There’s a reason why the competitors on HGTV’s “Design Wars” might look familiar. The show, which airs Mondays at 8 p.m., filmed some episodes in Atlanta.
“Design Wars” pits interior designers against each other in a series of challenges executed in a family’s private home. At the end of the episode, the family selects the winning designer, who receives a cash prize. Encore Atlanta spoke with one of the lead designers, Akesha Patterson, and her assistant, Joy Johnston Eager, about what the process was like.
How was being on the show different than the design work you normally do?
Akesha: It’s completely different. We had an hour to set up a whole room and we couldn’t make any noise. On TV, you have to be on your game and know what you’re going to say and do.
Joy: It’s not just about your design work, it’s also about your hair and your makeup!
What were the challenges like?
Akesha: They had small, medium and large challenges. The first challenge could be about one side of a fireplace or a seating area. We set it up while the crew filmed everything. When we were done, the host [interviewed] me, went over the room and I left. Then the family came in, looked at everything and chose the best room without knowing who designed it. We tore everything down and went on to the second challenge, which was a little larger. The third challenge was one large room or larger area, which we got to paint.
Did you provide your own furniture?
Akesha: They didn’t give you any money. They gave you a design budget (about $2,000), but that didn’t cover all three rooms. I borrowed a lot of furniture from showrooms, and had to be really creative about buying at a good price and making sure it would look good on TV. I’m used to doing high-end commercial and residential designing, so it was tricky, but it was a lot of fun taking something really simple and making it look nice.
How were you selected to participate?
Akesha: A friend of mine knew the producers. I Skyped in for an interview. After I submitted my work, they selected me and came out to one of my clients homes’ and took pictures to put on the show.
You’ve worked together professionally for many years. How was it different working together on TV? How did your relationship get you through the show’s challenges?
Joy: We’ve known each other for a long time, since she was a teenager. I used to work for her aunt’s design firm. Now that Akesha’s all grown up, she asked me to be her assistant. I think Akesha and I are very strong together and have a lot of fun. Akesha has grown up so much! She handled herself really well on TV.
Akesha: It really tested our organizational skills. We always had to check if everything was on the truck because if it wasn’t, then we didn’t have it.
Joy: Our sense of humor got us through a lot of that. Our patience could be tested, so we worked with humor rather than frustration. It was hard keeping track of where we were and what we were supposed to be doing. It wasn’t like we could run out and get more fabric. It had to be there on the count of four.
Akesha: We were aggressive, we didn’t panic and weren’t mean people. When we stepped foot into the house, we’d never been there before. We were given a small description of the family in a short video. I couldn’t interview them, talk to them and see what they were like. We were sort of flying blind. We had to kind of give it our all and show them what we could do.
You filmed two episodes this season. Would you go back on the show?
Joy: It was so much fun that by the end, we thought we should have our own show!
Akesha: I told them I’d love to do it again. The producer said they are probably going to be in Atlanta for the second season. They’re expecting between 10 and 11 million people watching each episode.
Has anything changed since filming?
Akesha: One thing I can walk away from the show with is the confidence of being on TV, knowing what looks good and knowing how to carry myself. To be a designer on HGTV is a really big honor. Once it airs, it will be a big deal for me because what I did on TV is unbelievably beautiful. People are going to fall in love with it. I’m working on getting another website up with my name, since show only lets you promote yourself not your company. So when people Google me they can find my website at akeshapatterson.com.
Are you both originally from Atlanta?
Joy: I have lived in Roswell, Alpharetta and Marietta.
Akesha: Though I was born here, I have a strong Native American heritage. There aren’t a lot of Native Americans on TV right now. We’re called the Lumbee Tribe, we’re from North Carolina out of the Lumberton area. There are 150,000 in that one area on the coast of North Carolina.
Joy: Akesha is almost 95 percent Native American. It is really interesting, because that’s a group of people who aren’t really represented on reality TV.
Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to share?
Joy: We didn’t expect to have as much fun as we had. We loved it and hated it and want to do it again.
Akesha: Its like childbirth. I have three kids. You do it and forget how hard it is, and then you want to do it again. I love those challenges.
Can we ask you how you did? Did you win?
Akesha: I can’t tell you, but we did really well. I’m really pleased with the results.
Joy: We’re sworn to secrecy! We can’t tell you that!
For more about the show, visit HGVT’s website.
Tiran Goldstein interned at Atlanta Metropolitan Publishing while attending Alpharetta High School.