In this interview with David Bromstad, winner of HGTV’s first season of Design Star and current host of Color Splash, we discuss everything from his upcoming projects, which includes two new shows, his relationship status (sorry guys he’s taken), the reasons he no longer takes off his shirt (as much) on television to more serious subjects like growing up bullied in high school. His honesty and sincerity was refreshing and he didn’t seem to hold anything back.
How has your life changed most since the debut season of HGTV Design Star?
I think it’s pretty much a 180. I went from being a starving artist to being this thing I am right now. It’s been really exciting. I have my own television shows. It’s really cool. It kind of feels like a dream. It’s a pretty cool gig and I’m here to stay.
I guess reality shows can work?
You know what I guess they can. When I went on Design Star, reality shows were just getting started. It wasn’t very good for people at that time. I was like Oh My Gosh what am I doing? I just said “Lets just go for it, I have nothing to lose.” Obviously I had tons to gain.
Any plans to be a mentor on Design Star again?
Yes.I am going to be a mentor this year which is great. I am super honored.
How do you like that?
It’s so different. I am a highly competitive person. I love competing. I think that’s why I did well on Design Star. I wasn’t the loud one of the bunch. I wasn’t cocky. I was just there. I wanted to compete and I wanted to win.
But being a mentor it’s so meaningful because I’ve been in their spot before. I know exactly what they’re going through. I know how much they’re freaking out. I know what they’re thinking in their minds, “This could ruin my career,” “This could make my career,” “What do I do with these designs.”
It’s really nice to be there for these guys and help them refocus, and think about what they’re doing and why they are there.
No pressure for me. All I have to do is show up and give some advice.
What’s the biggest design mistake you most commonly see?
I just think people just don’t try. I think they are a little afraid. Most people move in to a house and they look at the whole house or apartment. They look at the whole entire space and say “I don’t know what to do, I’m overwhelmed.”
That’s overwhelming for any designer to look at the whole entire space. What you do is break it down room by room and you start with your overall look and then you figure out what you want to do and the aesthetics you want to go. Going and doing five rooms at a time or a whole house at a time is really daunting and really scary.
That’s why people don’t do anything. It’s not like where you try a recipe and oh there’s fifty dollars. You’re spending thousands of dollars on your designs and lots of labor. It’s a big commitment. People are afraid to make that commitment when they don’t know what they’re doing.
For those that haven’t watched Color Splash can you us about it?
Color Splash is my show. It’s focused on bringing out some really fun and exciting designs. It was focused on color in the beginning. Now it’s just focused on fun and having a great time. It’s about showing people I can think outside the box and do exciting things with stuff that they thought maybe couldn’t look so great. But when you combine it together and follow some simple steps and rules you can make any color and design work.
In the beginning you used to take off your shirt a lot more. What happened?
[Laughs] Well I am kind of an exhibitionist obviously and I work out hard and I like to show off what I got. The network put a halt on it, and said “no more taking your shirt off we want you to grow up as a designer.” The way I took it as, is everyone has an outfit or type of clothing for work. So I have to wear clothing now for work. [Laughs]
Can you tell us about Wall Murals Your Way?
It’s a company I teamed up with. It’s really exciting because I love big pieces of art
I usually paint big large pieces, whether for myself or my client just because I think it makes a major impact. Basically what it is, is picking my art and having this oversized piece of art that can fill up a wall or the whole side of a building. The capabilities are pretty much endless.
It’s really easy to put on. It’s not like wallpaper you don’t have to hire somebody. If you don’t like it, you can take it off and re-stick it somewhere else if you need to move it.
So you like big pieces of art?
I love big pieces. I like big things [laughs]
Besides Color Splash and Murals Your Way what else should we know about your work?
I have a bedding and bath collection that I’ve been working on for the last year. That’s exciting. We actually launched this fall. That went really well. We have some major retailers interested. We’re just working out the fine details now. So soon you should see my product in stores. Hopefully late 2012, early 2013.
I cannot say.
Before design star what were you doing?
I was doing whatever I could to make money. All I knew is I needed to do art. I was doing paintings for hotels. I was working basically for other interior designers. I was fabricating props for kids rooms for homes around the southeast. That’s what I was doing. Anything I could. Anything that was creative. Anything that was Artistic.
I was always challenging myself. Always doing my work above and beyond what I needed to do. I knew I needed to take a great picture for my portfolio. I knew it would come in handy someday and it did come in handy. It got me on to design star and therefore it changed my life.
Who are your inspirations?
I know he’s been around for a while but, Philippe Starck is my ultimate inspiration right now. He’s just fun and quirky. He’s done several hotels and condos down here in Miami and around the world. His style is beautiful but quirky at the same time. You look at it and smile. It’s not super serious but looks very expensive. I really appreciate his aesthetic.
Growing up who was your inspirations?
Walt Disney. 100 percent. That’s why I went to art school. I wanted to be a Disney animator. I was obsessed with anything Disney. Obsessed. Shortly after I was in art school I took an animation elective and just realized that it just wasn’t for me. It was very tedious. I was really getting in to painting and I was really good at it. I liked to draw and couldn’t imagine myself sitting at a desk for 10 hours and drawing the same figure that moved barely an inch [laughs].
You did work for Disney?
I was a visual merchandiser for six months and then my boss said “you’re way too talented. You need to go in to the art department.” So I lost my full time status and my employee benefits and took a risk and went in to the sculpting department. Basically I was a grunt worker, sanding sculptures. Anyone that knows anything about Disney is that everything has to be perfect. Beyond perfect. It was a great learning tool for bringing perfection in to my work. At the time though, I was 23 years old and was like what the hell am I doing. But I learned so much.
If you weren’t doing art or interior design what would you be doing?
I’d be dead. [laughs]. I can’t imagine doing art or interior design. I really can’t.
It’s so much a part of me. So much so that when I took those online tests to see if I was left or right brained, I was 99 percent right brained.
So even growing up you always wanted to do art or interior design?
You know interior design didn’t come until I was on Design Star. I did fabricate kids’ rooms. So I did that. I wasn’t thinking about being an interior designer. I always loved the home. Always knew I wanted to have a furniture collection. I just didn’t put it together. I started doing interior design for Color Splash and I was hooked.
I was creating an environment. There’s so many aspects to interior design that being an artist that you don’t have.
When did you come “out?”
I was 22-years-old when I came out. In this day and age that was pretty late. But back when I was that age it was pretty standard. I’m 38 now.
Growing up did you know?
I definitely always knew. But I grew up in a very religious family. Very Christian. I denied it. Not what I wanted for my life. Probably around 30 years old, right before I went on Design Star I fell in love with myself in a really positive way. I realized it’s ok to be who you are.
Were you bullied?
I was majorly bullied. I was very after school special bullied. The whole lunchroom would join in. The whole cafeteria would stand up and tease me.
I moved from a very small town of 2,000 people in Minnesota. I grew up there and I knew everybody. I was teased but nothing crazy. People thought I was gay. I didn’t think I was. I actually liked girls at the time. [Laughs]
And then I moved to a suburb of the big city. My graduating class went from 100 people to 750 people. I went to a school that was seventh grade to ninth grade. I came in at ninth grade. Everyone had established friends. The ninth graders were the rulers of the school. Even more kind of cocky, not quite as mature. The girls loved me and the guys hated me because the girls loved me. And that creates a very volatile situation. I was different. I was tall. I was skinny. I was gawky. I was awkward. Adorbale yes, but was I comfortable in my own skin, absolutely not. And therefore I was brutally teased.
It was pretty brutal. It was relentless. And it was everyday. My ninth grade year was really tough. I didn’t want to be alive anymore. It was really that bad.
You were actually bullied more in a suburb of a big city, which should have been more progressive and tolerant.
It was very strange. I was the youngest of four kids. My sister and brothers protected me in school. When I went to Minneapolis I had no more protection. I was the only Bromstad there.
It was crazy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It made me a really strong individual and a very strong person. I went through my toughest phase in life very early. It took me a long time to really like myself. When I turned 30, something clicked. I really started liking myself and that was amazing. I’ve been free every since.
Back then what got you through it?
My church actually got me through it. I got involved. My family was already very religious. We always went to church. There was a really great youth group. I made some really great friends. It was pretty amazing.
What would you say to kids nowadays?
You know what find yourself a good group of friends. Whether it’s in school or out.
Good people that generally want to be around you. Don’t care about what other people think. Kids are even more brutal these days. But kids are more open these days as well. So there’s always someone there feeling the exact same thing as you are. Find yourself good people that you can hang out with and surround yourself with family. That’s the way to go.
You said your family was very religious. How is your family life?
Ah wonderful. We just have the best relationship. My family, they are just my best friends. I lean on them every single day of my life. They are so supportive of everything I do. They love me no matter what. Although they are very religious, they are very accepting. They love my partner. They really like who I am and think that’s pretty amazing.
Which brings me to my next question, are you in relationship?
Yes I am. Going on 8 years on Valentine’s Day actually.
How did you meet?
Like all gay men used to, at a bar. [Laughs]. We met at Firestone in Orlando on Valentine’s Day at a single’s party. I had a crush on him for years and years, but was never formally introduced. We both were always in relationships and then we were single and we fell in love immediately. It was really cool.
What are your plans for the next year? Anything exciting in the works?
Well I would love to go in to more detail about the other series I am going to be working on. I’m going to be doing Design Star, another series on top of that, and I’ve already filmed 6 episodes of another series. So Color Splash, Design Star and two other series. I wish I could tell you more but HGTV is very particular about the buzz that goes out too early.
I’ve also got the Bedding and Bath collection and an art collection and I have accessories coming out. I just don’t feel like there’s any need to slow down.
For more information about David Bromstad:
Wall sized murals: