I’m not much of a tv person. I do have a few shows that I like, but I watch them on the computer as I haven’t owned a tv in over 10 years. By watching on the computer, I avoid most commercials and I don’t flip channels mindlessly watching whatever is on. As a result, when I was approached by HGTV Star about having our bus featured in one of their episodes, I had never even heard of the show despite it being in its 8th season.
For those of you like me, HGTV Star, formerly Design Star, is a reality show where contestants are given interior design challenges, and each week one designer is voted off until there is a winner. Every season, contestants are also given an unconventional space to design, like a yurt or a shipping container, and this season it was a school bus.
That’s where we came in. We were asked to submit pictures of our bus to be briefly aired on screen as examples of real life school buses that showed good design. We submitted five photos and one was used in the episode, along with two pictures of other buses. The school bus episode is Season 8, Episode 6 and you can watch it online here. (We appear at roughly the 4 min mark).
I watched the episode this week and was struck by two things: first, I was surprised that our bus made the cut, and second, I was really disappointed with the way the show approached the school bus design challenge.
While I love the layout of Eliza Brownhome and I think we’ve done some creative things design-wise, I would say that aesthetically, there are some things that need to be updated. Compared to the other two bus photos used, Eliza is very dark and our soft-furnishings are worn out and dated. I would love to change our paint colour (to something much lighter), re-upholster the seats and get/make new throw cushions so that we can brighten up the place. The other two buses shown look more recent than Eliza. We have to remember that our conversion was started 10 years ago and she’s been extensively lived in during that time (not just part-time for traveling, or as a studio or guest space). Furthermore, our temporary table is shown front and center in the picture that was used, and it definitely makes the space seem unfinished. Eliza just doesn’t have the same polished feel of a newer project. For that reason, I was surprised that the show’s producers still used our photo.
But on to the challenge and how the designers fared. The design task was to create a no-limits, creative space inside a bus of their own. The designers were given no constraints for this challenge and were told,
“You need to show the panel that you can create something unexpected, unconventional, and most of all, inspiring.”
The results were disappointing, but the blame for that goes to the producers not the designers. The mistake was that the challenge had no limits, and that they were designing a creative space IN a bus, rather than FOR a bus. Granted, it probably is important to have at least one challenge where the contestants can really go out on a limb and show their individuality. The problem here is that the school bus itself is the unconventional part of the design challenge – the space inside the bus didn’t need to be the wacky unconventional part. Furthermore, designing a bus presents a lot of ways to show ingenuity, but it was all wasted because the designers didn’t even have to design a bus. In fact, one contestant actually cut off the wheel wells, and another completely painted the inside including all of the windows. The result was long rectangular rooms with low curved ceilings that could have been anywhere and had nothing to do with designing a bus at all. In the end what made their spaces unconventional was their crazy ideas, like a Mad Hatter Tea Party and a futuristic space lounge with an egg zeppelin floating chair thing (seriously – it made no sense to see it either). The school bus itself ended up just being a gimmick and that was a let down.
In my opinion, the part that makes a school bus a great design challenge is having to work with the constraints of a bus:
The real challenge in designing a bus is finding ways to create flow, but also to separate spaces. I would have loved to see the designers stretch themselves to design really functional mobile spaces without losing the busness. I would have liked to see them come up with savvy storage ideas or unique layouts. And they needn’t all have designed RVs. There are other ways they could have shown individuality while still designing a bus. Some ideas include:
To be honest, the person who came the closest to being creative with a bus was the guy who made it into a training/lounge space for an athlete, and yet he’s the very guy who cut off the wheel wells which means even he didn’t really get it. For this episode to have been really exciting, there needed to be rules and one of them should have been that the bus be functional rather than anything goes.
Either way, I was pleased to have our bus featured on the show, and I was reminded why I’m selective about what I watch on tv.
Have you seen the show? Which bus did you like best?