Vern's Design Tips: Celebrity Homes

The Design Stars create spaces for celebrities: a home office for Kathy Griffin, a guest bedroom for Tiffani Thiessen and a nursery for Jason Priestley. See what Vern says they did right, did wrong and how she could have done it better.

Neutral Master Bedroom With Textured Walls

Neutral Bedroom With Textured Walls


This challenge, more so than any other this season, reflects the glamorous Los Angeles location of HGTV Design Star season 4! The three remaining designers, all replete with the qualities that we are looking for, have to figure out a way to stand out from their competitors as they head into the final stretch. Hollywood stars Kathy Griffin, Tiffani Thiessen and Jason Priestley graciously allow us into their private homes, giving us a glimpse into what they deem important to incorporate in their physical environments and allowing our contestants to transform a room to suit their specific needs. Although these three stars have busy Hollywood lives, the goal for our three competitors is to figure out who their clients are as people, what their specific needs are and how to reflect that in a confluence of function and aesthetics all within the allotted amount of time and budget. Of course, as in weeks past, our competitors will also have to walk us through their segments (in an entertaining and informative manner) so that our at-home audience clearly understands what has been done.

Don't Stick With the Same Design Tricks

This week, Lonni’s classic and effortless taste continues to shine as she transforms a guest room for actress Tiffani Thiessen and her family. Although the room was beautiful before, Lonni manages to infuse additional warmth and texture through an incredible woven grass cloth wall covering. As in weeks past, Lonni shows innovation by having one wall of the grass cloth covering serve as a focal wall in the room. By detailing her grass cloth focal wall with a traditional navy blue pattern in a bold scale, Lonni takes a store bought product and makes it unique to this room.

There is a definite sense of “beach” in this transformation, with organic wood pieces intertwined with a sisal rug and accents of blue and green. Many of the elements employed in this space appear to be environmentally sensitive, allowing Lonni to showcase that eco-friendly products that also manage to be stylish, are easy to find and are accessible. The dark wood floors, supplanting wall-to-wall carpet, anchor the room beautifully, giving the space a slight edge while simple but tailored roman blinds help keep the room feeling fresh and light.

This is a difficult room to find fault with but it is not without its problems. Lack of time management means the sculptural wood headboard has to temporarily rest on top of the nightstands instead of hanging on the wall. Obviously, this will have to be corrected before anyone can sleep in this bed. Additionally, the concept of a focal wall is one that we have seen from Lonni before and it would be refreshing to see her express her abundance of design talent in other ways. The remaining contestants are so talented it is incumbent that each challenge demonstrates a full breadth of design capabilities and repeating a focal wall as a main design element (for almost the third challenge in a row) doesn’t give us an opportunity to appreciate how gifted she truly is no matter how beautiful the final product is. Clearly, Lonni listened to Tiffani and her family and produced an incredibly elegant and timeless transformation. It just would have been nice to have seen a little something different from Lonni’s powerful arsenal of design tools.

Create a Space That Grows

Nautical-Themed Nursery With Sitting Area and Whale Art

Nautical Nursery With Sitting Area and Whale Art

Continuing to showcase his unique knack for inventiveness, Dan blows us away this week with a masterful transformation that turns a modest guest room into a knock-out nursery. Nurseries can be incredibly arduous spaces to design but Dan shows no fear in tackling this space for actor Jason Priestley and his family. Managing to make it feel both baby-friendly and sophisticated, Dan smartly borrows elements that allude to the sea while avoiding both kitsch and standard nursery fare. A serene painting of the sky graphically hangs from nautical rope above toy storage, while tin whales spouting stars glide across the crib wall. Subtle greens and blues intermingle perfectly while a giant floor mirror (leaning on a wall that has been painted to appear as if the sea is rising on it) beams light back into the space beautifully.

For me, however, the highlights of this transformation (and in this entire challenge for that matter) are the abstracted boat forms hanging from the pitched ceiling. Dan’s sculptural boats, all made by him, are simply spectacular and will provide this lucky baby with endless entertainment. Even after this child has grown, these boat forms will remain stunning three-dimensional art forms that will adapt to whatever function this room next takes on. Plenty of seating, the incorporation of a flat screen television above the changing table, and a plethora of storage demonstrate that Dan also paid attention to the practical needs of the Priestly family. Perhaps it would have worked better to have had window dressing that completely blocked out the natural light for a newborn sleeping, but this seems like a minor point in lieu of the tremendous effort put forth in this sensational room transformation. It is clear that Dan continues to be a force to be reckoned with!

Be Functional Yet Creative

Home Office With Work Zones

Kathy Griffin's Home Office

Of all the spaces this week, Antonio likely received the most challenging from a space planning vantage point. Accommodating Kathy Griffin’s support team (otherwise known as “Team Griffin”), addressing the various tasks that occur on a daily basis, and incorporating office equipment, filing and storage is not easy, but Antonio brilliantly does all of this while creating a warm, dynamic and inviting atmosphere. One of the main challenges of this space is its long and narrow proportion. By lining three work stations lengthwise along the walls, Antonio instantly creates privacy at each desk while still allowing communication to effortlessly flow among team members. Additionally, by building out the angled corner area into a technology/conference hub of security screens, televisions and flexible seating, Antonio turns an odd corner into a great place to convene.

My favorite element in this room, however, is the stainless steel map of the United States that is mounted to the entry wall. This perfect culmination of art piece and tour tracking device anchors the far wall of this room brilliantly, reflecting light back from the darkest recesses of this space. The wall of multiple clocks also adds both whimsy and practicality, allowing the team to know what time it is for Kathy, wherever she may be.

The interplay of classic modernist design pieces with ergonomic seating and clean-lined work stations makes this feel like a high-end office, but the beautiful wood floor (much warmer than the ceramic) and the abundance of natural light make this office a relaxing environment to inhabit. It would have been nice to have seen some additional thought put into the large swaths of wall work area hanging in front of each work station — a graphic bud vase with a single bloom on each desk surface for a little pop of color and a larger rug in the conference area. The green rug employed here looks like an over-scaled placemat with other scale issues evident in the “small” accessorizing on almost every surface. All things considering, this transformation is extraordinarily well done and there is much here for Antonio to be proud of.

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