Design Star Season 6: Small-Space Makeovers

Talk show host Nate Berkus joins the panel as the final four take on a new challenge in episode 8: Revamp a tiny studio apartment with an equally diminutive budget. Check out these behind-the-scenes photos and before-and-after shots.
Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.
November 25, 2014

The Final Four

Meg, Mark, Kellie and Karl are getting close enough to taste victory. This week's challenge: Redesign a NYC apartment in three days with less than $2,500.

Guest Judge: Nate Berkus

Nationally-syndicated talk show host Nate Berkus joins the panel this week, with a surprise twist: The contestants will present a budget design tip on his show in front of a live studio audience.

Karl Balks at the Budget

Karl has to reach outside his comfort zone for this budget-oriented challenge. "For architecture, the budgets I'm working with are between 500 thousand and 1.5 million...$2,500 in one of those projects would barely buy the front door hardware," says Karl.

A Functional Focal Point

"To me, the look for less means having a really good eye...still applying the same design principles to inexpensive items," Karl says. Here, he uses strips of lumber to create a large clock.

Advice From a Past Winner

Since he's had some trouble during past camera challenges, David urges Karl not to overthink it. "You're going to do great if you just stay out of your head," says David.

Before: A Cold, White Space

This stark, modern space needs color and character.

After: Warm and Inviting

Karl's color palette of tan and blueish gray creates a warm, calming space. " I like how the colors are mellow," says Nate.

After: A Literal Bookshelf

Karl turns hardcover books into shelves for this ingenious display unit. "You have a really keen eye for beautiful detail. The literal bookshelf was so great, so smart," says Genevieve.

Before: Bad Space Planning

The furniture is too far apart to create conversation, and the chairs face out the window instead of into the kitchen.

After: Open and Flowing

"I think the layout is conducive to conversation," says Nate. A colorful rug adds interest to the seating area.

Before: No Focal Point

A tiny framed photo is the only accent on this apartment's massive walls.

After: A Custom Timepiece

To add interest to this all-white space, Karl paints one wall with a dark neutral and creates a large wooden version of the classic sunburst clock.

No Time for Bad Accessories

"I love the idea of the clock, but I was confused by the scale. It was like this little dot on a huge wall. I don't think it was successful," says Vern. Nate agrees: "I don't think it's important enough to take a place of prominence on the wall," he says.

Karl in His Finished Space

Karl plays it safe this week, but is successful in creating a warm, inviting space.

Reduce, Reuse, Reupholster

Kellie finds rag rugs with texture and character in a discount store; she plans to use them to reupholster bar stools.

Why Should You Be the Next Design Star?

"We're looking for you to show America something unique. What does this room say about you?" says David. "I'm a mom, and I love to reuse things differenty," says Kellie.

Last-Minute Window Treatments

Kellie realizes at the last moment that she's forgotten to buy curtains, so she repurposes two tablecloths. "The design panel is going to nail me for not having window treatments, and I'm sick about it," she says.

Before: No Personality

To get inspired, Kellie invents a "client" that she's redesigning this apartment for. "It's a casual woman who isn't from New York, but wants to feel at home," she says. "The more I think about it, the more I think it's"

After: Flea Market Chic

Kellie uses her repurposing skills and personal style to create a space that's full of life on a bite-sized budget. But is it full of taste? Vern and Nate aren't fans of her last-minute curtains.

After: Kitchen-Inspired Wall Art

Kellie creates this bold art piece using circles of wood and painted wooden spoons. "I love the fact that she has an enormous wall and she has art in the appropriate scale," says Vern.

Before: Blank Walls

This apartment's decor doesn't provide any clues about the owner's personality.

After: Full of Personality

Kellie aims to create a space that she would want to call home, but time runs short. Still, she infuses the apartment with quirky details.

Wall Art Overload

Kellie's plan to create custom artwork falls through, so she reuses pieces from the original space. However, Nate thinks she's gone overboard on accessories. "I actually want to take away things that she put up," says Nate.

Made-Over Bar Stools

Kellie's rugs-turned-seat-covers are a success. "They're very simple, but they had such an impact, with the color and texture, and the humble beginnings. However, that's where it stops for me," says Genevieve.

The Judges' Verdict

"I don't see $2,500 dollars in this space," says Nate. "I want to see more sophistication. I want to see more layers. This could have been so much richer."

Mark Struggles for Inspiration

Mark is so focused on what he'll demonstrate on camera that the rest of his room suffers. "At the end of day one, I have a coffee table. That's pretty much it," he says.

Building Custom Shelving

Mark decides to build a wall shelf to showcase his woodworking abilities in the room.

Advice From the Mentor

Mark plans to create a custom shelving unit for his camera challenge, but David urges him to make it more accessible. "I'm going to have to make some make it simple and effortless," says Mark. He decides to cover a metal office lamp with silver leaf.

Flea Market Finds

"Flea markets are a gem for a designer because you can find pieces that have a soul to it, and you find them for very little money," says Mark. Despite great finds, he struggles to finish his room by the deadline.

Out of Time

"I was able to get a lot done, but the walls are really bare. It's kind of an incomplete package. Honestly I have no idea what the design panel is going to say, and I'm really nervous," says Mark.

Before: A Blank Slate

This brand new space needs some character and soul.

After: Cohesive Room, Unfinished Walls

Mark manages to pull off a put-together, if under-accessorized, space. But Genevieve doesn't care for the blank back wall: "Give me some stuff to look at!" she says.

After: Mark's Custom Shelving

This shelving unit is one of the few things that make it onto the walls, but Nate isn't impressed. "I don't like the asymmetrical shelves...I think they're weird," says Nate.

Before: Generic Sitting Room

This looks more like a doctor's waiting room than a personal apartment.

After: Modern Bachelor Pad

"There's vintage, it feels assembled, it's minimal, but minimal in a way that feels chic," says Nate.

Mixing Old and New

"See what a difference vintage makes when you bring it into a brand new space?" says Genevieve. Midcentury chairs mixed with a modern table add warmth and interest to this room.

Mark, Time Is Running Out

"We keep hearing this time management excuse," says Vern. "I thought some of the styling was neat, but at the end of the day I got an incomplete project."

Last Chance Challenge

After being in the bottom four last week, Meg knows she has to step up to stay in the competition. "I know that if I don't complete a room...I'm going home. There are no excuses at this point," says Meg.

Getting Creative

Meg comes up with a person that she imagines to be living in her apartment to help with the planning process. "I'm designing for a 28-year-old woman who blew through her trust fund," she says. "She's used to having nice things."

Added Value

Meg decides to keep all the furniture in the space and use the coffee table for her camera challenge. "When you have this type of's about making what your client has look good," she says.

Before: Cold and Cliche

This generic apartment has run-of-the-mill furnishings and absolutely nothing on the walls.

After: Worldly and Inviting

"I have to say I'm pretty taken with this space. I like the color scheme," says Nate. Vern's impressed by the whole space: "I love that Meg showed up this week...we got to see her vision," he says.

After: Custom African Artwork

Meg uses global-chic accessories to evoke the feeling that the "owner" is a world traveler.

Before: Stark, White Modern Lines

Bland furnishings with sharp edges make this space feel cold and clinical.

After: Meg's "Moditional" Room

Meg mixes angular modern pieces and softer traditional furnishings to create this spunky, sophisticated space that she calls "moditional." "I felt every nickel of the $2,500 dollars in that space," says Nate.

After: Added Architectural Detail

Meg addw stripes with moldings, and hangs staggered shelves for added interest. "You were the only one who treated all of the walls," says Genevieve. "You added architectural interest where there was none."

A Judge Favorite: The Coffee Table

"She handpainted this in a way that feels modern and very chic," says Nate. And Vern thinks so, too: "I'm delighted in the fact that she is showing us the sophisticated eye," he says.

Meg's Taste of Success

"I think I created a room that looks great for less. It looks like I spent $5,000 instead of $2,500," says Meg.

A Glimpse of Fame

The designers head onto the set of The Nate Berkus Show to do their camera challenges — and get a taste of what it would be like to be the next Design Star.

Camera Tips From the Mentor

David shares a few last-minute tips with the finalists before they head on stage at The Nate Berkus Show. See what David has to say about the challenge, who disappointed him and who he think really stepped up.

Battling Self-Doubt

"I'm competing against Mark with the million-dollar smile...Kellie, America's sweetheart, and everybody loves Meg,she's so spunky," he says. "But is anybody going to like me?"

Karl Conquers His Camera Challenge

Karl vanquishes his nerves and connects with the crowd for his shelving demo. "You were able to really capture the audience attention, and get them to think how it could relate the their life," Nate says.

Camera Challenge Disaster

Mark stammers his way through the demo, even flubbing the names of his materials. "I said foil, but I meant silver leaf. I wish I could go back and redo it," says Mark. For Nate, this demo didn't cut it: "I felt your nervousness, and more importantly, my audience felt your nervousness," he says.

Meg Gets Inspired

Being on the show's set reinvigorates Meg and reminds her what is at stake. "We walk into the green room and, holy moly. This is absolutely hitting me at the core of why I'm here. I want this in my life," says Meg.

Meg Shines on Stage

"I love your energy," says Nate. "I love it here. I could work here every single day," Meg says. With her stunning space and crowd-pleasing camera challenge, she takes top honors for this week.

Kellie's Lackluster Demo

Kellie rushes through her camera challenge without really connecting with the audience. "Kellie,there was a real lack of personality coming through. You really didn't let yourself shine, and that's a shame," says Nate.

Goodbye, Kellie

Kellie's "look for less" and clinical camera challenge don't impress the judges, and her stay in the competition comes to a close. See who she'll miss the most, and who she thinks should have gone home.

Shop This Look