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POP INTERVIEW: “HGTV Design Star” Winner Meg Caswell’s Latest Chapter

Meg Caswell’s success hasn’t stopped with winning HGTV Design Star season 6. The host of Meg’s Great Rooms is up to big tasks as usual with her next show, HGTV Home Makeover, premiering on March 23.

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Meg Caswell’s success hasn’t stopped with winning HGTV Design Star season 6. The host of Meg’s Great Rooms is up to big tasks as usual with her next show, HGTV Home Makeover, premiering on March 23.

Meg Caswell of HGTV's Meg's Great Rooms.

I was so excited to interview you because everyone from Illinois is naturally outrageously good looking, fun and unbelievably talented like the two of us. OK, I kid, I kid…halfway. What about local architecture and means of life inspires you within your home decor style? Our part of the country has a rich history. It’s the best place ever.
I totally agree Chicagoans are the best people to live with and we live in the greatest city in the country! Chicago is considered the Mecca of architecture. Growing up surrounded by beautiful design definitely defined my taste level. Going to the Art Institute of Chicago for school gave me first-hand access to breathtaking design that Chicago is known for. Even now, I joke about giving my own private Chicago city tours; I’m fascinated by our great city!

Growing up in homes that were professionally decorated and visiting Palm Beach, FL a lot on vacations helped me understand what a completed space should look like, even as a kid. The Florida trips really rubbed off on me; I think the vibrant preppy mix from that region really reflects my own person style. I call it “Preppy Palm Beach Chic.” I am always redesigning and trying new color combos because I get excited about something new, whether its a new fabric or a rug… I just want to try it out! Thank goodness my husband is extremely patient with all my design changes.

Can you believe you actually won, not just competed in but *WON*, a reality TV show on a big cable network like HGTV? The odds of doing that are like winning the lottery and a date with George Clooney in the same day. Wow!
Looking back now I see what a huge life changing event that time was. I knew nothing was ever going to be the same, but I didn’t really understand at the time where it would take me — there were so many unknowns after experiencing something that public. I had talked about having my own TV show for years— Oh yea I believe in dreaming big – and now to finally have the opportunity, wow is right! My dreams came true… It’s the best thing that had ever happened to me! Well, then the next best thing happened to me… I got engaged 4 days later! I guess you can say I was having a good week! Ha!

One episode on your show “Meg’s Great Rooms” was called “Teeny Tiny Room.” What is your advice for people working on small rooms or studio apartments? You did a great job.
Thank you! I learned early in my design education how to think of surfaces differently. I recommend to anyone with a small, or even an awkward space, to ask himself or herself: “what else can this space accomplish?” You need to look past the obvious and try to see how a space can play double duty! For example how can a bench be used not only for sitting but also for storage and as a step stool to reach upper cabinets? (Or what about the side of that cabinet, it could flip up and become extra workspace as a temporary desk when needed). In the TINY house challenge I even hung pots upside down from the ceiling so they wouldn’t take up precious counter space.

Your portfolio features a room you call bohemian inspired. What can people do if, say, a man likes bohemian style but is a bit serious of a guy and he doesn’t want to overdo it?
Bohemian style is more of a carefree design. Bohemian incorporates a lot of different design styles and elements into one. If you don’t want to over do it, try and stay within two main colors (design speak: colorways), which will help tie together all the different elements together.

Are you ever inspired indirectly by unexpected people like famous artists or movies?
I’m inspired by everything around me, which includes fashion, music and good cinematography in movies. When I see a well-designed movie set or a period-piece movie I get really excited to start a new project that reflects that same perfection. Set design teaches designers how to really take it ‘all the way!’ Every detail in a movie helps tell the story, and as interior designers our job is to help our clients tell their story. We are opening up our client on a whole new level, and every detail should reflect their personal story.

Your powder room portfolio sample has pink wallpaper. I’m curious, with so much people tell me about houses having a harder time reselling with unique wallpapers, why do you use it? Wallpaper to begin with, which builders and house flippers I know from Illinois hate removing, and a girly color like that? Not that there is anything wrong with your choice; it looks great. Just wondering why you took a risk like that for a portfolio!
Well you may be surprised to learn that this particular house you refer too just sold as a pocket listing (never fully went on the market)… for the asking price… in CASH! (over a $1.5 million) One of the things the new owners loved, loved, LOVED was all the wallpaper I put in the house. The pink Nina Campbell bathroom paper, the printed Philip Jefferies grass cloth in the dining room… and to seal the deal they coveted the huge damask print grass cloth in the nursery! I personally think if a space is designed well, the house will sell well, too! *PS I have dozens of design projects I need to update my portfolio with, I just never seem to find the time!

On the other end of the color spectrum, your baby room for some clients uses super dark colors found in office buildings. It’s almost Japanese-corporate. I have not seen anything like it before. What kind of person would be attracted to a room like this? A single dad who doesn’t want a feminine baby room? Really, I mean it, lots of trendy single dads exist!
Some clients really want something different. This one, in particular, lives in a loft with a very worldly look and a mixture of colors and patterns. She wanted a serene baby’s room. What you can’t see in the picture is the happy, orange accent color. She also knew that eventually the baby’s ‘things’ (toys, clothes, etc.) would eventually add so much color and chaos to the room that she wanted it to be a neutral space.

Meg Caswell 1

If someone wants to work with an amazingly creative interior designer like yourself, and he or she knows what they do not want but not what they want, how do you work with that person in order to prevent him or her from being furious with the final result? It is like saying, “I am THE Angelina Jolie going to the Oscars. I like soft, pink dresses,” and some pricey couture house comes along and makes you look like a frizzy pink poodle. You don’t mean “pink poodle.” You said “pink dresses!” But you don’t know what style of pink dress you actually want, you know?
I have to be a good designer and an even better listener, not to mention I have to ask A LOT of questions!!! What really helps is showing my clients images of styles and pieces I’m suggesting. I normally make sure this type of client sees everything before they buy it! I also stay away from creating super-custom pieces that have never been made before because if it arrives and that piece doesn’t look like what they thought it would they are then stuck with it because it can’t be returned! And, believe it or not, I tap into my criminology background and profile each of my clients (Design CSI… it really works!) I pay attention to their clothing choices, car choices, etc. This really helps me understand their personal style.

You use a lot of red. Why do you like this color so much?
I actually do not like red for myself. I design for my clients taste and wants. I guess a lot of them have liked red… I prefer coral myself!

Have you ever made your own furniture or artwork for clients?
Yes I love designing furniture and having it made! Chicago has some of the best craftsman in the country and I love putting their skills to use. I should actually start documenting them for my own furniture line.. Thanks for the idea!

I feel horrifically uncomfortable having anything used or antique. How can I get that same look without actually using antiques? I want to live it up just like Cole Porter, like that “I am this really grouchy old stock trading man puffing off a cigar” decor you see at nice hotel condos in big cities and old NYC co-ops, when I get my first of many grand properties I want to own myself. Who knows when that would be at this rate, but as Disney’s “Cinderella” sings, a dream is a wish your heart makes.
I’m with you on dreaming BIG! I’m living my life’s dream right now being on TV and doing what I love! I’m sure your dreams will come true and you will own several properties and villas ’round the globe… But when you do, you must call me to decorate ALL of them!! I can create the look you want with all new pieces! There are soooo many techniques these days that artisan have come up with to make new look old!! New leather can be distressed; you can add a patina to metal to take off the shine; the list goes on and on! You just need to know where to look and hire a good designer.. hint hint…Right now I’m actually designing a kitchen that looks like it was built in the 1920s in France! You just need to look at the details of what makes it authentically old and find the right craftsman to recreate it! DETAILS… DETAILS!

You’re so pretty in your wedding pictures. How much is your husband Randy involved with your life in home decor and now, TV?
Awwww, you are soooo sweet! I loved every part of my wedding day! I was so excited to get married I almost forgot to put make up on! My husband Randy grew up working in his family’s TV/movie industry business in Wilmington, North Carolina. So many movies are shot there that its lovingly called the east coast Hollywood. When I film my shows, he is a huge help to the production crew. He understands all the behind the scenes stuff that goes on and can even be found fixing equipment when it breaks or helping my carpenters build my designs. Some of my greatest design moments on Meg’s Great Rooms have even come from Randy! He is very creative and when I’m stuck sometimes I’ll brain storm with him and he really helps me find the best solution! I have truly found my life partner! He comes with me on my ‘inspiration vacations’ that was recently documented in a special called America’s Best Kept Secrets on HGTV. My fans have gotten to know Randy and they are all hoping to see a lot more of him! His nickname is Handsome Ransom; of course I’m biased and agree with them!

Please tell us everything about how we can hear about you this year!
I recently just completed America’s Most Embarrassing Living Room contest that was featured in the HGTV magazine (Jan/Feb issue) as well as America’s Best Kept Secrets where I went to some truly unique places in San Francisco, Austin, TX, and of course Chicago! Coming up on March 23rd my newest show, HGTV Home Makeover, will air at 6/5 CT and that same night I will be helping Dina Manzo (of HGTV’s Dina’s Party and formally Housewives of New Jersey) host her charity’s Lady Bug Bash at the Chicago Cultural Center (talk about amazing architecture!). I will be auctioned off live with a $5,000 gift certificate to Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams. The event is mostly sold out but there are a few regular tickets available! I hope to see all my Chicagoan fans come out and support this amazing charity! I’m also working on some new TV projects that I can’t exactly share just yet! Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and I’ll post what’s next as soon as I can! I always respond personally and answer all the design questions people send my way!

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Can’t Go Out? Here’s Six Ways You Can See The World Right From Your Very Own Home

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Turns out there are plenty of ways to beat the boredom blues!

Countries around the world are being asked to practice social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Most businesses, attractions, theaters and museums have been closed down to help prevent the spread of the virus. Just last night here in the U.S., it was announced that the self-quarantine guidelines are to remain in place until April 30th of this year. Another month at home doesn’t have to mean another month of carb-loading and channel flipping though! There are actually quite a few ways to keep your brain stimulated during these unprecedented, sedentary times. Below you will find six ways to experience the world from your very own house…and don’t worry, I wouldn’t put anything on this list that would require changing out of your comfy sweats.

Virtually experience the happiest place on Earth.

Safe to say we can all use a little happiness during these troubling times so why not turn to the home of happiness itself, DisneyWorld. YouTube channel, Virtual Disney World, offers dozens of 360 degree videos that allow you to virtually experience DisneyWorld attractions, shows, hotels, monorails, trains, boats, park areas and more. These videos are fully immersive meaning you simply pan your VR-headset, phone or tablet in any direction to experience all of the excitement happening around you. Now, you can relive the magic you’ve loved your whole life anytime from anywhere! *Giant turkey leg smell not included….unless you’re actually cooking turkey legs while watching these videos, in which case I applaud your commitment.

Tour a national park on Google Earth.

Take a hike…well sort of. Hiking is a fun activity that can be done alone or with very few others, remember we are in socially distant times, but making your way to a trail might be a challenge these days. Public transportation schedules have been drastically altered and even if they weren’t, a crowded train or a bus just sounds like the breeding ground for some heinous germs right now. You could try to carpool but again…germs! You can avoid any viral risk by simply checking out one of the 30+ virtual hikes on Google Earth. Last year, Google Earth released virtual tours of some of the most beautiful parks in the country. Grand Canyon National Park, Redwood National Park, Everglades National Park and so many others are featured in this exciting experience. On your “hike” you will see some of the most breathtaking trails and views these parks have to offer. Best part? You don’t need bug spray.

Google Earth

Check out some of NYC’s finest street art.

It’s hard to feel particularly cultured when you’re wiping the crumbs from your second lunch off your overly worn pajamas. With that being said, we should not let our love for the arts fade like our flannels have. Instead, check out some of New York’s coolest street art via Google Arts and Culture. Their online experience 9 Amazing Street Art Murals In New York provides a fully immersive, virtual tour of some amazing art. In this tour you will see stunning artwork from prolific artists such as Eduardo Kobra, Keith Haring, Banksy and more. No need for a MetroCard to see these murals which is great because now you can put that $2.75 towards your next Seamless order.

Sing along while streaming your favorite Broadway shows.

Broadway has taught us all how defy gravity but now it’s helping us defy boredom too! Theater has been the perfect vehicle for escapism since it’s inception and now you can escape without even leaving your home! BroadwayHD is a streaming service that began broadcasting beloved Broadway shows back in 2015. With over 300 shows in their catalog, you can belt along to all of your favorite shows without having to worry about being escorted out of a theater. The platform is currently offering a free 7-day trial along with a very affordable $8.99/month plan. A one-year subscription is still cheaper than tickets to just one broadway show!

BroadwayHD

Virtually wander through some of the most impressive museums.

Staring at the same four walls of your apartment for weeks on end definitely won’t keep your mind stimulated, trust me I know. Combat the brain laze by learning about some of the world’s most fascinating arts and histories. Many of the world’s finest museums are offering virtual tours that provide users with a fully immersive experience. Never made it to that dream trip to Paris? Tour the Lourve from your couch! Embarrassed by how out of breath you were when you finally climbed all of those stairs getting into The Met? Skip the stairs and see it all online! Never perfected that English accent? That’s ok, no one will hear you on this virtual tour of The National Gallery in London! There are dozens of museums providing these tours and you can find most of them through a quick internet search. I listed a few below because this is the most brain stimulation I plan on having today.

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Musei Vaticani, Vatican City

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Natural History Museum, London

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Go to a house party.

NOT LITERALLY!!! We all know with the social distancing guidelines the last thing we should do is host a house party. To remedy our social urges is the new digital platform called HouseParty, which allows users to throw virtual parties with their friends. Like on many other live-streaming apps, HouseParty allows you and your friends to simultaneously FaceTime. What makes this app special, however, is its gaming feature. With HouseParty you and your friends can choose from a variety of party games to play all while maintaining a safe distance. The app is available for iOS, Android, macOS, and Chrome and is truly putting a new twist on classic pajama parties.

HouseParty Icon

Be sure to try something new today otherwise you might just go crazy. We are living in unprecedented times so we might as well try some unprecedented ways of entertaining ourselves. Stay safe out there and stay socially distant…only physically of course!

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Foodies Rejoice! You Can Build Your Breakfast With This New Lego Waffle Maker

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Kickstarter

Finally an excuse to play with your food.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day but maybe it can be the most fun too? Well there is a new kitchen gadget in the works that would definitely bring creativity to your morning routine. The Building Brick Waffle Maker turns ordinary waffle batter into interlocking building blocks so you can construct your own carb castle. The waffle maker makes 14 bricks at a time so there are plenty of pieces to play with. The company behind the maker also produces construction plates that make for the perfect base for your waffle creation.

Kickstarter

If you’re hankering for a waffle brick you might have to wait just a little bit longer sadly. The maker launched on Kickstarter with a goal of raising $7,500. At the time of writing this, the Kickstarter is up to a whopping $77,000! That’s a lot of legos! According to the site, pledging $50 will get you one waffle maker, $75 will get you one waffle maker and two construction plates, $95 will get you two waffle makers, and $100 will get you one waffle maker and four construction plates – all of which will be delivered in August 2020.

Maybe it’s time to Leggo the Eggo and start making waffle creations at home!

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VIDEO: “Quarantine With Me” Is The Perfect Song For Social Distancing

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“You can put your hand in mine…once you washed it for the recommended 20 seconds time” is just the first line of this comically informative, coronavirus-themed ballad.

They say “necessity is the mother of invention.” Well, you may not have known you needed a coronavirus-themed ballad but once you hear it, your quarantine will never be the same.  David Sikabwe, a 22-year-old student at UT Austin, took to Twitter to give a little corona-concert with a charming song he wrote entitled “Quarantine With Me.” The song is oddly beautiful while still chock filled with good information about staying healthy during the global pandemic.

When speaking with Mashable, Sikabwe said the reasoning behind writing the song was sort of random:

“The song was really just a random idea I had. There are a lot of songs written about staying home with someone you care about like ‘Nothing’ by Bruno Mars an ‘Do You Wanna Do Nothing with Me’ by Lawrence. I figured that sentiment had a special significance with the looming specter of this disease.”

Hope this song helps bring some levity to your quarantine. Be sure to share with friends…FROM A SAFE DISTANCE!

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