Design Star Recap: Tiny Houses, Big Mistakes


We’re down to the final three — Mark, Meg and Karl. They’re told this week they have to design an entire house. All three of them look like they’re going to throw up.

However, we quickly learn that this really means each designer will design a tiny house. Apparently, tiny houses are the next big thing. Tanika calls it a “hot, new movement.” I guess people are actually buying these tiny houses because they want to “live simply.” Tanika tells us they save energy! Well, yeah, heating 85 square feet costs about $5 a month. It’s simply not worth it to have no shower, no dishwasher and to have to store your face lotion on your kitchen counter. No thanks.

The houses are about 85 square feet and cost between $12,000 and $50,000. I once lived in a studio apartment that was about 250 square feet and I wanted to kill myself. Cutting that in half and having to pee in something called a “toilet compartment” could actually put me over the edge.

The heart of this challenge is not to cater to the crazy people who would actually live in that hell-hole, but to help normal people—like you and I—maximize small spaces with smart, space-saving tips. That could be helpful, but I’m just more curious as to how these people will pull this off. They have to design a sleeping area, a living area, a dining area, a kitchen and a bathroom. In 85 square feet. None of these tiny house owners, shower, wash clothes or cook anything, I guess.

The designers get two days to do it, and they each get a carpenter to help them out. They also have two camera challenges to do. Here’s how each of them fared:


Meg freaks me out a little by calling her design “kitschy” and wants to use bold colors. Oh noooo, Meg. Kitschy sometimes means “full of crappy knick knacks” and even I know when you have a small space, you don’t need to fill it up with crap. Sure enough, she picks up a bunch of crap when she shops—a green rake to hang wine glasses from, and waaaaaay too many mason jars. The end result … is actually okay. Hers is not my favorite, but it looks okay. And for having a bunch of junk in it, it looks pretty tidy and spacious because she puts the toilet and closet in the very front, so it’s out of the way. Plus it creates a “foyer” feeling, which is nice so it’s not one square room. She paints the trim on the windows green, along with some shelves, which ends up being a nice splash of color without overdoing it. The shelves are just stupid though—they’re about 6 inches deep. Deep enough for a bunch of useless mason jars and nothing else. She could’ve done more there. Overall, looks okay.

Meg does okay in the camera challenges. She certainly could have stood for a shower and some touching up on the makeup, but she’s pretty natural on camera. There’s nothing about her that makes me love her, though. She’s not someone you dislike, but I’m not digging her much either. I bet you’re glad I cleared that up. So in a nutshell, I don’t dislike her but I don’t like her. Got it?

The judges walk through her tiny house, with guest judge Candice Olson. They like it. Vern likes the unified color palette, but is concerned there is no storage. He’s also annoyed with the dumb, shallow shelves that hold nothing but crap. Candice likes the entry and says it feels funky and fresh. I think Genevieve just stands there.


Mark says his overall concept is strong texture with dynamic colors, and again, I cringe. Easy on the crazy decor in 85 square feet, people. Geesh. His place turns out to be a complete nightmare. It’s my least favorite tiny house, for one main reason: he does a horrible “art installation” on the walls. On ALL the walls, and it’s not only ugly, but really weird and doesn’t make any sense. He paints crisscrosses on the wall with paint, and then hangs belts all over the walls. Yes, you read that correctly— he literally hangs a hundred men’s belts all over the house. I have no clue what he’s saying, or what he’s trying to accomplish. Just ugly.

Side note: Mark’s assigned carpenter is Carmen de la Paz. I don’t know her, but I might punch her if she was my assistant. Waaaay too upbeat and spazzy. The word “exhausting” comes to mind.

Mark really messes up in the first camera challenge. He goes way off-track, and looks uncomfortable and bumpy. He does better in the second challenge, but I don’t think he’s as good as Karl or Meg on camera.

Besides that, the house is fine. Cute décor, with fresh herbs in the kitchen. He puts a comfy looking sofa in the back of the house, which looks great. So besides the argyle disaster, which eats the whole room, it looks fine. Vern and Genevieve both mention how they dislike the belt thing, but Vern is impressed with Mark’s design eye, whatever that means. Candice likes the space planning and Genevieve likes the kitchen planters – not looking great for Mark, is it?


First of all, he’s the only one smart enough to put seating outside. Duh. I mean, if you actually lived in that house, you’d probably be trying to spend your life figuring out ways to get OUT of it. Outside seating is critical.

His tiny house is my favorite. He comments at one point that he has the same layout as Mark so he needs to do something unique, so he pulls out salmon colored paint. I immediately freak out, because Karl is my favorite and I thought we had all learned our salmon-colored paint lesson for the season (in a nutshell, don’t do it. Bad.). But oddly, it looks great! It’s not completely salmon—it has a little terracotta in it and it adds some interest. Candice thinks it makes the room look smaller, but I like that it’s interesting. My other favorite part is the ladder up to the loft bed. It’s chunky, and stylish. I want one in my house. Somewhere…

Karl is amazing at the camera challenges. He does a good job and I feel like a proud Mom watching him. I’m younger than he is, but I still felt like a proud mom. He seems so sweet, so natural and totally likable.

He’s really smart about the solutions for small spaces. Everything in there can be used in a number of ways (coffee table equals seating, etc.). I think the judges dig that part, too. Also, Vern likes the seating and the storage, and Vern comments that there’s “a real aesthetic” to the house. Again, I don’t know what that means. I think it’s fancy talk for “it looks nice.”

Judges’ Evaluation

In the end, the judges tell Mark they will not be producing his show. I think in the end, the belts were unforgivable.

It’s down to Karl and Meg for the win, and I’m all about Karl at this point. I hope he pulls it off! Big season finale is next week—see you then!

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