HGTV’s Design Star Season 5, Episode 6: Trump’d!

HGTV’s Design Star Season 5, Episode 6: Trump’d!

All hail the returning Red Team designers who arrive Nina-less, to everyone’s complete delight.  “This is probably the best outcome of any elimination to date,” says a relieved Stacey Cohen.  “She’s gone.  Like, do you know what a relief that is?” I cheer along with Stacey–and based on the flood of emails I received after last week’s interview with the latest castoff, I know the rest of America is cheering again as well.

Donald Trump Jr. joins Vern Yip as guest judge.

Donald Trump Jr. joins Vern Yip as guest judge.

THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE: Design model apartments in the Trump Plaza Residences in Jersey City. Do it luxuriously, folks, with your lips pursed like The Donald, and also, select a NYC souvenir package to work into the design.

Hideous souvenirs must be incorporated into what's supposed to be a luxurious space.

Hideous souvenirs must be incorporated into what's supposed to be a luxurious space.

Judge Vern Yip stresses that the designers need to repurpose the souvenirs—it won’t be good enough to just pop them into the space without any sort of creative presto change-o.


But before I can get too depressed over the ticky tack of this week’s inspirations, the clouds part and angels sing and LAAAAAAAAA-A-A-A-A-A-A! We’re at ABC Carpet and Home!

Now, I know what everyone outside of The City is thinking.  ABC Carpet and Home?  Why in the H would our design guru ever get lusty after some kind of cut-rate carpet store?  Well, honeys.  As a branding expert in my former professional life, I can tell you that many is the time I’ve mentally begged—begged!—them to change that awful name and attach themselves to a moniker that exudes all of the primo luxury and interior deliciousness that you’ll find within the ten  floors of their building.  Wandering through this store is nothing short of Fantasy Land.  It’s every bit a landmark worth visiting the next time you’re in town.

But I digress.

BLUE TEAM / Inspirations: Alex Sanchez (The Big Apple), Casey Noble (architecture & buildings), Emily Henderson (NYC Subway), Michael Moeller (Broadway)

The Blue Team's tasteful living room.

The Blue Team's tasteful living room.

The Blue Team's bedroom.  No one knows how to make the bed?

The Blue Team's bedroom. No one knows how to make the bed?

Michael Moeller's Broadway-inspired lamp and drop cloth upholstered console table.

Michael Moeller's Broadway-inspired lamp and drop cloth upholstered console table.

The Blue Team's dining space, featuring Emily's subway-inspired artwork. Not sure who those oven mitts belong to...

The Blue Team's dining space, featuring Emily's subway-inspired artwork. Not sure who those oven mitts belong to...

Aside from Casey botching her crown molding installation and Emily and Michael fighting a bit over project priorities, the Blue Team is the image of smooth-sailing teamwork.  And what?  No mention of Michael’s nail-gunned thumb from last episode? Have we already healed up enough to bang out an upholstered console table, Michael?  Well, color me impressed.

I’m conflicted over Casey’s spray-painted Empire State Building silhouette painting.  I love that it doesn’t scream, “I had to incorporate this tourist trap souvenir into my space,” but since we’re on week two of silhouette art projects, I’m getting that déjà vu thing again.

RED TEAM / Inspirations: Courtland Bascon (Times Square), Stacey (NYC taxi), Tom Vecchione (The Statue of Liberty)


The Red Team's bedroom design, featuring a box spring instead of a mattress and curtains made from drop cloth.

The Red Team's bedroom design, featuring a box spring instead of a mattress and curtains made from drop cloth.

Courtland's floating desk and Times Square seat cover.

Courtland's floating desk and Times Square seat cover.

The wheels are just so totally off the bus this week for the Red Team—I can’t even drag it out in some attempt at creating suspense here.

Tom’s inspiration package includes some kind of stonewashed denim atrocity and he runs with it.  He starts talking about turning the bathroom into a spa and he’s thinking blue will really communicate that. I’m feelin’ it, because I’m assuming he means a soft, tranquil, gray blue.  Something pale.  Something that won’t contrast too much with the existing tub surround and the vanity—high contrast = drama, low contrast=ahhh.  But when Tom whips out the paint fan deck, he selects an ungodly shade of dark royal and we go from “blue” to “ew” in a New York minute.  Show of hands—who spent the next 45 minutes with images of gum-cracking Violet Beauregarde stuck in your head?  Me too.

Tom paints the bathroom an intense shade of blue.

Tom paints the bathroom an intense shade of blue.

Tom's Statue of Liberty inspiration.

Tom's Statue of Liberty inspiration.

Courtland is indignant over Tom’s bathroom design.  “If the judges love that blueberry bathroom,” he quips, “I’m in the wrong field.  Absolutely, I’m in the wrong business.”  Predicting later that the red team will face the judges for elimination, he declares, “I’m done being Mr. Nice Guy!”  in this Ha-cha-cha–jazz hands! kind of voice.  Complete with Tracee Dore crazy eye.

Stacey’s never made curtains before, but she gamely takes on the task, making panels and a pleated valance out of drop cloth.  Drop cloth? Something’s fishy here…we’re designing a model apartment in a new Trump building, incorporating high-end furniture from ABC and we’re not hitting up Zarin Fabrics this week?  Who dropped that product placement ball?  Obviously, these drop cloths are supposed to be integrated into the space for some reason, because we do see Michael upholstering a DIY console table out of one in the Blue Team’s apartment.   Stacey’s valance features some of the fabric from her yellow taxi cab tote bag peeking out from between the pleats—an idea that she ought to get points for.  While I don’t condone the existence of the valance or the drop cloth curtain panels, the valance has a hip, deconstructed vibe.  It’s more edgy than elegant, but it’s a heck of a lot more interesting than Courtland’s lame-o lipstick’d souvenir mug and faux note from a ho.

Courtland Bascon's Times Square inspiration piece.

Courtland Bascon's Times Square inspiration piece.

Time is nearly up when Stacey suddenly starts breaking down. “This is stupid!  I mean, I hate arts and crafts!  I hate cutting and pasting things!”  Her jittery freakdance is mighty uncomfortable to watch.  I expect this kind of meltdown to occur pre- rather than post-Nina elimination, so it feels left field.


Let me just say how refreshing it is to see the old Vern with us again.  This is the kinder-gentler Vern we all grew to love back in the days of Trading Spaces.  Welcome back, Vern! He still expects excellence but he’s not an asshole about it.  He and Candice both seem to be showing us more of their mentor side, and I love it.

All of the judges—including guest judge Donald Trump, Jr.—are agog over the badness that is the Red Team’s apartment.  “It doesn’t look professionally done.  It looks like what I could do with a college dorm room.”  I love how Donald Junior’s memory of dorm life includes luxury furniture while most of us were stuck with institutional beige metal twin beds and burlap-covered desk chairs.

Then they hit Tom’s crazy bathroom.  “For a room that doesn’t have any natural light, is it smart to paint all the walls and the ceiling this dark blue color? Vern asks.

“This would never make it,” says The Junior.  “No one would ever see this unit in this state–I would not allow that…I have my guys carting it out as we speak.”  Ouch!

WINNING TEAM: The Blue Team. Not even close.

WINNING DESIGNER: Alex, to make up for not winning last week.  Couldn’t have been for that ugly pillow he crafted during this episode.

Big-Apple-inspired pillow (far right) created by Alex Sanchez.

Big-Apple-inspired pillow (far right) created by Alex Sanchez.

As the Red Team gears up for another round of hosting presentations, their emotions are all over the map.  Stacey’s feeling humiliated and embarrassed, Courtland’s angry and petulant, but Tom’s not nervous at all.  “I made a strong statement as a designer,” he says confidently.  “The execution wasn’t great, but maybe the boldness of it is something that (the judges will) respond to and maybe they’ll say, ‘You’re not on the hot seat at all—you did the best!’”  Dream. World.

Tom, Stacey, and Courtland face elimination.

Tom, Stacey, and Courtland face elimination.

Stacey and Courtland are lost during the elimination.  “I don’t know,” they keep muttering.  No one has an answer for anything.  When asked by Vern to grade her efforts for this week’s challenge, Stacey awards herself a 60%.  Ruh-roh.

This leads Vern to cut to the chase.  “We don’t even need to see your host presentation,” he tells Stacey.  “I’m sorry…you’ve been eliminated.”  D’oh!  It’s Tashica Morgan all over again.  (Tashica was the first in Design Star history to get the axe before an elimination critique had really gotten underway last season.)

But the judges aren’t finished with their firings yet.  Tom gets the boot too.  Although Courtland acts borderline pissy in his video, he still has more on-air chemistry than Tom.

Double whammy!

Next up, my interviews with Tom and Stacey.  Stay tuned!

All photos courtesy of HGTV.


  1. Krista Hogg July 26, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I LOATHE Courtland! As terrible as the whole team was in this episode, I was praying for smarmy Courtland to go. He’s so smug and arrogant and actor-y and I will set my television on fire if he gets his own show.

    I just want Emily to win. Is that so much to ask? Cute, interesting, talented, funny, unique, good hair? These are good things!

  2. Shelly July 26, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Can you find out what the budget was for this challenge? There is a big disconnect between the furniture & the rest of the space. Also, I’m curious to know how long the eliminations really are. I thought Vern’s voice over to Stacey was very obviously added after the fact. You?

    I HATED that the show was a commercial for the Trumps…

    When does the fabulous start??? At least Project Runway starts on Thursday!

  3. Robin July 26, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I’m very curious to know what they edited out there too. Good question about the budgets…since they’re getting all this loaner furniture, I never think to ask!

  4. Design Blahg July 26, 2010 at 11:59 am

    First of all, why did we not see the Blue Team’s bathroom? Did they even do a bathroom? And if not, even though Tom went crazy with the blue shamu paint, they still deserved some extra credit.

    Also, I TOTALLY agree with Shelly: TELL US HOW MUCH MONEY THESE DESIGNERS GET! My guess is they get way more than we could ever imagine they do and they don’t want to give us ammo for declaring that their work is even crappier than it already seems to be.

    Personally, I didn’t think the blue team’s apt was *that* much better than the red team’s (minus the bathroom), but since we saw no blue team bathroom, it seemed like more of a draw again to me.

  5. Nancy July 26, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Worst ever of a season of bad shows!

  6. Shelly July 26, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Did anyone notice what was to the right of Blue’s tv? What is that? Could it be? Why, yes, it looks very much like Casey’s items UNDER A GLASS DOME! Were those provided or purchased? Was it a set up?? So much mystery!!

  7. Robin July 26, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Oh, snap! Good eye, Shelly. Both must have been snow globes pilfered for parts. Courtland mentioned having a snow globe in his bag o’ tricks.

  8. Shelly July 26, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Ok, me again… I’m wondering if you can tell me the difference between a “designer” and a “decorator”. I made my own selections when we recently renovated our kitchen & several other rooms, but I certainly don’t think that makes me a designer. I’d love a little help putting my head around this…

  9. Laura July 26, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Shelly – technically a “designer” is someone who is educated in design/ architecture and in many states must be licensed and certified or work under someone who is or at a larger firm that is licensed.

    A decorator can be anyone who has the talent but is not always formally educated.

    Unfortunately Trading Spaces took the term “designer” and ran with it and now the term is so common that people seem to use it interchangeably.

  10. Robin July 26, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    It is no longer against the law in the state of Texas to refer to yourself as an interior designer if you’re not licensed–which is a good thing, if you ask me. Being licensed still separates you (I’m assuming you are a licensed practitioner, or you wouldn’t find it “unfortunate” that the term is more widely used) from unlicensed designers. If I suggest footprint changes to a client’s house, or if a commercial client inquires of my services, I always make them aware that I’m not licensed and rely upon contractors for code requirements and that sort of thing. It has always worked out thus far…

    I have a 4-year design degree and 19 years of professional experience in the field…I’ve earned the right to call myself a designer.

  11. Shelly July 27, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Thanks, ladies! Robin, your experience and body of work totally back up your title. If I were hiring a designer, I’d look at those things, as the ol’ O-T-J time in the trenches teaches lessons you can’t learn anywhere else, regardless of the line of work. I was just wondering…

    Awesome interview with Tom! What an amazing guy.

  12. Claire July 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    A) When did this “no longer against the law” thing happened? Was this recent?!!
    B) What DID the other team’s bathroom look like? Do we know? And by we, I mean you, Robin.

  13. Claire July 27, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Man. I have a terrible memory. /: Sorry bout that. Wow. Seriously don’t remember that at all.

    I’ll have to google that bathroom.

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