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Candice's Design Tips: The Final Challenge

Antonio and Dan go head-to-head in the biggest Design Star challenge yet: making over a deserving family's entire home. See what Candice says they did right, did wrong and how she could have done it better.

Don't Waste Valuable Space
When it's the finale of Design Star you need to pull out all the stops, really blow the roof off the joint and go for big, bold, dramatic transformations — and Antonio gets it!

His years of construction experience serve him well in this mammoth makeover, allowing him to execute a gutsy reconfiguring of the living room, kitchen and master bedroom so that each of these spaces functions much more efficiently.

Antonio has a fearless approach to design and it shows — starting with the living room, where a bigger-than-Bali hutch is deconstructed and reinterpreted as a one-of-a-kind fireplace surround. The payoff is huge as this serves as the jumping-off point for the whole room, a room that is both eclectic and well conceived. The variety of wall and fabric colors, upholstery shapes, styles and patterns, even the wood blinds, all speak the same eclectic language as the new fireplace.

However, as much as I like personalizing a room with a client's photography, wedding photos are a bit too personal for a dining room — keep them in private areas like bedrooms.

The sofa positioning in front of the fireplace and television is a logical choice; however, it creates an unappealing "hallway" behind the sofa, wasting valuable space. A console storage table behind the sofa would help anchor it in the space and provide a surface for table lamps.

Lastly, although the client doesn't use the fireplace, who's to say that in the future they or a future homeowner won't? Combustible wood this close to the opening of the firebox is a building code no-no. I like design that takes risks but not risks of this nature.

Always Include the Key Ingredients
This kitchen reads like a breath of fresh air — it is light years away from its former self. Reconfigured walls and windows; an appliance layout that affords better flow and counter space; a timeless mix of white, raised panel doors contrasted with black granite; and a wall color that marries beautifully with the adjacent dining room; all are key ingredients in this delicious kitchen recipe. Bright, patterned dishes and bowls in the glass-fronted cabinets and character pots for the window plantings would have been welcome personality builders but hey, I'll cut Antonio some slack on a project that I still can't believe he finished!

Remember to Add Storage
OK, Antonio, we know you're a star, but enough of the not-so-subliminal imagery.
As graphic and exciting as this room is from a color and pattern perspective it falls short, very short, on function. Kids come with a lot of junk — bright red, yellow and blue plastic brain-forming junk that needs to go somewhere. Bins, baskets and buckets are every parent's savior when it comes to conquering kid clutter. Store them under a low counter that doubles as a play table or incorporate them into a bed like Antonio has built.

Break Up the Monotony
When you are doing a project of this magnitude with so little time, something's gotta give, and for Antonio it was the master bedroom. Relocating the bathroom door was pure genius — a view of a toilet from the bed is enough to give anyone nightmares.

From here however, it's downhill for me. I'm all for covering up the bad to make way for the good, but these three pieces of painted board are not the payoff I was after. The horizontal bands only serve to make a long wall even longer and the varying sizes, from small to large, bottom to top, seems just plain odd. A floor-to-ceiling upholstered headboard would have covered the window and provided a dramatic and comfortable setting for the bed. Floor-to-ceiling opaque drapes with side panels behind a lower headboard attached to the bed is another option that could have done the same.

Bedrooms should be peaceful, restful and visually "quiet." This green, EVERYWHERE, says just the opposite. To temper a wall color this bold it needs a balanced amount of art, fabric and furniture in front of it so that the color is part of the room but doesn't define it.

Also, when a room has an abundance of solid toned elements (sofa, dresser, desk, headboard), it needs pattern to break the monotony. Patterned throw pillows and an area rug that introduce both pattern and additional colors to coordinate with and accent the green — purple, navy, cream — would have made this room seem more complete. Thick, floating wood shelves above the desk would have provided much-needed storage and another opportunity to conceal that green.

Make Every Inch Work
For Dan's last performance he pulls together a living room that is truly a room that can be lived in. From the furnishing selections to the layout, Dan makes every last inch of space work for this family. The mirrored doors above the fireplace add depth and interest on their own; the fact that they conceal the TV is a bonus. The severe lines of the shutters are softened by simple drapery panels that also help frame the large sectional.

I love that Dan has balanced a large piece of upholstery with a large-scale patterned carpet while the wisteria-colored walls are a contemporary update that freshens the look of the old shutters and fireplace.

The bumper/ottoman however is a bit too much upholstery when combined with the sectional — a large wood coffee table that mirrored the dining room table would have been my choice.

Window Treatments Are a Must
Just like his competitor, Dan isn't afraid to knock down a wall or two to realize his design vision and here in the kitchen his vision is clear and beautiful. The layout that now incorporates the old laundry room is simply brilliant, almost doubling the size of the kitchen. I love the contrast of the cool-toned stainless steel appliances against the warm, dark wood cabinets and how the creamy counters, floor and backsplash add a feeling of contemporary elegance. The windows, however, are a missed opportunity to inject a bit of personality to a kitchen that reads as right out of a kitchen showroom. Simple patterned window valances hung almost to the ceiling would have added the spice that this kitchen is lacking.

Balance Form and Function
Dan's balance of form and function has always impressed me and this bedroom doesn't disappoint. This room is fun, funky and feminine with great storage, an ingenious bed for sleeping, watching TV or talking to friends and a loveseat that any young girl would simply love. As much as I think the bed/storage/desk idea is very clever, I would rather see the pull-out work surface as a secondary surface to back up an actual small desk under the window, making homework more efficient.

It's OK to Take Risks
Unlike Antonio, Dan's decision to cover the window in this room results in a huge payoff; this room seems much more spacious and the cabinetry affords the homeowner a ton of much-needed storage. However, the downside to so much of the same wood — cabinetry, bed and dresser — is that it starts to get monotonous. Dan attempts to break it all up with mirrors above the bedside table but the small mirrors are mostly concealed by lamps. A larger mirror filling the entire area above the headboard or a large piece of statement art flanked by wall-mounted sconces would add interest to this area and free up space on the small bedside table surfaces.

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