It was a surprise to see Casey Noble get the boot this week from HGTV’s Design Star. With her “bombshell” good looks, the producers seemed unwilling to give up on her potential for drawing male viewers. In the end, Vern Yip described the judges’ decision to eliminate her as “splitting hairs.” I caught up with her today, to find out a little bit about her experience, both on and off the show.
What have you been doing since you got back from the show?
Working! Kind of non-stop. I’m obsessed! I feel like I’ve missed some of the experience of being on the show, which is a once in a lifetime experience. I recently started a company with two other partners and everything took off this year for us. We’ve just been crazy busy, which is great—it’s good. But the timing is a little tricky.
Do you think your boost in business is a direct result of the show?
My partners and I have two services. One is a high-end interior design service, which is what we all have previous experience in–we do hospitality design. That clientele has come from our years in the industry. We have a separate service called I Heart Design, which is really targeted to the masses. It’s for anybody, anywhere. It’s 100% online and it’s really in line with the HGTV audience. We’re enjoying a bump in exposure for that service, just from being on the show.
Regarding this week’s challenge, what was working in such a public environment like?
It was like being in a fishbowl! It’s not typically within my character to really be that focused on something but you just have to be–you can’t be distracted. You’ve really got to keep your head down and get it done. Being in a glass house means you’re exposed, but you just don’t think about it. We were given our space to just do what we needed to do.
Where did you get the items that you repurposed?
We were able to shop at some vintage store that was kind of like an upgraded Salvation Army, with vintage clothes, furniture, and artifacts. I can’t think of what it was called. I have a personal love and interest in flea markets and vintage items. My partners and I are constantly flea marketing. I like the idea of keeping things in your home that have a story and a history. Especially here in the States, we don’t have as long of a history as other parts of the world do. Americans are very interested in “new.” I really believe that value can come from the history of the piece. That’s kind of my thing and what we do normally in work and in life.
How is designing for TV different from your regular design practice?
It was a learning experience for me on the show, seeing how things are portrayed on TV versus how they actually look in person. For instance, with the glass house, that coral wall color looked orange when I watched it on TV at my parents’ house. To me, that’s a big difference! It was probably just the settings on my parents’ TV, but those are the things I don’t normally consider as an interior designer because I’m used to people experiencing my pieces in person, not on camera. I said to Courtland (Bascon), “I did an orange wall!”
Were you surprised to see your business partner (Ashley Manhan) come out to help you?
I was floored! I was so excited to see Ashley and I did not see that coming. When Vern told us we were going to have helpers, I figured we would have similar helpers as we had during the white box challenge, which was great, but they were there to just be construction support. It was a much bigger blessing to be given someone who was a design resource too.
Both you and Emily Henderson were hoarse during this challenge. What happened to your voices?
I sound like a 90-year old smoker! So awful! You’re talking so much and the minute somebody gets a bug, the rest of us had it. It made the hosting presentation difficult and made just talking to the judges difficult. I’m trying to be Celine Dion– you can see huge veins in my neck! I’m as loud as I can be and it’s barely coming out.
You were able to do a video chat with your husband (Peter Sarantos). Did you think that helped, to get a momentary bit of support, or did that make you miss him more and bum you out the next few days?
What it did for his fun level was totally invaluable. He was beside himself—he couldn’t wait to see the episode! When we watched it, we probably watched that part ten times. I was like, “I’m on the rest of the show, if you want to watch the end!” He was so excited to be on it, planning his outfits and everything. As contestants, we talked about whether or not we wanted to speak with anybody from home—is that distracting or not? I don’t really have that mentality. It was just awesome to talk to him.
Did you say he was planning his outfit?
He’s of the mind that this is probably going to be the beginning of his big career, so he is developing a character, he definitely has outfits in mind—and I think one of them has a bowtie—he’s pretty excited. That would be my husband!
I really loved your art piece in the white box challenge. What did you make that out of?
We went to Pearl River to shop for that challenge and they had a lot of natural elements there. There were these knotty, twisted pieces of wood sticking out of a basket. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them when I bought them, but then I had this big blank wall! I literally just screwed them right into the wall. When shopping on a budget, you have to think about products and items out of context. You don’t just take it for what it is, you have to think of alternative ways of using materials to get the most bang for your buck. So if you see something sticking out of a vase, maybe it’ll look good on a wall too.
You remained in the background through most of the earlier challenges. Were there elements that you were responsible for that you wish had gotten more airtime?
Watching every episode unfold, we’re obviously there for a long time and a lot of things don’t necessarily make the cut of being relevant to what happened. My role for the first half of the season—maybe more—was very much as a team player. To be honest, I’m not really competitive in the sense that, when facing head-to-head competition, I don’t necessarily get aggressive. In my business, I feel really competitive because that’s what I do. That’s a little bit different. It took me a while to get into the swing of things and I’m probably really lucky that I didn’t have any big missteps and get voted off the island!
There were many moments during the judging segments when you seemed shocked out of your gourd to win or receive compliments. Why were you so shocked?
Did you see my face? I was like a deer in headlights. I was like, “What? Who, me?” As a designer, we’re perfectionists. We’re constantly questioning what we do and for me, there is always a circumstance where I want to do more or do better. It’s all subjective. Going into the judging studio, I was never really expecting to win. My mind was just kind of like, “Just stay on the island! Just don’t get voted off!” I wasn’t necessarily out to win the designer of the week. But then I did and it was great, because that’s how I ended up talking to the next great movie star—my husband!
Have any of your fellow Design Star finalists influenced the work you’ve done since you returned from the show?
Absolutely! Being on the show, it’s not the way that I typically work—I doubt anyone works that way. It was a really a great thing to know, that given these kinds of restraints, we were actually able to pull it off. It kind of reminded me as a designer that 90% of design is confidence. You really have to trust your instincts and don’t second-guess it. Watching the other contestants react to that environment was awesome. There were so many different types of designers there. For instance, Emily is a prop stylist. It was a really cool to see how she thought and how different it was than the way that I think. She does something that is entirely different from what I do. She really deals with the last ten percent—that icing on top. She knows how to make a room feel like a real room in a really beautiful way. In my work, I’m more focused on fundamentals like the spaceplan and the big elements.
Before the season started, you mentioned on your blog that you would never repeat this experience. Why?
I think that having gone through the whole experience but not having seen it aired yet, you’re just kind of nervous about what’s going to happen and how the show’s going to play out on TV and what everybody’s reaction is going to be. It’s a risky thing for everybody that went on the show. It wasn’t like The Amazing Race, where you go back home and do something else when you’re done. This is our livelihood, it’s what we do every day. We base our livelihoods on our reputations and we were risking our professional reputations by going on the show. There’s the whole thing that all press is good press and yadda, yadda, yadda, but I’m not of that school of thought so it was a little bit of a nervous situation for me. You give up control and, not ever having done this before, you just hope that you’re not misrepresented. Now that everything is done and over, I have really fond memories of it. I think I was speaking prematurely.
I found out on Facebook that you have a few tattoos. Did you make a conscious decision to hide them from the camera?
I only have two and one of them is on my foot. The other one is on the back of my neck. I didn’t make a decision to hide them, they just naturally hid themselves. I made the decision to hide them when I got them and get them in places that weren’t in your face. Although, the one on my foot–what a mistake! I was eighteen and stupid, what can I say! I was about eighteen and a half when I decided it was a bad idea!
What do you have tattooed on your foot?
Who knows, I don’t even know! It’s like a star compass. It’s really ugly! I should’ve just put a north, south, east, west. It looks like one of those map compass things, but it looks really, really bad! It was really cool in the nineties—it was like cool tribal art-ish. I liked it for about six months and then I was like, “woops!” Let me tell you, if you’re ever thinking of getting a tattoo on your foot, consider your strappy sandals! It does not look good. It does not make for a situation with strappy sandals!
According to photos of you online, your personal style runs the gamut from chic and elegant to athletic, sporty girl, back down to a sort of biker edge…which identity is more “you?”
I live at the beach. I’m very, very tied to the beach. I went to college in northern Virginia and I hated being away from the ocean. I felt very land-locked. I think most of my personal style is very southern California, that sort of LA beach thing. In LA you have to look fancy every once in a while, which I also enjoy, but five days out of the week, I’m wearing flip-flops.
You were married in Salt Lake City. Do you happen to be another Mormon Design Star finalist?
No, I did not grow up making my own clothes! Good for Em, because that totally came in handy! She was literally hemming a dress while we were there and I was like, “How are you doing that? I would have to give that to my grandma!” We got married in Salt Lake City because we’re both snow bums. We’re big snowboarders and we wanted to have a winter wedding. Park City turned out to be the easiest place for our friends and relatives to get to. Let me just plug Park City here—it was amazing!
Catch the finale of this season of Design Star next Sunday at 9pm CST on HGTV. I’ll post my recap/review of the final episode next Monday, followed by interviews with the winner and runner-up!
Photos courtesy of HGTV and Casey Noble.