Deconstructing Design Star Decor: How TV's Elite Create a Home
By House Method
In the second quarter of 2017, two shows ranked as the most watched cable shows in the United States—The Walking Dead and Fixer Upper. Fixer Upper hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines are just a few of the TV personalities who’ve skyrocketed to stardom as a result of the rising popularity of house hunting and home design shows like Brother vs. Brother,Love It or List It, and Flip or Flop.
Americans are loving the rush of inspiration and looking for more. In fact, Americans’ spend on home renovations is projected to top $300 billion dollars by the end of 2017.
Home improvement projects can improve the value of a house, and any home project, whether a DIY weekend effort or a major overhaul requiring paid contractors, certainly aims to improve the quality of life for those that live within. Affordable, professional, and high-quality updates ensure that our homes are designed and decorated to align with our lifestyles.
If you’re like us, you’re always looking for inspiration for creating the home you imagine. Usually we stick to our mission of helping homeowners save time and money with our best home warranty reviews, but we decided to switch our focus a little towards design. That’s why we’ve researched, studied, and analyzed 10 popular HGTV and DIY Network shows to reveal the top styles, most-used colors, and must-have furniture accents used by television’s design stars.
From the most popular wall color to furniture style and flooring material, here’s everything you need to know about how TV’s design elite decorates a home.
The basics of a home design show makeover
When it comes to what TV designers have been creating with home interiors in the last five years, it boils down to these basics: a contemporary design style anchored by white walls and accented with grays, muted colors, and cerused wood.
A recent exhaustion with consumerism and accumulation of things has led many to embrace simplicity in lifestyle, in consumption, and in their living spaces. From tiny homes and off-the-grid living to capsule wardrobes and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, many Americans are paring down their belongings and looking for ways to shrink their footprints.
Increased interest in experience over accumulation has created an affinity for minimalist design, simple color palettes, muted colors, and few embellishments. It’s no surprise, then, that the most common elements among home design TV makeovers are ones that create a clean, simple environment—contemporary decor, neutral and/or muted colors, and cerused wood.
Contemporary decor is all about clean lines and simple, unembellished surfaces, making use of muted neutrals (like gray and soft white) and natural fibers like linen and cotton accented by brighter color blocks. A sibling to transitional design, contemporary is marked by that same simplicity but doesn’t distill a room to its bare bones in the way that modern design does.
White walls, an azure accent chair, and few embellishments complete this contemporary design
Clean lines and plenty of light in this contemporary kitchen
This contemporary kitchen is complemented by a marble herringbone backsplash
This L-shaped kitchen is sleek and neutral
This contemporary living room is influenced by Scandinavian minimalism
Clean and simple, this contemporary bedroom uses color and texture to add interest
Even those not wanting a minimalist home can incorporate these trends in their homes, as we’ll see later. Among the 10 shows we analyzed, transitional, country, and eclectic made the list of most common design styles, even among TV designers that regularly use the basic elements of the design TV makeover.
Color and style in design TV
Though white walls and contemporary designs have been the most popular in the design TV landscape since 2012, gray walls and modern design both rank at number two.
Even more distilled than contemporary designs, the modern aesthetic boils foundations and features to their most basic elements; uses clean, rounded edges; and embraces minimalism in its purest form. Think Mies van der Rohe’s work when he was director of the Bauhaus or Le Corbusier’s near-brutalist architecture. Modernism is centered on cleanliness, nominal adornment, no fuss. Cousins to modernism have also seen a resurgence in popularity of late—see any number of mid-century modern and Scandinavian design collections popping up at stores like Target, CB2, and West Elm.
Gray walls pair naturally with modernist designs. Gray is sleeker than white—sexier, if you will—but is still simple and inconspicuous. Expect to see these two runners up coupled in the same way that white and contemporary are being paired on home design TV renovations.
Our research shows little enthusiasm for brighter colors like yellow, purple, pink, and orange among TV’s design stars. But their use in popular TV renovations often shows up in the use of accent walls. Rather than saturating a room with jewel colors, a single wall painted in a color contrasting with the rest of the walls. Accent walls allow for low-commitment injections of color at low cost.
Changes in design TV style
Notice that in 2017 we see a 10% decrease in the use of gray walls (even though it remains the top color trend since 2012) and a 10% increase in the use of blue walls. A departure from the neutrals of the last five years, the increase in the use of blue is a signal of the shift in design style use as well.
Also in 2017, we see a 10% drop in the use of modern designs and an increase in contemporary (which loves accent walls), country, and transitional designs. There is, of course, a natural relationship between color and design style.
In August, Pantone released its color of the year forecast for 2018. For home and interiors, Pantone predicts a movement in color popularity from muted to intense, especially in—you guessed it—blue. More intense colors like these make way for busier design schemes, like contemporary, country, and transitional, all of which rose in popularity in 2017 among TV design stars.
In 2018, expect to see your favorite TV designers employing more jewel tones and ornamented design styles in their makeovers and renovations.
TV design trends by room
Despite the propensity toward contemporary and modern design, TV designers do tend to experiment with design style when it comes to bedrooms and dining rooms, most often choosing eclectic and country styles, respectively.
Eclecticism (2012’s most popular style among TV designers) makes use of different styles, textures, patterns, and colors, mixing them to create a cohesive feel. One of the most difficult styles to execute—though deceptively incidental—successful eclectic design requires focus, consistency, and balance to avoid the flea market feel. When done well, eclectic design can be both elegant and inviting.
This eclectic bedroom uses a black accent wall and soft, pillowy textures against an otherwise contemporary room
This eclectic living room dark colors and symmetry to balance the mix of styles and textures
This entryway is a confetti of shapes and dimension
The open floor plan living–kitchen mixes post-modern art with a sleek, modern kitchen, and worldly furniture
European and South American influences fuse in this sunlight-soaked kitchen
Country was the most common style for dining rooms on design TV in the last five years, perhaps because of its durability, simplicity, and warmth. Think long farmhouse dining tables, richly colored rugs, floral and calico fabrics, earthy neutrals, and pastoral prints. Dining rooms on TV design shows also feature more green than other rooms by the same designers, making this gathering place a space for experimentation.
This cozy living room creates warmth with neutral colors and soft textiles
Cool, dusty green cabinets against a clay tile floor imbue a sense of calm
A bright country kitchen in clean and casual white
The long farmhouse-style table is a staple in country design
Comparing style across home design TV shows
So what’s your design star style? And to which shows can you look to for inspiration that fits your taste? Those with a taste for modern decor should check out Brother vs. Brother, the Crashers series, and Love It or List It, Too. Contemporary design lovers can look to Design Star, Property Brothers, and Flip or Flop.
If you’re looking for something different, try outlier Design on a Dime, which was the show most likely to use eclectic designs and blue. And unlike others on our list, Fixer Upper designs skew country, using reclaimed wood, vintage accessories, and shabby chic embellishments.
Those looking for a more vintage look should check out Rehab Addict, which uses nailhead details, brass accents, and raw white.
Trends in design star decor
Trends over the last five years include more than just color and design style. TV designers have been using cerused wood, rounded furniture, and marble.
Cerusing or liming is a technique of “whitewashing” wood (usually oak) to give the surface a whitish veil. This treatment is more popular in contemporary designs than in modern, as it gives the wood a dual tone, a contrast too busy for modern styles. Cerused wood incorporates well into contemporary, transitional, and country styles.
A trademark of modern and mid-century modern and sometimes used in contemporary designs, it’s not surprising that 23.6% of the designs we analyzed used rounded furniture in some way. Rounded edges feel soft, sophisticated, and wonderfully retro. Sofas with rounded edges in dusty colors, cylindrical lampshades, and circular tables connote images of classic 1960s movies.
Perhaps the most versatile trend on our list, marble seldom falls out of vogue. From table- and countertops to lamp stands, backsplashes, candle holders, and even walls, marble translates well across a number of design styles. It’s classic and timeless. Good news considering that marble can retail at $40–$400 per square foot.
Where to find inspiration
If you’re looking for ways to use these elements in your own home, take a look at our analysis of most-used trends by TV series.
For those who love the soft look of cerused wood, Fixer Upper can offer the most inspiration. Rounded furniture enthusiasts should check out Design on a Dime, and marble lovers Flip or Flop.
Chip and Joanna Gaines announced in 2017 that the fifth season of their top-rated show Fixer Upper would be their last. Considering theirs was one of the most popular TV series of the year, it’s worth taking a close look at their designs.
Of the 10 series at analyzed for this study, Fixer Upper used an average 4.5 trends per episode. That’s 14% more than Brother vs. Brother, which ranks second for average number of trends used.
Comparing our deep-dive data on the Gaines’ designs against our data of most common colors used and most common trends used, the Fixer Upper aesthetic hits the trend nail right on the head, regularly using muted colors, cerused wood, black-finished metals, and green. Perhaps the question we should be pondering is one of cause or effect. Have the Gaines’ designs been reflective of design TV trends, or have they been driving them?
The case for the Gaines’ being trend setters among TV designers can be built on where their designs deviate from the pack—the use of country and shabby chic design style. It’s worth noting that country and shabby chic rank in popularity with no shows other than Fixer Upper, but since 2013—that’s the year Fixer Upper aired for the first time—there has been an increase in the use of the country aesthetic across design TV series despite the fact that Fixer Upper is one of the only shows using this style as a trademark.
Design star decor - a closer look at Fixer Upper
How you can decorate like a design star
If you want decorate like a TV design star, here are the basics you need to know:
Choose contemporary or modern. Use only necessary embellishment, keep it clean and simple.
If you want to stray from the rest but stay on trend, try a transitional or country. These styles make more allowances for embellishments and celebrate the accent wall.
Stick with the neutrals—whites, grays, and muted tones for contemporary and modern styles.
If you choose to go the way of transitional or country, inject tastes of blues and other related jewel tones like dusty purples and reds.
If you choose a contemporary or modern aesthetic, make sure you keep decor to a minimum. Add interest with texture and material—cerused wood, rounded furniture, marble, and natural fibers like linen and cotton.
Transitional and country styles make more use for accents of the same kind—feel free to add pops of green and black-finished metals.
We analyzed 10 current HGTV and DIY Network interior design shows to produce the results of this study. We began by identifying the most popular interior design trends from 2012–2017. We analyzed 44–97 images of designs (dating from 2008–2017) from each of the 10 shows and quantified the frequency with which each trend appeared. We used the wall color and style of the design when listed, but otherwise made the determination ourselves.
Want to share our study of interior design TV for noncommercial purposes? We ask only that you link to this page so the authors get proper credit.
Think again if you believe minimalist dining spaces are reserved only for trendy cafés. Minimalism isn’t limited to industrial meets monochrome. Create a minimalist dining space out of any design style—even romantic.
It’s estimated that nearly half of home renovations go over budget, so how can you plan for the unexpected when it comes to a costly project? We explore how much you should really be budgeting for your reno and how to ensure you stay within budget and on schedule.