POSTS BY Samantha Clyde

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Vern Yip

The time has come.  My internship at HGTV is nearing an end.  It’s been a crazy four months full of new challenges and opportunities, and as my days in the office grow fewer, I can’t help but think back on all of the amazing experiences I’ve had.  Now, when I say “amazing experiences,” I’m talking about stuff I never would have had the chance to do if I hadn’t come here — stuff that only happens to most college interior design students in very good dreams.  I could take you on a sappy walk down memory lane chronicling all good times I’ve had this semester, but instead, I’ve compiled a good old-fashioned list (because, let’s face it…who doesn’t love a good list?) of the absolute coolest things I’ve done.  So, without further ado, I give you The Top Five Most Fabulous Experiences I’ve Had at HGTV.

1) Being Published: I got to do everything from writing for Design Happens to having my original paintings printed in the May issue of HGTV Magazine (check out the Mother’s Day Makeover article!).  This internship gave me the opportunity to contribute in lots of different areas and showcase my skills beyond interior design.

2) Styling Marianne Canada’s Weekday Crafternoon Set: It’s not every day an intern gets to work on a set — let alone of a web show that actually gets taped and broadcast.  Even rarer are the times when the opportunity to design and style the aforementioned set is handed to an intern on a silver platter.  The project turned out beautifully, and it is one of my proudest accomplishments thus far as a designer.

3) Living it up in New York City: When most twenty-two year olds head to NYC for any measurable amount of time, the trip usually involves things like cockroaches, cramped apartments and dollar pizza night deals.  When I went to New York with HGTV, not only did I get a peek inside of cool firms like G+G, Beanstalk and Design Works International, which all work with the company in different ways, but I also stayed in a big, beautiful hotel room at the Sofitel and ate the most delicious meal I’ve ever had — no exaggeration — at Butter, Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s restaurant, right around the corner.  Intern for the win!

4) Working on the HGTV HOME Showroom for the Highpoint Furniture Show:  Have you ever wondered what it takes to make something look really, really good?  Whether it’s a store window or a street fair, we usually arrive when everything is beautiful, finished, and ready to be enjoyed.  Working here showed me just how much has to happen behind-the-scenes to make it all come together.  This includes but is not limited to painting, heavy lifting, late nights, cold showrooms, and working with a whole bunch of really cool people.

5) Chillin’ with Nancy Fire, Matt Muenster and Vern Yip: Meeting celebrities of the design world is always pretty awesome for someone in my profession, but the fact that all three of them were insanely kind, gracious and willing to answer the million questions I asked made meeting Nancy, Matt and Vern unforgettable.

The truth is, I got very lucky with the opportunity to intern at HGTV, and I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who helped make the amazing things on my list happen.  But, when you think about it, that’s what all of us do here.  We make things happen.  Whether it’s empowering you to take on a trend, or try a bold new paint color, or buy those crazy cool chairs you’ve always wanted but never thought you could pull off.  That’s our job, and it pretty much sums up the last four months of my life — whether it was meeting a tight deadline, convincing a client to believe in a project, or simply writing a little something that people wanted to read.  HGTV taught me to make things happen.

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Matt Muenster

Matt Muenster, star of DIY Network’s and HGTV’s Bath Crashers, and me!

Here at HGTV, everyone is always talking about how awesome the “network talent” is.  If, like me, you aren’t fluent in the language of production, “network talent” equals the stars you see on TV.  Seriously though, it feels like every single person I encounter at the office has some story about the time they met Vern Yip or Sabrina Soto and they were “so nice and down to earth!” Well my friends, as of a recent shoot for HGTV Magazine, I am officially among those who can confirm that our “network talent” is pretty amazing.  I had the chance to spend a few hours with Matt Muenster, star of DIY Network’s and HGTV’s Bath Crashers, and let me tell you, he totally lived up to the hype.

I’m famous for leaving interesting first impressions, and Matt was no exception.  The night before the photo shoot, I went home early with a nasty cold, so he and my supervisor, Carol, figured I’d sleep all day and left the hotel without me the next morning.  When I arrived downstairs at 8am dressed and ready to go, they had to turn around to get me.  I hopped in the back of our rental car embarrassed, congested and a little afraid the celebrity in the passenger’s seat might be displeased about the detour.  Instead of giving me a piece of his mind, however, he looked over his shoulder through his aviator shades and excitedly said, “You’re alive!”

We arrived on set and there was still a lot of prep work to be done, so we had plenty of time to sit around and get to know each other before the camera started flashing.  I learned that Matt went to school at the University of Wisconsin and studied interior design (which is awesome because I go to the University of Cincinnati for the same thing).  I then made the mistake of calling him “Matthew” — a mistake because it’s not his real name — the birth certificate clearly says “Matt.”  Furthermore, his middle name is “J.”  Not “Jay.”  It’s “J.”  He also has a brother named Andy.  You guessed it.  Just “Andy.”

All morning, Matt was full of jokes and was extremely low maintenance.  The guy felt like everybody’s best friend.  He was laughing all the time and disarming everyone with his big, genuine smile.  He said, “I’m only here for a few hours, so I might as well be nice and have fun.”  Though it was a total diva-free zone, he still had to get primped and polished by Lisa, the makeup artist.  It was astounding how much time it took to get people camera-ready.  Matt had to take what felt like a million pictures, with the photographer actually yelling things like “Work it! Make me love you!” Apparently those lines aren’t just reserved for movies. When it was all said and done, he still somehow found energy to take several goofball portraits with me.

At the end of the shoot, Carol, Matt and I hopped in the rental car and started the long drive back to the Philadelphia Airport, but before arriving, Matt admitted he had never had a real Philly Cheese-steak.  Blasphemy.  We ended up in downtown Philadelphia at Jim’s Steaks, we all ordered “a steak with whiz” (i.e. a giant bun, chopped steak and cheese-wiz), and though we were a little skeptical at first, it was so worth it.  As Carol fiddled with the ATM machine inside after lunch, Matt and I jogged around on the sidewalk, laughing and taking pictures of the colorful store window displays on the street.   With our bellies full, we made it to the airport, hugged our goodbyes and headed for security.  He walked off to his gate waving and smiling like he was parting ways with an old friend.  I waved and smiled back as I thought to myself, “Matt J. Muenster is one cool dude.”

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Let me come clean. When I walked into designer and HGTV.com guest editor Nancy Fire’s studio, Design Works International, last week I was shaking. The knocking in my knees was more likely caused by a mixture of excitement and dorky nervousness, because — let’s be honest — I’m a 22-year-old intern and meeting the design director of HGTV HOME is kind of a big deal.

Design Works International

From left: Nancy Fire, HGTV HOME intern Ashley Chase, HGTV Home Studio intern Sam Clyde, HGTV Home Studio intern Catherine Blubaugh

After spending more than three hours in her workspace and asking what had to be a draining round of rapid-fire questions about her life, art and work with HGTV HOME, I discovered that — spoiler alert — Nancy is the bomb. She exudes creativity, passion and wisdom; just by shaking her hand, you can feel in her grasp that she gets it. She gets the HGTV brand, she gets the audience and most importantly, she wants to make sure that everyone else gets it too. Not only did I get a sneak peek at what’s to come for HGTV HOME, I also walked away with several quotes, catch-phrases and pieces of amazing life advice that are totally worth sharing with you all.

Sensibility is key.

The word has a lot of different meanings in the Design Works studio. For example, Nancy might say, “I wanted this particular partner to understand the sensibility (feeling) that we were trying to create with the new lines for 2014.” Breaths later she might follow with, “The blue sensibility (collection) is my favorite of the color-ways.” She may even point out, “It’s so nice to work with people with such sensibility (logical understanding).” The bottom line is, Nancy has plenty of sense in all of its contexts. Her sensibility comes through in both a business-minded, reasonable way, as well as in the emotional connection she has with every single vision she creates for HGTV HOME.

Design Works International

Typical doesn’t exist.

Moving through the studio “ooo-ing” and “ahh-ing” over all of her projects and ideas, I wondered what exactly a regular day at the office looks like for Nancy Fire. She explained that sometimes she’s in Paris at shows like Maison & Objet, and sometimes she’s showing wide-eyed interns around her textile printing machines. Kind of confused, I asked how she defines her job if she doesn’t have a daily set of tasks or a routine. With a laugh, she said her mom still asks the same question. The answer? Nancy is the idea person. Sometimes those ideas pull her in different directions and land her in different locations, but the constant is that she is always generating new ones. She describes her value to the HGTV HOME brand by saying, “I’m not the best at one particular thing. I’m the best at putting the pieces together and seeing the big picture.”

Design Works International

Do what makes you happy.

Admittedly, hanging around such a successful and put-together woman was a little panic-inducing for a college junior with graduation and need for an adult job looming over her head like a black cloud of despair. When I asked for career advice, Nancy simply said, “Love what you do. It’s a long day and a long week … It’s hard to find people who love what they do.” In the event that you do chase your dreams but still come up short, she said, “It’s always good in life to have a great Plan B. Plan B keeps you going. My husband and I always said that if this didn’t work out, we’d move to Hawaii and I would lifeguard and he would bartend. Plan B doesn’t sound so bad, right?” No ma’am, it certainly does not.

Design Works International

There’s no room for vanity.

The biggest lesson I learned from Nancy came in the form of a beverage. “Does anyone want a drink? Tea? Coffee?” she asked when we arrived. Limbs still thawing from the frigid outdoors, we happily accepted. Just as happily, she got up to boil water and brew a pot of coffee. Everyone exchanged a surprised look. “There is no ego here,” she said. Nancy is as down-to-earth, friendly and fun as she is talented, powerful and successful. She is a doer, from generating the big ideas to accomplishing minute office tasks. At the end of our visit, she even genuinely asked us to help her select fabric from the new collections to use in an upcoming promotion for HGTV HOME Fabrics. After stabilizing those cursed knocking knees, I happily obliged.

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