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.
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!)
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!