“Design Star” Kicks Off a New Season: Are You Watching?

Last night I watched the Season 6 premiere of HGTV’s “Design Star” with some pretty low expectations for it, but I have to say it looks like they listened to our complaints about the show last year and made a lot of necessary changes. My thoughts (with spoilers ahead):

1. Getting a regular host (Tanika Ray, looking fabulous) instead of having Vern Yip do double-duty as judge and host was a good call.

2. Former “Design Star” winner David Bromstad as mentor to the contestants is another good addition.

3. Same judges, but this time they weren’t scowling all the time and trying to be snarky for the camera.  Looks like they might actually smile and offer encouraging words from time to time.

4. The contestants were given a real design challenge for their first one–not a wacky, “shop at an Asian market with fifty cents and see what you can create in 2 hours with whatever you buy there” kind of thing like they pulled last year.

5. They were allowed to shop at real stores and were given both a handyman and a professional painter to help with the work. They were also given 3 whole days to get it done, which is practically unheard of on reality competitions.

A few things that made me laugh and/or scratch my head:

1. After Kevin proposed that they paint the bedroom teal, he changed his mind. “Forget the teal–that’s too wild.” So he painted it a bright tangerine instead. Vern said, “That’s one of those colors you can actually see through your eyelids.” (In case the people sleeping in this room weren’t sure what to do with themselves, they helpfully hung the word “RELAX” over the orange fireplace.)

2. When Kellie, the perky mom from Oklahoma, introduced herself, she said, “I always tell people, ‘You throw the party. I’ll be the confetti!'” I’m not sure what that means, exactly. Do you really want to brand yourself as the annoying little pieces of paper that get stuck in peoples’ hair and in the carpet? Doesn’t sound like she’s a lot of help to the hostess.

3. This outfit that Candice Olson was wearing. Who convinced her to go on TV in this?

4. When Mark (and his facial hair and scarf) made his entrance at the beginning of the show, the music they played him in on had a definite Bee Gees, “Saturday Night Fever” vibe.

5. Mentor David Bromstad told the contestants that “TV tones personalities down.” You mean when we see David B on TV, that’s a toned down version of his personality?

As for the design they turned out, I can’t say any of it knocked me off my feet. The judges raved so much about the cool coffee table Leslie picked out for the Great Room that you’d think she designed it herself (did anyone else wonder if it made the room smell like rubber tires?).

The winning room was the Bonus Room, designed by Karl and Kellie:

The room looked better on TV. The judges loved how Karl painted the wall in here so much that they awarded him the win. Kellie spilled paint all over herself while doing this room, which made me wonder where those promised professional painters went to. We never saw any, did we?

The losing room was Mark and Blanche’s:

In the end, Blanche went home because they didn’t like the “grandma doilies” she hung on the walls (they were actually tea lights) and the way she framed this metallic wallpaper:

So there you have it. The 6th season of “Design Star” is off  and running. I guess Karl is the frontrunner at this point since he won the first challenge, but do you have a favorite? What are your thoughts on the show so far?

Learn more about the show and the contestants at HGTV Design Star.

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  1. says

    I’m not! To be really honest, I breath interior design during the day with my work and I watch very little TV lately. So, whenever I choose to watch something, I want to see something that has nothing to do with work… :-)

    Have that said, this show seems to be really interesting. Besides, I love Candice Olson.


    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

  2. Linda says

    Wish I could, but it doesn’t air in Canada. I catch the occasional episode when we’re in the U.S. and I love it!

    • Bridget says

      Go to the HGTV site. You can watch the full episode there.

  3. says

    Great wrap-up! I think it’s looking like a good season so far, and I can’t really pick a favorite yet, but I did like that they gave them plenty of time to get their rooms done and plenty of pros to help…but you’re right, it did seem like they did a lot of their own painting!

    Am I the only one that’s sort of over Word as Art?

  4. says

    Julia, I’d much rather read your re-caps than watch the show – they are great!! I think I’ve watched every season opener except last night’s. I knew it was on, thought about watching, but just couldn’t do it. Like Luciane, watching the show feels too much like work. I’ve been so disappointed with the quality of everything. I want to learn something…or be pleasantly surprised and inspired. But, sadly, watching the show never seems to do any of those things.

    Your blog, however, is another story. So…thank you!

  5. says

    I missed it because it was opposite The Bachelorette. My husband is addicted to that show! :/

    I will try to catch a replay. Did you agree with the judges’ decision?


    • hookedonhouses says

      I didn’t think it was “wrong,” but I wasn’t sure how they decided to send Blanche home before the others who didn’t do so well, either. I thought the tangerine-wall guy might get the boot, or J, the one who kind of butchered her upholstered headboards.

  6. marilyn podoll says

    Good review! I thought all the rooms were amateur-ish. Let’s just hope it was first episode nerves!

  7. jody lara says

    thanks for posting this… I enjoy watching this show, but with cut backs at home, we don’t get this channel any longer :( I hope you recap every Tuesday!!

    • Bridget says

      Jody, Check out the hgtv website. You can watch for free. Though I do think Julia does one fab job recapping!

  8. kristen says

    As an aside. I just recently started watching more t.v as I have two year old twins that keep me super busy. I recently tuned into Color Splash and was so suprised. I have seen David’s show in the past and just did not like his style. I have to say he seems to have changed and I really like what he is doing now. I have seen about three episodes now and love everything he has done.

  9. says

    Will you do recaps every week? I think that would be great!! I am sure I will miss some episodes, and I am kinda over reality tv, everything seems exactly the same! But I love design and seeing makeovers and I love your blog!!!!! :)

    • hookedonhouses says

      Not sure if I’ll recap every week. We’ll see how much interest there is, I guess. Sounds like a lot of people aren’t even watching!

      • Lisa T. says

        Would rather see you recap it. Lots of pics, please. Than spend the time to watch it .

        Thanks 😉

  10. Magda says

    I liked the episode and hope they continue in this vein. It was so much better than last year already.

    I don’t detect any stand-out talents as of yet. The winning room was a little underwhelming and so were the painted trees. I mean, really, that’s the best thing out of all the rooms?

    And yeah, shopping for a coffee table does not require oodles of talent, either. So I’m hoping the judging is not going to be as ridiculous as last year, as well.

  11. says

    I thought the show was fantastic – and I don’t know if it’s because it really was fantastic or if my expectations were just THAT low!

    Julia, I wholeheartedly agree that the challenge was so much better and more focused, the judges had some positive energy and I liked the addition of David Bromstad. I think all of those things will be even better as the season moves on and there are fewer designers. In the beginning, it’s just hard to catch up.

    I still wish we knew about the budget. But I love that it wasn’t a huge team challenge (pairs are not that bad) and that next week is going to be a white room challenge. Yea!

    I actually really liked both the bonus room and the great room. They felt comfortable – like rooms you could actually live in.

    Thanks for the review. We’re doing the same over at http://www.TheDesignFile.net. So fun!

  12. says

    I haven’t learned their names yet, but I did like the great room but couldn’t stand the designer/former-emmy-award-winning-journalist – so bossy and snooty! Meanwhile, Miss Former-Dallas-Cowboy-cheerleader displayed southern grace and manners – and had good taste! I liked the team that did the bonus room – they were talented and nice to each other – refreshing! And I’m glad facial-hair-furniture-making-dude didn’t go home, because I think he’s got potential, even though he couldn’t get the job done last night! His partner with the alleged upholstered headboards was kind of a zero!

  13. Nita says

    I haven’t liked the designs in the past. Not much interested in this show.

  14. says

    Great recap, Julia! I enjoyed the show, but (being super honest here) did not care for the host. She is gorgeous, but her lines came off so fakey. I felt like she was on the stage answering questions in the Miss America pagaent.

    I like Kellie and Karl, and I couldn’t believe how rude the Emmy lady was to her partner. Being stressed is no excuse for speaking to fellow contestants the way she did.

    I kind of wished they hadn’t kicked anyone off last night, but looking forward to next week. I enjoy shows with creative competition…much better than the ones with people fighting snakes and getting shot into mud pits and stuff.

  15. says

    Great recap. I laughed at Candice’s outfit too! and I actually composed this letter to her in my head:
    Dear Candice,
    You are a beautiful woman with an fun personality and a great design sense. How is it that day after day, year after year, you appear on television dressed in the most hideous and bizarre getups? You can afford a stylist–Get one STAT!!
    Your fan,
    also, I think they sent the right person home, simply because she kinda faded into the background, not much of a stand-out style or personality.

    • Olivia says

      Perhaps you are a classic basic dresser–the khaki pants/white shirt/navy blazer type. Or perhaps you are a business uniform dresser–black suit/white blouse or skirt/jacket. Maybe you are a typical casual dresser–jeans/shirt/sweater. Or maybe it’s another style. What Candice wears are pieces that are “out of the box”–they’re unusual, beautifully constructed, fitted and appropriate for her long, lean body which also means she looks great in the wide variety of styles she wears. Everyone has different taste and preferences in clothing and just because it’s not something I would wear doesn’t make it “ugly”. I often like outfits in the styles mentioned above on other people even it it’s not for me. Personally, I’m with Candice–I love wearing unique pieces that aren’t the typical type of items showing up on everybody I know. I’m sure Candice can afford high end clothing which allows her access to more unusual, beautiful pieces; while not having the same clothing budget, I go for the same general concept. She also works in a creative field where such unique, more creative dressing is a plus; Genevieve Gorder often goes for the same idea in her clothing. I LOVE nearly everything Candice wears and wish I could afford it! :-) Dressing differently than what your own preference might be does not equal “a hideous and bizarre get-up”! I would bet that she does indeed have a stylist and a great one.

  16. says

    I completely forgot to tune in! Which I definitely should have because Monday nights are severely lacking in the TV department. I like the winning room, but nothing too fantastic. Good point, the coffee table may have made the room smell like a tire store. I will definitely have to tune in! Great post!

  17. Chimelle says

    I LOVED that coffee table, but both my husband and I wondered what you would do if you spilled something on it?? Nightmare! Crumbs, dried juice, etc. You’d have to take it outside and point a hose at it!

  18. jana says

    I have a really hard time getting in to these type design competition shows. Meanwhile, I LOVE Project Runway and Top Chef!!! I think because as an interior designer, fashion design and cooking are kind of foreign to me but the passion and creativity is the same. If that makes any sense, LOL. A few years ago I was so excited about Bravo’s design competition and it was so, so very bad. Those boxes they had to decorate every week??? Who came up with that??? These pictures of this apartment kind of remind me of those boxes. Bad lighting and all.

    I’m sure I’ll probably catch some episodes in re-run one day but I won’t set my DVR. Now ask me how much I love Million Dollar Decorators. I feel like crying when it ends every week b/c I just don’t want it to ever end!! :)

  19. says

    totally watched it last night too! That “relax” bedroom was awful!!!!!!! What was he thinking! Now, if that had been a stimulating office space, that would have been wonderful! :)

  20. says

    I don’t watch the Design Star show, however, I saw the New York Real Estate show on TV where the DS Producer was looking for a condo/apt. building for the Design Star group to love in for a year. It had bare walls and he looked at several loft style apts. for the show. He made the best choice for the views and I believe he had a budget of about $50, 000. for a year lease.

  21. says

    And they are off with a great big YAWN. I found the design work dull. That table they raved about made me keep wondering if she had made it. I couldn’t figure out why they were all so enthralled with it. Very odd!

    I like that they get to shop at real stores, have real help and time. But, the rooms didn’t reflect that. Given the time they had I expected more. I hope the rooms get better in the weeks to come.

  22. Karen says

    Judging from her pre-season photos on hgtv>com Blanche had lot of potential. I think they sent the wrong one home. Why does it have to be done in pairs when you know one person is always going to be a JA ?
    Why not let each designer find his own level with the same project – remember the solid white rooms ?
    I still miss Clive !

  23. Kim says

    I don’t watch Design star or HGTV anymore because they have become really boring. I do watch other eliminated shows like: Dancing with the Stars, Biggest Loser, and Chopped.

  24. Miss Emily says

    Very much of what they came up with reminded me of a 20-something’s first apartment. Craft-ish and amateurish. Some of the furniture even looked like cardboard cutouts from a distance or on first glance. And nothing looked comfortable or like I’d really want to live there.

  25. lucy says

    Ha! Interesting….seems to have changed to a very similar show we have here called”The Block” …where 4 couples have to renovate and decorate four homes that are usually attached like a block of units…only this season , they have been given 4 side by side derelict homes to do up room by room …You’d love this one too Julia!
    ( by the way …that Uk series is called ‘Escape to the country’ not “moving” incase you have tried to look it up! )

  26. Destiny says

    Goodness, you were funny in this post; loved the personality that came through.

  27. Bridget says

    I watched the episode tonight to give it a chance. Last year it was very hard to watch how harsh the judges were last year. I kept thinking this is SO not the Vern Yip I’ve adored since Trading Spaces. It seemed to be toned down a bit. I enjoyed the show for the most part. I’m not too crazy about the new hostess Tanika Ray. To me it felt like she was reading off a telepromter of sorts and was incredibly stiff. Maybe it was just nerves? Truthfully…I miss Clive. Clive seemed approachable, very much at ease with everything and a natural in front of the camera. Thanks for the recap Julia. Your blog is always a must read for me!!

    • Olivia says

      Absolutely–bring back Clive! I’m getting really tired of the seemingly endless line of HGTV female hosts on every show–designers and otherwise–always wearing a top with their boobs hanging out with nothing else going for them. And why do all the hosts have to be attractive and skinny? Where are the somewhat overweight, plain Jane types? Irritating and unreal!

  28. Pam says

    I haven’t seen the new season yet. The episodes I have watched in the past just annoyed me. Who doesnt get along with who. I dont know. I am so into designing my own home but I am more traditional and french country and they always seem to do a modern design. There is little to nothing I would ever use in my home. I would rather read your blog and learn something from it . Candace Olsen is my favorite but the dress, she needs to stick to designing homes. Ha! I enjoy Hooked on Houses so much thanks for sharing so many things with us. Love ya!

  29. Lynda says

    I did watch the 1st episode, but then I watch all the seasons of Design Star. I think the right person went home. I also think if Cathy Hobbs wins–I will never watch a show she’s in. She’s boring, bossy, has no personality–should I go on? I thought everyone else has possibility–especially J Allen–love her.
    BTW–what ever happened to Kansas City’s Jennifer Bertrand of the 2008 season? she is the only one who did not go on and land a tv show. Anyone know what happened??

    • hookedonhouses says

      Jennifer Bertrand got pregnant soon after winning and chose not to start doing the TV show right away. Apparently it was supposed to happen later but, as far as I know, never materialized–possibly because they were too busy rolling out a new show for the next winner by then?

      She did tape a few things, though, that were shown on their website. There’s an interview with her about it here:


      • Claudia says

        Jennifer Bertrand is designing in the Kansas City area. Her little boy, Winston, was born with a rare venous and lymphatic malformation and requires constant care. Visit her blog, hugsforthesoul.blogspot.com. She is an inspiration

  30. says

    I am in complete agreement with you on ALL points. I only have this to add – the winner – the guy that painted the tree “mural” (don’t know all their names yet) – I have to question. They gave him all the credit for space planning. But wasn’t the whole nook-under-the-stairs Kellie’s idea? To me, that posed the greatest challenge of all the rooms and I like how she treated it. Really liked it, in fact.

    The “mural”? Some tape on a wall and two colors of paint? It was okay, but I wasn’t terribly impressed. But you nailed everything else and I wanna sit next to you and watch the rest of the season. I’ll bring the popcorn 😉

  31. Pam says

    I didn’t watch it –though it’s recorded on my DVR. I think I’ll appreciate your review more and not waste my time watching the show. They scared me away last season. I could use the recording space for something less aggrevating to watch and will spend my time doing something more entertaining –like folding socks or pulling weeds in the garden. Reading your review, I felt that familiar knot growing in the pit of my stomach. How could they applaud a stinky rubber coffee table and a neon orange…. bedroom? Jeesh! The only enticing addition to the show (per the pre-season commercials) are the additions of the celebrity designers –like David B. And yes he IS toned down for TV/HGTV. I agree he has produced some beautiful work on recent seasons of Color Splash.

    • Olivia says

      Why does everyone seem to assume the coffee table was “stinky”? To the best of my knowledge, “smellavision” is not yet available. Perhaps the rubber is treated in some way so that it doesn’t stink. Geez!

  32. says

    This is my absolute favorite show on TV. I look forward to it every year. I was so disappointed in last year’s show (although I love Emily and enjoy her show). I feel like this year is going to be so much better. I am not wild about the host but maybe she’ll grow on me. :) I like having David mentor the contestants – think that will be a good thing & he is nice to look at!

    I liked Karl & Kellie’s room and Cathy & Leslie’s was nice but I don’t think I have a favorite yet. I LOVE the white room challenge and cannot wait for it. I think the cream will rise to the top with that challenge.

    Thanks for your recap – it was great.

    PS. Not sure what Candace was thinking with that outfit!!

    • Olivia says

      “. . . he is nice to look at”?????? What does that have to do with talent or kindness or the wisdom and ability to mentor? Shallow! He creates some beautiful rooms and seems to be a nice person which hopefully is the case which are far more compelling reasons to have him on the show. And I think Candice is always beautifully and stylishly dressed. She wears more unique pieces that than the usual “uniforms” (yawn…) which may be difficult for the not-so-creative, jeans-with-a-black-tee-shirt crowd to figure out.

  33. says

    I just finished editing my post about Design Star and came to your site and saw yours! Great review! I agree I have more hope for this season. Last season was a major disappointment! I’m excited about the addition of David Bromstad but not sure of the new host, Tanika Ray just yet. Hopefully this season the contestants will better able to really express their design abilities and not be constrained with silly challenges (last season) like designing a room around a piece of bread.

    I’m looking forward to watching their white room challenge. It should be fun.

  34. says

    some of those rooms are great, I hope we get to see that series out here in Australia too soon, and don’t you love Candice’s makeover!! LOL (it’s like she’s trying to look 21 or something!)

  35. says

    The only room that was any good was the Great Room, and it wasn’t that great.

    Also, I hope Candace Olson is better at decorating interiors than she is at dressing herself!

    • Olivia says

      First, it’s “Candice”, not “Candace”. Secondly, she actually wears beautiful clothes and carries them off well. “Different” is not wrong, it’s just different. There are so many nasty comments about her clothing–as if that has ANY importance at all in terms of what she’s like as a person and the depth of her talent. From all reports, she has a good marriage and is a good mom as well. You “hope” she’s better at decorating? She has had her own decorating shows for YEARS and you have no idea what her interior design skills are? In spite of all this ignorance, you feel free to submit a mean-spirited comment about her personal style and question whether she has professional skills. Good grief!

  36. says

    they need to hire clive back right away. he has that tv thing that draws you in and makes you feel comforted. he barely even helps with the projects. his voice just has a way of establishing intimacy with the viewer. clive sets the stage for the designers to show their stuff.

  37. says

    this is season is MUCH better than last season by far! i loved all your recaps the day after the show…will you be doing that this season??

    • hookedonhouses says

      Hi, Marie! I agree–it’s much better this year. I was going to recap each week, but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in it, based on the response to this post. I might talk about it from time to time, though, because I’ll be watching! :-)

  38. AddisonDeWitt says

    I don’t really like Design Star because I don’t like the challenges they dream up. I want to see real decorating. Additionally, I can’t stand the winner from last year. Can’t stand her show, either.

  39. Jenn says

    I’ve been watching Design Star on Monday nights but I find myself missing HGTV’d and My Yard Goes Disney which both aired on Monday nights this summer before Design Star kicked off. I think I would be more apt to like this season of Design Star if it was on another night or time so that there could still be episodes of HGTV’d and My Yard Goes Disney.

  40. Michele says

    I’ve been watching Design Star as well and am addicted to the show. I really love it but am I the only one who thinks that Cathy Hobbs is just mean, conceited and difficult to get along with? If she wins, that will be one HGTV show I’ll refuse to watch!

  41. Olivia says

    What has happened to HGTV? They used to have shows that actually gave realistic ideas that were actually possible for the average viewer on a budget to do.(Remember “Decorating Cents” where the guest designer and Host Joan Steffend decorated a room for $500?). It does seem that 80% of HGTV shows now are related to buying and selling houses. And then there’s “Design Star” which is really just another run-of-the-mill reality show that is more about creating interpersonal drama between contestants than about creating decorating ideas that viewers can actually use in their own homes.