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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…..








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