The 11 remaining contestants report for their next challenge: a pair of neglected mid-century homes in Palm Springs, CA. Host Nate Berkus and judges Monica Pedersen and Eddie George explain that the owners are looking to retain their homes' classic styles but to update them - and transform their outdoor spaces into something special. Officially, the theme is "Our dream home has become a nightmare!" Two teams of dream builders are ready to roll up their sleeves.
The leader of Team Red, Lukas Machnik, has a secret weapon this week: one of his team members, Dann Foley, lives and works in Palm Springs. As with all things real estate-related, location is everything and having Dann onboard imparts a home court advantage. The remainder of his team consists of Nancy Hadley, Erinn Valencich and Vanessa Deleon. They watch a video of the homeowners explaining their hopes for the home, then go online to glean some core information from Zillow.com such as square footage, the size of the lot and current value estimates. They decide to create an indoor/outdoor living area, give the bedrooms a facelift and add some special individual touches to several rooms to modernize the look.
Lukas divvies up assignments, giving himself the living room and the outdoor dining area, Vanessa the den, Nancy the guest bedroom, Erinn the master bedroom and Dann the kitchen and outdoor space. Dann's assignment will be key; his plan is to extend the living space into the outdoors by opening up the kitchen and dining room and replacing the kitchen windows with a huge glass door leading to an outdoor dining room.
Team Blue is led by Andrew Flesher, a successful New York designer. Helping him will be Elaine Griffin, Nina Magon, Christina Salway, Darren Moore and Jay Riordan. The team also watches a video of the current house owners sharing their dreams and begins their research. Soon, everyone's found an area to take on: Darren and Jay have the exterior space, Elaine will handle the living and dining rooms, Nina has the den, guest bedroom and bath, Christina has the master bedroom and Andrew will tackle the kitchen himself.
Transforming a nightmare house into a dream house is a fantasy every homeowner can share, and the vision always starts by tearing down the old. Both teams shout, sing and bond as the crowbars, sledgehammers and saws fly in a riotous reign of destruction. Soon enough, the houses are in shambles.
The key projects for Andrew's Team Blue are an exterior makeover to boost curb appeal, a landscaped oasis including a custom pergola to add livable outdoor space, and the opening up of the master bedroom to provide more light and sense of expanse.
With the team gathered around the planning table, Jay expresses discontent with the current house's elevation, i.e. its appearance from the street. He's convinced that the classic mid-century home needs a taller door - but most of the team is dead set against changing the proportions whatsoever. Elaine is characteristically outspoken, shutting down Jay and attacking Christina outright, "The day you have a sense of proportion is the day I'll let you use it." Elaine's chutzpah seems boundless.
Despite the reservations expressed by several teammates, Elaine goes on to announce her rooms will be covered in an olive grasscloth. Team leader Andrew also thinks it's too bold a choice, but Elaine steamrolls past him. Nina, Christina and the others sense a bully and a weak leader in Andrew. Can anyone stand up to Elaine?
With the clock ticking, the teams head to Lowe's for materials. Dann's especially excited by the shopping trip, since his outdoor living space needs lots of hearty plants and patio furniture and he knows just what he wants; he's like a knowledgeable kid in a candy store. The rest of the buying teams are considerably more stressed, knowing that their time is limited and the design choices they make now could seal their fate when the neighborhood council comes calling.
Lukas and Nancy have a pair of artistic projects that could make a huge difference: a custom light fixture and a sculpture. They're both labor intensive, but as the project manager, Lukas knows that Nate and the judges will be looking not just for an overall renovation but original, innovative touches that make the final house stand out. He knows that nothing can touch original, architectural artwork to set a house apart.
Andrew looks at the rough framing done for the eight-foot tall front door; Jay's vision for updating the front elevation is a disaster - and his team lets him know it. It'll take a scramble to correct it, but Jay grabs a crowbar and gets to work.
Nate, Monica and Eddie drop in on both teams. They walk through each home, getting a taste of what's in store. When Elaine explains her olive and yellow color scheme, Nate's dubious but agrees to withhold judgment until it's all finished. The rest of the walkthroughs go smoothly, with Nate giddy to glimpse Nancy's steel sculpture. As pleasant as it all seems, there's a threat on the horizon: rainclouds.
Palm Springs only receives about five inches of rain each year, but when the sky does open up, it can be a torrent. And that's just what's blowing in. As both teams scramble to get their outdoor work complete, thunder pounds and a high wind drives a downpour right over them. Everyone has to stop work and take shelter. There are less than eight hours before the reveals.
Already up for over twenty hours, the teams are running on pure adrenaline; there are just a few hours remaining. As they resume work, it's clear the outdoor spaces will be the biggest challenges. Both homes had barren hardscaping; hundreds of plants are waiting to go in the ground. But there's plenty of drama indoors too. Nancy's spent so much time perfecting her sculpture, she's not noticed that the bed ordered for the bedroom is much too big. It all starts to catch up her and she begins sobbing. Dann talks her down, jumping in and making the bedroom work as best they can. Little touches can mean a lot, whether it's a decorating flourish - or a compassionate human flourish.
The minutes tick down and both teams are a flurry of finishing touches. And just like that, the word comes to stop. The neighborhood council, the homes' owners and the judging team are all ready for the big reveal. Both homeowner couples are breathless. The judges head inside.
Inside Andrew's Team Blue house, Nate and Monica love Elaine's makeover of the living room, calling it "mid-century modern for now." Likewise, Andrew's kitchen impresses as does Nina's guest bedroom. Christina's bedroom, on the other hand, comes up short, with the judges citing a cluttered feeling with a painting and headboard out of sync with the feel of the room. The outdoor oasis gets high marks - until the judges round the corner and spot a barren water heater, marring the otherwise elegant feel of the backyard. The neighborhood council walks through and expresses very similar sentiments.
Inside Team Red's house, the judges are wowed. Nancy's steel sculpture elicits oohs and ahs, Dann's kitchen is a truly tasteful transformation and Vanessa's den gets kudos for its simple use of furnishing to transform the scale of the space. Nancy's bedroom, on the other hand, comes across cluttered and unfocused. Likewise, Erinn's master bedroom is dark, with a brooding feel that turns the judges off. Outside, Lukas' patio takes their breath away: he's transformed the space into an all-new seating area with a custom light fixture built of a fine chicken wire. "Lukas is showing off," Eddie beams. Dann's patio is also a hit: comfortable patio furniture around a sparkling pool framed by luscious greenery. The neighborhood council's opinions again fall pretty much in line with that of the judges.
Everyone is called for a reckoning before Nate and the judges. They ask Jay for his opinion on Andrew; Jay is politic, declaring Andrew a "good" manager. Jay's still stinging from being overruled on the front elevation, but Nate tells them he's glad they kept the original lines of the front door. Elaine throws Christina under the bus, citing her ill-chosen painting for the bedroom; the judges take Darren to task for failing to disguise or cover up the water heater outside.
Lukas gets high marks overall from Nate, Monica and Eddie. When asked which room he'd like to do over, Lukas cites Nancy's guest room; Nate agrees and also takes Erinn to task for her "choppy" approach to the master bedroom. Nate reports that the neighborhood council was torn between the two houses, but ultimately chose Andrew's team as the better of the two. The Red Team faces the chopping block again. Pressed, Lukas picks Nancy as the team member who should leave, citing her inability to hold it together in the final hour of presentation. Nate and the judges confer and then render their verdict: Nancy's heading home.
It's been an intense week in the desert as the teams faced storms both literal and figurative. Despite more dissension in the ranks, Team Blue won again - and now has two more members than the red team. Team Red may be temporarily dejected but they know they can rebound. They'll all be back next week, their spirits rebuilt and ready to do battle once again.
In the second week of the American Dream Builders competition, the teams compete to remodel a pair of mid-century homes in Palm Springs, CA.