Design Star season 7, review of Episode 2

Season 7, episode 2.  

Time for the weekly ‘Emily sits behind a computer and criticizes’ session.   I would be the worst critic ever.  I’m either merciless and borderline cruel because someone is ‘dead to me’ or i’m overly empathetic.  I cringe at the thought of somebody walking away from reading MY blog BUMMED. 


But life is happening right now, so lets do this. 

The eagerly awaited, always dreaded, full of excitement and normally full of some awful, embarrassing moments  ‘White Box Challenge.’   

 We all know that i have mixed feelings about this challenge (no doubt because i failed miserably), but this year was way better than last years’ and like 19,000 times better than my year.  I always say that clients want three things from you,  ‘fast, inexpensive and quality’ work, and they can have two of the three things, but not all three –  i make them choose. So season 5 when we had 7 hours and had $500 to  shop at a chinese import store most of ours looked like total crap. (will i ever get over it?)  But with 2 days and what seemed like a decent amount of money at a large hardware store, we saw really good results.  NIce job producers, seeing talent is so much more exciting and gratifying as a viewer than seeing crappity crap crap. The worst kind of crap.   

As i write this i’m on a plane headed to Nashville where i have to do a white box challenge, live, in front of lots of people, with the design of the space based on the T-Swift song ‘Today is a fairy Tale’ with a 3 hour time limit.  Yes i have known about it for a few weeks so i have been able to mentally prep, and there was someone building things for me beforehand, but i’m still terrified that its not going to go as planned in the 3 hours that i have to install. Enough about me, the point is that very few people can come up with really show stopping ideas and IMPLEMENT them this fast.  So when someone does it well, i’m totally impressed. 

Here’s a pic of the big white box:


Daunting and terrifying yet brimming with cold, hard anxiety.  

 Ultimately the girls killed it.  The boys not so much.  Let’s talk favorites:

 Rachel nailed it it with this insanely exciting room.   


It’s good, you have to admit.  It’s bold, graphic, well balanced, with just enough excitement to be good on TV, but paired down enough that it doesn’t quite look like a crazy person lives there.  Or at least its a cool crazy person.  Like Kate Spade. 


 That stencil thing that she did on the back wall would have taken me days and days and days. 

  Totally impressive. then she freehanded it within those taped perimeters.  Crazy.  



Then she painted these striped/chevrons makeshift credenzas – great mixing of patterns with some new awesome colors – she know what looks good on TV, she does it fast, she’s a very strong contender right now.  Also she has won the first two challenges so i’m expecting her to get cocky and relax a bit and probably not win any for a while, but hopefully that doesn’t happen.  


Oh you know, just freehanded this painting.  As you do.  It’s not a masterpiece, but for 1/2 hour its totally beautiful.  


I was impressed and jealous.  This is also the second week that she has brought in plants into a space – which adds sooo much life when something isn’t well lit  – like this white box.  It’s insta-sculpture.  insta-life. 

For all you future Design Star auditioners, remember that while you can’t control the shopping location, the timing and the resources there will ALWAYS be painting of the walls and blue tape, and the person that does the best painting application, pattern, etc normally wins this challenge.  Clearly there were a lot of people who had practiced their wall designs this year –  very, very smart.  

My advice is to get a few flexible concepts that you haven’t seen before  and practice them before you audition or get on the show.  It clearly paid off for this years contestants.   God, i should have done that for this week, but with only 3 hours to install the space, there is probably not enough time to dry. i’m not even painting.  Oh god…..

 Rachel won and she should have, although I did really love Danielle’s (and i think i relate to her more for some reason so she is still my fave). 



It’s dramatic, daring and weird enough to keep me wanting more. I agree with the judges when they said that she was very smart to do the pattern off center. 




Chain around the top of the table is interesting.  



I want her to lose the lamp, and sure, there could be more elements here -but i really appreciate that massive plant arching over the graphic like that – its the perfect pop of green and something organic in that really masculine dark space.    


But i think i just like her, so i’m kinda giving her more cred than this room deserves.  Thats what you do when you like someone.   It’s like how i think that Tanning Chatum is the best actor ever – i kind want him to push me against up against a wall, so its influencing my reviews of his genius, provocative and hilarious movies.  Brian knows. It’s fine.  

Up next:




I like it.  It’s bold,  graphic and simple, but still has personality.  I still see ‘her’ here – it has a vintage vibe even though its all just new stuff from a hardware store. 


Towel rings = deco hardware.  Didn’t see that coming and didn’t think it was a good idea, but for this challenge it works, 100%. 


Cute.   Art is always hard to create on this show – but she did a great job with this copper thing and all those pennies. Although i wish she had done a silhouette of Vanilla Ice (the guest judge) because that would be have been soooo dope.  And hilarious.  She would have won it in my book immediately but probably would have gotten kicked off because of it.  


My only worry is that this is the second week that she has chosen a pretty questionable (if not dated) wall color,  The room looks good, and its risky and it paid off, but i’m worried about the color choice, thats all.




OK. There are a lot of pros here:  

It has a strong color palette.  It’s graphic and simple.  Ive actually made a similar version of that chain chandelier, so i’m 100% on board with that – nice job.  


She even picked the good chain. I appreciate that.   The wooden sculpture on the back is fine – i like the brass plates holding it together.  The wood table is fine, no red flags at all.  Pretty solid, unoffensive designing here.  



But i’ve officially announced ‘painted applied moulding’,  as DONE.  No more.  Its successful, i’ll admit, but if someone does it next year during the challenge i’ll be bummed.   It’s such an easy, bold, ‘go-to’, for sure….but no more, futures, no more.  

 I think Mikkel might be next, but we are starting to get into the ‘meh’ category:

 I like some elements in this space, but not loving the colors. i love a good rope room divider, for sure.  And i like the wood back wall thing and credenza but otherwise it lacks in comparison to the last four.  But it might just be the colors.  Taupe with this pumpkin is tricky. This is a good example of too many warm tones without any cool ones.  I want it to be navy and persimmon and white (of course i do), not beige and pumpkin and white.  But it has enough good things happening that i wanted him to stay (besides, i know him….:))

 I like him, i do. He’s 100% adorable and likable and comes off totally ungeneric (which i’m not naming names but there are a few that i haven’t seen enough personality from….we are waiting…..)

He also turned that owl garden sculpture into a lamp – it went unnoticed, but i noticed, Mikkel, i noticed.  And it was cute.  



There are enough really good moments here that i’m glad she stayed – i also really, really really like her personality.  She seems very herself – sassy, smart and self-depricating,   I love the gold turtle, of course. I like the color palette although it doesn’t read very well. I LOVE the chain on the bottom of the sofa.  I actually think i liked everything here, there just wasn’t enough.  When she said ‘if i had finished this would have been such a ‘versace’ moment’ i got it – it was going in such a good direction, just got cut short.  



I don’t totally know what to say about this room, but i have to admit that its engaging and interesting and weird, like two sloths making out – and i like that. I’m still not on the Eric train, but i’m on the way to run some errands near the train station, i have enough money in my pocket to buy a ticket, and i know the train schedule by heart.  I’m just waiting for a couple reasons why i should pull over and take a seat.  


But maybe on the way i could easily get distracted by some bad metaphor making.  Who knows.  


 I mean, its hideous, yet interesting – a true ‘i can’t pull myself away’ moment.  But then he comes back on camera and i don’t think i can get on board you guys.  I just don’t.  He comes off uncomfortable and totally diva-ish.  I mean i like divas.  I long to be one myself.  JEff Lewis, Rachel Zoe, Bethenny Frankel, all experts in their fields and all divas.  And i like them all.  But its a tricky combo and takes the righ personality to pull it off…..


Stanley, Stanley, Stanley.


 You’ve peaked my interest, you have.  Think conceptually, people. I know this looks hideous, but conceptually its not bad. For instance two weeks ago on ‘White Room Challenge’ (a separate show on hgtv) a guy did this:


NOw you can’t really see it here because its not pulled back enough, but it was pretty dope.  I’m not saying that Stanley shouldn’t have done what he did, but this is clearly weirder, more provocative and way more of an art installation.   Stanley didn’t have enough tension in the room to pull this off – everything was vertical and on the same plane – you gotta mix that shit up like this guy did – although he sofa floating like that has tension for sure, so i take that back a bit.  



Anyway Antonio, i mean Stanley, you still did a good job at shaking things up and proving that you have a point of view.  I don’t know if you can have a show on HGTV, but this is a weird room that clearly is different than everyone else’s.   After last week you have some more making up to do – i need to know if you have any skills and taste beyond sculptural, conceptual art.  I’m wondering if ‘Work of art’ wasn’t a better fit of you. But i’m curiouser and curiouser.  

Headed to the final two:


Hey, its our friend, Jordan.  He’s all ‘hey guys, i’m charming and whoops, didn’t really do the challenge but keep me along because i’m likable and i have good taste’.  Indeed, Jordan, Indeed.  Sure, his room was underhwhelming at best, but there were  no red flags. Nothing offensive.  He just failed the challenge – much like yours truly.  

 Did anybody else watch this show? Did anyone scream and do a ‘no **ucking way, no way, i must have heard that wrong, no way’?  


When they announced who went home I was totally shocked. I mean, i thought Jordan was going to win the whole show, i did.  Here was my deducing:  

1. I figured that a guy would win this year because there have been two women winners the last two years and so we are due for a dude.  

2. He has the ‘i’m gay but in a way that socially conservative people don’t mind’ kinda thing happening. 

3. He has the ‘i’m foreign but from a country that American’s don’t find threatening’ thing happening.  

4. He has a decent amount of TV experience – so he’s very comfortable and totally relaxed on camera – i like watching him a lot.  

5. He’s good looking.

6. He has good taste.

7. He’s nice, for pete sake.

 But i was wrong, folks.  This dude went home.  THIS GUY!!!!!! WHAT???  Every year there is one that leaves us before their time – the ‘Designstar’ gods take them early and we are all left wondering ‘why, oh why?’.  Dan was this such person my year, Tyler was last year’s tragedy.  This year’s unexplained design star death is Jordan.  May we someday understand what the gods/judges have in mind for him.  Sure, his white box was lame, but it was a 17th century renaissance painting compared to this:


Harsh, i know. But i can’t handle Luca. Yet. I’m sure he’s great in person, I don’t doubt that his wife loves him very much and hates me for saying this, but he’s just really not so much my kind of person. At least not how he’s edited right now.   


Speechless. Totally speechless.  Floating shelving boxes?  doormats as art? painting white walls beige?  Brown and pops of yellow? He made this:


Fine, we’ve seen this a million times. I like it, don’t get me wrong, but it does not a ‘saving grace’ make.  

 But the good news is that i’m riveted. I really thought i knew the winner.  I told Brian, ‘Pretty sure Jordan wins’.  But apparently not.   

Taking new bets, friends, who is now going to take this thing…..







  1. Candida

    Yeah, I think it's pretty obvious that Luca was just kept to create drama with the other contestants. He had the worst room and his personality, well, let's just say his personality is probably not a good fit for a hosting gig at HGTV, so I don't think he has a realistic shot at winning. Jordan got screwed. Danielle's my favorite so far (though I didn't like her room here), but Jordan would make a great host. I agree that Hillary shouldn't have been in the bottom three, if you just concentrated on what she actually did and ignored the unfinished space around it, her room really wasn't that bad.

  2. Lucy

    Sorry Emily but I don't see any of this group of guys winning this year( although I would like to see more from Mikkel). Just like last week you could have made a case for either Rachel or Danielle winning the challenge. As for Jordan's elimination, he seemed to concede defeat during the shopping expedition. Although his room was underwhelming, at least his wall color made a statement which is much more than you can say about Luca's. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a reality show and the judges/producers tend to keep the "strong" personalities around a while just to stir the pot (hello, NIna).

  3. Ang

    Don't worry Emily, you're gonna rock that white box like nobody's business!

  4. lemurlassy

    I love that you do these recaps! I pretty much am in agreement, except for one thing – Danielle comes off a little bitchy, snotty, haughty. I love her work, but not her attitude. I don't think I would watch her show. But maybe thats just me, as I also cannot stand those Novogratz's and Nate Berkus.

  5. MWK

    I think it's funny that both you and the HGTV recapper (they went back and added it later) forgot to mention Meira (sp?), which probably doesn't bode well for her design-wise.

  6. yes! i watched the show online after it aired and went immediately to your blog to see your review. it wasn't there (and that's okay) but it cracked me up that the design star experience for me is watching the episode followed by reading your post. when i saw it come in, i sat down with a cup of coffee. i appreciate your point of view and don't think you're snarky or mean, just well, honest. and sometimes honesty hurts…. thanks for sharing!

  7. victoria

    I'm gonna say Rachel or Danielle…..TOTALLY thought Luca would be the one leaving. He's very annoying, and his statement "I don't believe a design needs a concept" totally made me gasp. He's seems to think you should just wing it , which can be fine, but only if you have great taste ALL the time, which he clearly doesn't. He thinks just being able to handmake a bunch of projects makes him superior. Sorry, sounds awful, I have nothing against the guy, just think he should have gone. Jordan blew the challenge but is a far superior designer.

  8. Enjoyed your review. Why do I find it so funny we comment on the same things… it could be because I am a product of Emily styling 101. Wish you had time to review my White Room (did you see it? It won't upload online I can send you a DVD if you missed it) Anyways readers check out my blog too! I'm doing reviews as well.

  9. Jill

    Luca's room was hideous. Hideous. Anyone who thought putting faux wood shelf paper on the floor would look good is a resident of crazy town. Maybe you could get away with that if you were bring ironic…but he wasn't. I know they are keeping him for the drama, but seriously…the yellow plants? the pig next to the lantern? the tiny layered rugs? It was a hot mess.

  10. Amazing post Emily! I wish we got this show in Oz…a white box challenge looks incredibly terrifying but judging by your insights I'm sure you've got it nailed!

  11. Lauren

    I pretty much concur. I just can't get on board with Stanley at all though. I think he and Luca should have been bottom two. I appreciate "outside the box" thinking, but I just didn't get it. I guess I'm not artsy or cool enough. I also think Miera fell somewhere in the middle.

  12. nolly

    I agree with your comments Emily. Luca… I thought he was the one going to home this week. As David asked him in the show, what is your concept of design? Common Men! This is Design Star! It's not DIY network star! You got to do some design!! He didn't address any design for straight weeks. I think it might be time for him to step up as a DESIGNER or just go home! I was shocked with Jordan too. I have to agree with design panels regarding the weakness and lack of surprise of his room this week. But I thought he showed his potential last week. So it was really disappointing. And… I also have to agree with you that it reminded me of Tyler's elimination at last season.
    Anyway, obviously Rachel and Danielle is two top contenders. Danielle is my personal fave but I think Rachel brought the strongest first 2 weeks ever in the history of Design Star. I think Kris could be a dark horse once he captured styles preferred and looked well in TC show. Can't wait next Tue!

  13. Mr Fox

    I really liked Mikkels room and if the room had some nice white wainscotting or similar (even painted in mayhaps?) then it would be something I would love in a house and help calm all that warmth. Rachel's and Daniell's were nice too, something about a lack of a seat in Rachel's room kind of disturbs me… who knows why!
    In answer to your question, I would like to think that maybe Mikkel is going for gold!
    We don't have the show here yet in Aus so I am relying on your blog at the moment. Good luck with your white box!

  14. Stephanie

    White Box was a huge disappointment for me. The only people who did interesting spaces were Stanley, Kris and Rachel.

    [When you're given a space that doesn't need to be liveable, take a chance and make a statement! That's what I really loved about Stanley and Kris- and Rachel, well, that amazing pattern layering will take a girl far.]

    Overall, some of the concepts were very cool but the spaces look really cheap. It's not the contestant's fault that the budget is so small, but I want to see their talent when they have more flexibility- right now it feels like an Odyssey of the Mind middle school art competition.
    That said, the people with interesting visions and concepts should go far- watch out for Kris, Stanley, Rachel, Mikel and Hilari- who I think will start to shine once we see their personalities come through in the challenges.

  15. your professional analysis is really valuable and interesting, plus i get to go back over rooms i only saw for a nano-second on video. (i know i could go over to the site and do that but it's way more enlightening with your commentary. i missed a whole lot of mikel's excellent work on the telly that you pointed up here — his room is totally put together.)

    and, it's interesting to see how many people screw up on account of relentlessly bad color choices. (just finished watching the blueberry bathroom ep; not his first major color theory error.)

    i think the chix are going to win this one; your top two are head and shoulders so far above the others — unless, like you did, the others step up their game big time. (I was also interested to see how many early frontrunners in your season kept doing the same thing over and over: braille art piece, wha???? and the venetian plaster.) i think your man mikel is the sleeper.

  16. Laura

    I told my 12-year-old about your reaction. Her response: "Zen Glamor!" in her best Australian accent. She's just bummed she won't have Jordan around to practice with. I'm kind of glad Luca's still in. It's like watching a train wreck. But I'm routing for Danielle. She's by far the best on camera and has good taste without being boring. And she dealt really well with Luca on the first episode, which means she must have some Buddha on the mountain-top type serenity skills. "I'm going to make a Chi-nese GAHden!" There she goes again.

  17. Suzie

    Is Jordan's head photoshopped into the group pic? There's no lower body… Or am I (not) seeing things?

  18. Granny McPhee

    Despite Bromstad, I am not finding this season to be very entertaining…in fact, I was dozing off during this episode but, "Jordan, your show is cancelled!" jerked me out of my coma and I was so flustered that I couldn't get back to sleep until I sat through two episodes of House Hunters! His room wasn't so bad that it eclipsed his on-camera presence, and there were definitely other people who you KNOW are going to get sent off eventually, so why not now? I was looking forward to watching Jordan, and I think the judges made a mistake. The rest of those people don't have a huge amount of charisma (I am sure that most of them are lovely people), so I'm not even sure if I'll be able to stick it out.

  19. Sarah

    It was so great meeting you today in Nashville! It was fun talking to you about this season of Design Star and fun reading your post just now. I also thought a guy should win this year but don't see it happening at this point. I really like Bex since I feel like her style is most like mine but I think Danielle's room was my favorite in this challenge. I think I pick a favorite before anyone designs anything, you were my favorite your season and I'm pretty sure it was during an intro, that's why I like Bex too, she said something that resonated with me, I can't even remember what it was now. I love designers that repurpose things and are resourceful or creative with the materials they have. Can't wait to see more from you, your show Rocks!

    P.S. I hope you liked the Flowers That Rock souvenir I gave you and I hope you enjoy your time in Nashville!

  20. Haven't watched it yet, but couldn't resist seeing what you had to say. Since I've watched your shows I hear you when I read. It's so weird…the post is narrated. Love it. Also kinda like watching it after I know what you thought.

  21. mosey

    Hahaha, I love reading your blog almost as much as I love your design style. Really. And that's huge because I really really love your design style. :) Okay, I'll stop gushing. Anyway – this was the most spot on play-by-play I've ever read.

  22. Mary

    I was waiting to read your take on this challenge. So glad you posted! I liked Rachel's space the most. There is something about it that just draws me in. Then there are these little surprises, illustration with 3D effect, chevron pattern becomes a credenza and the wall is so amazing done freehand. The color combination with bold green walls…just like it. I am a bit confused why were are where we are with the choice made on who to send home. I liked what Jordan said about painting makes him calmer. And his comment about what he really wanted to do in his room! Full body prints would have been totally entertaining to watch. He should have gone with it!

  23. judy h.

    You're hilarious! I was so gobsmacked by the Brit taking the hit, you could have knocked me over with a…(I don't know, but something clever).
    Reading your takes on the designs and designers is more fun than watching the show. I'm going to take a flyer on Rachel, I like her stuff. I 'd like to take a rock to some of that Luca weirdness…he's got the wrong venue.

    BTW, can we have some real guest judges? C'mon Vanilla Ice, Daisy Fuentes and next show, the Mama Kardashian???? Gimme a break!

  24. Tonia

    I loved your recap. I can only imagine the white box challenge ….I'm sure it's hella scary but tossing folks in a hardware store and 3 hours. I don't know what I would come up with. I personally didn't see anything that really impressed me. *yawn* like nothing.

  25. Sonja

    I was so sad to have missed the second episode! Thank you for your lovely recap of the designs. I'm so grateful, I thought I'd add my "two cents": Your comments helped me feel very connected to the show again, and now I have your blog for next time, whether I catch the show or not! I pretty much agree with you on the designs. As far as personality and showmanship skills go, I still have not figured out which designer appeals to me. A few seem like bullies and some others have trouble standing up to bullies. Neither personality suits a design show host. One must be assertive but sensitive and able to deflect and persuade with humor and respect. I imagine that the time pressures do bring out some of the more base personality elements. (Also, "Works well with others under pressure" seems a good recommendation for a design star.) I agree about Divas… "Divahood" works only for a few, Possibly true Divas feed their public the right stuff, they are both talented and gracious somehow, or they would not survive in the limelight. The many aspects of Charisma are interesting and frequently hard to pin down and yet "Charisma" is essential to a successful host.

    Hope your white box in Nashville was a good experience for all! Maybe it will help you put some more layers of experience and confidence over that Design Star white box experience. I thought they really short changed you that season with the limited budget and the import store. When you won I was very excited – you are so talented and I enjoy your show very much!!! Toward the end of your competition on Design Star I learned that you are originally from Oregon, so I was even more excited for you!!! (I have lived in Oregon for most of my life even though I am not from here.)

  26. Erin

    I'm pretty sure & hope I'm right when I say Danielle takes the prize. She is my favorite & I called you as the winner very early on too. Jordan went home b/c he was boring and Luca stayed to see if he can learn some skills. The tag he had I think was at least intriguing to the judges vs Jordan's totally bland room. No fret, Luca will be gone very soon though. He's a ticking time bomb with a serious attitude problem and way too much confidence. Did you catch scenes from next week? The older woman is crying b/c of Luca. What the heck, dude? CHILL OUT.

    Love your recaps, love your humor, you rock!

  27. Kathy

    As soon as Jordan said the words "japanese zen" I was like, noooo! He deserved to get voted out for that concept alone, so played out and un-original. But at least he had a concept though. I think Luca also stayed because he made the cool (though done before) light fixture. Jordan did nothing original. How do you get on Design Star and not have at least a few plans for the white box challenge??

    Although Luca should have gotten kicked out just based on that hideous short, fat orange tie he was wearing at the end there. Terrible.

    thanks Emily!

  28. Jessi

    I completely agree! Luca's was uninspired and showed no taste. His "tag" in the middle of the wall was a moment of genius? Give me a break.

    The only thing I can't get behind is the offcenter graphic in Danielle's design. I wish it was even more offcenter-to me it looks like it could have been a mistake and she just went with it when they said they liked it. Just like 5 more inches to the left.

    Paint "molding" is DONE! Agreed.

    And I laughed when you called Stanley Antonio. :)