This interview is courtesy of my friend Robin Callan of Room Fu, for her blog, Fu for Thought.
Watching this season of Design Star, we never really have a chance to find out much about castoff Stacey Cohen’s point of view, other than the fact that she absolutely detests fellow competitor Nina Ferrer. Is she faking it for the cameras?
First of all, I just have to go on record and apologize for giving you such a hard time about whining about Nina!
Apology accepted! I appreciate it–thank you. That’s nice to hear.
In your video exit interview, you said, “Brains did beat the bully this time.” Do you think you’re smarter than Nina?
I think we both have a strong education. We both have a strong background. Maybe we played the game differently. I was very “in my my head.”
In an interview on ShelterPop, Nina said that you two were “good friends” and “laughed (your) asses off” while you shared a room together on Design Star. Is that accurate?
It actually is true–being roommates. No one really ever knew that. We had quite a blast together. Personally, we were fine. We stayed up late, we talked, we knew about each other’s background. She’s funny. She has a good sense of humor, I’ll say that. I didn’t read that, but I’m glad she put it out there.
Ummm, let me get this straight. You’re “good friends” and you have your little pajama parties together, you bond swapping stories about your childhood and have “quite a blast together,” then you turn around and go on national TV, calling her a “bully” and saying, “This is probably the best outcome of any elimination to date…she’s gone…you don’t know what a relief it is,” when the woman’s kicked off the show? The rhetoric sounds so contemptuous–even for a fellow competitor–if there’s any shred of fun or friendship there. I just don’t get it.
The viewers haven’t been able to get any sense for the budgets that you were working with. What was a typical budget?
The budgets have ranged from project to project. They were all different. Sometimes we had allowances to different stores and sometimes we had money to spend. There was an accounting to it but it was all happening so fast, we were only focused on the number that was given to us that day. Looking back, I can’t even remember from challenge to challenge what they were, but there were budgets we had to stay in—believe me! They were tight. For the first challenge, we had $500 at Pearl River.
The women’s team shops during the second challenge. L-to-R: Tera Hampton, Casey Noble, Stacey Cohen, Nina Ferrer, Emily Henderson.
Were both teams required to incorporate a drop cloth into the design? It was curious that Michael Moeller used one this week to wrap a console table and you used one for your valance and curtains.
When you ask about budget, you’re also asking about what materials and resources were available to us. There were items that kept repeating themselves because we could get them if we were ordering lumber or paint or if they were in our supply truck. There was always an abundance of drop cloths. They became one of those things—how many ways can you stretch the drop cloths? The other team used them as canvases, which was great. It was just extra material that was available to us.
You said your team didn’t go to a fabric store for this challenge. Why was that?
It just wasn’t on the roster. We were able to go to Sears and get our paint and our appliances. We went to ABC Carpet & Home. Those were the two big shops, and then whatever we had in our materials truck, we were able to use.
What made you decide to use the box spring instead of the mattress?
It was a bad decision. My idea behind it–with my background at Ligne Roset and dealing with modern European furniture–we wanted this gorgeous, low-profile bed that everybody knows and is familiar with. I wanted to create a large height where you could see more of the tufted headboard. If I would’ve used the mattress, it would’ve been plusher…with a duvet or more on the bed, maybe I could’ve gotten away with it. It was kind of sad. Maybe I overthought it, without really thinking it through.
Could you not have used the mattress instead of the box spring and still have gotten your reveal on the headboard?
I should’ve used the mattress instead of the box spring, period–end of story! The ability to touch it so that there’s actually some cushion to it and not just a box spring! It was more of a “prop” thought than a “use” thought.
You kind of had a little breakdown over your art project. What was happening there? Were you just pressed for time or was it an accumulation of sleepless nights?
The arts and crafts breakdown was more out of tiredness and frustration. I actually grew up doing arts and crafts. I had arts and crafts birthday parties. It was a very big part of how I am in design with arts and crafts…but at this point, I was tired, there were limited resources. We’ve all been there, trying to get something done on a timeline. You don’t have your tools—like, I don’t even have my own X-ACTO knife! That would’ve made a difference! Doing such a small-detailed project, I wanted to feel more comfortable doing it and I just wasn’t. I really just broke with frustration.
Do you think having an extra team member gave the other team an unfair advantage?
When we were in the midst of it and Courtland (Bascon), Tom (Vecchione) and I were having a fun time and picking things together, I thought, “We’re really rockin’ it out with three of us!” But then in hindsight, when you see the other team’s end result, you think maybe we could’ve used an extra hand to create something for over the couch or over the bed. I always look at it like, that was a variable. We lost one team member, so we were down. If we would have done better on the last challenge, we would’ve had four members—that was our misstep.
Did you and Tom tune Courtland out or was he just paying a lot of lip service to his ideas not making the cut?
I thought Courtland had a really strong say in everything. I didn’t know that he didn’t have a say.
Let’s talk about some of the other episodes. I’m really curious to know why you picked the carnation and what you think it reflects about you and your design style.
I was the last to pick for almost every challenge, just because that’s the way it went, picking numbers. I went into the flower shop and there were Bells of Ireland, a snapdragon, and a carnation. I didn’t know what to do with the snapdragon or the Bells of Ireland. I just thought the carnation was really pretty and had all of these layers and a really pretty texture. I grabbed it—I didn’t think twice about it. What it speaks about to me as a designer is that it relates to your first moments—your first homecoming dance or your first starter apartment—and I created a story that was tongue-in-cheek sweet.
Stacey’s carnation-inspired workspace.
Let’s talk about your Lilly Pulitzer inspired chair.
Did you like it?
If I didn’t know that it was supposed to be inspired by Lilly Pulitzer, I would like it. I liked it in and of itself, but I was disappointed that it didn’t have some color in it since her line is famous for being colorful. What made you decide to go gray with it?
I didn’t want to take the colors from the dress and put them in there. It was an urban apartment. I thought the gray was a little sexy and a little more urban. It was akin to black, without being a black chair. I reupholstered the seat cushion with a bold pattern, which they didn’t really highlight. It had a silver and white background and I did small little nailheads in the same silver. You had the bold print there and you had the leisure feel of an outdoor type of East Coast inspired piece of furniture. There was thought to it. It wasn’t just picking a color and putting it on the chair.
What was your process behind the three different colors you painted the chair?
At first I had the turquoise that matched the dress. The minute I put it on there, I thought, this is the same color as the dress—I’ll get in trouble. This is not “thinking beyond.” Then I painted it white and I thought it could be very crisp, but although the white looked pretty, it was more West Coast. I went to the charcoal gray and I thought, this was the right thing—the view of the skyline, the view of Long Island City.
You created a very interesting paint technique during the white room challenge. How did you create that? How could somebody else recreate that?
I would love to recreate that—that was really fun. I started on the back wall and painted really heavy. But then when I started on the other wall, I was just trying to move really quickly, and the way that the set was set up, if I put a light pressure on the roller, it kind of picked this pattern up and created this repetition. I was upset because I’d already gotten through half the wall where it was dark–if I’d discovered it a little bit earlier, I could’ve really run with it and done a chair rail or maybe done more of the wall that texture. I utilized it on the small, half wall, just because I was really into it. I thought it was really fun. It had this sort of wallpaper feel with an unfinished look to it, like there was something more to be done and said with it.
So that was more like a happy accident.
A happy accident that I want to maybe take a picture of and use it again! I called my painter and said, “Do you see this? Can we do this in my client’s home?”
What are you working on now?
I’m continuing my business. We just celebrated our first year, the Sunday of Episode 5—thank God, not Episode 6! We had a big party with friends and family and people in the industry. Currently, I have a handful of private residences and I’m doing some speaking engagements. Just kind of moving forward, picking up where I left off. One of the other things I’m involved with on a continuous basis is raising awareness for Parkinson’s disease. That is really where everything leads back to. My father has Parkinson’s—he’s been battling it about 20 years. That’s part of the reason we have a family business, because proceeds from all of my projects goes back to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Eventually I’d like to do speaking with them and enhance my involvement with Parkinson’s here. It’s a horrible, horrible disease and there’s no cure for it.
I’m sure your dad’s very proud of the work you do for that cause.
My parents have been my best and biggest supporters. I moved all over the country, I studied design all over. I’ve taken a lot of risks. I’ve worked three months on a set here and four months there and my parents never said, “boo” about it. They’re great. It was such a great opportunity to show them what they’ve encouraged me to do. It paid off in a great, pop-culture media environment.
What sets did you work on?
I used to do set design for MTV in New York and then a bunch of independent films.
Design Star airs Sunday nights at 9pm Central Time on HGTV. Check back on Mondays for my recaps/reviews, followed by my interviews with castoffs each week!
Thanks Robin! Visit her website: