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We’re down to the final four — Courtland, Emily, Casey and Michael — and Vern invites the contestants to brunch at Aarón Sanchez’s Centrico. He wants them to take the morning and relax. Everyone is exhausted and so happy to indulge after all the pressure leading up to this point. I mean, I’d need some rest after being subjected to all those wall murals, am I right?

First course is a tropical fruit salad, second is huevos rancheros, third is an elegant corn tamale and fourth is rice pudding empanadas with a mango chutney. They gulp it all down while patting each other on the back. Suddenly Vern walks in with the chef. Like I’ve said before, you never want to see Vern walk in. It’s almost always bad news.

Turns out chef Aarón Sanchez has one of the biggest hits on the Food Network, Chefs vs. City. The contestants are to choose one of the dishes they’ve just devoured as inspiration for this week’s challenge: to create a dining room space. Casey chooses the tamale, Courtland goes with the empanadas, Emily chooses huevos rancheros, which means Michael is left with the fruit salad. The twist is that they have to start with a very lived-in space and must repurpose furniture and materials to create their designs. As if deriving design inspiration from the taste of a meal isn’t hard enough.

Read the rest over at the Design Star Blog

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Colors for Your Home: 300 Designer Favorites (Hearst, 2010) is a go-to guide to help you easily select colors for your home. Based on House Beautiful’s monthly color column, this book brings the color specialists straight to you. It includes more than 300 paint formulas with fun, inspiring names like Smashing Pink, Blue Angel and Perfect Pear.

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Benjamin Moore's Smashing Pink and Blue Angel; Dunn Edwards Perfect Pear

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Fans of Biltmore Estate can now take home a piece of the great chateau’s opulence and history. Biltmore For Your Home is the exclusive line of products ranging from Biltmore-inspired hardwood flooring to handmade accessories. You can even buy garage doors reminiscent of the carriage doors seen on the estate.

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This week, you have the chance to win artwork featuring furniture used in the Vanderbilts’ home. This Dining Chair print is a historically accurate portrayal of the Biltmore’s seating, while the simplicity and colors give it a modern touch.

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For a chance to win, answer this week’s question before 12/11c, Monday, August 9.

This week’s question: Which architectural style fits you best? Old World like the Biltmore? Or sleek like the HGTV Urban Oasis apartment at the W in New York?

Click for official rules.

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Headshot1In 2003, Bryan Batt and his partner opened Hazelnut on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Hazelnut offers a variety of home decor goods like fabrics, dinnerware and pottery. Batt, also known for playing Sterling Cooper’s art director, Sal Romano, on AMC’s Mad Men, joined us for a quick interview.

What’s your store’s style?

Hazelnut’s style is a fresh, eclectic mix blending the classic and modern together. I love to hear the customers’ compliments on the feel and ambiance as well as the products offered in Hazelnut. I never tire of hearing it.

What do you personally design in your store?
Learn About Bryan’s Off-Screen Talents

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Scot Meacham Wood opened SMW Design in 2001 after working 13 years for Ralph Lauren. When Scot designs a residence, he begins by learning about his clients’ lives. For this home in San Francisco’s tony Presidio Heights neighborhood, Scot worked with bold colors and dramatic furnishings.

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Hi all! Because August is going to be a heavy month for renovating (siding and kitchens and baths, oh, my!), I thought I’d take a deep breath and pause for a moment. Renovating is a strenuous process and I’ve found that even when you’re not living in the same house you’re renovating, the drywall dust (both literally and metaphorically, I suppose) seeps into every other area in your life, causing a renovation haze that I’m convinced no one can understand unless they’ve lived through it.

So, if you’re considering a renovation (or are in the thick of one yourself), I’m here to answer your burning questions. We’ve been collecting reader questions for a few weeks on Twitter, Facebook and the blog, but if I’ve missed yours somehow, feel free to email me. I’m glad to help.

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P.S. I’m sprinkling in a few inspirational rooms that I love so you’ll have plenty of eye candy along the way!

Advice From the Renovation-Worn

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There’s a great reward in creating something with your hands and seeing the finished product. Here are some ideas to jolt your creativity into action.

Start small with dollar bill origami from wide open spaces.

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Or branch out by growing wheat grass to hold seating cards or making a Father’s Day gift package.

If your crafting ideas bob toward outdoor pool time, check out Diary of a Crafty Chica’s floating drink holders.

For the more ambitious crafter, check out DIY Network’s wine label decoupage dresser.

The Worsted Witch shares sweet painted animal silhouettes and a linen mobile.

Roudy Stroudy combines baking, thrifting and partying into a crafty lemon-themed party.

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If urban living is your idea of a dream come true, soon you will have a chance to live the dream in the capitol of the world.

HGTV has teamed with house planner Jack Thomasson and world-renowned designer Vern Yip to create a posh pad located in the heart of New York City. The location? The Residences at W New York-Downtown. The space? A 900-square-foot fully furnished residence that boasts sweeping views of the city, including the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Our online virtual tour of this amazing space begins on August 12, 2010. Then, starting on September 1, we invite you to enter once daily on HGTV.com and FrontDoor.com for your chance to win the apartment and a luxury vehicle. Our first on-air tour of the home premieres on Monday, September 6, 2010, at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT, so mark your calendar! And make plans to visit the Urban Oasis blog regularly for updates, exclusive videos and more. For more details, watch the announcement video.

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design-happens_cindy-portrait200x300Cindy Aplanalp works in both commercial and residential design, is a regular design blogger and travels extensively to keep her inspirations fresh. She’s also a single mom who went back to school to study interior design. Learn about Cindy’s mid-life careeer change and her tips for aspiring designers.

1. Tell us a little about you as a designer?

I am a late bloomer in the design world. I’ve always loved design but started out with a business degree and worked in accounting. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t my calling. I had always helped friends decorate and loved designing my own home, but I didn’t think of it as being a possible job. When I realized a huge life change was coming (a divorce), I knew I needed a way to support myself and my kids. So, just entering my 40′s, I went back to school to get a degree in interior design.

If you have a passion for design, it’s never too late. Aesthetic develops and enriches over time — all of life’s experiences and exposures add to your creative genius. My global travels, raising a family and paying attention to the world around me all add to my value as an interior designer.

2. Which designers influenced you?
Cindy’s Answer

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