On HGTV’s new show “Run My Makeover” (Sat., 8 a.m.), host Alexi Panos doesn’t just have to deal with homeowners’ design dreams when making over spaces. She also has to take into consideration the opinions of the American public, since it gets to play designer and vote on project components (lighting, flooring, paint colors). We spoke with the one-time model and co-founder of the nonprofit E.P.I.C. (Everyday People Initiating Change) to learn more about what happens when viewers get to call the shots.

How’d you get into design?
My father has had many jobs, but one was an architect. When he built our house, I was there every day and loved seeing the foundation laid and seeing all of the pieces come in. It excited me because I saw the project start from nothing, basically an idea on paper, and saw it turn into something that I lived in and grew up in.

Any favorite design advice you’ve learned over the years?
People are wary of trusting themselves. They say they can’t do it. But your home is an extension of yourself, so I tell them to go with their instincts, and if they’re feeling overwhelmed to start small. An inspiration piece is how I start any project, whether it be a piece of jewelry or an item of clothing.

“Run My Makeover” gives viewers a lot of control over the design of the space. Are there any risks in doing that?
The people whose homes we’re taking over are stuck; they’re in a place where they have no idea what to do with the space. The process between the homeowners and myself is about gaining their trust and teaching them that it’s OK to mix and match.

Have any of the homeowners hated the finished product?
All of the homeowners have been at least somewhat OK with it. There have been issues with some of the choices selected, where the homeowners hate it. But at the end of the day, with all the other little pieces coming together, they get the picture. I think the lesson they’re being shown is to open their minds to things they’re not used to.

Are you noticing any trends when it comes to what voters seem to be gravitating toward?
I was expecting the voting to stay pretty conservative. But it’s often been neck and neck with the really conservative option and the risky item. That speaks to where we’re at. Everyone is into these personality pieces or statement pieces, like having one thing in the room that doesn’t make sense or doesn’t quite fit that makes the room yours.

Does this mean that Americans will be able to design their own spaces from now own?
Americans have all the capabilities in the world to design. They’ve been watching HGTV for years! And if they’re anything like me, they’ve learned so much from the programming alone.

Written by Express contributor Beth Luberecki
Photo courtesy HGTV