Design Star season 7, Review of Episode 1

HGTV Design Star Season 7 Designers

Design Star, Season 7, Episode 1 commenced two nights ago.

I love a good reality show, you know i do.  I love the ‘cast of characters’, the crazy adrenaline fits, the impossibly awesome but more likely totally appalling results that can happen.  

So two nights ago, I scrutinized everything – how they dressed, how they introduced themselves, how they treated each other, how they reacted to the judges criticsm and obviously how they designed their spaces.  

The challenge was to pair off in teams and decorate the house that they are moving in to for the duration of the competition. Simple enough, you’d think, but i think their biggest challenge (besides working in teams and having a limited amount of time and resources) is that the house was a Mcmansion and those are very hard to decorate or design without a ton of money and resources. They are HUGE and therefore really hard to fill properly, plus often the architecture isn’t interesting, the finishes are bad and there is wall to wall carpeting or tile. This would be like trying to style a woman with purple skin and no hair – sure you could do it and have it look really STUNNING with the right outfit from Paris fashion week, stylized makeup and crazy David La Chapelle set, but you can’t just throw an average pair of bootleg jeans, a tunic and some moccasins on her and expect her to be Iman, on the moon.  

So while i wasn’t impressed by anything crazy amazing, i also realize that considering the situation – a few of them did a really good job.   Plus the first challenge is always rough, trust me.  You are just getting your bearings and figuring out how to bring your set of skills to the table.  

Kudos, Season 7. It was a good premiere.  

Here are my favorites, in order:

Danielle and Luca's HGTV Design Star Great Room

For 3 days and being the biggest room in the history of big rooms, it was layed out and filled really well. When Danielle chose charcoal grey for the walls i thought ‘Ooh, i love caving, too’, as i thought it would be too dark for such a huge cavernous room. But with all the bright white and picture molding (a design star favorite tactic, for sure) i thought it looked nice.  

I’m crediting Danielle, because it seemed so much like more her work than Luca.  She is a favorite – and she seems nice and personable and has good taste. 

Meanwhile, Luca, her team mate, has a group of very, very, very worried jury members out on him over at the Henderson residence.  When he said, ‘I can do ALL of your jobs’ when introducing himself to the other contestants, I grabbed the remote, rewound it and announced him dead to me. I’m sure he’s regretting it today, but that kind of cockiness with his weak portfolio was hard to take.  (I should be a diplomat, or a professional ‘self-tongue holder’ because i’m working some real restraint here). 


But back to some less negatives.

Next up is the den, by Hilary and Rachel. 

Design Star House Den - Hilari and Rachel

The room as a whole isn’t knocking my socks off, but its not bad considering the time and resources. Without those plants i fear that it would have been pretty lifeless, so good call on that.  The coffee table is good. It was designed by Rachael and totally well played.

Did i think she was the hands down winner? nope, I thought that Danielle had more challenges to overcome, but i like her.  Rachel seems nice, interesting and has the mid-western girl next door thing happening.  

She was also ‘responsible’ for placing the moose head on the black wall, which the judges called ‘genius’, which i think confused most of us watching.  You know what else is genius? beds in a bedroom.  

Rachel’s partner, Hilary, seems fun and likeable despite her weird TV wall invention – just ignore it, i don’t think she was proud of it. But she said she loves reality tv, so she won me over right there. I do too, Hilary….I do, too…..

Up next, another bedroom by Milkel and Britany,

Mikel and Britany - Design Star House Bedroom


Do i love this room? Nope.  But for 3 days (with interviews and production time equals 2 days) its not bad. Yes, it has a ‘barely-post-pubescent-teenage-triplet-girls-in-Orlando-Florida’ thing happening, but it also isn’t that bad – its just too much teal. If they had chair-railed the walls and painted the bottom half white it would have been a lot better.  Or if they had mixed some grey or neutral in with the yellow and hot pink and teal…..

I also think that America shouldn’t have entered the Vietnam War; or less importantly my roommate in college shouldn’t have eaten so many ‘wow’ chips that caused major anal leakage.  Just look how smart i am behind my computer with lots of time and hindsight on my side.   I mean, when i first saw the lack of fat in the bag of chips i wanted to eat 9 bags as well. But she had a little more time on her hands….

It’s so easy for us to judge….it is.  But, in the scheme of things, its a very put together room, plus i like their personalities a lot so far. 

Then we have Jordan and Miera:

And their love shack. 




Jordan Miera After Bedroom

These two seem like good smart designers and they aren’t psyched about this room, no way.  Nothing about it is offensive by any means – no red flags, but it is just is below their potential.  The carpet is a bummer – if they had been able to put in hardwood flooring and pretty rugs it would have helped a lot – but thats clearly not their fault. The window treatments are a bummer, and there is nothing really AMAZING happening here, but again, its totally, totally fine.  I like them both – he seems nice and interesting and she seems like a firecracker that would be fun to party with and probably tells inappropriate stories about key parties in the 60’s.   

I can’t find a pic of the next room, so you’ll have to imagine it. But it wasn’t good.  

Kris (who i think i’d either hate or love/hate if i met in person) came off really difficult to work with, but he did do a fun installation art piece that i liked:

Against a bad wall color, true. But his table is interesting.  His partner, Bex, did her own weird art installation:


I didn’t totally get it, but I don’t hate it….if done with the proper time and finishes it could be interesting.

BESIDES, Kris and Bex could be Miles Redd and Kelly Wearstler and their room could be on the cover of Elle decor’s best rooms ever compared to what you are about to see:


Stanley and Yuki's Lounge

I’ll say this first – the designers weren’t happy with the room – they knew it was bad and they had major regrets. People freeze, they don’t do their best work or even possibly they do their worst work in situations like this.  But otherwise i don’t know what to say that i feel comfortable my mother (and the Network) reading.

But as my mother will attest, i’m a rebel so i’ll risk it……

Here are some general rules:

1. Never put dark barney purple and lime green together…..I hate saying never……Ok, Unless its a room for blind people, or if you are in a castle in ancient bohemia and Elle Decor UK called and they asked you to do something crazy that would defy all trends and crown you riskiest designer in all 5 galaxies.   Then maybe, and only MAYBE should you TRY and combine purple with lime green on the walls.    

2.  Never put furniture on an angle like that (ESPECIALLY ORANGE FURNITURE with the lime green walls, DEAR GOD……).  Too many hot, provocative, aggressive colors together without any neutrals equal Waco, texas, circa 1993;  bad shit happens.  

3. Never combine lucite and stainless steel unless its IN a chef training facility or in prison.  Both are very cold materials so be careful with that.  Lucite with wood? Great.  Stainless with wood? fine.  But glass or lucite with stainless steel is a really hard mix….  

4.  Never put empty frames on the wall – just don’t do that anymore, especially if they are painted orange and lime green with balled up craft paper.  

5. And as far as combining two different types of wood flooring into stripes? i’m not on board, but i do think its an interesting concept and if it were dark ebony and white washed wood…..then it could work….in Living Etc, styled by Lilli Diallo with a ton of natural light, some amazing Victorian rattan furniture, an oversized chandelier and a cluster of baby bunnies cuddling in the middle to add an enormous ‘adorable’ factor that would distract from the flooring.  In general, people shouldn’t try this at home with normal wood flooring (especially if its laminate….trust me).  

Stanley and Yuki were responsible for this room.  And again, i know they regret it and they are both probably more talented.  

Meanwhile i get to be the *ss hole that rips their room apart.  I’m sure they are nice people, but when you compete on national tv for something that you are supposedly really good at and you produce that room, then expect some criticism.  I had to handle it during my white box challenge and while it sucked, i NEVER disagreed with it.  Part of being a good designer is recognizing when you do something bad.  And if there had been time, i have no doubt that they would have fixed it.  


We don’t need to beat a dead design horse, but that thing on the wall – the collage – hurts my heart, nay offends my very design soul.   I feel bad for them, but i also feel bad for all the frames that have to live the rest of their days up on that wall with this collage:

Yuki Northington Collage

Yuki went home.  She is totally cute, adorable and sweet and i personally thought that Stanley or Luca were bigger offenders this week. 

My predictions after the first week (which will change and i’m fine with it) are:

Danielle (she’s likeable and has good style), Jordan (he’s dapper and has good taste, plus he makes candles?????), Britany (fun, young and happy) and Rachel (girl next door factor is happening and she made a good table).  


I would bet that one of these four will win, but i wouldn’t stake my money on which one…..yet. 

And again, its sooooo easy to judge 3 months later, behind a computer screen and without knowing the whole story….so i apologize if it offends anyone or is being too harsh.  This was literally the tamest i could be without losing half my readers out of boredom…..

Who are you rooting for after week 1? 

Who do you predict to be Season 7 Design Star?


  1. Christy

    Gosh I love you. You say what I feel. Luca is annoying me but lI think we can agree that no one here is as obnoxious as Cathy was. Dear God that was awful last year

  2. Eugenia

    This post was spot on. And so was this comment, "She was also 'responsible' for placing the moose head on the black wall, which the judges called 'genius'. You know what else is genius? beds in a bedroom." Too funny. Looking forward to more of these!

  3. Charles

    Who deserved to go home more?

    Luka, because he's unsefferable and he didn't do anything really interesting in his room (which BTW I really liked, thanks to Danielle). But of course his personality is the very reason he's going to stay for at least 5 weeks. It makes for good TV, that's all. Every season has someone like him (Nina, Robb, Cathy…)

    Who SHOULD have gone home?

    Yuki kinda deerved to go home because man, that wall color was just so 90s. The purple and the green and the orange – is it incredibly bad? For 2012 yes. In 1991 people would have applauded her, but that's the thing with fashion and design in general, you have to adapt.
    On the other hand, she took risks and she didn't like the result which means that she's not necessarily stuck in the 90s. I think she deserved one more chance.

  4. mums

    I'm not sure I'm going to like this year. I hope to grow into it. Hopefully it will improve after some of the chaff is gone…. and Yuki left gracefully. I hope the older woman quits playing the old card. I'm already getting sick of that… back in the 70's … they are gone… no one cares about them except for brief glimpses of good design.

  5. Love that Design Star is back, but most of all that you're blogging about it! When I first heard the word collage, I knew it was going to awful. Collage is really hard to get right and a wall collage? Well the outcome was worse than I thought possible. I hope that sculpture man can redeem himself. Do you think the show provided him a sculpture studio for the show? or did he have to find one himself and travel there? I thought that was nicer than usual.
    I also had a hard time with the "re-upholstered" ottoman from West Elm. It was so much better before he covered it.
    Looking forward to next week's episode and your post! ;)

  6. pattyb

    "Key parties in the '60s" HA!

  7. Lucy

    Great recap. I'm glad you mentioned the added challenge of working in a Mcmansion. I saw the Selling L.A. episode where the producer scouts for the Design Star house and there were others that were more interesting architecturally but it seemed he wanted a big, blank box and that's what he got. Also agree with your assessment of the striped floor. I'm not a fan but I thought when they were making the purchase that the bamboo was totally wrong and they should have chosen a darker floor for more contrast. Love your Miles Redd, Kelly Wearstler reference. Very funny!

  8. victoria

    Excellent commentary Emily, just perfect. :) Thanks for taking the time, I love hearing your opinions, particularly when they echo my own. LOL. It's too early for me to pick a winner, altho I agree with your possibilities. I know it's too early on in the season to judge, but there doesn't seem to be any really 'WOW" designers yet. I'm sure things will pick up. The white box challenge is always a really good example of what they can do and where they are willing to go. It's looking like Kris may be our 'Kathy' this season. He was so rude to Bex- or do you think it was just the editing of the show, for dramatic purposes?

  9. Kimberly

    What does it say about me that I liked the two tone striped wood floor:( Ugh, I have no style. I've now read almost 30 design books this year and I still don't get it.

  10. Chana

    I am so excited Design Star has started again, makes me smile. I like Jordan, he mentioned his style is masculine glamor, and thats totally my vibe so im waiting to see how he brings that out in his designs. I agree with you Emily, obv because your so smart and talented and totally hilarious, Danielle, Jordan, Rachel and Britany are definitely who everybody will be watching this season. I thought I would like Hilari more, but I was very thrown off by her moulding on the wall and a tv that is so small most people are going to have to stand in front of it to actually watch anything. She is an interior stylist.. dont konw if thats enough to get her through the season but well see….
    Im so happy the show is back and im so happy to be able to come here and recap the weeks events!
    Emily keep writing and keep being you

  11. Katy

    I was really disappointed in the show the other night– I felt like it should have been two hours long. I didn't really get to know any of the designers, and I didn't hear about a single designer's point of view for a show… I just saw some okay designs and some really big egos. What happened to on-screen challenges? I hope that they (designers, producers, etc.) give us more soon!

  12. Sarah

    OMG! The work room! It was like watching a horror movie, when you keep yelling No! don't go in the house and then she goes ahead and gets herself axed. As an artist, she should know a little better that the room is not really conducive to creativity. A room that is so "creative" can be extremely distracting. I really hope that they get to redo that if they are going to be working there.

  13. josh

    that purple and green room was truly disgusting. they should have took a look around, spray painted "i am so sorry" and just quit the show immediately. that room is unforgivable. it was a crime against good design and taste.

  14. Catherine


    Glad you decided to comment, because you have the advantage of living through your own season and hopefully can comment on things like the editing, time crunch and living with the diverisity of these talents.

    I didn't realize until I saw your shot how plain Jordan and Mieria's bedroom was…without her painted accent on the wall……and I'm sorry a solid yellow painted box just is not art….at least not that a Designer should be showing.

    What I do like this season, the editing in of the shops in LA…gives me a lot more places to consider visiting …I get so jealous of NYC when Genieve, especially, goes shopping for her show at all those cool little places for and with her clients!

  15. Christa

    Great post. Your insight and humor add a lot to my enjoyment of the show. I sympathize with the designers, I certainly couldn't handle being on a show like this, however… purple, chartreuse and orange? How does that happen? It might have worked together in a pattern, but in solid competing accent walls and a velvet couch? holy moly.

    Now, I don't want to be a nudge, but LAKE HOUSE! LAKE HOUSE! LAKE HOUSE!!! I'm dying to see the final reveal.

  16. I think episodes like these really make me hate the misuse of design terminology and buzzwords.

    Spot on observations, though I'm really questioning the depth of talent. I felt like with your win that HGTV, they took a GIANT step forward in terms of quality design and in variety of design execution. Your win seemed truly promising/inspired hopes for a more variety in design (Novogratz, Antonio). There's only so much modern contemporary programming a person can take. Last season's DesignStar was abysmal at best (Meg won the prize for being more grating on air than David Bromstad – and really her competitors weren't that great!)

    All in all, I'm really hoping they don't backslide into safe territory and try to push forward with you leading the charge.
    Keep up the great work – as always will return for insight and inspiration.

  17. Kat

    Oh God. I have a mustard / chartreuse duvet cover and I was planning on painting my walls a muted grayed purple. Not quite barny purple and lime green but in the ball park. Maybe I should rethink my plan?? And I won't add any orange. I was thinking of saturated turquoise accents. Oh dear.

    I love your recaps. Please keep it up. And I don't mind a little snark with your comments. Hearing blunt honest critiques of rooms helps me learn what works and doesn't work and helps me define what I like and why.

  18. Angela

    Hey Emily, while I think most if not all of America will agree that the purple/green/orange studio was a complete nightmare, I have to disagree with setting an actual design RULE banning the use of purple and green together. I have seen these colors combined in beautiful ways IF done correctly of course. Obviously you don't want an acidic lime green wall next to a garish Barney purple one, but mixing these colors in concert with neutrals and varying tones can prove to be quite nice, in my opinion. Just check out some of the link below to fabulous rooms designed by Pat Healing, Kate Singer, etc. showcasing these colors working rather well together.

    Love your thoughts, just thought I had to add my own since it really annoys me when designers make lists of "rules" based on one poorly executed room that could eliminate some potentially great creative design work. Someone not as skilled in mixing colors well could never take that risk because of a "do not" that was misused by a designer. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Chana

    Ummmm, Angela. I looked at the links you posted as examples of a purple and lime green room, if you were trying to prove Emily wrong about her rule with those two color pairings, I really don't think you succeeded. Your examples were rooms that are totally neutral with hints of like green and purple. The third link had one little purple throw with a green pillow! You really can't compare that to the room with full ceiling to floor bright colors that make you feel like you're on an acid trip.

  20. You're a trip! I just read your post outloud to my husband and had him laughing LOLing. Great review- I too LOVE Danielle- she's my fav for sure!! Looking forward to your weekly reviews!

  21. kate

    well said. Loved reading your reviews and glad you're doing them again :)

  22. Sara

    I usually don't like these contest shows until they reach near the end, and I think this season of DS is going to be no exception. I don't want to suffer through more bad design – I'll wait until it gets down to the best 3 or 4 contestants to watch again. Some of these rooms were truly cringe worthy.

    And Dude! PLEASE give us an update on the Lake House! (I check this blog like three times a day waiting for the final reveal post.)

  23. Heidi

    Emily, you are on your game! Thank you for being hilarious. I'm looking forward to more recaps. :)

  24. Stephanie

    Anyone else notice Mikel, Kris and Britany didn't get much intro?

    Clearly the two gay men aren't allowed a backstory and they don't want anyone to know the cute blonde is married.


  25. Lauren

    omg wow chips! ahahaha I forgot all about those.

    I was totally confused when the judges kept calling the moose head on the black wall 'genius!' so glad I'm not crazy.

    it's way too early to pick favorites, but since you asked, I'd go with britany and jordan based on both style and personality so far. I don't get "likeable" from danielle yet. I hope I'm wrong, because I want to like her.

  26. Boomer

    Just bought the HGTV magazine with you on the cover. Love it! You look beautiful.

  27. Angela

    Chana, my comment was not an attempt to "prove" Emily wrong in any way, as I truly enjoy reading her blog and love her design style. Im usually not even a commenter, much less a comment-back type but I really had to clarify since I did not intent to "succeed" at disproving anyone of anything. I just noticed that a couple people commented with concerns about their own design choices to combine purple and green, and as someone who appreciates when this color combo is successfully pulled off, I wanted to include some links to inspiration photos that might help them to validate their decisions and not feel as if they made a mistake. My apologies if I came across harsh in my original post Emily,, as that wasn't my intent. Again, I agree with Emily in her assessment of the room and the colors NOT working together, and I was obviously in no way implying that the pictures I posted could justify or compare to the color scheme of that room. But working with people daily to make design decisions, I know that others who are not "designers" can sometimes take a caution too literally and forever steer clear of any hue in a certain color pallete because at one time they were told by a professional never to do that. Either way, to each her/his own!

  28. Kelly

    Did anyone else notice this, or just me? Emily, you state as one of your "rules" this: "Never put empty frames on the wall – just don't do that anymore" and then your next post, "Marcus Hay, you Genius" has, um, a big empty frame on the wall. Hmmmm…..

  29. Jamie

    So glad I'm not the only one who was puzzled by the "genius moosehead." I thought I was missing something. Thank you for doing your recaps. Reading them is almost as fun as watching the actual show.

  30. I love your insight about the design choices, I feel like I learned something :) However, I totally think Danielle deserved to win – but maybe I'm bias because I'm from MN too