Judges' Tips: The White Box Challenge

Design Star judges Candice Olson and Vern Yip share their design tips for creating focal points, mixing patterns and thinking outside the box.

  • Michael Moeller for Emily Henderson

    Pay Attention to the Big Picture and the Small Details

    This room works on a big-picture level with an abstract painted bouquet anchoring one corner of the room and an off-center space plan. It is also evident the room works on a detailed level. The ingenuity of the recycled-newspaper headboard and the casual attitude of the bed linens all speak to Emily's laid-back roots. — Vern Yip

  • Michael Moeller for Emily Henderson table

    Vary Scale and Colors

    The combination of the decorative pieces on and under the console looks very busy and knickknack-y, especially the under-scaled plants scattered throughout. Varying the scale, materials and even the color of items would break up the uniformity of all the wooden artifacts. — Candice Olson

  • Nina Ferrer Bedroom for Courtland Bascon

    Visual Interest is Key

    Dark walls with the look of architectural molding created with paint instantly give the room a dramatic and masculine backdrop. Nina then cleverly installs a series of umbrellas on the walls to create a sense of movement and dimension in the space, giving it visual interest and a reference to the exotic locale of Fiji. — Vern Yip

  • Nina Ferrer Bedroom for Courtland Bascon umbrella

    Try Something Different

    A more interesting and less feminine approach to the umbrellas would have been to strip off the paper. The resulting radiating frames or skeletons would be beautiful as wall art placed in an orderly composition to offset the randomness of the lanterns above. — Candice Olson

  • Casey Noble Bedroom for Alex Sanchez

    Match Your Client's Personality

    Abstract twigs on the wall serving as art, a real plant suggestive of a palm tree and ocean-blue sheets transforms this space into one that is masculine, sophisticated and, most importantly, true to Alex's expressed personality. — Vern Yip

  • Casey Noble Bedroom for Alex Sanchez bed close up

    Mix It Up With Patterns

    The pattern created by the grass mats, screens, cord table detailing and timber cladding is all linear and horizontal. Bedding and throw pillows that incorporated large, abstract nature motifs would be a perfect organic foil to all this rigidity. — Candice Olson

  • Tera Hampton Bedroom for Trent Hultgren

    Create a Unique Vignette

    Use only one pendant and drop it lower over the end table to sit at a more intimate level. Move the vase of high grass to the foreground floor beside the bench where your eye would flow naturally downwards toward it. — Candice Olson

  • Tera Hampton Bedroom for Trent Hultgren bench artw

    Use Everyday Objects as Art

    Tera's decision to utilize three oversized trays as wall art creates an instant focal point while also adding significant interest and texture to the space. — Vern Yip

  • Stacey Cohen Bedroom for Dan Faires

    Balance Modern Style With Warmth

    Stacey's room has a nice balance of warmth, texture and masculinity, while a lamp without a shade, hints of newspaper print and a palette of blues and grays, with pops of orange interspersed, convey industrial chic to relfect Dan's personality. — Vern Yip

  • Stacey Cohen Bedroom for Dan Faires half wall clos

    Take an Idea All the Way

    The New York Times newsprint art is lost leaning against the small wall. An entire back wall clad in this newsprint would have given this space the industrial wow-factor it craves and serve to create some verticality in the space. — Candice Olson

  • Alex Sanchez Bedroom for Casey Noble

    Choose the Right Bedding

    The element of texture would have been better played up with layers of natural fiber bedding (ironed!) in a sun–bleached, sea-and-sky palette that begged to be cuddled. — Candice Olson

  • Alex Sanchez Bedroom for Casey Noble close up bed

    Create a Focal Point

    There is much to admire in this room, including a creative use of natural material behind the headboard to create a dominant focal point. The reinvention of the single bookcase into two tall light sconces also demonstrates outside-the-box thinking. — Vern Yip

  • Courtland Bascon Bedroom for Nina Ferrer

    Reinvent Furniture

    The room is organized, neat, sophisticated and dramatic. It has a wonderful color palette that is rich, interesting paint techniques and some clever reinvention of the furniture. — Vern Yip

  • Courtland Bascon Bedroom for Nina Ferrer console

    Create Unity With Color

    I love how the ornate black painted frames speak to the intricacy of the headboard fabric. A few highly adorned, delicate or embellished accessories all unified with the same sprayed high-gloss black and grouped rather than spaced along the console would continue this feeling and create unity and harmony. — Candice Olson

  • Courtland Bascon Bedroom for Nina Ferrer picture f

    Pay Attention to Scale

    Maybe it's my love of absurd black comedy but I really like the idea of cutting up Nina's photo. However, this small art grouping falls a bit short due to its scale. The small photo squares mounted on large mattes inside large 18\" x 24\" frames would have given the images the feeling of greater importance and the overall effect more impact. — Candice Olson

  • Dan Faires Bedroom for Stacey Cohen

    Don't Forget to Add Texture

    This space is a collection of solids that cries out to be set off by either texture or pattern, be it painted or fabric florals, damasks, stripes, even abstracts — anything with some visual interest. — Candice Olson

  • Dan Faires Bedroom for Stacey Cohen Bed Close Up

    Get Creative With Accessories

    The most interesting element in the room is the \"art\" hanging above the bed. Dan takes a purchased grid from the Asian market, paints it baby blue and adorns it with capiz-shell lotus flowers. This reinterpretation of this product is the essence of what this challenge is all about. — Vern Yip

  • Emily Henderson Bedroom for Michael Moeller

    Be Discerning With Design Choices

    Instead of a thoughtful space for a design-oriented urbanite, we are given an unbalanced space that manages to look empty and crowded all at the same time. The side table is full of objects but the rest of the room looks like a detention room at police headquarters. — Vern Yip

  • Emily Henderson Bedroom for Michael Moeller artwor

    Make a Strong Impact

    A large, more controlled and sophisticated string-art mural above the bed, perhaps ending with the string tying into the pendant would have had greater impact. — Candice Olson

  • Trent Hultgren Bedroom for Tera Hampton

    Transform Design Elements

    The main issue with Trent's effort lies in the complete lack of transformation of any of the materials, given or purchased. The furniture is all still white and in its original state. All of the materials purchased at the Asian market remain in their exact same state. There is no inventiveness, ingenuity or demonstration of design skill. — Vern Yip

  • Trent Hultgren Bedroom for Tera Hampton Canopy

    Think About Construction

    This canopy should be casual yet elegant and it really lies in the fabrication. Several ceiling-hung dowels, spaced 24\" apart with billowing fabric draped over in a repetitious, orderly manner, would achieve this and be a beautiful, flowing contrast to the strong geometric line on the wall. — Candice Olson

  • Trent Hultgren Bedroom for Tera Hampton Shelf

    Have the Right Amount of Accessories

    The bookcase-turned-bench needs more than a few knickknacks to sell it. Large decorative pillows in a mix of bold patterns and weighty solids, with the large pot of grass placed on the far end, would make this the oasis it was intended to be. — Candice Olson

  • Julie Khuu Bedroom for Tom Veccihone

    Find a New Way to Display Furnishings

    Julie fails to transform a single piece of furniture, employing every piece in its original form. There is very little outside-the-box thinking in this effort. — Vern Yip

  • Julie Khuu Bedroom for Tom Veccihone feather rug

    Find the Right Balance

    The delicate textured quality of the feathers would have come off better set against the contrast of smooth, solid surfaces, not against a wall finish exhibiting such overwhelming movement. — Candice Olson

  • Julie Khuu Bedroom for Tom Veccihone portrait head

    Make the Bed the Focal Point

    In a conventional bedroom set up like this, the bed should always be the focal point. With all due respect, Tom's portrait is neither the appropriate scale nor subject matter. A simple color-blocking treatment slightly larger than the bed and running floor to ceiling would have grounded the bed. — Candice Olson

  • Tom Vecchione Bedroom for Julie Khuu

    Remember to Edit

    Asian decorative objects are overflowing in this space with no visible eye for editing present. The rich red color and architectural interest created by both the change in paint tonal value and the space plan save Tom from creating a complete disaster. — Vern Yip

  • Tom Vecchione Bedroom for Julie Khuu accessories

    Accessories Shouldn't Be Too Similar

    All of the patterns on fabrics and pillows are similar in both scale and motif. A large or super-scaled pattern (fabric, painted or otherwise) needs to be mixed with a few smaller-scaled motifs; likewise, geometrics like stripes set off by flowing organic patterns. — Candice Olson

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