“Design Star” winner shares her “Secrets” in a new HGTV show

By Stacey Harrison

It might sound strange, but in her new show, Emily Henderson is setting herself up for failure.

Well, failure is strong way to put it, but the HGTV Design Star winner does do things a little differently with Secrets From a Stylist, which premieres tonight on HGTV. The setup is that she uses her very own style-diagnosis system to figure out her client’s personal style, then rearranges their living space accordingly. Only her method involves going to the extreme before refining it for the final reveal.

That’s why when the first reveal occurs — the big payoff moment for most design shows — the client’s reaction is noticeably reserved. Sometimes it borders on being outright displeased.

While it’s all part of the plan, Henderson says the format does make a lot more work not just for her production crew, but for her mind.

“Right now we’re planning eight episodes out, so in my mind I have to keep 16 different styles straight,” she says. “There’s been a couple houses so far where they’ve loved the first look so much that they’re begging for me not to change it. I have to explain to them that it doesn’t work like that. … I want to make the first one look good but not amazing. I have to make them want more.”

Her ultimate goal is to make the space be a reflection of its owners, illustrating their own personal style — even if the owners are unaware or have never thought about what that style is. She plays “style detective,” probing for information such as what their favorite restaurant is or what music they listen to or what color pattern reminds them most of their partner.

“It’s easy to just go in these [big-box retail] stores and buy what they have on the floor, but it doesn’t say anything about their personality,” she says. “I understand why they do it, [but] my hope is by watching the show people can see by finessing things and maybe thinking a little differently — going to vintage stores and going to flea markets — you can inject personality really quickly into your house.”

Photo: © 2010 HGTV