HGTV Design Star 2009: Backyard Challenge

HGTV Design Star 2009 advertises episode 7 as the “brutal backyard challenge.” The episode lives up to the drama the title implies. This is the first ever backyard done on Design Star. The final four Design Star 2009 candidates (Lonni Paul, Antonio Bellatore, Dan Vickery and Torie Halbert) go over budget, fail to impress the judges and blame it all on each other.
HGTV Design Star 2009: Backyard Challenge
The Design Stars are given $25,000 to makeover the backyard of the Zimmer family. They are to work as a group and have 36 hours, in addition to landscape assistants. Torie Halbert steps up to be the team leader. She feels as if she has the upper hand, as she works with exteriors almost daily.

When the Design Star finalists are shown the Zimmer’s backyard, it is little more than a vast expanse of dirt. The only things left are a swimming pool, patio and several random types of fencing. The Zimmers implore the Design Star team to give them a “modern oasis.” They also requested a play area for their son and entertaining space for 50 guests.

HGTV Design Star 2009: Day One
The designers start to plan the space. It becomes apparent that despite Torie being team leader, Antonio Bellatore has most of the ideas and input. Antonio suggests a modern concrete pool deck, a rock wall water feature and most of the space planning. Fellow Design Star competitors, Dan Vickers and Lonni Paul, agree that Antonio stepped up and took the design lead.

Design Star stays true to gender stereotyping, as Dan and Antonio stay behind to work, Lonni and Torie go shopping. This seems to be a common occurrence this season. The girls find a BBQ pit from Sears, beautifully tricked out with a rotisserie and refrigerator.

HGTV Design Star 2009: Day Two
The Design Star Episode 7 budget controversy begins on day two. Torie says that she is going to give Dan and Antonio $10,000 for a pergola, but only gives Dan $5,000. Before settling on a final price, the company has to go to the site. Antonio and Dan agree to run the final price by Torie and Lonnie, before signing anything.

Meanwhile, Torie and Lonnie are purchasing a play fort and all the plants for the backyard makeover. Lonnie ends up taking the lead on plant choice. She picks out some mondo grass, ferns and bamboo.

All of the Design Stars meet back at the backyard makeover, only to discover that Dan has signed off on a $10,600 pergola. The designers are in low spirits, as Torie adds up expenses. The backyard makeover is $5,000 over budget. Antonio states that the bottom line is “we should have been more clear on the budget.”
The designers are devastated, since they will not be able to afford any outdoor furniture.

Host Clive Pearse shows up at the backyard challenge site. He informs the designers that this is the first time in Design Star history that anyone has gone over budget. He gives Torie an additional $5,000, so the family won’t be let down and the design can be completed.

HGTV Design Star 2009: Day Three
On day three of the backyard challenge, Torie takes the $5,000 and goes furniture shopping. She buys grouped sets and adds red pillows, for pops of color. Back at the challenge site, Antonio lays the sod. Loni lines the fence with bamboo plants, so they will grow to create a natural fence. She uses tropical and subtropical plants in groups of three.

Lonnie and Dan begin to lay the river rock in a thin, flowing pattern. Torie tells them to change it, because Antonio thought it was “lame and horrible.” At this point, Dan and Lonnie are irritated with Antonio. Lonnie refers to his decision as “arrogant stupidity.” But they do what Antonio says.

HGTV Design Star 2009: Day Four
The Design Star hopefuls have two hours left, on day four. Antonio completes his rock wall waterfall feature. The seating spaces are brightened up with bursts of orange and red. The designers finish up, then host the space to the cameras.

HGTV Design Star 2009: Judging
Design Star judge Vern Yip commends the designers for completing such a huge challenge. The judges then view the designers’ hosting skills. Judge Genevieve Gorder compliments Antonio, saying he “has something about him.” Vern feels that Dan has the “It factor”, but cautions him from being too rehearsed. Genevieve felt that Lonnie did better and Torie’s voice range was disappointing.

When it came time to critique the design, judge Candice Olsen felt that, “A lot of items were shopped for and not designed.” Candice also felt that the plants were too small and didn’t have enough impact. There was no “aha!” moment. She also questions the square pergola in an organic design.

Genevieve comments that she doesn’t see the zen part of the oasis theme. Lonnie agreed with her.

Vern felt the furniture was disoriented. He also worries that the Design Star finalists’ design voices are not showing through. The judges agree that no one stood out in the design.

Luckily for the Design Star competitors, the Zimmer family liked their new backyard. That was the word they use, like, not love. They seemed pleased with the concrete pool deck, grill, shade seating and play-set.

The heat rose in the green room, as the Design Stars got verbal. Torie states that she is not taking the blame. Dan accuses Antonio of never taking the blame for anything. Antonio responds with, “Slow your roll, because I’m getting hot. To which Dan yells back, “I’m not shutting up because you tell me to, Antonio!”

HGTV Design Star 2009: Elimination
Lonnie was deemed to have worked hard on the planting and the judges loved the bamboo walls. She was safe. The judges felt that even though Antonio was not the team leader, he made good decisions crucial to the team. He moves on to the next challenge.

Dan and Torie are up for elimination. The decision is obviously based on who was responsible for going over budget. The judges deemed Dan’s $10,000 pergola, “frivolous and inexcusable.” They felt that as team leader, Torie was responsible for the design and budget. Torie’s Design Star dream was canceled.

I got the feeling that unlike Jason, on last week’s episode, Dan’s mad hosting skills are what saved him. Dan was left with the warning, “That every decision you make effects your chance of becoming the next Design Star.”

Next week’s Design Star is a celebrity challenge. The remaining three designers will compete in individual challenges. The challenges will take place in the homes of Kathy Griffin, Jason Priestly and Tiffany Thiessen.