POSTS BY Brian Patrick Flynn

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Most interior designers have that one project that started it all. Some have glamorous stories such as: decorating a rich neighbor’s pool house, remodeling a jet-setter’s pied-a-terre in Paris, and/or scouring the globe for a rich collector’s much-desired rare finds. Mine involved stealing cat-pee-covered country-style side tables from curbs in Tallahassee. Of course, by the time I sanded them with the roughest grit possible, hand-painted them canary yellow, then gave them a glossy finish with spray lacquer, they looked amazing. Am I bitter? No. In fact, I look forward to the hype of back to school this-and-that to see what I can find that’s affordable for champagne-taste-on-a-beer-budget students. As the back-to-school season is in full effect, I scoured the interwebbies to find some excellent pieces to make humdrum study spaces a bit more fun. From a designer pen to a do-it-yourself organizer, here are five great pieces for your own study space which won’t break the bank but possibly look like they did. And you won’t even have to deal with cat pee, such a deal!
Russel and Hazel FoldersWhat’s exciting about opening a 3″ ring binder packed with reports and homework assignments? Absolutely nothing. Enter Russell + Hazel. Their translucent Yummy Folder Set sports graphic delectables sure to distract students from the grueling academic tasks at hand, at least for a moment, before hitting the books.

Jonathan Adler Chevron Ink Pens - HGTV design blog

Leave it to Jonathan Adler to make something as uninteresting as a basic pen insanely fun. His Chevron ink pens are as chic as any of his furniture pieces, art or lighting. Considering you can’t scribble notes or write a thank you letter with a chair or a chandelier, these writing utensils are the perfect justification for those who cannot afford big ticket Jonathan Adler items to splurge on his desktop products.

White Student Desk

Quite a few major retail chains have made a killing selling their versions of the basic parsons desk. Well, since the look is super basic and they all pretty much look the same, what’s the sense in shelling out $300 to $500 bucks when Overstock has something just as great for only $135.99? Well, of course, if you’re the type that enjoys throwing money away for absolutely no reason, I’m sure that’s fine. But since 99% of students are two bags of Ramen noodles away from starvation, I’m sure saving an extra $164.01 is rather helpful.

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A few months ago when I was strolling through design centers in New York and in Atlanta, I was blown away by the selection of high-end looking indoor/outdoor fabrics and rugs which sacrifice neither style nor substance. While many had price tags that rival the cost of my own home’s kitchen renovation, some were quite reasonable. Fast forward four months, and I now own many of them and actually sneak outside (albeit only for a short 13 minutes) to use them. You see, summertime makes me wanna punch the sun in the face. Being from Florida, all this sweaty season makes me think of is intense humidity, puffy hair and daily 3:00pm splash-’n-dash thunderstorms. Fortunately, I’ve found that some summertastic indoor/outdoor decor that has the power to de-Scrooge me and make me more like a temporary outdoorsy Tiny Tim. So before you run outside and see your follicles start mushroom-clouding, take a look at some of these awesome indoor/outdoor, mildew-resistant products which will make the intense summer a little more bearable. Well, aesthetically-speaking, that is. Come to think of it, maybe the sun needs a makeover. Can large masses of solar-system sustaining energy be on HGTV or does that propose a conflict? Ha!

Sunbrella Velveteen

Velvet you can use outside. Um, like, thank you Sunbrella! Velveteen comes in an assortment of colors and feels amazing to lounge on. Also an excellent idea to use it indoors if you want a glamorous look but have not-so-glamorous, tantrum-throwing little ones who often spill sippy cups on your upholstery.

Outdoor Cabana Trim

Donghia has taken indoor/outdoor upholstery detail to the next level. Their cabana line includes tassles and trim to add that extra layer of designer touch to your outdoor draperies or furniture.

Trina Turk Outdoor Fabric

Sure, all us designers have known about Trina Turk’s line of indoor/outdoor fabric for Schumacher for a few years now, but the new color ways including vivid pinks and greens introduce a fresh palette with that classic Palm Springs touch she brings to everything she designs.
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A few days ago, while rafting down the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta, I thought to myself, “Wow, pool and beach stuff is damn ugly.” I guess I’d never really thought about it before, since I’m usually focused on having something called fun while enjoying the summer sun. Plus, there’s really no space plan for me to critique or fine tune when the space I’m staring at is a large blue body of water and infinite sky. “Shooting the Hooch” isn’t as fast paced and rowdy a journey as the Alan Jackson song makes it out to be, so after roughly three hours staring at ugly blue rubber tubes, towels sporting slogans like “Life’s A Beach” and primary colored beach balls, I figured I’d search for fun poolside stuff that’s as pleasant to look at as it is to use.

As it turns out, there are some purdy upgrades out there to give your pool (or lakeside) sun soaking that designer touch without breaking the bank. From towels to tables, beach balls to beach blankets, here’s an assortment of good lookin’ summer fun accessories available online. So the next time you are floating in the pool on a styrofoam lounge blazoned with a beer logo or eating summery snacks on a jagged rock, just remember that I tried to help, and you didn’t listen. Speaking of not listening, you know what I wish I would have listened to? The weather report before deciding to go rafting. Two words: Afternoon thunderstorms.

Lacoste‘s cotton “Court” towels from Macy’s sport the graphic lines of a tennis court and come in bold colors such as kelly green, red and orange. Once folded up, they look just as good with that timeless alligator emblem. Or is it a crocodile? Dammit, I always mix those up.

Nautical Striped Beach Ball

Ditch the juvenile red, blue or yellow beach ball for this doozie, the Bud Beach Ball Nautical Stripe Inflatable from CSN Stores. It’s got a sophisticated navy/white color scheme with a bold graphic anchor front and center. The swim ring is sweet, too.
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You know that I-apologize-if-I-fall-asleep-mid-sentence feeling you get from having pushed yourself too hard, then hit a wall? Well, how about hopping into a van with 11 other people at 4:45am in NYC to oversee four full room remodels 50 miles away in New Jersey, dealing with exhausted carpenters who are working out in the freezing rain until the sun goes down, then not stepping foot off the property until 9:15pm only to drive an hour back to Manhattan to do it all again the next day? Needless to say, episode three of HGTV Design Star was a tough one; however, since the owners of both homes loved their new spaces so much, it was totally worth it.

During the filming, my co-producer who is also one of my favorite human beings on earth, Alyssa Hastrich, and I stuck to the Callegaris house with Doug Hines, Mark Diaz, Leslie Ezelle, Kevin Grace and Kellie Clements. Between the full basement downstairs and wall cladding upstairs, it felt like a full house renovation. Luckily, we were able to stroll up the street to Christina Scano’s place to check on progress at the end of the day. With so much going on, we decided I’d take iPhone shots during the process to remember just exactly how much labor went into the enormous overhaul of all four spaces. Take a look at some of the in-process stuff you didn’t see on TV, then contemplate how small your one-wall paint project this weekend seems in comparison. Ha!

Leslie, Kevin and Kellie's Basement Before

BEFORE: Once Leslie, Kevin and Kellie got started painting the walls, all I could focus on was how much longer it would take them to do everything with the huge obstacles they’d have to work around: boxes of books and toys, the enormous treadmill, and then ripping up the 1980′s mauve carpet.

Kellie Leslie and Kevin

AFTER: If you’re planning to replace the floor in your own space and paint the walls, knocking out the paint first while the old floor is down is a wise idea. It allows you to spill and drip as needed with no worry since the floor will soon be ripped out completely. The trio got rather lucky with their lime green wall choice. Colors this saturated pretty much always require a tinted primer. Somehow, the puddy color of their walls kinda stepped it up and worked as one. Happy accident? I think so.

Mark and Doug's Living Room Before

BEFORE: Something I found super useful in episode three was the content of Doug’s camera challenge about removing wall-to-wall carpet. That was a fantastic tip. Did you know that cutting carpet into strips two-foot strips, then removing it piece-by-piece is the way to go? I sure as hell wish I would have known that four years ago when I, along with friends, carried a 12X14 roll of beige nastiness down a stairwell.

Mark and Doug

AFTER: Something not discussed on the show was how well Doug and Mark’s choice of flooring coordinated with the tones of the fireplace stone. Those same reddish-brown tones seen in the rustic masonry are picked up beautifully in the tones of the wood.


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Have you ever thought about what it’s like to actually build eleven 12X15 spaces, furnish them with transformable pieces which can be further enhanced decoratively with raw food and/or restaurant supply items, then break them all down in just a few days? I hadn’t before working the shoot for episode 2 of HGTV Design Star — the infamous White Box Challenge. But from the looks of anticipated exhaustion and lack of enthusiasm on my co-design producers, Sam and Shannon’s, faces, it was obviously not the most fun task.

Roughly two weeks before filming episode 2, the three of us had to conceptualize exactly how big each white box should be, choose pieces that could be repurposed for different room functions, assemble those pieces and paint them all white to ensure the designers all had level playing fields. When I say the three of us assembled all the furniture, I really mean Shannon and Sam, since I hopped on a plane for an HGTV event in Orlando only two hours into assembly. Saved by the bell? I’d say so.

White Box  Challenge Floorplan

White Box Challenge Elevated Floorplan

In addition to the white box build-outs, we also did a mock-shopping day where we thought of all the possible things designers might consider using from a restaurant supply store as decoration, then ensured that there was enough stock for the eleven designers to choose from. Now take a look at what goes into creating the White Box Challenge, then take time next season to think about the tired souls behind the scenes who were kicked off before the challenge even started.

White Box Challeng Waterbottle Chase


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Graffiti. I like it. I like it a lot. When the location for the White Box Challenge was locked in for episode two of HGTV Design Star, I was happier than a snippy Pomeranian during a FedEx delivery. Why? 5 Pointz, that’s why. Located in Long Island City, it’s often referred to as a New York “Graffiti Mecca” where spray paint artists from all over the world come to create urban works of art on the premises of a 200,000 sq. ft building.

Contestants Outside Building - Running into White Room

Its conception was always for a good purpose; 5 Pointz was created as a formal place for aerosol artists to showcase their talents instead of vandalizing public spaces. As the official location for season six’s White Box Challenge, it was the perfect juxtaposition to the stark white drywall rectangles the designers would have to bring to life. In the show, this threw the contestants for a loop. Here, they show up at this gritty, colorful setting, only to learn this is, in fact, the dreaded White Box Challenge.

Five Pointz Graffiti Art

Nestled between industrial buildings and elevated train tracks, 5 Pointz could easily have been a producer’s worst nightmare. Why? Deliveries from trucks with loud beeps mixed with constant stops and starts from train cars which shake the buildings is insanely disruptive after the director yells, “quiet on the set!” Miraculously, these city sounds proved to be a non issue. (Guess who once shot an entire makeover in a neighborhood nestled between a field of cows and a busy international airport? Yep, me. But I tend not to go into detail about mistakes I made at age 28, okay?)

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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.

Columbus Circle

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.


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Aside from lying, cheating, being unkind, violence, excess noise and the color of egg yolks, there’s nothing I detest more than those bought-on-sale-out-in-front-of-the-supermarket, made-to-look-old-but-really-brand-new, matchy-matchy patio sets. In fact, I’ll tailgate on plastic coolers before I’ll pop a squat on those posers. NOTE: I don’t do sports. Where the hell am I going with this, and why all the ranting? Well, a few weeks ago, my team and I gave a summery makeover to a lackluster patio deckspace in Atlanta. The patio and deck were quite beautiful; the patio furniture was another story. Our mission? To de-matchy-matchy the run-of-the-mill patio set, then set it up for summer entertaining… all in a single afternoon.

In order to make this happen, we stuck with three locations: BJ’s Membership Club, a discount fabric store and a flea market. This unexpected combination works quite well, and let me tell you why: one-stop-shopping and bang-for-your-buck. Membership and wholesale clubs have just about every brand new, buy-it-in-bulk thing you could need under one roof times twenty; flea markets have uber-affordable, that’s-so-cool-where-did-you-find-it type stuff with a one-of-a-kind designer touch. By hitting up discount fabric stores, you’re certain to find excellent outdoor fabric on clearance. Wanna put a new, affordable spin on your own matchy-matchy patio set without an entire weekend of laborious do-it-yourselfing? Then check out my ideas. Perhaps some of them are right up your deck or patio’s alley. Wait, decks and patios can’t have alleys, can they? Oh well, you get the point.

Here’s what the deck looked like after my team whipped it into shape:

Brian Patrick Flynn - After Patio


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Decking out your first apartment or dorm room—albeit in college or after graduation—is one part thrilling and all parts stressballish. While making something totally your own is one of the biggest joys in life, trying to fill a space stylishly and functionally on a ramen-noodles-and-tap-water budget can quickly take all the fun out of it. Hell, I’m living proof; my first apartment sure was purdy but since I spent every penny on making it look cool, all I could afford to do is eat in it and stare at the walls. Saltines topped with free packets of mustard scored from Burger King to be exact.

Ramen NoodlesTurn Your Temporary Digs into A HomeThe same goes for a teency-weency dorm room; filling a space functionally and decoratively costs a pretty penny and tons of not-so-pretty sweat equity. If it’s your first time at the rodeo of MyFirstPlaces, you’ll quickly notice how quick a run for Windex, a lampshade and new pillowcases results in a receipt with a $230 total. With students shelling out $165 for a single textbook and recent graduates dropping $400 for a decent interview outfit, the money pit gets deeper and deeper; saving is a must. Sure, we all know about the magical wonders of flea markets in reference to keeping things original and on budget; however, there are some less-known tricks out there which may make putting that first place together a bit easier. For example: How do you dress up concrete walls? How do you use 100 square feet of living space as a bedroom, living room and media area? What alternatives are there for people who love wallpaper and paint but can’t change their walls? Lucky for you, I’m out of college eight years now and have some my-first-apartment-life-experience to share with you. Unfortunately, the ramen noodle eating still goes on for a few years—but hey—there’s no reason your place shouldn’t look great while you scarf those noodles down!

Brian Patrick Flynn - Decals Dorms

Vinyl decals, have they been done to death? Yes, oh heavens yes. (So have posters tacked to walls with balls of putty. Save yourself with my post on buying art online.) Vinyl decals are an absolutely brilliant solution to dressing up a temporary space, especially those where painting is prohibited and color choices are dictated by an establishment. The key is staying away from the ones everybody’s seen two-hundred times: chandeliers, the Keep Calm And Carry On thing, and last but not least, overscale damask. SNORE. Decals like this robot from blik are fun and graphic; certain styles made for kid’s rooms are still cool enough for young adults. No DIY skills? No problem. All you need to put these babies up is a burnisher and a steady hand.


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A few months ago, I walked into my local art store to buy a paint pen and some Gesso but instead bought a $16 purple coffee mug instead. Why? The power of Pantone, that’s why. Ever since I was first turned on to the world’s leading authority on color, I’ve been fascinated by their forecasting of soon-to-be-seen-everywhere palettes. When I found out that they were manufacturing coffee mugs in many of their most popular colors, complete with the color number, I instantly had to have one…and I don’t even drink coffee.

Pantone Coffee Cups

This situation was heightened upon learning that Pantone actually has its own seven-floor, 59-room Pantone Hotel in Brussels, a magical place referred to as “where the principles of design meet the principles of color.” Every floor is dedicated to a different color: blue, green, orange, brown, red, violet and yellow. Of the seven tones, I would feel most happy sleeping on the orange level. But enough about me, let’s get back to the hotel. Designed by the Belgian interior designer Michel Penneman along with architect Olivier Hannaert, the property is unmistakably branded from its folding chairs to its get-around-town bicycles; however, it’s incredibly tasteful, striking definite balances between color, concept, shape and scale.

Pantone Hotel - Color - HGTV Design Happens

Whether you’re into ultra-white or borderline-nuclear orange, take a look at some of Pantone Hotel’s color-tastic interiors as well as some toned-down ways the same principles can be applied to residential spaces. And hey, if you can’t make it to Brussels, at least you can buy the coffee mug, right?

Pantone Hotel lobby


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