Design Star – A Blank Canvas

The notorious white room – image via

After a day of sub-flooring atop an un-level concrete floor (fun that had all the allure of a Chinese finger trap puzzle) I literally fell asleep on the desk blogging this! Time to take a spectator break and talk about someone else’s design – and what it can teach us.

I really look forward to watching Design Star‘s white room challenge each year because a blank canvas is all about imagination and who has it. There is nothing there – but a vision, belief and raw potential. Every vision is as different as the imagination that fuels the concept, and the designer does not define the room – in many respects, the room defines the designer.

This year’s white room challenge did not overwhelm me  as a whole – but that being said it’s all too easy to be an arm chair warrior. It’s not easy when the camera’s eye is trained on you and you have to pull together a facsimile under the gun, in a public place while people stare at you like zoo monkeys, and the result is supposed to “represent who you are as a designer”. Then when you’re exhausted and grungy and insecure you’re put on camera and expected to be articulate! Then you go sit in the anti-chamber awaiting brutal critique and the chance you will go home in shame – makes tax time sound like high tea…..

Here are some high points of this year’s challenge, and a couple of thoughts about the impossible task of spinning straw into gold.

I thought Rachel’s white room offering was one of the best efforts.

Rachel envisions her design plan – image via

I loved that she included a painting based on a fashion drawing. Drawings are so expressive, and not so precious – I once visited an Andrew Wyeth exhibit in Brooklyn and his drawings had coffee rings and dog prints all over them! They are gestural ideas…

Her tape method was also genius – I never tried that particular tape application and was excited to learn something new from her variation. She measured height and width and taped for strong corners, hand-painting with a cutting brush along guidelines to form a large scale Chinese trellis pattern.

Cutting brushes are your best tool for combining hand painting and precision line…to get it right, she taped just her corners because expert handling of the cutting brush is required on corners and this is a fabulous solution. If apply pressure to the edge, after wiping off some of your paint in the interior of the design and lean into the brush along the pencil line it will come out as hers did – flawless!

How to hand paint a sketched out design – image via HGTVcom

The judges critiqued the styling a bit, taking issue with the mirrored owls (which I disagreed) and all the plants – where I have to concur.

Two of the biggest room spoilers in typical homes are family photos and plants – both defy unity and created clutter, handled improperly.

So what would I have done in the hot seat?


Design Star contestant shopping florals – image via

They were at a home and garden center to pull supplies, and provided with every conceivable tool onsite. The location, Orchard’s Home and Garden had a wealth of succulents to choose from. I was so surprised no one ran for cases of these!

Using screws, plywood and Chicago screws to connect the 2 pieces of plywood, I would have mocked out her trellis shape jig-sawed out of two identical shapes (in scale with her trellis shapes) screwing the back piece to the wall and pre-drilling corner holes for Chicago screws, leaving the male ends of the screws protruding from the wall mounted shape.

Then, I would drill holes in the face of the plywood sheet just smaller than the tops of the succulent in rows. Then the succulents are popped out of their little pots one at at a time, which have water holes in the bottom. They would be screwed to the wall mount through the holes, a generous dollop of hot glue applied and the plant stuck back in its tiny pot (it’s a temporary installation). With the plants in place,  lay the top form carefully, pulling any hanging aspects of your little plants through the holes. Then apply the female ends of the Chicago screws assembling the installation to the wall. For the sake of time, you would space them much further apart.

Rachel’s finished Chinese Trellis and fashion sketch – image via

It would really draw on the colors of her painting, and vertical gardens (which no one thought to do) are such a fabulous way to introduce shape, color and living art into a room!

Danielle white box rendition

Danielle’s room was a little less exciting to me personally, having watched too many variations on this theme – but it was well executed and it was an omage to her mom who recently passed away  – so she really was expressing who she is, as opposed to imitating prior successes. The judges shot down the lamp, which she had placed their for height. If I had been grabbing that lamp, I would have tossed the Kmart shade and made a run for some string, glue and a beach ball as well.

project image via

Finished lighting shade or pendant – project at

A round shade would have played on the round medallions on her wall, pumped up the ’70’s vibe of her space – and wowed the judges with her reinvention – again, arm chair warrior critique. It was very well done.


Stanley got high marks for decorating with light, creating a space more art installation than interior – but visually exciting in either context.

Stanleys room in progress – image via

My only thought as I sat forward in my armchair, wide eyed as Stanley re-purposed his white sofa with back-lighting, was that it would have been that much more effective if he could have pulled out the time to paint the room high-gloss white, or water-base polied the whole thing….but in his defense, his installation was was far and away the most difficult of all who completed.

What can you find at a hardware / home and garden center to get inspired?

How about a vertical garden at home?

TiffanysLivingArt Etsy Store

Art installations are hiding all over hardware stores…

TheHobKnobery Etsy Store

highdesertdreams Etsy Store

We could all use a white room to define us occasionally – sigh – back to the basement…