HGTV Design Star took a road trip to the Jersey Shore this week, but I’m pleased to report no hot tubs were befouled as the nine remaining contestants joined forces to renovate four bedrooms at a violently outdated bed and breakfast. In fact, the only part of the telecast that left me deeply disconcerted — aside from the ’80s leather sectional sofa in Meg, Mark, and Karl’s “before” room — was the presence of guest judge Kathy Ireland, who debuted a brand new language known as Cuecardanese.
Seriously, I can’t be the only one who got the bad chills when the supermodel-turned-designer entered the house with a mechanical smile and this straight-from-her-publicist’s-Blackberry sound bite: “I’m excited to experience what all of you have brought to the table. I cannot wait to see your work.” Why not just go with, “My name is Elmer J. Fudd. I own a mansion and a yacht”? Someone hit CTRL+ALT+DEL, pronto!
But enough about Design-o-Bot 2011. We need to focus on the inn selected for refurbishing. I think it’s best to simply quote that fabulously raspy broad Meg as she entered her assigned room: “Ohhh. Mahhh. Gahhhhd.” Yep, as Tyler noted, most outmoded B&Bs look like they could double as outposts for the National Museum of Lace Doilies, but this place was all faded floral bedspreads, heavy wooden dressers, decades-old wallpaper, and flea-market wall art. Honestly, I’d say all four “afters” were huge improvements on the “befores,” but some moreso than others. I’m gonna break it all the way down in order from my most- to least-favorite renovations.
Kevin and Cathy: Okay, okay…I know I should knock this bedroom down a spot or two because of Kevin’s poor execution on the whitewashed floors. As judge Genevieve Gorder noted, the last thing HGTV wants to do is to foist a design on a client that will leaving the homeowner cleaning up a mess for months to come. But from an aesthetic standpoint, I felt as though Kevin and Cathy managed to take the saddest, most cramped space in the B&B and turn it into a souffle-airy oasis of beiges and blues and grays. (And I think the innkeepers agreed, based on their briefly shown response.) The leafy bedspreads were a nice mix of traditional and mod, and the door-esque headboards were a total triumph, like little entryways to dreamland. Granted, Cathy and Kevin worked as well together as ammonia and bleach, but it couldn’t make me hate their end product.
Tyler and Leslie: As far as the “before” room goes, the potpourri vomit wallpaper over the bed was bad, but nothing made me sadder than that sparse floral wreath hanging over the tragique sleeper sofa. I was delighted by the way the duo repurposed almost every bit of furniture in the room while managing to transform it from outmoded and dreary to cozy and peaceful, particularly Leslie’s stunning transformation of hideous rugs into geometric artwork. That “red tree” painting above the fireplace was particularly fetching, too, even if Verne Yip was right that the whitewashed mantle itself wasn’t a cause for celebration. If I ran HGTV Design Star, I’d include a “total cost of furnishings and supplies” chyron at the end of each “reveal,” just to know what these cats are working with. Because, frankly, that might’ve made Leslie and Tyler’s work all the more impressive.
Meg, Karl, and Mark: Vern called this the most successful room he’d entered in six years on the Design Star panel, to which I say: “Srsly???” By all means, this was a successful transformation — how could you not improve on a space with a giant taxidermy swordfish mounted above the word “believe”? — but I thought the finished space was a little too busy and frenetic for guests to rest their weary heads. Meg’s “fruit salad” fabric headboards were undeniably fabulous, and Karl’s curved “wave” chair rail once again proved he’s a wizard with paint, but did they belong in the same room? Plus, I thought Mark’s rope-ladder feature looked like a castoff accessory from a pirate-ship ride at the county fair, and that the furniture in the seating area was a little too much of a hodgepodge. Yeesh, I sound like quite possibly the worst design client of all-time ever, don’t I?
Bret and Kellie: I’m glad the show’s producers gave us closeups of Bret’s poorly painted sidetable and the shoddy edges on his “geometric squares” headboard, which made it all that much easier to understand his ouster. That said, I thought Kellie deserved almost as much criticism for sullying the walls of the room with artwork that clearly came from the “last-minute paint splotches” collection. Note to designers: Customized art work is not always a great idea, especially when it’s amateurish and ugly. Thank you. That is all. Oh, wait, I also have to include this extra dry quote from the B&B’s owner about the uncomfortable headboard situation: “When the guests stay here, we will get feedback.” Ouch.
And finally, note about the Cathy Vs. Kevin drama. Clearly, the former is a total she-beast who’s more interested in crushing the competition than in working with teammates to create a successful overall design. I mean, I gasped a little when she sized up Kevin’s questionable whitewash technique and blithely remarked that she might as well “let him own it,” and then later went on a solo shopping frenzy in order to “maximize her signature on the room.” (Hey, at least she didn’t say “global perspective.”) Plus, the woman needs to realize you should never start a phone conversation with a doozy like this: “Okay, listen. Quite frankly, I’m just being completely honest.” Why not just say, “Dude, I’m about to say something that’s going to double your blood pressure”?
That said, I can’t totally disagree with David Bromstad that there can occasionally be something a little used-car-salesman-y about Kevin’s on-camera persona. Plus, he brought his own bitchery, sniping at Cathy to take her eyes off their completed space with this huffy little remark: “What are you staring at? Please close the door and look away.”
Okay, I will do exactly that — until next week’s Design Star anyway. Sound off in the comments with your feelings on Bret’s ouster, and on which of the four rooms you liked best this week. And for all my reality TV recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!