HGTV's Design Star, Season 4 Episode 7: The Outdoor Challenge

HGTV's Design Star, Season 4 Episode 7: The Outdoor Challenge

Last night on Landscaper’s Challenge…er, I mean, Design Star

I was already over this episode before it even started. As a general rule, interior designers just don’t know enough about plants to put a cohesive landscaping plan together, and I put myself in that same category. So it just seemed like a doomed enterprise from the get-go and I was so bored with the episode that I’ve putzed around all morning because I felt so uninspired to write about it…but here goes:

The pergola was boring.

The furniture was boring.

The pool surround was boring.

The plantings were boring.





What wasn’t boring? Two things:

  1. The “I gave you $5,000.” “No, you gave me $10,000!” debate that somehow cost Torie her spot even though Dan’s the fool who committed 43% of their total budget to a non-Zen pergola.
  2. We finally saw Lonni smile ouside of the elimination proceedings. When she settled on a playscape for that little boy, she lit up the screen. A mama can always tell when a woman’s exuding that mama love. It’s a shame we don’t get to see more of her like that.

I’ll admit I was at a loss. I feel like this is the season of Design Star where we have a bunch of designers just trying to “get ‘er done,” and not necessarily doing any design work. Especially considering they already had a $25K budget and still had to have Daddy Clivebucks bail them out with an extra five thou. I’m admittedly not the authority on outdoor design, so I decided to call someone who is.

Cue Jason Champion, my new Design Star BFF and outdoor designer extraordinaire!

Jason Champion's very un-sucky Zen pergola.

Jason Champion's very un-sucky Zen pergola.

Another pergola-ish idea from Jason's portfolio.

Another pergola-ish idea from Jason's portfolio.

“That challenge would’ve been so easy for me, and I would’ve been $10,000 under budget—easily,” Jason said. “You can use a lot of plants that are less expensive that have big impact.”

That whole honkin’ big backyard for fifteen grand? How, Jason?

“I would’ve used a lot of Eureka palms and the bamboo could’ve been a cheaper style. They bought one of the most expensive bamboos out there…they should’ve brought in traveling bamboo. They could’ve contained it by burying vertical sheets of tempered glass into the ground, making a glass box around the bamboo. If you do that and leave that glass cube sticking up out of the ground about three feet, it would add architectural interest and keep the bamboo from taking over your yard.”

As for the pergola that added more off-screen than on-screen drama, Jason had a fabulous idea I wish I’d thought of myself. “They could’ve put up four 4×4 posts and stretched the coolest, loudest fabric over it like a bikini top for $400 and it would’ve looked a lot better than the *expletive* $10,000 white vinyl big-box-store pergola, which was ridiculous.”

Other ideas and points of interest that Jason brought up:

They could’ve used the bench from my first room!

They could’ve found some inexpensive metal furniture and painted it with brighter colors.

None of the fabrics they used were outdoor fabrics, so they’re going to rot and fade within a very short timeframe.

The chaise lounges they bought would’ve felt less traditional if they’d been painted silver, and they should’ve sewn new cushion covers!

Use flowering plants! (Even I think this was self-explanatory.)

No conversation areas?

“That little river of rocks that Lonni and Dan were trying to do? That’s decorator bull***!”

No natural elements like boulders and tree trunks?

A hammock would’ve been nice!

That big tree where they started to put the rocks, that was the perfect place to put the sandbox because that kid’s gonna climb the tree and if he falls out, sand is going to be much softer than hitting the rocks.

Beach pads by the pool would’ve given them extra seating and huge pops of color.

Jason Champion's Beach Pads

Jason Champion's Beach Pads

Brilliant. Too bad the producers/judges canned Jason the week before the first ever outdoor challenge on Design Star. Hell-o, you don’t cast some supercool outdoor designer and then boot him THE WEEK BEFORE the outdoor challenge. Unless, that is, you don’t mind airing a sucky episode. Or should I say, “another” sucky episode.

Before I wrap up, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the whole Dan pulling off his shirt thing. He did it in such unnatural way that they couldn’t even use tricky editing to make it look like an authentic moment. Looks like someone’s trying to capitalize on all of the “shirtless Dan Vickery” Googlers out there. And I can tell you from personal experience, there’s a lot of ‘em out there, so good for you, Shirtless Dan. However, if you don’t want to end up being permanently cast as a David Bromstad wannabe, at some point you have to stop repeating Bromstad’s highlight reels. Just sayin’.

In the end, Torie became The New Dan, turning all giggly and awkward during her hosting segment, which I didn’t expect after her decent performance last week. Then Dan said he was going to take responsibility for the pergola snafu, but when push came to shove and the judges asked who was ultimately at fault, he batted those dyed eyelashes at the judges and threw Torie under the bus, lickety-split.

As if that hasn’t been done to death either.

Please, oh makers of Design Star…please give us something worth watching next week!

Tomorrow: my interview with Torie Halbert!


  1. Shelly August 31, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I’ve been waiting all day for you to post and all I can say is AGREE, AGREE, AGREE!!! Now, I am just a boring ol’ Dallas mom, not a super-cool designer, but even I know better than to spend almost 11K on a sucky-looking pergola! Please! How about a fire pit & conversation area? How about something other than boring concrete? I think the waterfall was lost by having the pergola in front of it.

    Oh, and PS, I have thought for a while that Dan’s dyed/lined/whatever lashes give him a little of the Crazy Eye look…

  2. frogponder August 31, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I’m glad Jason brought up the whole bamboo thing. There are non-invasive varieties but she specifically said it was going to spread and provide the ‘living fence’. ak! The neighbors, their little boy’s tender bare feet!

    And why didn’t the pool fence come back? It is the law in the state of CA. Someone should have addressed that issue. (I think HGTV didn’t want the liability of putting up the fence or picking a company to do it for them and gave the homeowner an allowance to do it.)

    I wasn’t all that thrilled with the water reservoir in the waterfall feature. Also should have been grated it off with a locking grate.

    The whole $$$ issue and the whole story behind it. I’ll be anxious to hear more.

    Finally… I agree, there does not seem to be any time for thoughtful design. They have to hit the ground running and hope to snag something interesting as they speed by.

  3. Eric August 31, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    First, I have to say that I’ve become addicted to your recaps and I hate that I have to wait a day for the dish. I mean, c’mon, your one time zone ahead of me. Post your thoughts while they’re fresh so as soon as the show is over I can get instant gratification!

    I also agree, very boring backyard. It’s “nice”, safe, but nothing any armchair designer couldn’t have done.

    I thought Torie’s hosting sucked. I thought Antonio’s hosting was great, but I haven’t seen much design from Antonio. I’ve seen construction/carpentry skills and project management but really not much design. For that matter, I haven’t seen a whole lot of design from any of them. Except maybe Dan’s white room.

    I predict Lonni gets the boot next week. It will come down to Antonio vs Dan and ultimately Antonio will get the boot because HGTV loves the pretty, gay designer.

  4. frogponder August 31, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Update on my pool fence rant.
    Looks like the yard owner posted on their forum.


    Posted Aug 31, 2009 12:59 AM
    To all those who are worried about it, the safety fence was immediately put back up the day after taping. Design Star and HGTV are very considerate about things like that, but just don’t show it on TV.<<

    Still not to mention it, not to show it and not to call the designers on it – unless they were told not to bother with it??

  5. Nicole August 31, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    I love your recaps of Design Star! I totally agree on this challenge: BORING! I’ve started watching these reality competions less to see an actually talented designer win, but to play against myself the “what the producers think makes good reality TV” game. So far, with DS, I’m winning.

    As for the Design Star Budget Crisis of 2009, am I the only one who noticed that Torie did actually originally say $10 grand for the the pergola? When they were in the van counting out the money Torie and Dan went back and forth a bit as to whether it was 5 or 10. And Dan at one point (later)said she had physically given him $10 grand in his money bag. Why give him 10 if she only expects him to spend 5 and he isn’t doing any other shopping?

    Anyway, all that really doesn’t matter because the pergola was an awful choice. I think the budget issue would still be huge, but less of a death knell if the pergola was gorgeous and perfect for the space. I think Dan has to take the blame for signing off on the ridiculously ugly and expensive pergola, but Torrie, as team leader, also has to take responsibility for managing her team and the budget. I get why she was canned, she didn’t lead anyone and didn’t have a handle on the product’s budget. In real life, she would be in the hot seat if one of her assistants overspent on an ugly, overpriced item.

    Want my winner prediction? Of course you want my unsolicited choice! My pick is Antonio. Like David Cook of American Idol, he’s not the obvious choice (pretty boy-Bromstead clone Dan is) but after a few seasons, they’ll try to throw us a “curveball”.

    Well, thank you for your recaps – again, LOVE them!

  6. DIY Diva August 31, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    Dan Vickery tells his side of the backyard budget buster story; there’s much more you need to know before you make a decision that Dan was the villain.

  7. Robin September 1, 2009 at 3:21 am

    No one’s equating Dan with Omarosa, but I do find it a bit baby-ish to say you’re going to man up and take the heat for something and then turn around and throw the team captain out to the lions for an incident you started.

  8. Paige September 1, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    Love, love, LOVE your episode recaps! I’m pretty sure I look forward to them just as much as (if not more then) the show itself. 🙂

  9. MissMichelann September 1, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    I’m just amazed that nobody in this group of adults will just suck it up and take responsibility. Leadership, people. Look it up. Dan should have taken the heat his crap decision. Tori should have taken responsibility as the leader (and drawn up a budget in the first place, duh). And Antonio needs to stop whining. Sheesh!

    I predict one of the boys is going to get booted next week. Because of the drama.

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