The feng shui of designer TV

Bradenton Herald – Jason Champion knows the value of being surrounded by the comforts of a personable and fashionably designed home.

It makes a stressful day at work or, in his case, an unexpected seven-hour flight delay from Montreal, disappear.

“Design is about being compassionate,” he said during a phone interview last week from his Sarasota home. “When you go through the days that we have to go through today, with the economy the way it is and the world situation, if you can’t come home and be comfortable in your own space, where are you going to be comfortable?

“And if you can’t lay your head down in a room that works and functions for you to get a good night’s sleep, then it just puts you back on a bad foot the next day.”

Champion, 33, is the latest area resident that has catapulted into reality TV star status, but he’s not singing or modeling the latest fashions. The interior decorator is designing spaces on the HGTV show “Design Star,” which airs 10 p.m. Sundays.

He’s completed the kitchen challenge — his favorite — along with the white room and a garage challenge, a new element this season.

So far, out of 11 contestants, he’s one of six left standing.

Tonight’s challenge will take the group to a military base. Their task is to turn two plain-looking rooms into stylish entertainment centers for two military families.

Champion said he’s been destined for TV all his life. And if he can win “Design Star,” earning his own home design show on HGTV, then it’s worth it.

But even if he doesn’t win, just being on the show is consolation prize enough.

“As a side note, it’s pretty fun to run around L.A. and have cameras follow you,” he said in his southern twang.

The rewards he’s gained are new friendships with the other contestants and a renewed sense of confidence.

“I’m not the only one that likes what I do,” said Champion, who was born in Arizona and raised in Mississippi. “I have a whole network that believes in it, too.”

Of course, being able to design on a nice budget without catering to a client’s needs is like an interior designer’s paradise. Experiencing that was a first for Champion.

Living in Marilyn Monroe’s home, situated among the Hollywood hills, while filming was another perk.

When it comes to interior design and decor, the easy-going Champion enjoys his element. His personal style centers around modern and contemporary. But he can create any style his clients want.

He still remembers his first “client/challenge” — his mother.

The project: redesigning the living room.

“Taking it down to the bare floors and rebuilding it,” he said.

He was only 14.

Among his changes, he gave the room a brighter touch by adding white carpet.

Champion owns two businesses — Jason Champion OUTDOOR, featuring a collection of contemporary outdoor furniture (three new lines will debut in the fall), and Jason Champion Design.

He’s decorated a few homes in the Sarasota area, but most of his clients are elsewhere. His work has been featured in The Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego, Calif., and The Grand Hyatt in Singapore, according to his Web site, jasonchampionoutdoor.

Oftentimes what his clients want is something they don’t know how to achieve on their own.

“What I do, when I work with clients, I make them give me photos and color samples and things . . . they like, and creatively I’ve put it back together for them,” he said.

Champion loves to talk rooms. While he likes tackling living rooms, he’s more drawn to recreating bedrooms.

“You can customize them so much that you never have to leave,” he said.

While he’s embraced his reality TV fame, at times it can be a little strange. Especially when watching weekly episodes of “Design Star” with friends at Sarasota’s Burns Court Theater.

“It’s kind of weird for them to see me on the screen,” he said.

It’s even weirder when they turn around and he’s sitting right beside them.

Since the show was taped earlier this year, Champion knows a lot more than he’s telling.

But he can’t spill any secrets on how far he made it in the competition.

If he did win, he said, he’d start a show centering on children’s design.

“There’s no design show that focuses on kid’s bedrooms and kid’s style, because if anything, even though we’re in a down economy, parents are still going to spend money on their children.”

Thanks to the show, people have come to recognize Champion on the street and there have been some local inquiries in his decor company, but business hasn’t spiked as much as he would like from his cable TV fame.

At least not yet.

“The longer you’re on the show, the better exposure you get,” he said.

published Aug. 16, 2009

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