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.

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!

Nicole Russin aka. Richárde

Nicole Russin, also known as her alter ego Richárde, is a bestselling chef, experienced print journalist and beauty/editorial model. You may visit her official website at NicoleRussin.com.

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1 Comment

  • Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!|

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