Edmond, OK’s HGTV DesignStar
If life is a canvas, then Kellie Clements knows that we are our own artists. The Edmond interior designer and mother of two learned all about taking charge of her own palette when she auditioned for, and won, a spot in HGTV’s sixth season of “Design Star” which is airing this summer.
The show puts design professionals to a series of challenges where they utilize their skills and talent to create a thing of beauty. And when it comes to beautiful creations, Clements is no stranger. She studied design at the University of Central Arkansas and comes from a long line of artists. Her parents were artists. Her father owned an art gallery and her grandfather was an artist in the field of carpentry.
It is from this lineage that Clements molded her design style, self-described as warm, modern and eclectic. She says she likes to use a lot of color and one-of-a-kind pieces in her designs. “I like to use unique pieces, things that kind of tell a story about (the client’s) life. I like to make the rooms very personal,” Clements says.
And though originally from Arkansas, Clements has been hard at work designing here in Oklahoma for the past ten years. She mainly does residential work in the Edmond area and stages new homes for a building company while using an educational approach.
“I don’t just tell people what looks good, I tell them why, because I can’t be with them all the time and they’re going to want to make a purchase of something for their home in the future. I give them little tips and tools that will arm them with information so they can make the right decision,” said Clements.
And that approach seems to be working. Her business has grown strongly through word-of-mouth and she explains that she loves to work directly with homeowners. “My favorite part is the people. When I do work for someone that is local, I get to see how what I did for them has impacted their lives,” she says. And it is the changing of lives that really interests Clements. “I love design, but I love people more and design is just a vehicle through which I’m able to impact peoples’ lives.”
When it comes to impact, Clements’ opportunity with “Design Star” is just about as life-changing as it gets. “It’s still kind of surreal to me that it’s even happened,” she says and describes the undertaking as a very important move she had to make as a professional and as a mother of two young children.“It’s a struggle just being a working mom to find that balance. Me being gone and participating in something like ‘Design Star’ was a big risk for me because of my children,” Clements says, crediting her husband’s commitment to help care for the children in her absence.
The sacrifices were worth it to Clements. “I feel like not pursuing that goal of mine was also a risk because I have to be an example to my children, and even my husband, of how to not just talk the talk but walk the walk.”
The courage to take that first step came after a difficult year for Clements and her family. She had watched every season of the show but had never taken the chance to audition until now. “Our family overcame a lot of things and it changed me. I decided I was going to stop thinking about ‘Design Star’ and I was going to really pursue it,” she says. And pursue it she did. The casting process was in depth according to Clements. It included more than one trip to Dallas and even a trip to meet with producers in New York City.
The prospect of being on the show kept Clements going. “I am a competitor at heart. The thought of competing in my own arena, interior design, has always been appealing to me,” she says. Ultimately it was the ever present desire to be an example to her children that helped Clements deal with the challenges of grueling competition and being far from home.
She wants others to not be afraid to do the same. “Go after what you want to go after. I have kids and a family but I’m still an individual and one of these days my boys are going to ask me if they should take the job overseas or if they should start their own business and I have to be able to tell them yes and give them examples of why.”
And Clements will certainly have stories to tell her children about her time on the show. “It was a life experience, not a design experience,” she says and adds that she made strong friendships with her fellow designers. “We’re all so different but we share that same passion for design. Our time together was very concentrated. We lived and worked together. We cried. We laughed together. So, the friendships that you make in that short amount of time are priceless,” said Clements. She’s also grateful for the interaction she had with some of the industry’s top designers like Nate Berkus.
But there were difficulties too, Clements admits. “I’m used to competing as a team. I’m an encourager by nature and in a scenario like ‘Design Star’ it’s not always beneficial to play as a team. It’s an individual competition,” she says. “Finding that balance between when to help other designers and when to put myself first was very difficult for me.”
But the competition aspect was a learning opportunity. “You definitely have to think on your feet. There’s no time for second-guessing. Sometimes something goes wrong in a challenge. You may pick the wrong paint color but it’s too late, so you have to make a decision and make it the right decision,” she says.
And lessons can be learned on both sides of the television screen. Clements says that while the producers of the show did a good job of incorporating educational design opportunities for the show’s audience, she hopes viewers will take away deeper lessons as well. “I really want people, whatever it is they’re thinking they want to do, I want them to go for it,” she says. “I feel like in life we have an obligation to take responsible risks.”
Clements says she is embracing the journey and is excited to see where the path will lead. “Design Star,” the hour-long reality competition series shot in New York City, airs at 8 p.m. on Mondays through September.