Minneapolis designer Rachel Kate executes stress-filled challenges to prove she's worthy to be named "Design Star" on the HGTV show.
For the first challenge, the designers are paired up into teams and assigned the task of making over a room in the Los Angeles home where they will live during the competition. In addition, the designers were told to bring an item that represents them that they must incorporate into the design. Shown here is After Photo 1 of the Den designed by Hilari Younger and Rachel Kate as seen on HGTV Design Star season 7.
Judge Vern Yip called Rachel Kate's den makeover a "stunning effort" in last week's premiere episode of HGTV's "Design Star."
The Minneapolis South High graduate was off to a stellar start, but still has to dazzle the judges for many more weeks to come or else be booted off the show.
We chatted with Kate about life as a reality-show contestant, her personal style and meeting Yip. But she refused to reveal if she was crowned the newest "Design Star." "You'll have to watch and find out," she said.
Q You grew up in a family of custom motorcycle builders. How did you become a designer?
A From the fifth grade I started drawing interior sketches and I was always rearranging our house. At South High School, my favorite classes were auto shop and ceramics and I like to build things like tables and benches. I was going to go to Dunwoody for auto mechanics but I visited my girlfriend in New York and she told me to apply for the Parsons School of Design. I was accepted. I graduated with a degree in fashion studies.
Q Describe your style.
A For my business, Rachel Kate Design, I do more traditional work because that's where the jobs are. But my personal style is eclectic rustic and a bit minimal. Now that I'm living part time in Florida, I'm into the coastal beach-house look.
Q How did you become a finalist on "Design Star"?
A I'd never seen the show but my clients and friends kept telling me to apply. But a reality show didn't sound like fun and I'm not competitive by nature. A few years later, my daughter was older, and I thought, I'm 35 -- I have nothing to lose. I went to a casting call and had to do mini design challenges, make a video and impress casting agents. Once I found out I was one of the 12 finalists, I watched the show and became a huge fan.
Q Do you want to be the next David Bromstad, who won the first season and is now the host?
A Of course. I want to bring my enthusiasm for design styles from across the country and I think that could translate into a show. It's my passion.
Q It sounds like being a reality-show star was a life-changer.
A They flew me out to L.A. I had to buy clothes, get my hair done and look good. I had to be prepared to be there for six weeks away from my family -- my daughter was 4 at the time. And I had to keep everything secret.
Q How did your first challenge go? You had to design a den in the Hollywood mansion where all the contestants were to live.
A It was overwhelming because I was just trying to focus on what I needed to do with a million cameras in my face. When I was on a ladder, the camera was right under me -- not a flattering shot. We had orders, deadlines and budgets that we had to learn in 10 minutes.
Q What was the inspiration for the den?
A A jungle lounge. Me and my partner had to use the two items we brought with us -- a ceramic moose head and leopard pillow. We added a zebra rug, antique chest and potted bamboo trees.
Q Did you really build the Moroccan-style cocktail table for your den, or did you have help?
A I drew the specs and designed it for a carpenter to build. But I tweaked it and painted it.
Q Why did you exclaim on the show, "It's the hardest thing I've ever done"?
A That kind of stress was new to me. I wanted the first challenge to be perfect but knew that a lot of elements were out of my control. We were all so happy when it was over and we could relax and move into the Hollywood house.
Q You're off to a fantastic start. The judges said you impressed them the most among all the designers.
A I was in shock. I thought I would come in and be the sneaky nice contestant and never expected to win the first challenge. I just didn't want to go home.
Q What was the biggest surprise about being on a reality show?
A You completely forget that there are cameras on you. You become completely unguarded.
Q Two of the people on "Design Star" are from Minnesota -- judge Genevieve Gorder and host David Bromstad. Did you hang out with them?
A There was no interacting at all. The judges are just there to judge. Then they send us back to our quarters.
Q Vern Yip is a hoot. What did you think of him?
A He's so cute and he has a good eye. I like his taste.
Q Are you the next "Design Star"?
A Silly question. You'll have to watch every episode and find out. It's all top-secret stuff.
Q What was your family's reaction to the show? A They're excited to watch it. My daughter saw a commercial for the show and said "Oh, my gosh, Mommy, you're on TV." Then she said "Awkward." Yeah -- it kind of is.
Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619