatic box in the middle of the room.

I did take issue with the enormous void where the Pac ‘N Play was stuck in the corner. Art, people. Please, some art. Maybe this would’ve been a better place for Jason’s Wall O’ Memorabilia. Or maybe this was where the self-assembly desk of a million pieces was supposed to go.

In the end, the judges gave the boot to Nathan because he spent so much time working on the entertainment center. When it comes down to it though, Lonni spent all her time on one element–the chevron wall–and she didn’t get any crap about it from the judges. The difference being, they liked her timesuck of a wall. Yeah, it was the best thing in the whole room. That’s not saying much.

Not everyone gets the opportunity to show their appreciation for the troops by redecorating their house. There are a myriad of ways to show your support, but one unique and rewarding way is to be a Troop Greeter at your local airport. Major hubs like DFW, which is where we welcomed my brother Todd back from Afghanistan, have organized groups who meet every plane bringing troops home or sending them out. The group lines up and applauds the troops as they embark and disembark, waving flags and thanking them for their service. It’s one of the most patriotic moments I’ve ever experienced and makes me cry again, just thinking about it. It’s truly moving to witness this event, regardless of whether or not you know any of the people you’re applauding. I highly recommend it.

Next up, my interview with Nathan Galui!

4 Comments

  1. Shelly August 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Yay! You have photos again! I couldn’t agree more regarding the bare windows. If not for privacy, what about cutting the possible glare on the TV/computer when they’re watching movies & playing games?

    I’m in Dallas & my Boy Scout son has gone out to DFW more than once to welocme the Troops. I couldn’t go, as I started bawling before he left & didn’t want to embarrass us both by sobbing the entire time. My husband was much more controlled than I could have been!

    Do you know if the desk was assembled for the family after the DS contestants left?

    Looking forward to seeing your interview w/ Nathan!

  2. frogponder August 17, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    All through the challenge I was wondering about the behind the scenes biz. What rules and regulations did they bend? Since being moved a lot usually doesn’t allow families to make such drastic changes. I think it is wonderful that they allowed it but just wondered.
    When my FIL was in the Air Force The Engineer was just a baby. My MIL carried the diaper pail with her all day. She set it down to tend to one of her three children and ZAP they picked it up and packed it. And this was in Texas, you can just imagine….!

  3. Michelann August 17, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    I agree that Antonio saved the day(ish) on that room, but my issue was (and it pains me to say this because I lurve Antonio) that he was a big weasel when ditched the tan paint. And then talked about design integrity instead of manning up and taking the heat for pre-empting his teammates. Glad he did a little redemptive groveling at the end. He’s still my fave for the win.

  4. Midcenturymuse August 18, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    I thought the chevron wall was an obvious, overly literal idea, and in the end it looked like some dated 1980s hotel wallpaper. How could the judges have possibly pointed to it as the best thing in the room? The mind boggles. And, as you mention, Lonni seemed to hardly work on anything else, but she wasn’t called on it by the judges in the way Nathan was.

    For some reason, you don’t seem to want to give Dan a fair shake. Despite what you wrote, Dan made it clear when he confronted Antonio that he didn’t think the tan worked in the room. But he needed to address the fact that Antonio was being passive aggressive about “forgetting” the paint and thus failing to be a team player. That’s all to Dan’s credit.

    That said, Dan has to start showing more of his design ideas, like he did in the first episode and the white room episode, rather than focusing on the carpentry. He’s in danger of fading into the woodwork, so to speak.

    I didn’t view Antonio’s apology at the end as authentic. To me, he used it simply as another opportunity to reiterate that he left out the tan because he’s a maverick designer who refuses to be limited by what he hears from his clients. It was an effective strategy for setting himself apart from the others. But, because of the dishonest way he accomplished it, I lost respect for him.

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