Vern Yip

It may have changed names from Design Star to HGTV Star for Season 8, but the fast-paced and fashionable reality show is still as stylish and addictive as ever. Well that depends on who you ask — some of these rooms are to die for, others are fatally flawed. So we asked one of the experts, judge Vern Yip, for his take on what the contestants have been serving up so far.

TV Guide Magazine: How does this cast compare to previous seasons?
Vern Yip: Fans of the series have seen how each season brings an increasingly savvy cast and this season is no different. These contestants have seen all the previous seasons, studied the previous challenges, and come prepared with a deep arsenal of design ideas and tricks. The part they can't necessarily prepare for is how they'll end up reacting when faced with team challenges where other personalities and points of view are involved, the pressures of time and budget, and of course, the unknown.

TV Guide Magazine: Do they play well together?
Yip: I think this cast has some unusually large personalities yet, for the most part, they got along. I love some of the more unique perspectives we get to see this season, too. Jeribai Tascoe comes from a graphic design and branding background, Brooks Atwood is a professor and comes with a lot of experience in industrial design, and many of these designers have years of experience under their belt in design, installation, and construction. Some of them are also surprisingly natural in front of the camera despite never having been on camera before. Anne [Rue], in particular, delivers to the camera like she's been hosting her own show for years, but prior to being on HGTV Star has never had on-camera experience before. It's remarkable how natural she is.

TV Guide Magazine: How do you feel your mentoring skills have changed since you started on the show?
Yip: I definitely am not dispensing Design 101 tips to the designers nearly as much as in the beginning of the series. During the first several seasons, we had more untrained designers who possessed a lot of natural ability but were unfamiliar with some of the more basic design principles. In subsequent seasons, I could tell that designers coming in were learning from all the groups that preceded them. We also started attracting an unusually high caliber of designers with a lot of experience during the audition process due to the success of the series and the national exposure these designers were getting. It's not just the designers on the show, however, who now know the basic principles and rules of design. Fans of the show come up to me all the time to tell me that they learned how to properly size a rug or hang a picture at the correct height or how far above their dining room table their chandelier should be. [All] just from watching the judging panel!

TV Guide Magazine: What challenge has shocked you the most so far?
Yip: I was most shocked by how disastrous the kitchen-foyer-dining room area turned out [in episode 2]. Especially when we had some brilliant ideas in the bedroom and the den. Jessie [Miller], Abby [Vasek], and Boris [Eckey] just couldn't get those spaces together. As Jessie readily admitted on the show, the kitchen was already largely complete and she has deep experience in designing lofts...this should have been a slam dunk for her. There is no doubt that she is an extremely talented designer but this was not her best moment.

TV Guide Magazine: Even the best can mess up.
Yip: Having a bad moment on the show happens to talented designers because they are working in an unfamiliar way and under intense pressure that they might not be used to. It doesn't mean that they aren't extraordinarily capable. It just means that they aren't used to the fast pace and tight timelines designers often work under on design shows. I was also very pleasantly shocked by the repurposing of a camera on a tripod into a floor lamp by Cris [Mercado]. I thought this was a brilliant and original idea that would've normally put her at the top of the pack had it not been for the disastrous car hood turned in by her design partner Tylor [Devereaux]. You can really only be truly successful in a Team Challenge if you take the time to make sure the entire effort, not just your component, is up to snuff.

TV Guide Magazine: Is there an empty design phrase you are sick of hearing designers use?
Yip: Not really. Personally, I'm not a big fan of designer's describing their style prefaced with the word "glamour." When I hear designers say their style is "glamour chic" or "glamour rock-n-roll" or "glamour modern," I'm not entirely sure that it's really an accurate descriptor of their true point of view. It usually means that they're going to be employing a lot of shiny accessories and mirrored furniture. I'm a sucker for polished metals so I understand the attraction to shiny objects, but it's really not enough to build a career on, and it's certainly not always "glamorous" in the true sense of the word.  

TV Guide Magazine: Biggest mistake a contestant made last week?
Yip: I actually think the biggest mistake belonged to Cris. She turned in a brilliant re-purposing effort by converting a vintage camera on a tripod into an über-chic floor lamp. The rest of the living room also had some really nice and innovative moments such as the integration of a vintage vending machine into a coffee table and the creation of a sofa table from stacked, vintage trunks. By taking a hands-off approach with Tylor's installation of his beat-up car hood "art," Cris sacrificed her position at the top of the pack for this challenge. In Team Challenges, you definitely have to let your teammates provide input and have their creative moments to shine but it is also critical to always bring your design eye to the entire project and speak up when you know something just isn't going to work.

TV Guide Magazine: Anyone out rightly ignore your advice?
Yip: I rarely think that happens to the judging panel. Even if the designers might disagree with the advice we dispense, they usually hang on every word and take the advice to heart for at least the duration of the competition. Especially since we are the ones determining their fate in the evaluation studio. After the competition, they may end up disregarding all of our opinions but they usually pay attention during it.

TV Guide Magazine: Was there any work you saw and thought "Damn, I want that"?
Yip: Absolutely. As much as I loved the ingenuity of what Cris created with the vintage camera converted into a brilliant floor lamp, it really isn't my personal style. I could think of a few places, however, where I would've hung Brooks' ceiling fixture composed of cords and bulbs. I thought it was monumentally beautiful.

TV Guide Magazine: Worst choice: battered Volkswagen hood as wall art or Abby's foyer?
Yip: No question for me...the battered hood takes the cake. It looked worse in person than it even did on the show.

TV Guide Magazine: This week, we lost Cris and Tylor, and last week Jessie was booted for her weak kitchen. But how is Abby still around after her horrifying foyer and two weeks in the bottom?!
Yip: Abby displayed real talent on the first challenge of this season and has a unique perspective which can be compelling. The foyer was generally a let down but Abby was saved by the bigger disaster happening in the kitchen. The kitchen, by the way, should've been an easier to execute space than the foyer. I think Abby also suffered from being the primary laborer on her team. It's never a great idea to let someone else select the items that are going into a space you are going to ultimately take responsibility for. I certainly would never allow that to happen.

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