HGTV Design Star Recap: Antacid Reign

When a reality-show contestant kicks off an episode with a grandiose declaration, you know he’s getting set up to experience either the thrill of victory, or the agony of defeat. On this week’s HGTV Design Star, said contestant was Doug, who announced that he was going to make a “huge attempt” to let his design be the “hero” of the show. Unfortunately, the crusader in question arrived on the scene wearing a cape of hideous paint and wielding an arsenal of mismatched home furnishings, and thus wound up as the latest victim of the worst sendoff line of any program currently in production: “I’m sorry, we will not be producing your show”

This week’s challenge was a fairly straightforward one. The 10 remaining contestants were sent to Totowa, NJ, divided into four teams, and tasked with renovating one of four tragically outdated rooms in two local homes. Let’s review:

* Doug and Mark were asked to update a dining area and turn it into an entertaining space for a family that fancied large gatherings complete with eating and dancing. You knew there were going to be problems when Mark declared his “deep connection to nature” while Doug lobbied for a paint color that may have been called Nuclear Salmon. (Judge Genevieve Gorder huffed it was the same hue as “organ meat,” which makes me wonder about the quality of her butcher. But I digress…)

Initially, I was miffed that Mark wound up in the bottom two; after all, he’d repeatedly tried to tell Doug that his paint looked like a”bad antacid,” but Doug was as cooperative as a cat in a bathtub. The judges, however, made a good point that just because Mark lost the battle of the accent wall didn’t mean he should’ve yielded all decision-making power about furniture purchasing and placement. Yes, Mark’s wood-paneled installation was nifty, but the guys’ literal interpretation of a dance space — with all the home furnishings flush against the walls — was preposterous. As Genevieve noted, what percentage of their lives did the Caligari family actually spend boogying?

* The other room punctuated by designer discord was an in-law suite remodeled by Bret, Karl, and Cathy (although in her mind, Cathy was visualizing it as a room remodeled by herself, with Bret and Karl carrying out the unsavory work of getting their hands dirty). To be honest, I wish the Design Star producers had lingered a little longer in the massive space, and let us judge for ourselves how successful (or not) it actually was. But I will admit that I guffawed hearing Cathy yammer on about how the travertine table she chose showed a “global perspective.” I mean, in theory, Cathy’s concept of a travel-inspired design show is great, but at this point, she’s turning into the little girl who cried “international.” At some point very soon, she’s going to have to stop telling us about her world-influenced design and actually show it to us. (That said, her choice of teak-esque flooring was pretty fabulous.) As for her cohorts, I’m glad Bret put his foot down and insisted he and Karl go shopping while Cathy stayed behind and painted; let that be a lesson to his fellow contestants in how to hold your ground during a design challenge. And as for Karl’s smashed mosaic tile and Gaudi reference, did anyone else think he was taking a clever (and brilliantly executed) shot at Cathy’s sad-sack mosaic-inspired white box from last week?

* It may have only landed them in the middle of the pack, but my favorite room was definitely Tyler and Meg’s transformation of what its owner said you “might call a dining room” into what the designers called a “vintage Palm Beach” escape (pictured). Tyler’s whitewashed paneled arches brought an elegance to the space that was hard to imagine from its original form, and the duo accessorized the space with subdued touches that felt lush, but never boring. I’d have agreed with Vern Yip’s complaint that the space looked too much like a showroom — and didn’t include enough personal touches from the homeowner — but I don’t think there was a single usable object to be found in the “before” room.

* I’d have given the runner-up spot to Kellie, Leslie and Kevin’s family basement, with a special emphasis on Kevin’s sensational blue-green wall treatment. It was nice to see a team of designers attack a space without the slightest hint of discord, even when Leslie spilled black paint in the center of the cream-colored carpet. The former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader is fast becoming my favorite personality of the season. Watching her giddily use “elbow grease and water” to lift the stain, then giggle “I broke it in for ’em” was the kind of can-do-it positivity that you want to see in an HGTV host, no?

But enough about my take: What did you think of this week’s HGTV Design Star? Did the right person get the boot? If not Doug, who would’ve been the next best choice to go home? Do you have a favorite contestant after three episodes? Sound off below, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!