A friend of mine said last week how excited she was to see the contestants on this week’s Design Star would be doing kitchens because she loves when the designers have to work for real clients.
The Season 7 kitchen challenge was another white box. As the episode opens, the designers are shuttled off to some kind of studio or warehouse with three boxes, each with three walls.
Each has in it a couple Kohler boxes with sinks and faucets. One kitchen had a modern stainless sink, another a black apron sink and the third had two country-style, painted ceramic sinks.
David tells the designers they will work in pairs, have two days to finish the rooms and the winning space will be featured in HGTV Magazine.
Before I go any further, I should tell you what inspired me about this episode, as I’ve tried to do each week. The truth is, there wasn’t much.
I was reminded how much I like to spaces that appear “collected,” meaning the pieces feel like they’ve been added over time. Also, I love some of the lighting choices, particularly when they are unexpected.
OK. So much for that. Back to the recap.
Because Danielle won last week’s challenge, she gets to pick the teams and then pair them up with the sinks. That may be the most interesting part of the entire episode, although we get nearly no insight into what Danielle was thinking as she makes her decisions.
She chooses to make Britany her own partner because she’s a photographer, which Danielle thinks will be good for the magazine challenge. I would’ve picked Britany just because she’s been doing well in the last few episodes.
They pick the stainless steel sink.
Danielle puts Stanley and Hilari on the same team and gives them the black apron sink. This is a pretty funny pairing. Stanley is a contractor who considers himself an artist. Hilari likes all things gold and flashy.
“Our design styles just don’t work together,” Hilari says in the understatement of the episode.
That leaves Mikel and Rachel to work together using the country sinks. This pairing seems OK, except that Rachel – who started incredibly strong with two consecutive wins – has been sinking fast and has seemed increasingly frustrated.
The guest judges are John and Anthony who star on the HGTV show Kitchen Cousins.
HGTV has apparently told the designers to go bolder with color and Danielle and Britany discuss this. But they still go with the palest of blue paint on the walls. They decide to bring in yellow accents with their accessories.
They choose white cabinets, taupe countertops and a dark floor. On Day 2, as they see the room coming together, they get concerned about its blandness and so Britany paints what I guess is a closet door a pale yellow – although I thought it still just faded right into the neutral palette.
I was actually worried about these two – and they are my favorite designers left in the competition.
But they more or less pull it together by going for the “collected” look I mentioned earlier. Their goal is to mix new and vintage.
They add a gorgeous crystal and iron chandelier, a cool antique-looking buffet (I think it was new) and some industrial shelving nicely accessorized in part with some yellow pieces, including a handsome trunk.
There’s also a huge mirror leaning on the buffet, an X-pedestal glass topped table, and some leather, short parsons-style chairs. Britany hangs picture frames on the backsplash that have pages of books in them. She seems incredibly excited about this idea but I think it’s pretty bland.
Overall, the room is attractive but seems over-packed with stuff (although it doesn’t seem so much so in the photos).
The judges love it – and say nothing about the fact that it would be hard to get around the table and into the kitchen.
The cousins – I’m not really sure which is which – say the room is eclectic and provides a great mix of new and old.
Vern who is wearing a quite unfortunate plaid jacket – says he’s excited to see the stainless modern sink in the same room with the lighting fixture and the industrial shelving. “Lighting is an opportunity to have a floating piece of art,” he says.
The cousins say the picture frames are impractical.
I think they might have been cute had they been filled with favorite recipes. But book pages? I didn’t get it.
Mikel & Rachel:
I was actually rooting for Mikel and Rachel to do well. I loved Rachel’s early designs this season and I’ve been waiting for Mikel to break out and do something really cool.
And in the end, I didn’t actually hate their kitchen as much as the judges did – although I really didn’t like their sinks, which are painted in a busy, blue and white and yellow pattern. But I guess that’s why I’m a blogger and the judges are on television.
Rachel tries to talk Mikel into doing a kitchen with no upper cabinets. But eventually Mikel and the guy from the cabinet store talk her into doing upper cabinets on the sides of their U-shaped kitchen. But they leave the back wall wide open for wallpaper.
At a wallpaper store, they choose a mustard and lavender damask pattern. I thought it was beautiful and striking. But back in the room, it’s a drag. It has no life, Rachel says. So they proceed to paint the other walls gray and opt to use their second day to find a new wallpaper and hang it. Ahh!
Mikel and Rachel choose cream cabinets and a grayish countertop. They find a country style, black island to extend the kitchen’s functionality as well as a wood dining table that has an iron trestle stand.
They decide to go for mismatched chairs, which I think is probably a great idea. But they choose some oversized chairs that look like they belong in a formal dining room – not a country kitchen. And instead of going for four different chairs, they pick two of each kind.
I think some metal, industrial chairs would have been so much more effective.
They find a beautiful crystal chandelier which they hang with a rope. That’s probably the highlight of the space.
On Day 2, they bring back several wallpapers, eventually settling on a red and cream toile print. I really like and I start thinking this could be the winning kitchen.
But they stuff quite a few things into the kitchen. And everything is too close together, ruining the kitchen's functionality.
And the judges hate the wallpaper. Genevieve says it’s “incredibly busy” and the cousins say the chandelier gets lost in the pattern.
The judges try to pull an extended countertop out of the island and it comes so far out that there’s little room between it and the sink. Not good.
Stanley & Hilari:
These guys may not have started out with similar design styles but they both seem perfectly happy to go off the deep end in their room.
First, a reminder that they are using a black, apron sink.
Hilari and Stanley paint the walls an electric blue – I mean, really bright blue – and hang what look like maple or birch cabinets on the wall.
First, I don’t like blue in kitchens. Second, I almost never think that blue makes wood tones look better. So this kitchen isn’t off to a great start for me.
Hilari adds bright, sparkly countertops in red. Yes, red. It’s like a patriotic room or something.
I should say that I thought the red countertops could have been really cool – if they were the only “out-there” thing in the room.
“When you pick such a superstar of a countertop, you have to let her be the star,” Genevieve says later during judging.
But these guys just keep piling it on.
Stanley adds these nutty cabinet pulls in red and white that are shaped like hands. One of these would have been cool. A hand-shaped pull on every cabinet is just too much.
Hilari adds some cool bright red letters that spell out soup. Again, cool. But not combined with so many other bright colors.
There’s also a white and chrome bakers rack, an island with some modern white and chrome stools and a collection of globe pendants that don’t seem to have anything to do with the rest of the room.
One of the cousins says the room is bold but adds, “I feel like I’m in a comic book.”
Genevieve applauds the risk and the typography. But nobody likes this odd wooden thing – I swear I don’t begin to understand what it was – that Stanley built around the window.
“It doesn’t serve a purpose,” Vern says. And the truth is, it doesn’t even look good.
And one of those cousins isn’t a fan of the pulls, especially because as you open one door the thumb on the pull hits another one. “Are you supposed to give it a high five?” he says.
So before I tell you who won and lost, I should mention the camera challenge. The contestants had 30 seconds to describe a design tip.
None of the pieces seemed to be spectacular. But Rachel in particular struggled. It never seems like she’s that well prepared. And Stanley seems to just kind of laugh it off.
Genevieve tells Stanley that playfulness and slang can sometimes be OK. But it also “can become really cheesy,” she says.
Apparently, there’s a unanimous decision among the judges: Britany and Danielle are the winners.
“When I looked at your kitchen, the hairs on back of my neck stood up,” Vern says.
And remember, tonight there are two eliminations!
Rachel and Stanley (with Hilari at right) are out.
There’s not much explanation of the decision but I think the camera challenges probably killed them. And they didn’t do much to impress this week.
That means we have a final four: Britany, Danielle, Hilari and Mikel, whom Genevieve last night called “middle Mikel.”
I don’t think Mikel will be able to hide in the middle any longer.