HGTV's Design Star: Dan Vickery Interview!

HGTV's Design Star: Dan Vickery Interview!


My apologies to everyone who has been waiting oh so patiently for me to post my interviews with Dan and Antonio today.  The truth is, I’m not ready for this little weekly phone soiree to be over, so I think I’m subconsciously drag-g-g-g-ing it out.

I thought you did a fantastic job on your house in the finale. How do you feel today? Well, thank you! Today feels great.  I am really tired from everything I did in the competition.  The biggest thing is I don’t have to keep any secrets anymore!

Keeping a secret like that has to be a nightmare! That was honestly one of the toughest things.  This is the biggest thing that’s happened in my life, and everyone wants to talk about it every day, and I have to constantly be guarded about what I say and what I don’t say. Just being able to not hold back anymore is great.

Did you ever think in the beginning that it was going to end up being you and Antonio Ballatore in the finale? I really didn’t quite look that far ahead.  I tried to approach each challenge as a game.  There were a lot of people talking about that.   Antonio and I were compared and contrasted by the judges and by other competitors constantly.  When we finally got to the end, I can’t say that I was surprised…but I didn’t put a lot of thought into it beforehand.

I watched a morning show segment you did in your area before the finale aired and the host kept saying “I know you won!  I know you won!”  The way that you reacted, I actually thought maybe you’d won, too!  You were a very good actor.  Are you into acting? I’ve done a little bit, but I can’t say that I’m really an actor.  I got a lot of practice over the past couple of months keeping this secret!  It’s probably the most acting that I’ve ever done.

David Bromstad’s shadow kind of looms large over you due to so many similarities between the two of you.  Is that frustrating or unfair? I think it’s just the nature of the beast.  There isn’t a single competition out there like this where people look back to the original winner.  David had the luxury of being on the first season of Design Star, so anytime I did a painting, everybody said, “Oh, he’s trying to be like David!”  It’s not anything he has a copyright on, it’s just something he does every week and does very well.  If I get compared to David, I’m taking it as a compliment!  He’s a great designer–he’s one of the favorite personalities on HGTV.  To be compared to him is a compliment, but it was never a goal.

Did the staff ask you to take your shirt off? No, I wouldn’t say they told me or asked me specifically, but on a couple different challenges–specifically the landscaping challenge–I was told continually, “Hey, Dan, it’s pretty hot outside if you want to take your shirt off!  Dan, we have a mic set up, so if you want to take your shirt off, don’t worry about it!”  The intention was understood.  Uh, yeah.  They want hot young dudes parading around shirtless on their network.

I did not realize you were a semi-finalist for Design Star, Season 3.  Why do you think you made it onto the show this season and not last season? I think I was really blessed to make it on this year.  Last year I was going through a divorce and there were just a lot of things happening.  It was a huge season this year–I got a lot more exposure than I would’ve gotten last year.  I think that the cards were in my favor.  Suddenly they knew what they were doing and they were looking out for me when they put me on this year instead of last year.

I didn’t realize that you had been married before—I’m sorry to hear about your breakup.  I did read that you currently have a girlfriend though.  Can you tell me anything about her? I do!  Her name is Rose and she just graduated from film school.  We both work at the Portland City Grill, so that’s where we met.  She’s really amazingly talented—she does her own writing and production and sometimes does the acting too, and she’s really great at all of it!  We both have a wide range of talents.

Dan Vickery and girlfriend Rose audition for "So You Think You Can Dance!"  (Just kidding...they're pictured here at a friend's wedding.)

Dan Vickery and girlfriend Rose audition for "So You Think You Can Dance!" (Just kidding...they're pictured here at a friend's wedding.)

When I spoke to Lonni last week, she said that you guys had discussed a collaborative effort.  Now that we know the outcome of the contest can you elaborate on that at all? It’s something that we both talked about when we were down there.  In the middle of the competition, we were thinking, “wouldn’t it be great if we could both win, and we could do a show together?”  Now we’re both kind of waiting just to see how everything goes.  Last time I checked, I was in the lead for the online show. Hopefully that’s continuing and I will have an opportunity to do that.  Lonni is amazing.  She’s the best friend that I made down there.   I will be friends with her for life, and if the opportunity arises I would love to work with Lonni.

I was going to ask you later if you didn’t think they should just give the number two guy the freakin’ show!  It seems kind of fair. It’s a fan favorite.  Because America didn’t get to vote this year, that’s a great way for America to get to have a voice in the competition, and if they choose me then I will be flattered.  If it ends up going in a different direction then that’s just part of the competition.  We’ll wait and see what happens this Tuesday, and I’ll deal with whatever the results are.

Will you know on Tuesday? I’m not sure.  I know the voting ends at 5:00 on Tuesday (September 15th), but I don’t know when I might be contacted…and if I’m not the winner, I probably won’t be contacted at all!

If you win, what do you want your show to be about? Torie Halbert said the two of you already had already put a lot of thought into it! I have, and I don’t want to just recreate a show that HGTV already has.  They have a lot of shows where a designer creates beautiful spaces for people, with wonderful reveals, but I think it’s a recipe for a show that we’ve seen a lot of.  I would want to throw in a lot of different things.  In college, one of my nicknames was “Martha Villa” (I’ve seen this so much online, I feel a TM coming on).  Besides building and design and architecture, I also do a lot of cooking and entertaining.  I grew up in a restaurant my mom owns, so I’d love to just bring all of that together.  I think that’s the reason a lot of people want to entertain—so they can show it off! It’s something that they’re proud of.  I would love to not only represent great design and great projects, but show people entertaining and living and loving their space.

How soon before you’ll want to go near a pergola again? (Laughing) It was funny because when the show was all done, I went home to spend some time on the farm and just tried to chill out a little bit after everything that we’d been through.  There’s a deck that I built my senior year of high school and Mom wanted part of it covered.  So I ended up going home and building a pergola!  I was laughing the whole time, like, “Mom, I cannot believe I’m doing this!”  But I tell you what–it wasn’t anywhere near $5,000 or $10,000!  When my parents saw the show, they called me to apologize!  They were like, “I can’t believe I made you do that!  I didn’t understand—I’m sorry!” (ROTFL! You can’t make this stuff up–that’s gold, baby!)

Post Pergola Gate, Dan built this pergola-style trellis for his parents!

Post Pergola Gate, Dan built this pergola-style trellis for his parents!

Why are window treatments often overlooked in these challenges? I made a conscious decision to leave that out of the kitchen in the final challenge because they had a covered patio behind the kitchen, which made it difficult enough to get any light into the space.  For the kids’ challenge, I’d purchased curtains and a rod but the rod never seemed to make it into my bag.  I would never design an eleven-year old girl’s room without any window coverings!  (And you didn’t want to use duct tape?)

Your online portfolio shows a real talent for home exteriors.  Which do you enjoy more—interiors or exteriors? I thoroughly enjoyed working as a residential builder.  Coming right out of school and being able to jump right into a position like that was spectacular.  I’m definitely a hands-on guy.  I love building custom things for people with my own two hands instead of creating some drawings and handing them off to somebody else—that’s definitely a passion of mine.

You have a degree in architecture but you’ve been working as a bartender.  What’s up with that? I did work for that builder right out of college, but I wanted to open my own design firm.  Then the recession hit and I just needed an income to support myself until the economy got back on track.  Bartending’s something I did in college, so that’s what I fell back on.

Was Jason Champion right—did you dye your eyelashes, or take Latisse? You know, Jason and I have Facebook’d since he said that.  I can’t believe he’d say that when he knows the truth!  Anyone who’s seen pictures of me as a kid can see that I’ve always had really thick eyelashes.  People have been asking me if I was wearing makeup since the second grade!

What’s next for you? I guess we’ll find out this week after the winner of the online show is announced!

Coming soon: my interview with Design Star Season 4 winner, Antonio Ballatore!


  1. frogponder September 15, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Also have a college grad son who is working as a bartender right now. Times is tough! Great interview, bestest luck to Dan for the online show.

  2. Eric September 15, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I totally thought he was gay.

  3. dan ream September 15, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Dan, I have a question. I just can’t get my head around the fact that contestants worked for HGTV for 2 months for just room & board. Did you guys get any
    kind of a stipend at least? Also have you had a chance to read the blogs from the thousands of viewers who have swamped the design star web site ,most stating” you was robbed” any comments?
    Dan – another Dan Fan

  4. MANDYMOM September 15, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Hey Dn
    Don’t know how you’ll take this..but,
    You remind me of one of my sons…and I am VERY proud of him..
    Good Luck

  5. Beth September 16, 2009 at 1:01 am

    Dan you have an enormous fan base and many of us are hoping HGTV will wise up and give you your own TV show. Pretty sure you have already won the on-line show, since you led by a good margin all the way through. Best of luck to you and keeping my fingers crossed we will be watching you on tv too – Soon!
    ps: never for a second thought you were gay 🙂

  6. THE DAN PROJECT September 17, 2009 at 12:18 am

    DAN – Alot of people are very upset that you did not get design star 2009. This was about the best designer, not something “different” or “loud”. I have collected alot of comment clips and I and some other fans are creating a website where users can digitally sign a petition to ask HGTV to give you a 1 year contract TV SHOW. ITs what AMERICA WANTS TO SEE. HGTV is gonna lose alot of viewers over this. I guarantee if you get a show, HGTV Will have ALOT more viewers!!! Please submit any comments/questions to

  7. Brad Booker September 17, 2009 at 3:42 am

    DEAR HGTV VIEWER AND FANS OF DAN: The site for nominating Dan Vickery for his own TV Show on the HGTV NETWORK is now up and running. We need as many names and signatures as possible. Please go to and tell all your friends! DAN WE LOVE YOU – YOU ARE A TRUE DESIGN STAR AND I’M ON PUSHING FOR YOU TO GET WHAT YOU DESERVE!!!

  8. Linda Conness September 17, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Dan, you were wonderful all season. I’m thrilled you got the on line show but I really think you should have gotten the Tv show too. Anyway, all of us out here in Western Kansas think you are the best. I’d hire you anyday. Best of luck to you. Linda

  9. Emily Toy September 18, 2009 at 1:59 am

    Very mature – very impressed with how he answered the question regards to David Bromstad. Well said.
    I like Dan even more now. Go Dan Go!

  10. Emily Toy September 18, 2009 at 2:01 am

    Oh Dan,
    am building our 4500sqft home on 1.4 acre lot – needs help w/ landscape – up for the challenge? Veranda already has fireplace & grill built in – tons of beautiful rocks to decor etc…
    would totally trust your taste!!!

  11. Stephen Harriman September 18, 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Hey Dan I as a designer my self was very impressed with your work . All of us at the firm would get together for Sunday night potluck supper ( which I am sure you know what those are ) and have fun eating sharing our opinions with each other while we watched each episode we all said that with each show your work became much better and more professional and as for the giggling during your hosting well that I belive was mostly due to nerves and why wouldn’t you you were having a one on one with a live TV camera where you knew millions of people would be watching you . And as for the perglia well you know we have all done some blunders like that in our careers ( I know from experience signed for entire bedroom set one time without looking at it first to see if was what I had ordered at the time turned out the st was Queen Anne style and not contemporary like I wanted , so it does happen )
    And i belive that you should have won along with all the others from my company I work for . So here is hopping that HGTV takes a step back and see what the real picture is here . and gives you a show of your own . especially if they want to keep there viewers and ratings up .
    Also each wk we would put in a pot 10 bucks a piece voting that you would be going on to nxt episode and by the finale show we had $1400.00 in the pot and if you had won we were going to give it to you in a trust for other up and coming design people going to school for it. well that didn’t happen so we decided to give it to a local Design school here in Maine as the DanVickery fund/Scholoship award to help out others in your field.( AND WHOMEVER READS THIS PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT DAN IS AWARE OF THIS AND KNOWS IT ) if he is not the actaul one that reads this .
    thanks And goodluck in all you do Dan because I know we have not seen the last of you .You are to talented and very good at what you do; not to here from you again down the line
    From one designer to another great job!!!!
    Mr. Stephen Harriman

  12. Stephen Harriman September 18, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Hey Dan just found out you won the online show Congrates there guy !!! Now go showem your suff guy and what you are really all about and the way it should be done
    Mr. Stephen Harriman

  13. patricia Coffey September 20, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Congratulations on winning the on line show Dan. I still can’t believe you didn’t win Design Star, I was sooo upset the night they told the winner I couldn’t go to sleep. But you hang in there, because I believe you will really go far. You seem like you are so talented in every way. All I have to say is your girlfriend doesn’t know how lucky she is.

  14. Linda OKC September 21, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Dan, I hope HGTV sees the light and gives you a show on TV. I love the fact you can paint along with your many talents; I don’t associate you with David at all. You have a much better personality and appear to be more secure. I thought it was ridiculous that Genevieve thought you laughed too much since she was the barefoot giggler for so long on Trading Spaces. I would love to see you on TV alone or with Lonni.

  15. christine September 22, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Dan, i liked you, however, a winner was choosen. I think that Antonio won the contest fairly. I think that you shoul let it go. If you had won, I do not beleive Antonio would have done what you are doing. Your design is already out there,however it does not mean that you are not good. Antonio, had something special, he was unique and out of the ordinary and that is what hgtv needed. Continue designing and you will land a gig someplace, but not at HGTV this season. Why are you petioning on what I thought was a fair contest. Move on, continue designing and good luck.

  16. Richard September 22, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Your design style totally rocks. I think Antonio must be related to someone in film, because in no way shape or form were his designs “good” from any perspective. Even “bad” can be done well. But his design follows no rhyme nor reason and doesn’t make any sense – in scale or color or vision…but to be more specific I’m talking about the disaster which is The Antonio Project. The web is roaring with comments – mostly disapproval and outright disgust with the house he transformed. I am an artist and a designer and I am abhorred with the vulgarity he displayed on that show. Can you honestly imagine anyone using “brass knuckles” in their design? Even if he went the Wild West Whore House least there’d be some continuity. Even from eclectic standards…yikes. If HGTV fails you. Come to New York. There are so many incredible design houses that would love to have you. All the best, Richard

  17. Anne Laramee September 28, 2009 at 10:22 pm


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