MAKEOVER SHOWS 'Designer Finals' puts rookies in charge

Students learn what it's like to work on a real project and maintain a tight budget.
Not everyone would turn his house over to a college design student.
Each week, Home & amp; Garden Television's "Designer Finals" lets one talented rookie loose with a relatively small sum of cash -- $2,000 -- to take on a big bear of a task: To completely make over one room in a stranger's house.
The catch is formidable: The student has just two days to perform the miracle.
We all like to think that when we hire a contractor to do inside work, it will all go swimmingly. "Designer Finals," which has its first sneak peek at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, proves the inevitable otherwise.
The fresh-faced designers battle looming deadlines, ticked-off tenants, numbskull contractors and way-off estimates as they race toward the finish. If you don't think there's drama, ask a contractor what he thinks of an inexperienced designer.
Regular airtime
The show has another sneak peek at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 12. Its regularly scheduled airtime will be at 9 p.m. Saturdays, beginning Aug. 14.
Host Penn Holderness introduces a design student who aspires to turn the selected room from "bland to spicy." Students hail from top design schools such as San Francisco's Academy of Art College and the Harrington College of Design in Chicago.
"I've learned that the students are just as, if not more, creative than the people you would normally expect to professionally design people's homes," says Holderness. "They're much bolder than the professionals."
The show starts off with the student meeting with the homeowner, who often has definite ideas in mind. After a friendly chat, the designer goes home and draws up a plan, then bounds back to the homeowner.
The drama begins. First, they may haggle over details. Then the designer must buy the materials, at which point the $2,000 budget quickly begins to dwindle.
"This is a whole lot different than the classroom," says Holderness. "It's a great real-life experience with a little suspense involved, too."
Over the two days, the designer can bring in as many contractors, fellow students, spouses, friends, friends of the homeowner, ministers, psychologists as they please. Then comes the tense moment at the end: The homeowner is brought in. Will the room be approved?
So far, Holderness says most homeowners have approved the final results.
HGTV will have information on each episode's projects, with before-and-after images, a story synopsis and resources, on its Web site,

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