Tough challenges, feisty characters and zero margin for error – those were the conditions that participants faced in the sixth edition of the reality interior design competition The Apartment: Passion For Design. Emerging from the ordeal was Philippines-based fashion designer Stephanie Dods, whose finely tuned design instinct and perfectionist streak was her winning edge.
Fans of both reality competition shows and interior design will not be unfamiliar with The Apartment, which just concluded its sixth and latest season in May. The 2018 “Passion for Design” edition of the television show saw 12 international interior design amateurs busting their design chops in 10 gruelling missions. Those missions, which ranged from putting together a fitness room to designing for demanding real-life clients, were challenging not only because of tight deadlines and scant budgets, but also due to testy personalities and unexpected hiccups along the way.
Enduring it to the end and emerging winner of this season was 27-year-old fashion designer Stephanie Dods. In the final mission, which tasked her and co- finalist Rachel Lee to design a twostorey five-room property within 45 hours, the half-Pinay, half-New Zealander impressed the judging panel with her eye for colour, and ability to pull off a masculine vintage concept. Though principal judge Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen did not vote in her favour in the finals, he could not deny that she had grown into a formidable interior designer. “Stephanie showed such natural talent from the outset and her fashion background meant that she was incredibly style-literate. Our job as judges was to get her to bring some heart and soul into her designs, to break the “showroom home” mould she was adept at producing. I’m very pleased with how she flourished in the final and I’m beyond proud of what she will become in the future.”
We speak to the newly crowned winner about her personal experience on the show and her plans ahead.
“I’VE ALWAYS HAD AN INTEREST IN INTERIOR DESIGN BUT NEVER THE COURAGE TO COMMIT TO A COURSE OR STUDIES.”
Congratulations once again, Stephanie. Can you share with us what made you join The Apartment?
I’ve always had an interest in interior design but never the courage to commit to a course or studies. I was at a crossroads in my life and a friend happened to mention the show to me. Everyone at the time knew how much I love interior design and thought this would be a great introduction.. a crash course, if you will!
Do you have some background in design?
Design has always been a part of my life. I was an art student, and that led to a career in fashion. I started off only as a sales associate, but with focus and dedication, I was able to work my way up to become a buyer and co-designer for Australian label Cubic Collective’s in-house brand, Love is Treason, shortly after.
How was the experience of being on the show?
I absolutely loved my experience and I was probably the only person that didn’t miss home. It was at times incredibly draining – oftentimes we were working on only three to five hours of sleep, and each challenge was shot back-toback, with one rest day each week. I also found it difficult to work with certain people. In the high-pressure setting, where we were working against the clock, I found it hard to be patient – although I did meet some incredible people on the show and I’m so thankful for the relationships I did make.
There were some clashes with the other contestants, who sometimes found you highstrung and controlling. Do you think this was fair?
It was completely fair because I am, but I don’t find that a negative at all. There were so many instances when I did not have control – be it the wrong curtains showing up, furniture available, time constraints, or who I was paired with. There were so many things on the show that we did not have control over, so I found control wherever I could. I’m a perfectionist at heart and when things are off-balance, it is not okay with me.
Why do you think you won?
I think I won because I really enjoyed what I was doing and completely threw myself into this competition. I came in with the right intentions and didn’t let the fact that there were cameras or unruly people get in the way of making the best room I possibly could. I worked hard, prepared, and I listened to the judges. I think when you’re passionate about something, it shows in your work.
Do you have plans to pursue interior design after this?
Winning this competition gave me validation in my abilities in interior design, although there is still so much I need to learn. I intend to further explore all aspects of interior design and practise in the Philippines. Thankfully, I’m going home with my two closest friends on the show, Jesy Cruz and Eugene del Rosario. They inspire me a great deal and I will learn so much from them.
3 DESIGN TIPS FROM STEPHANIE
Scale and proportion are crucial to space design
It’s always a risk to decide something off a small swatch; this applies to fabric, wallpaper, paint, tiles and furniture. Things often appear different on a larger scale, so ask to see the physical tile, or the wallpaper up against a wall, and buy tester pots of paint to try out at home.
Lighting makes a difference
When used correctly and creatively, lighting can affect mood and can be used to designate or highlight certain areas in a room. Key note: Colours may also change depending on lighting used, so it’s always best to test fabric, paint and materials under the specific lighting you will be using.
Inject character through artwork and accessories
Paintings and accessories can completely change the look and feel of a space, and is a great way for your room to tell a story. Surround yourself with pieces you love and don’t be afraid to mix and match for added personality.
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