Oh, boy, you guys. We’ve been through a lot together these past 8 weeks, haven’t we?
Let’s see. We witnessed fake-out challenges (“Build a house by the lake”–just kidding!), fake hair, and fake travel (“Pack your bags and come to the airport”–then design a room inside the hangar to look like Mexico!). There were missing sofas, black-painted walls, and even a haunted mansion with a prankster ghost. It’s been a wild ride.
Now we’re down to the final two contestants–Matt Locke and Jennifer Bertrand–and they’re about to face off for the last time. Will we see something to inspire us by the end of this hour? Will we be running to our computer to vote for the next design star at HGTV.com? Or will we be yawning and reaching for the remote?
It’s time to find out!
As Episode 8 begins, it’s a bright and sunny morning in Nashville. Matt and Jen are chatting chummily in the kitchen.
Matt says it’s been a long, crazy adventure and he’s glad it’s almost over. He’s so happy that it’s the final two.
You can say that again! Can I hear an “amen”?
Jen says it’s really starting to hit home that they’re down to the final two. But mostly, she’s just SO happy that she doesn’t have to see those nasty judges again, especially after Vern called her a “one-trick pony” for painting too many patterns on walls.
As Bonnie, one of my favorite readers, commented after last week’s episode:
Hello! That from a man who has to put a ton of candles in every room he designs on “Deserving Design”?
So true. I just caught an episode of “Deserving Design” in which Vern redecorated a Sorority House and–you guessed it–covered an entire wall in candle holders.
That’s one of those design “tricks” that bugs me, because I wonder how often those candles will actually be lit. Sure, they look great at night on a special occasion when you take the time to fire up all 120 of them on the wall, but the rest of the time they don’t do a whole lot for the room.
But I digress.
Clive appears in the kitchen and beckons them to the non-working workroom, where he reminds them that after this final challenge, America (that’s us!) will vote to determine who will be the Next HGTV Design Star.
The stakes, according to Clive Pearse, have never been higher.
Cue the video, Clive. Last year Todd and Kim went to beautiful Hawaii for their last challenge, but this year they’re sending the finalists to . . . New Orleans! Which isn’t really much of a surprise, is it, since they’ve been running promos about it for weeks.
Seeing all those old photos of the storm damage is a real downer. Hard to believe it’s been 3 years already and things are still such a mess.
Matt and Jen will be working their makeover magic on rooms for the Gowland family:
And the Oleaga family:
Both families’ homes were pretty much wrecked in the hurri-kun, as Clive calls it. As Jen points out, “Three years is a horribly long time for people to be living like this.” It certainly is.
Clive says they will each design a kitchen, dining room, and living room in 36 work hours over 4 days. Budget of $20,000. Appliances and flooring will be supplied by (endorsement alert!) Sears and Lumber Liquidators.
As Matt and Jennifer fly off to New Orleans, we get a video montage of all they’ve been through up to this point. Matt breaks down and cries, saying everything he’s ever done in his life has led up to this.
We see lots of “bombed out houses” as Matt calls them. “Keep Out” signs. Jen points out that the city “needs help.” I guess a few redecorated rooms will be a start, but you can’t help but wonder if it’s like painting the door on a barn that’s falling down. One piddly Design Star challenge doesn’t seem like nearly enough for these poor people after all the scenes of devastated neighborhoods they’ve shown.
Clive wants to know if they’re ready to meet the families. They are. The families arrive in fire trucks. Let’s hope we aren’t about to see the same firefighters who tried to get Trish’s wedding ring off with bolt cutters in Episode 6.
The first family Clive introduces is the Gowlands. Mike Gowland is a firefighter who was one of the first responders to the tragedy. Matt thinks this is “Awesome!” Mike worked day and night to feed over 800 fire and police workers in the aftermath of Katrina. Now he hasn’t got a kitchen to cook for his own family in.
Jen will fix all that, though! She’s been assigned to redecorate the Gowland house.
Second family is the Oleagas. Constable John worked to secure the safety of the 9th ward. Matt will redecorate their house. Awesome! (This is Matt’s Word of the Day.)
The Gowlands tell Jen they lost everything in Katrina. The Oleagas’ house was under water. Matt’s heart breaks when he hears a story like that. Mine does, too.
Mrs. Gowland wants shiny red cabinets. Jen’s family doesn’t like blue and the’re not real earth-tone people. “We’re wild! We’re crazy!”
Matt’s family says they’re contemporary. They like “minimal.”
“Do you know who’s a minimalist?!” Matt asks. That’s right–he is! He’s so excited. Happier than usual, even. He feels like he won the jackpot with this family.
The families leave and the designers get to work. Jen says she’s gonna give Mrs. Gowland the red she wants in the kitchen. “We’re gonna have some happy cabinets.”
Jen meets her carpenter, Chris. She tells him this is the first kitchen she’s done, so she’s freaking out a little. I am, too. Are you kidding me? She’s come this far and this is her FIRST KITCHEN? I thought she had a design firm back home. Wouldn’t you think she’d come across a kitchen once or twice in her line of work?
Okay, endorsement alert. They head to Sears and Lumber Liquidators to pick out their free stuff.
Matt gets back and his carpenter has cleaned everything out, and we pretend he’s been working by himself that entire time. I’m suspending my disbelief. (sorta)
Clive shows up with a bullhorn and tells them to stop working for the night.
Next morning they arrive to find paint cans set up in the street. Oh, no. What’s this about? A black Explorer pulls up with tinted windows. “Who’s in there?” Matt asks.
It’s Mikey V and Trish! Woo-hoo! I bet Mikey will be taking control of the power tools in a hot second. Can’t wait to see that. I think we’ve all been missing Mikey V.
Matt opens the paint can that has a Mardis Gras mask and beads in it, which means . . . he gets to pick who will work with him. I’d love to know who does the props for this show and hear the brainstorming that goes on behind the scenes. “We’ll be in New Orleans, so we have to find a reason to make someone wear a goofy mask and some Mardis Gras beads.” “Yeah, and it would be good to work the paint cans in again. The paint cans are sort of our THING.”
Shockingly, Matt picks Trish because, he says, Jen needs Mikey’s help more since this is the first time she’s done a kitchen. What a nice guy! I can’t believe he just did that.
But Jen gets a little snarky and accuses him of trying to win America’s votes with this move. Just be grateful, Jen! You know Matt was dying to work with Mikey. We all remember how Mikey single-handedly knocked that kitchen out in Episode 6.
Enough with the chit-chat. They get to work.
Mrs. Oleaga told Matt she doesn’t like cabinets she can’t reach. He takes this to mean she doesn’t want overhead cabinets at all. No, Matt! As a shorty petite person myself, I can tell you she just meant she doesn’t like those cabinets that go up to the ceiling because she would never use the top row of them anyway. They’re a waste of space in my kitchen, too.
At least he’s going to give her some upper cabinets on one wall. She’ll need the storage.
Matt leaves Trish to paint with her shirt tied “up to here” like she’s Daisy Duke.
What’s that about? Trish actually makes Daisy Duke look a bit conservative and classy in comparison:
Matt he goes to a lighting store to find a fixture to go above the dining room table. He loses his mind and spends $1,799 on a chandelier that I personally wouldn’t spent $17.99 on. It looks like it belongs over Liberace’s pool table:
He gets back to see that his red walls still need a couple more coats (even though they’ve done 3 already!). Jen returns to see her horizontal stripes are finished and looking pretty cool. Better than I imagined when she first said she’d be painting stripes all over the walls, anyway.
And Day 2 comes to an end.
Day 3: They switch partners.
Wait. What? Hold on a minute. So what was all the “pick a paint can” and “wear a Mardis Gras costume” business about, then? They both get to work with both of the former contestants. What does it matter which days they get? Oh, brother.
Bottom line: Matt now has Mikey helping him out. His stained cabinets look like crap. And his red walls look equally bad. They’re going to paint the cabinets brown. It’s making me a little nervous, but Matt remains optimistically upbeat.
Jen says this is a crazy, busy day. They have to paint the cabinets red and hang the tile around the fireplace.
Matt gets back from shopping and it’s raining cats and dogs. The cabinets are done. The red walls look a hundred percent better, too. He’s relieved.
Jen wisely has the crew put all the big, heavy pieces in, knowing she couldn’t do it by herself tomorrow. But then she runs into a bit of a snag when she realizes there are connector pieces showing at the end of her sectional sofa.
Uh-oh. She’s not going to cry. No. She is not. Going. To cry.
Clive and his bullhorn bring an end to the work for the day and Jen and Matt say goodbye to their helpers.
Clive reminds us for at least the 100th time to vote for our favorite sometime before 10 AM Eastern time on Wednesday. Who will we vote for, America? Have we decided yet?
Okay. New day. They have four more hours to finish up. Jen is stumpd over the whole sectional rearrangement thing, and there’s no one around to help her move things around.
Uh-oh. She’s crying. She said she wasn’t gonna cry, but she couldn’t help it. It’s all too much.
She says it’s, like, such an awkward space, and she, like, knows they’ve waited three years for a home, and she wants it to be a cool space for them. But this is really, like frustrating.
Jen reaches for a bottle. Looks like she’s resorting to drink:
Just kidding. This is from the montage of the two designers staging their homes in the final hours of the challenge. But I wouldn’t have blamed her for throwing back a glass, under the circumstances.
You know the time is up when the bullhorn makes an appearance. Clive shouts, “Well done! You’ve made it to the end of the final challenge!”
And we are reminded again that it will be up to us to vote for the winner. Okay, okay, we GET it.
Here come the judges to give their final opinions. Jen is no doubt disappointed to see them walking down the street since she said earlier that she never wanted to see their mean, nasty faces again (not a direct quote, but that was the general idea). She’s grinning and making the best of it, though, telling us she thinks it’s awesome that they can’t eliminate her. “Only America can.” Which is way better, right? Who wants three people judging your work when millions can?
Oh, my. Cynthia Rowley seems to be wearing pigtails this week. Just when you thought she couldn’t get any weirder. Someone needs to gently remind her that she’s 50, not 5.
Matt’s Before and After is up first.
Vern calls Matt “a calm force.” He likes the funky mirror art Matt hung on the wall of the living room. It’s Matt’s favorite piece and the focus of the room. Vern thinks it’s sharp. Is no one going to mention how high the artwork seems to be hung on that window wall? The window really could’ve used some curtains, imo.
Ho-hum. You’re disappointing me again, Matt. Is anyone else thinking that this kitchen looks like a break room in the back of an office? It looks so impersonal, like no one would really live there. But, you know, a nice enough place to go pop some popcorn on your break.
The dining room has “big-time sparkle,” Matt says. Let’s hope!
Okay, I’m still not digging the chandelier at all, but the judges are loving it. Again, it looks impersonal to me. Are there any window treatments at all in here? And what’s with the single vase propped in the center of that big table all alone? I’m sorry. I just can’t get excited about this.
Let’s hope Jen’s makeover is a little more inspiring:
Thank goodness she had the sense to do hardwood floors this time and didn’t go for wall-to-wall carpet like she foisted on her poor sister last week.
Vern thinks she pulled in the red in the exact right way. He thinks she has great energy. Martha thinks she’s adorable.
They also mention that the family can hang out and watch telly on the big sectional. Which I apparently don’t have a picture of, come to think of it. Did I not take the before and after of the living room? Oh, for pete’s sake. Here’s the fireplace makeover, at least:
I’m not crazy about this fireplace wall at all. I wish she’d given them a mantel, at least.
But pig-tailed Cynthia thinks these rooms are a million times better than last season, which were a million times better than the season before. I’m sure that makes David Bromstad, Kim Myles, et. al, feel really, really good about themselves tonight.
Did you know that immediately after the show you can vote by going to HGTV.com? Clive reminds us that we can. And we should. And we will! Has anyone decided who to vote for yet? Or are you too busy hating me for forgetting Jen’s Living Room before and after? (sheesh, sorry about that, guys!)
Time for the reveal with the families. Matt’s up first with the Oleagas.
They rave. Holy cow! It’s beautiful! He did an absolutely amazing, wonderful job. It’s almost impossible to think we actually have floors now!
I can just imagine the Design Star producers sitting around, trying to figure out where to have the final challenge, and saying, “Where could we find homeowners who would have very low expectations, just in case the contestants don’t, you know, knock it out of the park? Who would be grateful to JUST HAVE FLOORS to stand on?” I know–New Orleans!
Jen’s reveal with the Gowlands involves a bigger group of people and lots more screaming. Hugging. Jumping up and down.
They’re thrilled because they “have a place to sit now.” They all fit on the mega-sofa Jen bought for them that I don’t have a photo of. It’s awesome. They don’t know what to say. Everything’s gorgeous. This is the most wonderful thing that’s happened to them in a long time.
It’s all very touching. These people certainly deserved a little help.
Cue the marching band, Clive!
The St. Augustine high school marching band comes through, playing “When the Saints Go Marching in.” They play for about 2 seconds, anyway, until the editors switch to slow-mo and show everybody hugging everybody else and wiping tears away.
Matt says he didn’t realize being on DS would make him so appreciative of his friends and family. Jen says it’s just amazing and she will never forget this experience. They were able to help two families on the same street!
Clive gives a paint can (they worked another one in!) with $5,000 in it to the marching band. Matt thinks that’s awesome!
Clive tells us, “Be sure to make your vote count, America, because ultimately the decision is yours.”
On the next Design Star, all the contestants return “to set the record straight,” and we will learn whether Matt or Jen will be The Next HGTV Design Star.
In the meantime, I think we should take our own poll so we can see which way people are leaning in general, don’t you? It’ll be interesting to see if we agree with the rest of America when the results are announced next week.
Let me know what you thought of the rooms they did tonight. Who do you think should win this thing?
P.S. Don’t forget to enter my giveaway, which I’ll be announcing next!
If You’re Hooked on Home-Improvement Television:
- Design Star Recap of Episode 7: And Then There Were Three
- Design Star Recap of Episode 6: The Dreaded Kitchen
- Design Star Recap of Episode 5: The Case of the Missing Sofa
- Design Star Recap of Episode 4: Taking the Plane to Nowhere
- Design Star Recap of Episode 3: Stand by Your (Haunted) Mansion
- Design Star Recap of Episode 2: Clive Was Just Kidding, You Guys!
- The Design Star 3 Premiere: Guts. Glory. Goofiness.
- Are You Flipping Out?
- The HGTV Green Home 2008 Has a Winner!
- Stephanie Dee Wins the HGTV Dream Home But Doesn’t Look All That Thrilled
- Bravo’s “Top Design” Gets New Host for Season 2
If You’re New Here: Hooked on Houses features decorating inspiration, celebrity house tours, fabulous before and afters, real estate news, fantasy open houses and more fun stuff. I love hearing from my readers, so I hope you’ll leave a comment and join the conversation!