HGTV's Design Star: Season 4, Episode 8: Celebrities' Homes

HGTV's Design Star: Season 4, Episode 8: Celebrities' Homes

FINALLY.  The episode I’ve been waiting for—a three-way tie in my head when it comes down to the end.  This is what I live for when it comes to a design competition show.  I want to feel torn!  I want to feel conflicted!  I want to feel panicked about making a choice between the designers because they’ve all turned it out!  And I want to see my girl Kathy Griffin take on Antonio too, so thanks HGTV, for that little bonus!

Kathy Griffin tells Antonio Ballatore how wide his stance should be.

Kathy Griffin tells Antonio Ballatore how wide his stance should be. (Or a funnier caption of your own making.)

A person could get whiplash doing a 180 between last week’s exercise in ridonculousness and this week’s episode.  Between the extra time, the bigger budget, the broader retailer horizons (no Sears bedding for the celebs, eh?) and the access to not-one-but-two carpenters, all three remaining finalists are playing to win this week.  And it shows.

Antonio: Kathy Griffin’s “Team Griffin” workspace for 3





It’s great that a set designer is working on Kathy Griffin’s space because it will undoubtedly end up being an occasional backdrop for her reality series, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. (I guess HGTV doesn’t want to promote anything on Top Design network, Bravo, because they mention the other two participating celebrities’ shows but never reference Griffin’s.)   Positives:  Love the colors, although Griffin’s fiery red hair is such a trademark, I probably would use it as inspiration for the color palette.  J’adore the map–that is ingenious.  I’m so-so on the workspaces—they’re nice and streamlined and functional, but I crave an accent color to pop against the lavender and gray.  Something has gone south with the conference table Antonio originally planned near the former fireplace area, because in the final reveal, there is just a hodge-podge of ChiassoEurway-style side tables and two chairs, plus a tiny little rug that hardly merits an appearance.  Antonio’s hosting style is very 1980s-MTV-VJ-oriented, which I dig. Side note: as a die-hard KG:LOTDL fan, I have to laugh when I see Antonio start pulling out his eyebrows in the green room. I’m wondering…after four days in Griffin’s house, has he somehow managed to catch tour manager Tom Vize’s eyelash-pulling affliction??

Dan: Jason Priestley and wife Naomi Lowde’s nursery for baby #2 (a boy who arrived in July)





Dan is pretty giddy over the prospect of speaking with Jason Priestley.  “I’ve never had a celebrity encounter in my life, so just walking in and talking to a celebrity is going to be pressure!”  (Oops! Candice Olson, Vern Yip, Genevieve Gorder, David Bromstad, John Gidding and Clive Pearse must be chopped liver.)  Positives:  Although I shudder over theme rooms, I truly love the boat frames hanging from the ceiling.  I like the way Dan’s sky painting is hanging from ropes, but–fair or not–it’s hard to get all wowed about his painting when this is one more David-Bromstad-wannabe move.  Overall, I think the room is visually chaotic and the mint green element of his color palette feels off.  I like the idea of him embellishing curtains, but the accent fabric is feminine and too mature.  As for Dan’s hosting, I don’t see anything horribly wrong about it.  The way Vern dogs Dan for giggling during elimination seems over-the-top too serious.  Can’t it be okay to release a little giggle during a stressful elimination round?  It’s not like he does it while hosting.  Chillax.

Lonni: Guest room for Tiffani Thiessen and husband Brady Smith





Lonni’s worked for celebs before—hell, she’s a credited actress herself—so she handles Tiffani Thiessen with aplomb.  Positives: I don’t care that she’s done patterns on focal walls before—I have a total crush on the screen-printed wallpaper she uses on the wall behind the bed.  I’m thrilled to see relaxed, creamy fabric roman shades replace the original woven shades and I’ve had a long-standing love affair with the Crate & Barrel pillows she uses on the bed, so I’m digging those.  However, the geometric pillow seems too mod for Thiessen’s and Smith’s taste.

But oh my gawd, y’all. That moment when the headboard installers can’t seem to hang that beautiful piece of wood on the wall and you see Lonni start wigging out?  Her tension and anxiety are so palpable, they’re contagious.  Suddenly, I’m Joan Cusak in Broadcast News and I’m bobbing my head while Holly Hunter’s chanting “Bobby-Bobby-Bobby-Bobby-Bobby,” trying to will her editor into making their live national news feed deadline. (“We’ve got TWO MINUTES!  It’s MY responsibility to notify the networks if we don’t have enough time—AND WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME!”) I’m Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment. (“My daughter needs her shot!  Give my daughter the shot!”) I’m watching Lonni start to hyperventilate and I’m all, “Headboard dudes—SHE’S RUNNING OUT OF TIME!” I’m expecting Clive’s air horn any minute when Lonni makes the call to lean the wood against the wall, propping it up with side tables so she can move on to styling the bed linens.  I ache for her in that moment, but it actually looks pretty good so I’m thinking, surely this will not be a deal-breaker, right?

Except apparently, it is.

Even though Lonni “has the nice temperament of a labradoodle,” the judges send her packing.  My jaw drops.  Honestly, I don’t know who I would’ve sent home this week.  I like Antonio’s hosting style and his supercool map, but the room stops short of looking appropriately accessorized and I yearn for a conference table.  Dan’s improving on his hosting, but I don’t dig his overall room as much as I do Lonni’s–and he just doesn’t seem different enough from David Bromstad to warrant his own show.  Lonni’s room has real “wow” factor and is tastefully styled, but her hosting is a tad stiff this week.  Pluses and minuses all around.

Beer, please.  And I’d like to send out a round of virtual cocktails to this week’s three designers, who finally-finally-finally gave us an episode worth watching and debating.

COMING SOON:  My interview with eliminated designer, Lonni Paul.  Due to the holiday, there’ll be a delay on that, but look for it late Tuesday or Wednesday.  Also–fingers crossed–oh, I don’t even want to jinx it. (The suspense!!)


  1. frogponder September 7, 2009 at 9:15 am

    What a little bit of extra time and a non-Sears shopping menu can do!

    A jarring moment for me is where Dan has the chairs facing the changing table (like it was a fireplace).

  2. Shelly September 7, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Does anyone else have a problem with the enormous TV right above the changing table? Why is it in the nursery and what is it doing there? Mr. Baby is going to reach his adorable little feet up to that TV and try to press and kick until it comes off!

    I really hope the huge standing mirror is mounted to the wall, as I have kids and toddlers in my house who would crawl under that mirror & try to push it over. We all knows Dan doesn’t have kids, but I don’t think he thought about safety enough.

    Also, I thought the nursing chair was oddly placed in that corner, facing the other two chairs. If it were closer to the daybed or the other chairs, Mom could have Baby #1 near her while nursing #2.

  3. bettina esser September 7, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I, too, was surprised by the tv hanging above the changing table as well as the floor mirror. Both are safety concerns that should not have been ignored. Then again, last week no one mentioned the lack of a fence around the pool and the family included a walking toddler. Lonni’s room was superior to Antonio’s final project but she obviously suffered from the inability to get the headboard installed. Vern pointed out that final completion was a critical part of design. However, proportion is one of the basic concepts of design and Antonio’s furniture choices lacked basic consideration of the space of the room and his work stations looked like something pre-assembled from Staples. The map was awesome, but Lonni’s custom wallpaper was what separates a real designer from a decorator. Yes, she does use a focal wall alot, but it sure worked in this room. I will miss her. Her vote tally for the extra slot is very low so it looks like we might not get a chance to see her work again.

  4. Michelle September 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I’ve been following your blog this Design Star season (thank you for the great entertainment!) and now am so aggravated I have to comment.

    I really think the producers want Antonio to win this; they’ve probably got his show all set up and ready to go. (OTOH, I could probably say the same thing about hunky, inoffensive Dan. His show’s shtick will include him taking his shirt off every episode.) I’m not a trained designer, but I really didn’t like Antonio’s room and I think it was bad enough that he should’ve gone last night.

    If I were one of Kathy’s employees I would HATE working in that room. There’s a gorgeous view and he has all of the desks facing the wall? I was thinking he was going to have a bookcase divider like one of those Ikea Expedits coming out from the wall with desks on the front edge so the people could get behind them and face into the room/view. I also really didn’t much care for the color scheme, the rugs, the furniture…I think the USA map was the only real standout of that room design.

    Dan’s room had some really inspired things, like the hanging boats, the painting hanging by ropes, the watery paint treatment on the walls…but it didn’t really come together for me. OTOH, I wouldn’t be at all unhappy to have that room for a nursery in my home.

    IMO Lonni’s was the only really successful design, even with the headboard issue (and you can’t tell me none of those three have ever had anything like that happen to them and if they hadn’t had all the time they needed AND/OR a whole crew who could help set things right they wouldn’t have been just as screwed). I was really disappointed to see her sent home last night.

    At this point I couldn’t care less who wins. It’s also kind of tainted my opinion of the judges. Either their design expertise or their morals/ethics are kind of suspect now, you know? (Plus I’ve never really liked Vern; I love how he picks at Lonni for her focal walls when I’ve seen how many Vern rooms with a grid wall of candles??)

  5. Midcenturymuse September 7, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Boy, am I torn. Up until this episode, I was not a Lonni fan. Previously, she appeared to be the judges’ favorite, as they lavishly praised what I considered her worst effects (e.g., the chevron and “home base” walls). Then, they eliminate her for what I thought to be the best-designed room of the challenge. Surely, she could have been forgiven for the headboard installers’ incompetence?

    Since the beginning, I’ve been rooting for Dan to win, but I thought his latest room was not that great, a couple of touches (the ceiling artwork) aside. Like you, I wish the judges would stop trying to eliminate his giggling, which the editors seem to be trying to emphasize (like they did Dan’s supposed “villainy” in the last episode). Let the guy giggle. It’s part of his charm.

    I know you prefer Antonio, but I sure hope he doesn’t win. His abrasive, arrogant personality adds some spice to the current show, but it would quickly wear thin were he to be solo and on for a full half-hour. There’s no way I would watch a show with him as host.

    And his room was the worst of the three in this last episode. His color choices were great, but that’s the only thing in the plus column. That wall of clocks looked cheap and tacky, and I disagree that the metal U.S. map was inspired. The work spaces were ordinary and nothing special. The other problems have already been enumerated. I can’t imagine Kathy Griffin, even in her D-list persona, really found the new room to her liking.

  6. Midcenturymuse September 7, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Michelle, didn’t see your post before I added mine. We’re obviously in full agreement (except about the U.S. map)!

  7. Chris September 10, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I think Antonio should win hands down. Through this whole show he is the only one who has shown any truely original designs. His rooms never look like a sears showroom. If he wins I know I will watch his show. Every week I have been truely excited to see what he comes up with.

    I swear I’ve seen Dan on an HGTV show before as behind the sceans person or something. His giggle is so damn annoying I want to reach through the tv and slap him. I didn’t like the nursery at all. I thought it looked very cluttered and unsafe. His personality is boring and most of his designs are predictable…and don’t get me started on the whole “shirt removal” crap…

    I liked Lonnies room but again thought it was too busy. I have to say I’m not a fan of her “wall” tattoo’s in every episode.

    In the end I really thought it would be down to Antonio & Lonnie. I think that would have been a close one. Right now, unless Antonio screws it up royally, I think Dan doesn’t stand a chance.

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