HGTV's Design Star: AT Interviews Finalist Matt Locke

HGTV's Design Star: AT Interviews Finalist Matt Locke

Throughout this season of Design Star, there's been a lot of debate here on AT about the relevance of "designing for TV." With Clive always introducing the final designs as "how they look on camera," it's hard for us here on AT to reconcile these as-seen-on-TV interiors with interiors designed with the user in mind.

We asked Matt Locke, one of the two HGTV Design Star finalists, his opinion on this issue and much more—including where he gets his inspiration and what his advice is for the AT reader. Jump below to see his answers...

Don't forget that voting is open until Wednesday for you to pick this year's Design Star winner.

Matt's response to the TV vs. real world design question:

We learned very quickly the difference between how a room looks in person and how it looks on TV. On that first challenge Trish, Tracee, Michael and D.Paul created a stunning living room. In person, it shimmered. On TV, however, the clear glass vases on the shelves disappeared, the iridescent fabric on the chair flattened out, and the slate blue walls turned almost purple. After that, I think everyone started thinking more in terms of what looks good on camera because the judges don't visit the rooms in person at all. They only see what the viewer sees, which makes sense because we are all competing to become hosts of a TV show.

You were one of the only contestants that continually focused on overall concepts for the space, many more architecturally focused rather than style driven. How do you balance concept, function and style?

I have the mind of an architect, not a decorator. I think most good interior design is compensation for poor architectural design, and on all the challenges I tried to amend the space to make it more functional. My results are mixed, because my best designs were structure-based and that can leave some people wanting more. When I look at Mies Van der Rohe's Farnsworth house, I see perfection, and I can't imagine good paint or accessory choices making it any better. That said, I learned a lot from my fellow designers on how to soften a room up with a few finishing touches, and I'm already putting that into practice in my designs here in L.A.

What was the hardest challenge for you on Design Star? Would you like to go back and try it again?

I was the most disappointed with my individual challenge and have reworked that design a million times in my head. I am very cerebral about my work and am never satisfied. I spent too much time cannibalizing the sofa to get wood to make the structure of the "temple" and not enough time on the aesthetic. It fell flat and I knew it, but there was no time to fix it so I simply finished painting and putting down the cork floor. When the judges called me out, I was in total agreement.

We read that your father is an architect but that you have a history degree from Princeton. What made you become a designer and how has your father's profession influenced you?

Some people were raised by wolves, my sister and I were brought up on a construction site. My dad designed a modern solar house in 1977 and my parents built it by hand. It was forever a work in progress. In high school I redesigned my whole room and built my own furniture in his wood shop. When it was ready, I brought my parents in with their eyes closed for the big reveal. There's no way I would have ended up anywhere but design.

At Princeton I chose to be a history major because I wanted a well-rounded, classical liberal arts education. I wrote my senior thesis on the development of planned obsolescence and the advent of mass culture in America in the 1920's. I learned to research, to cite my sources, and to think critically there, and that very much refines and informs my design sense now. I had a year of art school before Princeton and a year toward a masters in industrial design after, so there is academic rigor involved in my evolution as a designer.

Apartment Therapy is focused on providing accessible design solutions and inspiration to everyone. Many of our readers are living in small, rented spaces— any great small, cool design tips for them?

Save up and buy one or two exquisite things that you absolutely love, then build a room around them with the cheap stuff. You'll never regret spending extra for the quality.

A few quick facts: What is your favorite space or building? What is your favorite piece of furniture? Where do you get your inspiration?

Nothing beats the Chrysler Building in NYC for deco deliciousness, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A. (right by my house) for total concept, and the lobby of The Hotel in Las Vegas for updated modern chic. My favorite piece of furniture is a comfortable sofa where you can stretch all the way out to watch TV. And, as you can already tell, I get my inspiration from great architecture.

You can see more of Matt Locke's professional portfolio online right here. With only one exception (the "Rich Materials" job), everything on the site was completely designed and made by Matt, including the website itself. The site gives a much broader glimpse into Matt Locke the Designer and what his own show on HGTV might look like. Check it out. Thanks Matt!


Don't forget to vote for your favorite Design Star on HGTV by Wednesday and catch the season finale this Sunday.

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