After tonight’s Design Star finale, thousands of HGTV viewers logged on to the official message boards to fight about the results. After designing two complete homes for two families, the judges deliberated and selected Antonio as the Design Star winner. The one thing most viewers agreed on: Antonio seemed highly favored from the beginning of the show, and was perhaps even pre-selected.
Design Star Winner: Reality Shows
We all know that reality shows aren’t exactly pillars of honesty, and scanning the fine print of competition shows often reveal that producers can do what they like with voting results. Sometimes this is necessary to keep a show fair, or to at least have the appearance of fairness. If you start out with 10 Design Star contestants and all 5 women get voted off in the first five weeks, it’s not exactly an equal opportunity show.
Often the tampering is for controversy and ratings, which is why those contestants that everyone hates always seem to be safe week after week. Antonio was the controversial Design Star character this year. Brash and confrontational, tattooed and nonconformist, Antonio roughened the edges of the generally smooth and poised Design Star competition. As annoying as this was, at least Antonio had talent, even if it was more towards carpentry than décor.
Design Star Winner: The Final Two
Both Dan and Antonio seemed to skate through this season of Design Star based on their carpentry skills. In the group challenges, they were generally safe because you can’t send the guy home who installed all the kitchen cabinetry or built a room full of furniture. In the Design Star white room challenge, the designers’ true skills came out. As Vern stated tonight, Dan probably had the most spectacular white room in all four years of Design Star–it was lush, creative, and functional. Antonio’s room had an interesting paint scheme the judges admired, but they shredded most of his other choices.
For tonight’s Design Star challenge, the choice between Dan and Antonio was like the metaphorical apples and oranges. Dan creates sophisticated spaces with useful storage and an ever-improving concept of depth in design, using layers of colors and textures and furniture for a complex and pleasing environment. Antonio takes more risks, uses bolder colors and eclectic pieces for a quirkier, unique result. Dan does the sweet nervous boy routine on camera, though his finale showing was much more polished and less giggly. Antonio’s hosting style is more LA Ink or Monster Garage than Design Star, but it definitely sets him apart.
Design Star Winner: The Drama
While Design Star is ostensibly purely about design and leadership skills, it also ends up being about personalities and drama. While Antonio created plenty of drama and bullied many of his fellow Design Star designers into submission–and elimination–Dan was not entirely innocent, either. While editing certainly could have played a factor, Antonio seemed to be more upfront about his antagonism and hyper competitiveness. Dan, on the other hand, often played the harmless and helpful friend until it came time for judging–then he’d happily throw his Design Star teammates under the bus.
Design Star Winner: Dan’s Final Challenge
As far as tonight’s Design Star home challenge, Dan was a clear winner when looking at it purely from a professional design standpoint. Dan took the color that both mother and daughter loved and worked it into the scheme of the entire home. He gave the teenage daughter a glamorous room with a cool high lounge/bed with slide-out desktops and plenty of under-bed storage. For the mother’s room, he removed a window that she hated and made an entire wall unit of storage as a headboard, with storage at the foot of the bed as well.
Dan hid the TV behind sliding mirrored panels over the fireplace, that matched the beveled tiles on the opposite wall. I worried about the mirrors looking too 70s, but the beveled style gave them a more diamond sparkle Hollywood glamour look that worked well with the contemporary furniture and cool colors. In the kitchen, Dan gave his Design Star clients dark, rich cabinetry with a light countertop and travertine floor. He also hid their kitchen laundry area by fitting a double decker washer/dryer unit into its own closed cabinet.
Design Star Winner: Antonio’s Final Challenge
For his Design Star home challenge, Antonio made an incredibly eclectic living room with a vintage Mediterranean style armoire as a TV cabinet/fireplace surround. There was beige, green, and pale blue furniture and linens to pick up on the weathered paint in the fireplace surround, and Candice was particularly in love with the red damask chairs that were an unexpected match to the old armoire.
In the bright green master bedroom, Antonio’s best move was restructuring an awkward bathroom arrangement. He closed off the strange half wall sink area that opened into the bedroom, and pushed the doorway around the corner into an alcove. This made the space more useful, but Antonio once again had some awkward issues with scale, placing too-small pictures on the newly lengthened focal wall. The toddler boy’s bedroom was also sparsely furnished, and the storage issue was sharply criticized by Design Star judge Vern.
Design Star Winner: The Final Decision
After Dan’s presentation, the sheer glee of the homeowners and the judge’s unanimous praise seemed tough to beat. Antonio’s client family did seem pleased with their home renovations, despite looking a little stunned at times, and the Design Star judges laughed merrily along with Antonio’s “Yo, whazzup?” hosting style. As she has all season, Candice giggled and beamed nonstop at Antonio, and Dan started to look justifiably nervous.
In the end, the Design Star judges chose the bolder, raw talent of Antonio over Dan’s more polished and sophisticated design. At least that’s the reasoning we were given, while it’s quite possible Antonio was chosen from the start. After all, there have been two women who’ve won the last two Design Star seasons. When Lonni was eliminated from the final three, it seemed clear Design Star was looking for a male host to balance things out–and if possible, a super macho straight designer. Those vocal viewers on the Design Star message boards suggest this was the reason HGTV didn’t have the audience vote for the final winner this time–they suspected viewers wouldn’t choose the guy they had in mind.
If this is the case, and Design Star was doing their best to manipulate Antonio to the finish, why bother with the competition set-up? If they wanted him that bad for a show, why not just give him one and let Design Star run with some semblance of an actual race? There seem to be quite a few disgruntled HGTV viewers out there, and any obvious fix will turn people off of future Design Star competitions. If you know there are no real stakes in the game, and the winner pre-chosen, why invest in it week after week?
Of course on-line bloggers don’t necessarily speak for all of America, and it’s possible that many Design Star viewers will love having the more unorthodox Antonio as an HGTV host. He’s certainly never boring, and if he learns more about accessorizing and scale, his wild design style would have a lot more focus and professional edge.
Design Star Winner: Vote
For Dan, he’s certainly gotten plenty of TV exposure, and his popularity could win him his own show in future and more clients right now. You can still vote for the Design Star designer who deserves their own online show at the official HGTV Design Star website. Voting ends September 15, 2009 at 5/4c.
Check out: HGTV Design Star: Celebrity Homes Recap