HGTV 'Design Star' Recap: Deception, Already? Nina Sets Up Courtland

Shari Altman

Design Star contestants
Photo from HGTV
Design Star is back with Season 5, a new producer, no host, 12 designers, and a return to the Big Apple. Challenge One? Design a bedroom for a fellow designer using $500 and only materials that can be purchased from an Asian market.

Spoiler alert: We're telling all on Episode 1. Check it out.

Okay, episode one has me a bit worried. For one, we've gained Mark Burnett of Survivor/The Apprentice fame but we've lost Clive. Hmm. Not sure this is headed in the right direction.

But let's get straight to the designs. Feathers, umbrellas, faux finishes? Oh my.

I think the White Box Challenge, where the designers got a chance to take a totally white, basic bedroom and transform it for the designer they were partnered with, was a great place to start because it's essentially trial by fire. Which designers have the panache to jump right in and create a great design and which designers will show their uncertainty and flounder? Granted, I imagine it's just plain hard to design a room for someone you just met (and maybe don't even like), especially when you're limited to what you can buy for $500 in one hour at an Asian market.

There were a few small mishaps in this episode to lend to the drama. Alex left half of his supplies at the Asian market. Michael spilled paint all over the floor. Poor designers. Such pressure they must be under, but they persevered and didn't whine.

In my opinion, mom of three, Tera from Austin, shows great promise. The room she designed for Trent was tasteful, natural, and just plain pretty. I loved the brown and green natural palette and the textures she incorporated into her design, including the bamboo floor mat and the woven basket wall hangings. You'd never know she had only $500 and an hour in an Asian market. Kudos to her.

Julie's design is another that stood out, but only because I hated it! Her color washing technique for Tom's room and that goose feather rug were strange and not at all a reflection of Tom's corporate personality. I feel like she took the feng shui concept a bit too far. Feathers to represent air? This room was too themey for my taste.

Unconventional Emily described her design method as such, "I don't do sketches. I don't draw. I stare." Uh, ok. A little too much staring perhaps? Michael thought her room lacked "punch" and Emily herself winced when showing the room to the judges. She's going to have to lose some of her self-described pickiness (that seemed to paralyze instead of guide her) if she wants to continue on. But, all of this said, I think Emily's pretty likable, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she does next week.

And then, there was Nina, a designer for Ralph Lauren, who is just begging for karma to bite her. She totally tried to get a leg up on her design partner, Courtland, by blatantly refusing to tell him what defined her style. Nina, play fair! Plus, parasols? Really? Isn't that a little tired and cliché?

Courtland, who played nice for Nina, despite the fact that he didn't like the room she designed for him, was deceived by her and then left to fend off the judges. To have the judges declare Nina the winner of the challenge was even more salt to rub in his wound! Ouch. I'm pulling for Courtland and think that we haven't seen what he's capable of. Let's see what happens next week when he comes out fighting. Go get 'em, C.

My real beef is with the judges. What do you have to say for yourselves? Genevieve Gorder criticized Tom's room, saying it looked too much like an Asian supermarket, so how did Nina's parasol wall pass with flying colors? I wish the judges would enlighten us. Instead, they just declared Nina the winner and moved right along to torture the bottom six with their criticisms.

However, in the end, I do believe they sent the right person home. Farewell to Julie and her goose feathers.

Looking forward to seeing more from Alex, Emily, Michael, and Tera next week. Come on, designers. Show us what you're made of!

See you next Monday for more Design Star madness.

Wait. Are you still eager for more? Then check out David Bromstad's video blog recap at the HGTV Design Star website. Good stuff.

Did you agree with the judges that Nina should be the winner of the White Box Challenge?

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