Up To The Challenge
West Bloomfield interior designer Barbi Krass wins the chance
to showcase her talents on one of HGTV's most popular shows.
Special to the Jewish News
ids do the darnedest things. And often,
what they do leads to a welcome surprise.
Just ask interior. designer Barbi Krass,
whose daughter Lysa entered her in a con-
test to be featured on the Home & Garden Television
(HGTV) series Designers' Challenge.
"I knew nothing about it," recalls the effervescent
designer, sitting behind a desk at her West Bloomfield
studio on Orchard Lake Road. "My daughter sent
information into the show about our [Colorworks]
studio. I had no idea she had done that ... and then
they called me to be one of the contestants," she
laughs, her eyes as bright and glowing as the shining,
colorful necklace she wears atop a turtleneck-style
sweater. "That's how it came down."
The network's popular Designers' Challenge pro-
gram follows one homeowner per episode through
the decision-making process of selecting from
among-three designers' room renovation plans.
Viewers then watch as the chosen designer brings
about a new look for the room.
That's what viewers will see as Krass and her interi-
or designs and creations for a Corktown loft in
Detroit are featured on the series at the end of
February or in early March. The show will then
repeat several times over the next 18 months
(Designers' Challenge airs on the cable network more
than a dozen times each week, offering rebroadcasts
of its episodes).
The energetic Krass competed against two other
metro-area designers. "The show has never come to
Detroit — it typically focuses on California design-
ers," Krass explains. "But they are now expanding
into other states and that makes sense absolutely," she
says, showing her pride as a metro Detroit-based
Barbi Krass: The homeowner "wanted funky,
designer. Krass is a resident of West Bloomfield, but
industrial and edgy; I think we came through
she grew up on the East Coast and graduated from
Boston University with a degree in fine arts.
When the producers of the show called her several
months ago to notify her that she had been selected to had been living in the loft for a little more than a year
before contacting HGTV, and did some work on his
be one of the three designers to compete on the show,
own in the master bedroom, kitchen and bathroom.
Krass received no information about the client.
He contacted the show after a friend suggested the
"They fax you information, such as size and budget,"
"I hopped on their Web site and found out
she recalls, noting that the budget was a mere $40,000
they were looking to do something in Detroit. It
and was to cover transforming four areas of a 6,000-
seemed like a perfect fit."
square-foot-loft. She was told the client owned the
Adds Krass: "They were looking for something a
entire top floor of a loft on Sixth Street in Detroit.
more unusual, something that wouldn't easily be
The homeowner turned out to be Scott Damman,
and they had never done a loft before, so I
a medical sales executive who lives in Corktown, an
why they chose Scott's space to feature on
up-and-coming historic district in Detroit behind the
old Tiger Stadium. What was once home to many
She was contacted, as were the other two designers,
Irish immigrant families is now becoming an enclave
to propose designs for the loft's media, dining, sitting
for artists who need loft-type space for their studios
and entertainment areas.
and 30-something professionals dedicated to the
"Scott does a lot of entertaining, so our proposal
rebirth of Detroit.
the design of a second-level deck right in the
They now share the region with Corktown
loft. You go up steps to a level that is surrounded by
diehards, who have remained in the neighborhood for
windows; that way the guests can look over the city,
years, living in charming, trim two-story homes that
MGM Casino — great views," notes Krass.
were built decades ago.
"Corktown is sleepy, and people don't realize what a
CHALLENGE on page 38
nice community is down here," Damman says. He
Who: Barbi Krass, director of design and owner of
Where: Colorworks Studio: 7001 Orchard Lake
Road, West Bloomfield
Extra Special: A gift shop/interior-design retail
area is part of Colorworks and offers everything
from whimsical candles to elegant vases, paintings,
photography, lamps and more. This spring, look
for garden decor.
What clients say about Krass: "She works well
with other people's tastes. She makes good deci-
sions and helped us incorporate things that we
had inherited or had already owned. She makes
things work." — Risa Levinson, West Bloomfield
Krass' team designed a mobile bar that features cast-
ers, built-in holes to place ice buckets for champagne-
chilling and all-metal craftsmanship.
On trends: "Tastes change, trends change. Saying
something isn't going to go out of style is fine to a
point, but you don't want to lock yourself in to
any one thing," says Krass. "We can't assure any-
one that nothing is ever going to go out of style."
On working with couples: "Marriage counseling
is a big part of interior designing," Krass laughs.
When to say no: "We try to reflect the tastes of
the client. But we won't do something if it won't
work, if it's not within the principles of good
design. And we always explain why."
Personal stamp: "I don't decorate to the 'nth'
degree. Nothing we do is overdone — cleaner
rather than fussier. Color is very important, as is
the flow throughout the house."
Still learning: "We don't work in downtown
Detroit very often and that location in Corktown
taught me a new side to the industry. It was a
great opportunity to be down there. Hopefully,
we'll do more in the city."
— Megan Swayer