I had an unforgettable experience competing in and WINNING a design competition on YouTube! What a crazy week of being on camera, designing a room in two days, and meeting YouTube stars!
Watch the episode!
What is Design Vs. Design?
If you’re not already familiar with Kate and Joey’s channel, here’s what you need to know. This husband and wife team go around LA redesigning spaces for lucky fans as well as YouTube stars like James Charles, LaurDIY, and The Dolan Twins. They give décor tips and DIY tutorials to their 3.5 million subscribers in their signature quirky, down-to-earth style.
I’d been watching their shows since I came across their Design vs. Design series earlier this year. They pit two super fans against each other to makeover a blank room in 2 days! The winner receives $1000 and the furniture goes to charity.
I happened to see an open call to audition for the show on Instagram, and decided to go for it. I sent in my audition video and waited to see what happened. After several weeks of waiting and going through every possible emotion, I found out I’d been chosen to compete!
Mr. Kate is known for their TV quality episodes, but I was NOT prepared to walk onto the set to a full film crew buzzing around, sound people mic’ing me up, being told to stand on a mark, and following a producer’s direction. These were professionals!
I met my competitor, Roisin (ro-SHEEN), @roisinelizabethdoy. She was young, and cool, and bubbly and we instantly hit it off. I secretly sized her up, wondering what she would do with her room (it was amazing!).
We filmed at Living Spaces, an enormous home furnishing center here in SoCal. The La Mirada store has an equally huge back warehouse for shooting product ads, and a crew had built two identical blank rooms side by side for us.
We were sent out to meet Kate and Joey on camera. How crazy to meet these people I’d been admiring for so long online in real life!
They gave us our assignment: design a dining room for eating as well as entertaining. We could use our own style and were encouraged to do DIYs. BUT WAIT! There was a twist. Joey brought out a hat and we had to blindly pick a color to be a MAJOR feature in the space. What did I grab? Neon yellow.
My face when I saw the color is genuine shock and horror. I had no idea how was I supposed to make such a crazy color look sophisticated, or make it work with my style!
Completing a Room in 2 Days
I had about 30 minutes to measure, sketch a design, and chose paint. There was no time for second guessing or mulling things over! (Normally it takes me between 2-4 weeks to design a room and shop). I had to trust my gut and just go with it.
As soon as I’d scribbled down my paint colors and handed it to the art people, we were whisked off to the sales floor for shopping!
One hour Shopping Spree!
Having the run of a store and picking out whatever I wanted is not something I’m going to complain about. Just so you know, I’ve probably never chosen a single piece of furniture in that amount of time, let alone an entire room full! And with a brief this open, it was hard to nail down a specific look. Sometimes having too many choices can be just as paralyzing as having too few.
My strategy was to find my big pieces first- table, chairs, buffet, bookcases, and rug. Then go for wall art, and lastly smaller items like plants, accessories, and pillows.
I grabbed doubles and multiples of things. Better to have too much than not enough options!
When our hour was up my head was spinning! I loved everything I’d chosen. The only thing I didn’t have was enough yellow. I was going to have to bring it into the room with some strategic DIYs.
Day 2: Crafting and Styling
I walked into day two with a massive to-do list. I needed to arrange all my furniture, crush several craft projects that I’d never actually tried before, and style the entire space. My walls had been painted overnight and my stuff piled in front of my room. It was good to see the room starting to take shape!
I felt like I was in a personal fairytale- crafting for hours WITH HELP, directing people to hang curtains and lay rugs for me, making a space I was in love with… Heaven!!
DIY Painted Frames
Here’s a good project if you need some quick colorful art on a wall. I glued metal clips to some canvases and painted yellow brush strokes around the edges. Then I clipped black and white pictures of my kiddos on for a personal touch. It was an easy way to add a big splash of color to this side of the room. Bam, done in 20 min!
Ombre Rope Chandelier
To make sure I REALLY checked the yellow box, I wanted a big splash of it smack in the middle of the room. I bought some rope, twine, and embroidery hoops to try making an ombre yellow chandelier. I’d never attempted anything like this before, and was a ridiculous choice to try for the first time under pressure!
I started by tying the small hoop to my light fixture. It was very temperamental and wasn’t hanging level. I had a mini panic attack that this DIY might end up being a big disaster. Eventually, with two people holding it steady, I got it level and could move on to the big hoop. I tied that in four places.
At the bottom I gathered the four ropes into a ponytail and knotted it. Once the basic shape was secure it was just a matter of cutting, trimming, and tying the dozens of lengths of rope and twine. I painted it ombre, fading from white to yellow. When it was finally finished, it looked awesome! With two people helping, it took us 6 hours to complete!
The Curtains that Didn’t Happen
In the episode you see me laying out and sewing yellow yarn into curtains. But in the final shot, they’re plain white. I wanted to add yarn to my curtains for a handmade effect, but it was one DIY I had to totally scrap. When I got started, I found out I wasn’t allowed to alter Living Spaces’ prop curtains, so one of the assistants ran out to see if she could find some for me. The curtains I got were 84”, which isn’t short, but definitely isn’t long enough either!
We hung them thinking maybe it wasn’t so bad, but I instantly knew it was a no go. The panels were 2 feet shy of the floor, too thin, and totally distracting from the overall room. So, I scrapped the whole project and went with Living Spaces’ curtains instead. I’m glad I did, you can see the difference full curtains make in the next pictures!
Adding the Final Touches
With all my furniture in place and DIYs finished, it was time to accessorize the room and bring in lots of personality! In addition to our shopping haul, we could use any props the store had on hand for photo shoots, in addition to some things I brought from home.
I was like a kid in a candy store! I added board games, dishes, glasses, silverware, and anything else that felt like it belonged in a relaxing coastal dining room. And rembering to add pops of my yellow wherever I could!
When I was done it felt like a studio version of my home.
My Final Space
I was still rushing around setting the table and hiding price tags when they called TIME. It was a relief to sit down for a hot minute! I loved my space, and hoped there was enough yellow to make the judges happy. Here is the result, completed in only 10 hours!
I tried something different with my rug. I’d chosen a blue and jute one to have options, but loved them both! I set one slightly diagonal for a layered look.
I kept my table simple with white and yellow dishes, green glasses, and a basket with extra napkins.
My canvas DIY hung above a wooden buffet, ready to hold hors d'oeuvres, drinks, or guest’s bags while the party gets going.
I loved adding personal moments into the room. The pictures of my kiddos, plants from home, and two mason jars of treasures my boys have brought me over the years.
My chandelier shining bright! It looked like a bright ray of sunshine coming down over the table.
On the fourth wall I added a simple seating area with printed chair and super soft fur pillow. I wish there had been a matching chair to pair with it! Instead I paired it with a pouf that could double as a footrest or additional seat. I wanted the room to be flexible and accommodate lots of guests!
Day 3: Judges and the results
Our celebrity judges’ identities were kept very hush hush. The crew sent us to the opposite end of the building while they arrived and toured our rooms. Then we were called in one at a time to meet them and explain our spaces!
I took a deep breath and walked into my room to see James Charles, Jeffrey Alan Marks, and Kristen McAtee standing in my space! I’ve been a fan of James Charles since I found his gorgeous makeup tutorial videos online and immediately became one of his nearly 16 million followers.
Jeffrey Allan Marks is a well known designer based in Santa Monica, has had his own decorating show, “Million Dollar Decorators”, and created his own furniture and lighting collections. Kristen McAtee is a lifestyle YouTuber with a following over a million strong. I tried to remember everything I’d planned to say, but I have to admit I was a little starstruck!
They asked lots of details about my room- why I’d made certain choices, and how I made some of my DIYs. They were surprised that my chandelier was handmade! We were sent off again as they deliberated over lunch. It was a long lunch.
Finally they called Roisin and I back in. The judges gave some critiques and praise. I analyzing everything for hints of who they favored. I was dying. When Joey read my name I’m pretty sure I accidentally screamed.
I hugged Roisin. I hugged the judges. I called Jason and told him the good news. I cried a little bit. I was SO proud of what I’d accomplished and SO moved by this recognition! I felt like maybe there was a place for me among these talented designers.
My name, signed by James Charles!
5 Things This Experience Taught Me
1. Trust my gut. Somebody once said your first idea is usually your best idea. With the time crunch, I had to go with my first instincts, and they proved good.
2. Make a decision and go with it. Don’t waste time revisiting decisions. Chose once and move on.
3. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. Troublesome curtains and missing side chairs couldn’t affect the overall integrity of my space.
4. I’m good at what I do. It’s so easy to doubt myself. Whether I’d won or not, I felt completely at home designing, shopping, crafting. It was heaven and I was proud space that I loved!
5. I want more! Three 12 hour days of designing on camera was simply NOT ENOUGH. I need more of this in my life! What does that mean? A YouTube channel of my own? A show on tv? Maybe someday. I can dream!
Would I do something like this again? In a heartbeat! Mr. Kate, if you ever do an All-Stars episode, I’ll be the first to apply!! If I could do it over, I wouldn’t do a thing differently. I had the time of my life.