Candice's Design Tips: The White Room Challenge

In episode three, the Design Stars show off their talent in the white room challenge. See what Candice says they did right, did wrong and how she could have done it better.

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Creativity is Key
Nightclub and hotel owners nationwide, take note — give this man a quart of milk and a bag of oranges and he'll create the hippest urban lounge this side of the meat freezer.

A "wow, what is that?" drizzled-milk wall treatment (please don't tell my kids) combined with the warm intimacy created from the orange slice chandelier are moody, dramatic and, dare I say, even sexy. Add the whimsy and humor of the graffiti-style sofa treatment and folks, we have a contender.

Establish a Focal Point
Antonio has worked as a set builder/stylist with some of the world's top photographers and it shows. Here he masterfully executes a graphic, one-point perspective pattern that draws the eye inward, creates the illusion of depth in this little box, and establishes the sofa as a definite focal point, seemingly exploding off the wall. This design is strong, bold and has an edgy excitement, just like Antonio.

However, as much as this room gets an A for impact it gets an F for honoring the challenge. Rather than actually "creating" with his grocery items, he's simply used them as props. Rather than relying on paint, I would have loved to see Antonio's graphic pattern made from rolls of garbage bags outlined with breakfast cereal, hot dog buns, spaghetti noodles; the end result would be the same, but it would have shown some ingenuity. Knowing Antonio's bad boy rep, I really expected him to embrace "dangerous" perishables like cheese and meats simply for the stink factor.

Step Outside the Comfort Zone
OK, I'm a girl from the North and I have to say, those girls from the South never cease to amaze me. Torie has been the picture of poise, Southern sweetness and demure design restraint. Then came the white room challenge and this Southern belle dug deep, real deep. By channeling her inner Prince, Austin Powers and Barbie, Torie has created a luscious, glamorous, shagadelic lounge out of humble old garbage bags and beans — wow! Who knew?

Now, this challenge is purely design for design's sake — no clients, no practicality, no real world — a designer's dream. I think I had as much fun seeing Torie create this room as Torie had creating it. We should all be so lucky, whether we're designers or not, to step outside our comfort zone and create with such reckless abandon. Torie, you go girl!

Be Inspiring
Is it just me or does Dan, just by being in a room, make it all that much better looking? But, I digress. As a newbie-judge on Design Star and a veteran of the design biz, I was hoping to be, at the very least, inspired by my Design Star experience.

This challenge is the first opportunity for contestants to show their individual talent, and if we're talking creativity, talent and honoring the challenge, Dan pushed all the buttons and then some. The strength of this room is its strong narrative. It starts with an element — an apple — and tells the story of the apple, its origins and its destiny. Everything in this room has purpose and meaning as it relates back to the original design element and concept. This approach is the cerebral side of design that is rarely spoken about and it's what makes truly great design. This space is not only respectful of the challenge, creative and beautiful, but on a purely personal note, it is inspiring.

Add Contrast
I found this room very dry and bland, which I think is to be expected when a room is designed around matzo crackers. I like that Jason was committed to his design and not only created a dimensional wall pattern with the crackers but also used a stylized interpretation of it as a painted wall graphic. However, these rooms are all viewed at a distance and have to have impact. The yellow and brown color scheme only washes out the neutral color of the crackers. A scheme of black and red would have given the cracker beige some much-needed contrast and punch. Frankly, in an entire grocery store filled with colorful fruits, vegetables and packaging, the choice of bland, boring matzo crackers as the jumping–off point for Jason's design has me puzzled.

Have a Cohesive Plan
There are some really great individual elements in this room. First I love the painted wall graphic — it's very bold and in a color that you wouldn't expect in an Asian-inspired room. The transformation of the end tables with Asian newsprint is also on my hit list. However, this room seems manic and disjointed. I have a hard time figuring out what a row of chocolate milk bottles, strewn teddy bears and a sliced melon have to do with the Asian theme; I'm all for eclecticism but this is too fractured. I would have created a huge capiz shell-inspired chandelier out of the translucent rice paper circles (stunning!); used multiple Soya sauce cans to make a long, low, graphic coffee table; covered the sofa in printed burlap bags from bulk rice; and used the rice to create a high-contrast carpet that sat on a floor of dark nori wrappers.

Break Up the Monotony
This is a room that is good but not great. The bold graphic grabs your attention and forces your eye to the back of the space. The sofa treatment helps break up the monotony of all the straight lines and symmetrical composition. However, this is a room where Tashica should be engaging all of her creative energy and, on that note, it falls short. It's not meant to be a room that is lived in and that's why we expect to see something free and artful. Filling the entire back wall with apples and using several radiating black and green apple stripes coming off of the wall would have given this room more wow factor. I would have created a wall-to-wall mural of swirling oranges, apples, eggplants, lemons, artichokes — any and all colorful fruits and vegetables grouped in a big, beautiful, abstract composition.

Don't Be Too Perfect
This color scheme of turquoise, lemon and white just reads like a breath of fresh air. The fretwork pattern with the paper plates grounds the sofa and adds dimensional interest. This room is perfect — and ‘perfect' in design is not always a good thing. The symmetry and rigidity of the elements renders it a bit characterless; where's the soul? One ray of hope is the small art piece on the left. Imagine if that square at the back of the room contained a super-scaled version of this vegetable and flower composition; it'd be more creative, dynamic and interesting. Jany is playing it safe right now and safe means boring. She needs to take a lesson from Torie in that department.

Have a Plan B
This room has some great beginnings — the beginnings of some really interesting surface treatments. Gotta love the artichoke lamp, the bottle-leg table and cereal carpet. I know Lonni experienced some "technical difficulties" and I feel for her; every experienced designer feels for her because we've all gone through the sickening feeling of the unexpected sabotaging the success of our design. However, on Design Star you need to think fast on your feet and have a plan B because there is a LOT of the unexpected; nothing ever seems to go as planned. I think Lonni started with a great concept but if you don't finish, your design voice can't be heard. Unfortunately, this room is just a whisper.

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