Atlanta interior designer Vern Yip, after finishing his run with TLC’s “Trading Spaces” in 2003, spent a few years fishing around for a new home on TV.
He tried primetime on NBC with “Home Intervention.” But that only lasted one episode. He wrote a book. He continued to work with his own design firm.
Then HGTV came calling in 2006. The network placed him as a judge on “HGTV Design Star” and liked him so much, it gave him his very own show called “Deserving Design.”
Yip had found his home.
“Design Star,” which typically draws three or more million people a week on Sunday nights, has already created two HGTV stars with their own shows: studly David Bromstad from season one and sweet Kim Myles from season two.
For its fourth season debuting Sunday at 10 p.m., “Design Star” moved to Los Angeles, allowing for some guest stars (Kathy Griffin, Jason Priestley, Tiffany Thiessen) and forcing Yip to get a temporary pad in Santa Monica. “I wanted to make sure if I was in L.A., I’d be near a beach,” he said. “That’s one thing we don’t have here in Atlanta.”
Yip, the only person who has been a judge all four seasons, is genuinely excited about this year’s crew of contestants.
“We attracted a really high caliber of talent, people who have won national design awards, people who have started their own furniture lines,” he said. “One has worked with the top photographers in the business including Annie Liebovitz.”
Did Yip think the recession may have contributed to this? “You can’t ever discount that,” he said. “Creative people always have to fight for their jobs.”
He said many of the contestants were “Design Star” afficionados. “They’ve gotten savvier,” he said. “They know where the pitfalls are. So it makes it a little more intense.”
Also for the first time, HGTV decided to have the judges pick the winner, not the public.
“I don’t really know why they changed the rules,” said Yip, who can be tough but fair at the judges’ table. “But I’m really excited who won. I think this person is going to be a real asset for the network, a unique voice we definitely don’t have now.”
Unfortunately, Yip said his own show “Deserving Design,” which is shot primarily in Atlanta, has not gotten a renewal for a fifth season after 54 episodes.
“As much as I love the show, they have other things for me to work on,” he said.
For instance, Yip is taking part this Sunday in the network’s ‘Iron Chef” equivalent called “HGTV Showdown.”
The show gives two celebrity judges two existing identical spaces and a mere six hours to redo that space. Against Angelo Surmelis, Yip has to renovate a kitchen — in six hours.
“If you want to see me sweat,” Yip said, “I am really sweating!”
Check out a preview video here.
“HGTV Showdown,” Sunday 9 p.m. HGTV
“HGTV Design Star,” Sunday 10 p.m. HGTV