By the time viewers of HGTV's 2011 Design Star saw Chicagoan Meg Caswell win the competitive reality series on September 12, Caswell had already been hard at work renovating local homes for her new show Great Rooms. But details about the reveals—or even that Caswell, 33, and owner of Lincoln Park's Design Shoppe, was the newest HGTV star—had to be kept under wraps until Great Rooms debuted on the cable station in mid-September.
"The incentive to be quiet was a $750,000 non-disclosure agreement we signed," says Orly Telisman, Director of Media Relations at Encyclopaedia Britannica, who applied on a fluke to have her 1980's-style kitchen renovated. When her kitchen with white cabinets and wood-edged counter tops was picked for the show, Telisman was thrilled. "My husband is indebted to me for life for this," she says.
The results will be shown at 8 p.m. [CT] Saturday, October 15, in an episode called "Art Deco Design." As for the back story of the renovation, Telisman says it was different than what she had originally expected. "I thought they would come in, tear down, and reveal," she says. "But we had a lot of input. They talked to us at length about our design aesthetics before they ever brought a camera in."
What Telisman wanted was a kitchen that looked it belonged in the home, which was built in the 1930's. Something functional, yet traditional—plus an office space. "I didn't want or need a modern kitchen with only one bud vase on the counter," she says. While she hadn't anticipated black cabinets ("I thought they would be the kiss of death in this kitchen."), Telisman now loves them. "They make the room look taller, sleeker, and—thanks to the crown molding they added to the top—traditional as well." Caswell also kept an original 1930's door for the new pantry, a nice vintage touch. Great Rooms asked Telisman to contribute to the budget so that a wall could be knocked down between a kitchen and a bedroom. "We went for it. It was like getting a new kitchen with a Groupon—it was that much of a deal," she says.
According to Caswell, the biggest unexpected problem in this renovation was the floors. "Once I knew we needed to open up the wall to make one truly Great Room, I had a seriously hard time," says Caswell. The problems: there was a two-inch slope in the horizontal grading, plus there was also a style conflict between Caswell and Telisman. "Orly loved her original wood floors, but I dislike them in kitchens because of the high water traffic. So I needed to find the right tile that would transition to other rooms and hide the slope. Another issue: anything too dark would alienate the wood and anything too light would take away from the black cabinets."
Viewers can watch the process and see the results Saturday night. While it's hard for Telisman to say what her favorite detail in the new kitchen is—more counter space, a convection oven, or the citrine-black-white-and gray color scheme, there is one indisputably fabulous fact: the whole renovation took less than three weeks. "The day they first came to film, our family went to the library and checked out books for the kids so they'd have something to do," she says. "And we had a finished kitchen before the books were due back. Awesome, right?"
Below: Before-and-after pictures.
Photographs courtesy HGTV