This interview is courtesy of my friend Robin Callan of Room Fu, for her blog “Fu For Thought”.
If Venetian plasterers are looking for a poster boy, they could scarcely do better than Design Star castoff Courtland Bascon. Known for faux finishes and V-neck shirts, he caused quite a stir during the seventh episode when he outed himself.
As a straight guy. What were your immediate thoughts when you saw what you had to work with for this last challenge?
It was almost like I had a flashback and I was spending the summer at my grandmother’s place in Rhode Island. We knew going into the challenge we were going to have to repurpose a lot.
What made you decide to recreate your cello-inspired wall this time around?
I wish someone had knocked me over the head and said, “Hey, Courtland, listen…this wall looks just like the Sedona, AZ wall!” During this challenge, I had a lot of build-outs. I did the tables, I did two vases, the valances, the ottoman for Casey, and a lot of other things that were more important to my inspiration besides that god-awful orange wall. If I could’ve gone back and done something different, I probably would’ve left it plain and then addressed the rest of the room. Since the show, I’ve been labeled the faux finish guy. To be honest with you, a lot of the work that I do doesn’t actually revolve around faux finishing. During the challenges, if I had to add some texture or add some color somewhere, it’s such a quick application that you can do it in a matter of a half hour. With faux finishing, it’s a hit or miss and I missed a couple times.
Your portfolio has a lot of those finishes in it.
I’m actually certified in Italian Venetian plaster–the real old-world Venetian plaster. We’re using crushed quartz and lime and marble dust to create texture and it’s the same application that they used to use. The finishes I’ve used in the show were all done in the faux sense of a layered application.
Were you surprised to go home this week?
Yeah, I was, actually… but I totally understand where the judges were coming from as far as getting Aaron Sanchez’ name wrong and also with the orange wall. I tripped up a little bit, but I truly believe that all of the other work that I did in the space really translated into my dish. Deconstructing the tables, deconstructing the lamps and making sconces and vases out of them…I really thought that it was enough to get me into the next round. Even the hosting–it wasn’t my best hosting of the season. We all know I’ve been there eight times, so by that time, I should’ve just nailed it. When I design in the real world, I do everything. I lay the floors, I do the electrical, I deconstruct and rebuild everything. The only time I ever call anyone in is to lay down carpet or to do some complicated plumbing. Everything I did within the show is actually how I work in the real world.
I was going to ask you about that, because you do seem super comfortable, efficient and fast—it’s obvious you have tons of experience with all of these things. That’s impressive.
Fortunately for me, I grew up in a family where we were basically born with a trowel in our hands. We were working and building things–since we were as young as twelve or thirteen, working on the line with my father. Coming from such a large family (twelve kids!), you really learned the ins and outs of fixing things, because you tend to break a lot of things and you don’t want Mom and Dad to find out! You become creative in that sense. You become a Mr. Fixit!
Who do you think should’ve gone home?
Casey, but I truly believe that Emily, Michael and Casey belong in the top four. Right from the beginning–you can tell a lot about a person by the way they carry themselves and dress themselves—I knew that everyone in the top four took what they did seriously. I’m not saying that the others didn’t, but it was one of those intuition reads based on personality and getting through a couple of the competitions–seeing what they were capable of.
I have to ask…were you surprised that everyone was so surprised you were engaged to a woman?
It’s nothing that I’m shocked by. I’m a straight man in a gay man’s world! I get it a lot. A lot of my friends out here in LA are in the gay community. It doesn’t bother me. At all. People may think what they want, but I know the real story.
What can you tell us about your fiancée, Dina Pitsos?
Together, we’ve been across the country six times. She’s actually the one who steered me and pushed me in the direction of actually trying out this season. There’s a song that I heard the other day that says something like, “She has made me everything I was meant to be.” It kind of sums up who Dina is to me. I did mention briefly that she is my backbone and she truly is. Without Dina, I wouldn’t push myself as hard as I push myself. Vern (Yip), Genevieve (Gorder), Candice (Olson), David Bromstad and all the rest of them—they’re pretty harsh judges. But when it comes down to it, at the end of the day, the only person that I truly have to answer to sleeps in the same bed as me. That’s Dina.
What does she do?
She’s a working model. We actually met while she was modeling in Miami. She’s been doing it almost ten years now.
When are you getting married?
We are actually in the process of setting a Guinness record for the longest engagement possible! We wanted to set our expectations high—we figure, let’s go for the big one. We have been truly engaged for about five years, but we’re in love for a lifetime. It’s the type of thing where both of our careers just suddenly took a loop. We’re going along for the ride right now. We’ve lived in Miami, Boston, New York, and now we find ourselves in LA, where we’re quite comfortable and happy. I would have to say within the next year. Hopefully sooner.
There seems to be a lot of chemistry between you and Michael. Did you bond more with him than the other designers?
Each and every one of us bonded differently, but as far as me and Michael, we clicked a lot. It was the type of thing where the first instance we met, we were close and we became really close friends. I trust him and I trust in his advice and what he does. I love his personal design and I love everything he did in the challenges. He’s one from the cast that I will probably be lifelong friends with.
Do you regret the tone you set for your hosting presentation during the Trump Plaza challenge?
When I watched the entire show, I could see frustration in my eyes. (Teammates Tom Vecchione and Stacey Cohen) wouldn’t take my advice. If I suggested something, they would shoot it down. The thing that we went into the project saying was, “Majority rules.” By the end of it, I was actually counting on Tom to do some art pieces for the bedroom, living room, and the dining area. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but Tom is a magnificent artist! The way he sketches with pencil is so moving. To have his pieces within the Trump Plaza—it would’ve been stunning…gorgeous. With Stacey, I had frustrations with the amount of time she spent on drop cloths. By the end, I wanted to throw in the towel, personally. I knew I couldn’t do that so the only way I could vent my frustration was through my video presentation. I wasn’t out to hurt anyone’s feelings. We all get hot under the collar sometimes, unfortunately.
On some level, you seem to enjoy being critiqued. Do you?
I absolutely do. One of the things I enjoy doing is, I actually work a lot with my peers. That’s what I’m looking for—I’m looking for the constructive criticism. Without somebody breathing down your neck or trying to show you a new way, or explaining something through…how will I ever grow? I don’t ever want to stop growing. If you see me on the street and want to criticize me, just make it constructive and I’ll be cool with it! I was in a very fortunate situation where I went through elimination eight times. I think I set the record for Design Star elimination rounds! I’m very comfortable with that.
You were one of the few finalists who said you were a fan of the show since the beginning. Who are some of your favorite designers from previous seasons?
I love Dan (Vickery). I thought Dan was going to win last season. I also like Lonni (Paul)—Lonni’s cool. David Bromstad is kind of a shoo-in. Jason (Champion)–I think he was let go kind of early. Jason was the one who did…do you remember the AstroTurf room? Did you see it?
Honey, I have encyclopedic knowledge of Design Star. Of course I saw it.
My HGTV viewership goes back before Design Star. I’ve been watching for years. I’m a huge New England Patriots fan, but chances are I’m watching HGTV over a football game, which is unusual for someone in my family.
If you were to win the online show, what kind of show would you create?
My passion is with children. I’ve been watching Dan’s (online) show—I know he does a children’s show as well. I love working with children. But if it weren’t with children, I kind of wouldn’t mind doing something more along the lines of bachelors and teaching them the ropes about what women really think when they walk into their space. Helping them translate their own personality within their spaces. Kind of like a matchmaker-type thing. I do have experience because I do wear V-neck shirts—I’m kind of in touch with that side a little bit! A lot of guys don’t understand what their space says about them when a woman walks in. It’s kind of like when you meet someone, the first thing you look at is their shoes.
So you basically want to do Metro Eye for the Straight Guy.
I guess you could call me a kind of a metro guy. The V-necks and the necklace? Dina said, “Let me go shopping for you,” and I thought, alright…you can style me for the show. I’m an extremely modest person, so even at a pool, I’ll wear a shirt. Unfortunately—but fortunately enough, because I got a lot of press out of it—she came home with a lot of V-neck shirts. But physically, I don’t go out and buy a lot of V-necks.
Out of the remaining three designers, who do you want to win?
For me, that’s easy. Me and Michael clicked from day one. I trust him, I believe in him, and I would really, really like to see him have his own show. That being said, I love Casey and Emily as well.
It turns out, this is not your first time at the reality show rodeo, is it?
Woa. Woa-woa-woa! Somebody’s been through the archives! No, it’s not. I thought that Lost (2001 reality show) was lost forever! It was a brilliant show. Give people $100, drop them in the desert in dry season and make them walk home to the United States—New York City’s Statue of Liberty—all on a hundred bucks. So smart. There were no V-neck shirts in that one!
Where did they drop you?
Mongolia! When they actually scouted the area, it was rainy season and there were rivers everywhere. They flew us in by Russian helicopter that was falling apart and dropped us in the middle of the desert. We had to fend for ourselves.
How did you get home?
Hitchhiked a lot. Ended up in Siberia. From Siberia, we talked ourselves onto a train that took us deeper into Siberia to the airport. When we got to the airport, we finagled our way onto a free flight for two to Moscow. Once we were in Moscow—we were in first place at this point—my teammate bowed out. All on $100! What we saw…it wasn’t good. Horrible experience. I tried to get amnesia, as far as that show was concerned! (Read a long-winded but hilarious recap here.)
Have you done any acting or modeling?
I actually did some modeling when I was younger—from the ages of about 21 to 30.
What are you working on now?
I actually have several projects. There’s a little Craftsman I’m doing in Venice. Funny—I did wood paneling the day after the firehouse episode aired, as a feature wall going up a set of stairs! I also have a project in Massachusetts, and another one in Michigan. One’s a child’s room and the other one’s kind of like a den.
HGTV’s Design Star airs Sunday nights at 9pm, CST. Check back here each week for my recaps/reviews and interviews with the castoffs!
Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of HGTV.
Thanks Robin… great interview.
Visit her blog here: