HGTV Design Star Recap: Kitchen Nightmares

Drama 1, Design 0. That was the depressing score at the end of Monday night’s episode of HGTV Design Star, and the worst part was watching the judges pull shenanigans to try to justify their decisions.

Don’t get me wrong, Tyler’s “batik” wall was a mini-disaster in a challenge where teams of two had to transform a white box into one of four layouts (galley, L-shape, U-shape, and peninsula) and one of four styles (farmhouse, industrial, contemporary, and global). As the judges noted, Tyler’s big project ended up looking like the aftermath of a bad wallpaper-removal job. But in a kitchen challenge where none of the four finished designs showed much in the way of innovation or daring, I thought Tyler deserved a little credit for trying something out of the ordinary. Plus, his purple Indian bench may have had the wrong proportions for that giant slab table, but it was still a stunning piece that stayed true to the “global” theme he and Leslie had chosen.

Cathy, meanwhile, barely got a slap on the wrist for delivering a cluttered, personality-free kitchen despite she and Karl drawing the “contemporary” card. For several episodes running, the resident drama magnet has proven she’s more a shopper than an actual designer, but this week’s “styling” of the finished space made it look like the room’s refrigerator had a bad case of food poisoning and spewed its contents — limes, oranges, mangoes, root vegetables, even eggs — all over the counters and with projectile force and haphazardness. At panel, when Cathy huffed that it was the first time she’d heard Karl complain about the way she’d staged the room, I almost believed her; the woman has displayed a stunning self-absorption that makes it easy to turn the voices of her co-designers into so much white noise.

I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling the judges would somehow spare Cathy at the expense of the soft-spoken but more talented Tyler, and sure enough, by handing the seasoned newscaster the win in the video segment, they were able to quickly send her to safety without having to dwell on her design failures. What was galling about their chicanery was the fact that Cathy’s one-minute tip was nowhere near the week’s best. Oh, sure, the woman has a command of the camera and doesn’t ever flub her words, but she comes across more as a detached observer — “reporting from the kitchen for Eyewitness News…” — rather than an authoritative and warm personality with something to teach me about making my home a more beautiful space.

I far preferred Kellie’s sweet, personal presentation, not to mention what she and Mark did with their “farmhouse” kitchen. The mismatched chairs and penny-tile backsplash were successful personal flourishes, and the judges were right that Mark’s basket lampshades were a stunning find that tied the whole look together.  I will object, however, to Vern Yip’s comment about Kellie’s cabbage candleholders being “beautifully done”; the close-up shot of the homemade fixtures showed raggedy edges and an unfortunate fork-mark that delivered shabby without a hint of chic. (Side note: That polyester print shirt Mark wore to the judges’ table was very Starsky & Hutch, no? And on a somewhat related note, the way dude slipped on his apron and prepared to rustle up some grub at the end of his video tip made it seem like he was going to throw together some hors d’oeuvres for a weekly key party.)

A few other notes:

* Seeing how she’s always yammering about “global this” and “global that” and her “global perspective,” was anyone else shocked Cathy chose “contemporary” over “global”?

* My favorite piece of the week was that gray shell chandelier from the Philippines, courtesy of Leslie (pictured). Where do I get it? How much will it cost? How many months of brainwashing will it take for me to convince my husband that the price is totally reasonable?

* Maybe, just maybe, Tyler’s camera presentation played into his exit this week. Dude didn’t utter a single complete sentence, just a series of random phrases.

* I know Kevin hit the bottom two for Little Sassy’s hodgepodge play area, but I thought Meg’s pegboard wall for her pots and pans looked just as messy. That said, the overall vibe of their space was chic and industrial. I’m not mad at ’em.

What did you think of this week’s HGTV Design Star? Were you angry as me to see Tyler go home? (I thought he could’ve won it all!) Who’s your favorite so far? And any secret Cathy fans out there? Sound off in the comments, and for all my reality recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!

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