Design Star Recap: What Would Graham Willcox Want?


Okay folks, we’re down to four – Kellie, Mark, Meg, and Karl. This week, the contestants compete in the “Look-for-Less” challenge. They each get $2500 to redecorate the main room of a really plain apartment. The camera challenge is a doozy – they have to take a basic, cheap item and make it into a designer focal point. The kicker is that they have to present this idea on the Nate Berkus show. Oy.

Here’s what the kids came up with…


Meg is freaking me out because she’s decided that in order to be inspired, she needs to create this story in her brain about who she is designing for. She comes up with an elaborate story and it’s a bit freaky. Apparently, there is a fake woman who lives there named Graham Willcox. She’s 28 and grew up around nice things, but she’s blown through her trust fund. When Meg is out shopping, she sees big basket wheels for the wall, which she loves because it looks “like Graham went shopping in Africa.” Which totally makes sense because when I shop in Africa, I often buy basket wheels that are five feet in diameter. Super easy to throw in the overhead bin.

Overall, I have to say Meg’s room looks great. Those basket wheels look like big eyeballs, but who’s to say that’s a bad thing (that was sarcasm). Maybe Graham likes eyeballs. Meg hangs wood molding on the walls, vertically, with shelves hung off them. It looks interesting. The colors to me are a little blah, but overall it’s lookin’ good.

The judges rave about her room. Nate says the color scheme is “really lovely.” See? What do I know? Genevieve loves the stripes on the wall, and Vern is a fan of the coffee table. For her camera challenge, she takes a plain coffee table, paints it, and then paints a little design on the top. Oddly uncomplicated, but it looks pretty good. Vern mentions he appreciates seeing Meg’s sophisticated eye.


This dude is growing on me. He seems so damn nice, and I actually think he can decorate. I’m a fan. Anyway, his room looks pretty cool. Again, I wish the paint was a little more interesting, but I suppose it’s soothing. By far, for me, the highlight of this room is the bookcases. He builds really tall and thin bookcases, but the best part is that he uses actual books as the shelves. It looks really unique and, I have to say, I’m actually a little jazzed do this in my house. And I don’t know how to make toast, so to take on any do-it-yourself project is a big deal.

Nate loves the colors, the layout of the room and those bookshelves, but he hates the homemade clock hanging on the wall. It’s a huge wall and the clock is small, so it looks lost. Even I can see that. Vern and Genevieve rave about the bookshelves too.


This room is a bit of a mess. At first glance it looks okay, but the more you investigate, the more confusing it is. She forgot window treatments, so she hung tablecloths that are too long. It just looks poorly done, or as Nate says, “I wish the execution of the room was more sophisticated.” That’s a politically correct way of saying, “This room looks cheap and that you designed it with your eyes closed.”

Her camera challenge idea is to reupholster the bar stools. She has these little wood barstools and she reupholsters the tops of them with one of those cheap, Pier 1 Imports, hemp-like, colorful rugs. They look great – super unique and colorful, but they also look like my three-year-old could’ve stapled them on. They just look a bit sloppy.

Kellie also does an interesting wall art installation with huge wood circles and wooden kitchen spoons that are painted teal. I dig it, as does Vern. Genevieve loves those stools, too. Overall, it’s not horrible, but she made some mistakes and it doesn’t all come together.


Mark’s room looks okay – out of the three it isn’t the worst, but not the best either. It looks too plain ; he leaves a massive wall completely blank, which Nate calls a “rookie mistake.” Agreed. If even I can see it as an error, it’s certainly not a mistake a designer should make. Mark hangs these square, crooked bookshelves on the wall to add interest. I actually dig it, but Nate doesn’t like it. Why don’t Nate and I agree on much this week? Probably because he’s a talented designer and I’m…well…not. Moving on!

Camera Challenge

The four contestants each have to present their look-for-less tip on air on the Nate Berkus show. All four of them look like they might pass out, and rightfully so. It would be stressful trying to pull this off in front of a studio audience. Anyhoo, Karl is up first and he does an amazing job. I’m so proud of him! I immediately berate myself for being too involved in a reality show. Anyway, he sounds natural and calm and has a great tip – those bookshelves.

Meg does pretty well – she’s natural in front of a camera but there’s something mildly annoying about her. I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m not sure I’d want to watch her host her own show. She does a decent enough job, but not as good as Karl.

Kellie bites the big one. I feel bad for her since you can tell a lot of it was nerves. But she looks tired, terrified and has the personality of a sea snail. Not a good combo.

Mark was just confusing. He seems chill and casual when he talks, which I enjoy, but I literally have no clue what his project is. True, I don’t know what “silver leaf’ is, but I’m pretty sure that even if I did know, I still wouldn’t be able to follow his instructions.

Judges’ Decision

They decide Meg is the winner, but Karl must have been a close second. The decide to send Kellie home, which was a no-brainer after this week’s mess and last week’s bunk bed fiasco. We’re down to Meg, Karl and Mark for the final few weeks. I’m pulling for Karl. If he can nail the next couple camera challenges, I think he’s got it.

Didn’t catch last week’s episode? Read the recap!

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