This interview conducted by my friend Robin Callan of Room Fu, for her blog Fu For Thought.
Central Texas fans of Design Star had another reason to watch Season 5 of HGTV’s hit reality competition series—rooting for hometown girl, Tera Hampton. Unfortunately, she only had the opportunity to appear on two episodes, getting the boot at the end of last Sunday night’s episode. But two episodes was all it took for this Georgetown designer to become besties with an unlikely cast member and to experience a stylistic transformation. I chatted with her briefly extensively yesterday. After months of verbal quarantine, that girl was ready to spill it!
Of course, I have to ask. How did you like working with your teammates on that second challenge?
I really liked my teammates! I hated the drama. It bothered me that there were all the catfights going on. I know Nina is getting a horrible, horrible rap from people. Everyone just seems to hate her and I really feel sorry for her. Nina is not a bad person, she really isn’t. She had very strong opinions—that’s just the Brooklyn girl in her coming out. She does come across harsh. I think you just have to learn how to deal with her. They’re not showing Nina in the best light and I really feel sorry for her. But you know, she’s brought it on herself, I guess.
I’m shocked by that! If we’re seeing the things she does and says, what do you think we’re missing about her?
Of course they can edit things however they want. Obviously, she says some of those things. Like last night’s episode, I didn’t attack Stacey—the judges really pulled that stuff out of me. They said, “do you think Stacey contributed to the space?” and I said, “well, if you think sitting in a room all day painting a chair is contributing, then…” The way they edited that…it’s not how it happened. I think they do that a little bit to Nina. They make her look a whole lot worse than she really is. But maybe I just have that point of view because I can deal with Nina, so she didn’t offend me. Maybe it’s because I stood up for myself, whereas some of the other girls kind of rolled over and let her stomp on them.
I felt sympathy for Emily in particular…Stacey was a little whiney about it.
Oh girl, you have no idea!
I felt like those girls should have stood up for themselves more. Was Nina right for walking all over them? No, she should not have done that. I did take up for Emily at times. I told Nina, “you’re being mean and you need to stop being mean to her.” We were supposed to be a team, but everybody was out for themselves—that’s one of the reasons our room came off the way it did. We weren’t working together. The guys were working together, for the most part.
When we were up there, they said, “We’re going to show you why the men’s team won.” Then they showed us the room and I said, “Okay, and why did they beat us?” We didn’t get it. I was okay with their living room, but I did not like that bedroom. I loved the Technicolor wall, Courtland did a good job on that. Beyond that, it just fell flat to me. The pillows didn’t match. It was ugly, I thought.
I watched that episode last night, hoping to have some closure, because I left so confused. I’m so glad they edited out all of the footage of me bawling and squalling–t was not pretty! I was crying so hard, they could barely interview me. I was so hit out of left field. I thought, I’m so ready to watch and see why they let me go but I watched it last night and I still have no closure!
Did Nina butt out of your bedroom design—was it really you and Casey working on it?
Honestly, it’s not like I alone designed that bedroom. At the end of the competition, they told us to take our mannequins and put them in the room where our design was best represented. I just went and put my mannequin in this room because it was obvious—the color palette.
I guess the reason we chose that color palette was that we tried to find a common thread throughout our outfits because all of them were so different. We all had a little bit of yellow in our outfit, except for Emily. So that’s how we came up with the yellow.
Everybody pretty much refused—they refused—to go shopping with Nina, so I was like, “I’ll go shopping with Nina, I don’t mind Nina.” Casey stayed behind and made the drapes. For the record, I hated the drapes. I said that over and over again. We really contemplated whether or not to put them in. We’d put ‘em up, take ‘em down, put ‘em up, take ‘em down. Finally, it just looked so boring without them that we felt like we needed them, even though no one was that crazy about them. Emily—I’m not real sure what she did all day. Stacey, of course, worked on the chair all day. As far as Nina butting in, once we went and bought all the accessories, I thought it went really smooth. We never got in one argument and we shopped for probably three or four hours together. That’s why I said, “I’ll work with Nina any day of the week!” We got along fine.
Do you think you could manage her if you were the team leader?
I don’t know. I felt like we were working together as a team—I didn’t feel like she was the team leader. I didn’t feel like she was strong-arming me at all. All those scenes of us in the van when we were trying to pick a design, she was definitely being the loud voice, but again, that’s just her personality, that’s who she is. I didn’t think it was right for everyone to just lay down and go, “I’m just going to sit back and whine the whole time about Nina this, and Nina that!” Just suck it up and stand up for yourself!
I didn’t think Nina should have been in the bottom two.
I was shocked that she came down there on that platform with me. When they called my name, I was totally shocked but then I thought, “Okay. Well, Stacey’s coming next to me and they’ll send Stacey home.” When they said, “Nina,” I was like, “you’ve got to be kidding me!” I was totally blown away. I couldn’t even speak. I was so upset and in shock. I’m sure I looked like I was about to throw up, because I was.
Did you think at that point that you were going home?
I thought I probably would. I knew they would keep Nina around for the drama. I think the nail in my coffin was that I argued with Vern. I told him I disagreed with him saying my room was Big Bird yellow. It was not Big Bird yellow. It was a much paler yellow. I don’t know if that upset him, that I told him I disagreed with him, but he was out to get me after I said that.
Besides the yellow wall color, were there other ways that you incorporated your outfit in the space? I noticed the sunburst mirror over the bed—that felt sort of like the zippers on your jacket.
That sunburst mirror, a perfect example there. Also in the living room, we had a rustic, edgy-looking metal coffee table and I thought that was urban-ish. When I went out shopping, I wasn’t really focused on my inspiration piece, I was focused on bringing everybody’s piece in–some rustic for Casey and some glam for Nina. I felt like bringing in the color palette alone might be enough—obviously, I was wrong. I felt like it looked urban chic anyway, so I didn’t feel like I had to really defend and go, “this piece was for my outfit, and this piece was for my outfit.”
Who picked out the ugly blue fabric?
Nina. She insisted that we get navy blue velvet. To me, at that point, it wasn’t worth fighting with her. I thought, if she really wants navy blue curtains, let’s get navy blue curtains. I didn’t care—I was sick of everybody fighting back and forth. We got the navy blue velvet and none of us ended up liking it. That one kind of crashed and burned there.
Getting back to your fashion inspiration, do you think that outfit put you at a disadvantage?
I think probably. Obviously, it wasn’t a very inspiring piece—nobody wanted it. I was glad I didn’t have to design the whole room around it. I thought it was ugly. That would’ve been the last outfit I would’ve chosen. That and the yoga outfit. In my mind, if we produced a really beautiful room and we could sit back and catch glimpses of our outfit in the room, then we’d be okay. I thought we did that–I thought we would win.
Who did you think should have gone home this week?
I think Emily and Stacey should’ve been in the bottom two. Beyond that, it would have come down to hosting ability. I think Stacey would’ve gone home because Emily’s an adorable host. She’s quirky and funny. The camera likes Emily. I loved it last week. The judges fell in love with her.
Who do you want to see win?
Probably Casey or Michael. Casey’s going to end up producing some pretty neat spaces, and Michael’s really good at styling a room. He knows what he’s doing.
Your style is so different between your portfolio and the work you’ve done on the show.
That was one of the funnest parts of doing Design Star–getting to do something besides Tuscan. That Old World style’s just what people in this area of Georgetown seem to like. I decided I’m sick to death of the Tuscan Old World look now—I’m like, I want to redo the whole house! I want to redo every client’s house I’ve ever done!
I am working on a couple of fun projects right now. One is a hair salon and we’re gonna go kind of retro, fun, vintage-y. I’m also working at an office building out at the Georgetown airport and they’re wanting that 1940’s World War II look, so I’m so excited to branch out and get to do something else, to add something to my portfolio besides that Tuscan crap!
Do you think it was the show or being in New York City that changed you?
Maybe a little of both. The stores there…like BoConcept. I probably would never have set foot in there until I was forced to. It made me appreciate other styles. It showed me it was fun to do something kind of different. It stretched me and I grew as a designer. It’s so funny, when I read your blog and you said, “I’m so sick of the iron, or the Tuscan thing,” I was thinking, “girl, me too!” I’m so sick of that! I was laughing.
Based on blog and Facebook comments, you have a lot of fans out there. If they vote you into your own online show, what type of show would you like to do?
I love to take what people have and kind of reinvent it– make it the best version of itself, if that makes sense. It’s fun to make people fall in love with what they have all over again. I don’t know exactly how we would format that, but something along those lines. In this economy, people don’t have a ton of money to spend, so I’d like to show people how you can take a couple hundred dollars and transform your space. Using what you have and just adding a few things. You don’t have to totally start over.
This may be tough for you to answer if you’re in the middle of a style transition, but since you are a local girl, where do you like to shop for furniture and home décor?
Since I always have to work on a budget, I have to go where I can get things cheap. I do a lot at Marshall’s and TJMaxx, I hit Real Deals every once in a while. They’re here in Georgetown and they’re only open on Thursdays and Saturdays. It’s a warehouse. There’s a lot of iron, but they’ve got some fun pieces that you might like. Prices are unbelievable. They have some pretty good mirrors and stuff like that. Sometimes I go to Ikea, but to me, if you buy something at Ikea, everybody knows that you bought it at Ikea. Every once in a while I’ll hit the Caring Place or Goodwill, for things you can spray paint or repurpose. I like to go on a treasure hunt. That’s fun! It’s a challenge when someone says, “I only have $100, can you redo my bedroom?” and it’s like, oh crap!
Catch Design Star on HGTV, Sunday nights at 10 pm ET. All photos © 2010, HGTV.
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