International Man of Design: Vern Yip, 'Design Star' Judge, Worldly Decor Fan

June 10, 2010

With nods to D.C.-area roots, design TV guru Vern Yip is both diplomatic and a voracious multitasker. He’s the soft-spoken-but-opinionated host of HGTV’s “Design Star,” which starts its fifth season Sunday (root for hometown contestant Alex Sanchez of Upper Marlboro). Yip also runs an Atlanta design firm and just added the title of “dad” to his resume. He’ll chat about design ideas Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at a free decor celebration at the Courts at Huntington Station (5950 Grand Pavilion Way).

» EXPRESS: What can we look forward to in the new season of “Design Star”?
» YIP: First off, it’s taking place in New York City, which is the epicenter of design. On top of that, Mark Burnett, who everyone knows from “Survivor” and “Celebrity Apprentice,” has taken over the helm of the show. And we have 12 very dynamic and extremely talented contestants.

» EXPRESS: How did growing up in the D.C. area affect your design style?
» YIP: You grow up around every culture imaginable and around a really educated population. Those things really inspired me as a designer. I realized very early on that there were a lot of places in the world, with lots of different cultures. I spent every weekend begging my parents to take me down to the museums. Being exposed to those things as a kid allows you to think in a different way.

» EXPRESS: What’s your son’s nursery like?
» YIP: I started procuring things for the nursery several years before his birth, while we were on international trips. So his nursery is very international, with things from Thailand, Indonesia, Tibet, India, Chile and Russia. It’s done in shades of gray and chocolate brown.

» EXPRESS: Any kid-friendly design tips?
» YIP: When you’re putting together a room for a kid, think long-term. People spend a lot of money putting together nurseries that kids outgrow quickly. Don’t play down to kids or to babies. I think they have the ability to appreciate sophisticated, adult design. Use the rest of your house to expose them to things that are important to you. Oftentimes, people kid-proof their homes to such a great extent that kids end up ruling the roost.

» EXPRESS: It sounds like you have a worldly home. Any shopping advice on how to nab tchotchkes worth bringing home when traveling?
» YIP: If you know you’re going on a journey this summer — whether it’s to the next town over or across the world — find out what that place is known for. What does it do better than anyone else? When you get there, ask your guide or hotel where you can find the real stuff — not the stuff designed for tourists. Find the best example of the kind of work they’re known for. And have an idea before you leave of where you might incorporate something. Instead of buying 10 little things, buy one really great thing — something fantastic that you’ll treasure forever.

Written by Express contributor Katie Knorovsky
Photo courtesy HGTV

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