So I briefly moved from Atlanta to New York City after being asked to join the production team as a design producer for season six of HGTV Design Star. Totally awesome opening sentence, right? I know! FYI, just in case this new job seems totally random, I’ve been producing home makeover TV shows for about eight years, sometimes also hosting them, while working on private homes for clients on nights and weekends. In other words, this wasn’t my first time at the TV decorating rodeo. Was it my first time taking a subway to said metaphorical rodeo? Yes. The B and the D Line to be exact.
After some time up-close-and-personal working on the challenges and location scouts of HGTV’s hit show, I can tell you first-hand that it’s one of the fastest-paced, most challenging design shows on TV. So much that sleep is pretty much a luxury for producers, crew members and contestant designers. I’m not complaining. The entire experience was awesome. Let’s talk about episode one.
Shooting the first episode was definitely the most grueling: it was freezing cold and wet outside, the penthouse was more than a dozen floors up which made carrying furniture and supplies a daunting task, and there were six designs happening simultaneously. Ever been working on a teency-weency project, run out of painters tape, zipped over to the home improvement store to restock, then realized when you got home that you can’t find your roller covers or that your tape measure has gone missing…so you head back to the store. Now times that by about a hundred, remember that there are not a lot of Home Depot and Lowe’s locations in Manhattan, and shrink the day from 24 hours to 6 hours. Lots of room for time-sucking errors, right? Right. But as taxing as it was mentally and physically, seeing a bunch of telegenic design choices from 12 fresh new faces made it all worth it. Here are some iPhone snaps from the penthouse during the shoot of the premiere and some “after” photos from the first episode. Do I have a favorite room? Perhaps. Can I say? Nope. But you can! After a look-see below, give us the rundown on which episode 1 spaces you were most impressed with.
First of all, the penthouse itself is un-friggin-believable. Located in Brooklyn Heights, it’s surrounded by gorgeous brownstones and colorful row houses which are a cross between the neighborly, color-me-happy, safe feeling of the Sesame Street set and Carrie’s high-fashion apartment on Sex & the City. Heading to the shoots each morning was totally dreamy; I didn’t mind being in a cab at 4:55am.
By the way, do you know the origin of the term “brownstone”? Well, if not, here’s what a cab driver told me en route to the penthouse one morning: “They’re called brownstones because of their building material, a brown-tinted sandstone popular here in New York City, as well as parts of Chicago. Three areas of New York are packed with them: Brookyln Heights, Park Slope and Bedford-Stuyvesant.”
While the view leading up to the building is gorgeous, the view of Manhattan from the huge top-floor terrace is mind-blowing. With a sight this spectacular, it would have been a crime not to have mentor David Bromstad and host Tanika Ray deliver the first design challenge with this backdrop. It also would have been a crime if I had forgotten my gloves this day. The cold temps mixed with the piercing winds off the river just a few hundred feet away were brutal. Kudos to the designers for being such good sports, right? They didn’t get to wear gloves.
On the first shoot day of episode one, some of my co-producers asked me what colors I predicted the designers would be eager to use. I responded, “medium and dark grays, violet, plum and probably coral.” When Cathy Hobbs and Leslie Ezelle started their overall plum/lavender/gray color scheme in the living room, I was looking like a bona fide design psychic. FYI, a violet that’s close to what Cathy and Leslie used is Mysterious Mauve from Sherwin-Williams. I’ve used it several times, and it’s equally fitting for men and women. Also, if you have an iPhone, it’s wise to consider downloading the Color-Snap ap that matches an existing tone to one of Sherwin-Williams’ 1500 paint colors.
My color prediction rang true once again with Meg Caswell and Tyler Wisler‘s bedroom. (Although coral was nowhere to be found in the penthouse, don’t you think it may have received praise from the judges for being a more relaxing hue than Kevin Grace’s tangerine?) Meg and Tyler’s violet/grape combo was definitely bold and incredibly telegenic. What do I mean by that? Well, designing for TV and designing for real-life are a bit different. Bold colors read better once lit by the professional lighting gear used on TV shoots; muted tones used more often in homes are pretty much washed out completely once production lights hit them. Ever see a design contestant win Design Star for a cream colored room with super subtle patterns and textures? My point exactly. (if you’re interested in more 411 on designing for TV, be it colors, textiles or actual sets, here’s an article on Decor Demon all about it. And whaddya know? It sports violet and plum!)
The penthouse wasn’t the only space packed with design project deadlines. The elimination set had to be constructed in the studio, then fully decked out for season six. Considering how gorgeous the set looked at the end of episode 1, it’s fair to say the set design team totally rocked. A mere 48 hours after I took this in-process snapshot, it was completely finished and ready for David, Candice, Vern, Genevieve and Tanika. Okay, that’s all my duct-taped producer mouth can share about episode 1.
Now, here’s the part where I get to hear from you which rooms/contestants you liked the best and why. Go.
Tell me in the comments below.