In what might be a renovation showdown for the ages, HGTV’s latest home and design series, Rock the Block is one of the network’s most unique offerings in recent years. With the sledgehammers out and cookie-cutter homes selected, the female-driven show pits four of the network’s hottest stars against each other to see whose transformation of the ultimate suburban oasis in L.A. steals the show. One of the designers competing for top honors while showing off her unique vision and style is Windy City Rehab’s, Alison Victoria.
In an exclusive with PopCulture.com ahead of Monday’s second episode in the four-part series, co-starring Mina Starsiak of Good Bones, Leanne Ford of Restored by the Fords and Jasmine Roth of Hidden Potential, Victoria admits HGTV has “never ever done anything like this” in her 10 years with the network.
“It’s insanity,” Victoria told PopCulture.com of the show’s hustle and grind. “This is definitely the hardest I’ve ever pushed myself in my career, physically, mentally, emotionally — it was insane.”
While Rock the Block captures the “reality of the build” similarly to her own show Windy City Rehab and fellow Midwest co-star Starsiak’s own house-flipping series alongside her mother Karen Laine, Victoria admits she didn’t come across any specific challenges like her peers previously disclosed.
“[It] wasn’t a challenge because I live in Las Vegas as well, so I know the West. I know tract homes, I know what people want, and so I think the challenge for me… it’s the competition side of it,” Victoria said. “That build wasn’t a challenge for me.”
When it comes to the core of the show’s playful rivalry, the Chicago native admits she is by far the most competitive on the show. “I am more competitive than any of the girls,” she said, adding how her biggest competition on the series was Pittsburgh native, Ford. “I said it 700 times in that [first] episode.”
She goes on to state how Ford “doesn’t have a competitive bone in her body,” despite her co-stars thinking it was some kind of technique. “Let’s put it this way: I want to be her,” Victoria laughed. “She is so relaxed and Zen, and she knows who she is, and she came there to design ‘Leanne.’”
The designer adds that while the two are “so different” in their approach, she asserts all four of them are also “different” in their designs and work ethic. “That’s what’s so great — it’s four very different women doing the show.”
With the four designers on a tight deadline to get everything done in time, Victoria shares the network threw in a few surprises for everyone along the way, as well as a list of requirements to meet for room design. However, upon reflection and her ability to deal with the circumstances, she shares it was an experience that reiterated her own confidence in design.
“I’m not going to say that I learned [about myself or design style]. I’ve always known that I bring in my design style where I go, so I knew what I wanted,” Victoria said. “I knew how to make it work for California, to streamline it for obviously the target market. I think if anything, it reconfirmed what a bada— I am.”
Victoria adds that while her feet hurt, and she couldn’t walk after humid, almost 16-hour days, it was all worth it.
“I was there 6 a.m. to midnight, 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.,” she adds. “It was a challenge for myself and I’m beyond proud of me. I’m beyond proud of my artisan and carpenter, Ari and his sons because that’s how it got done. We just hustled.”
Another project Victoria is beyond proud of is her latest collaboration with Super 8 by Wyndham and Wayfair, mentoring undergraduate design student, Candice Buttars who has developed an innovative new shared hotel room concept. With support from the interior designer, the fresh concept reimagines the traditional hotel suite in an effort to accommodate a new generation of road trippers who thrive in communal spaces.
“I think it was just a perfect match because I had an opportunity myself to design a hotel in Las Vegas pretty much right when the economy crashed,” Victoria told PopCulture.com. “I was doing interior design on my own: had my business, everything was going great of course, and then everything came crumbling down, and then I had this awesome opportunity that really did just kind of come out of nowhere and evolved into designing hotel spaces. So, I understood kind of what it takes. I had a mentor myself during that experience and so I know how much it helped me now in my career. The fact that I now could be that mentor to Candice, our winner, meant a lot to me.”
Victoria adds that the fact Super 8 by Wyndham even reached out to college students was something she really admired of the brand. “[They] really are the future of travel, to find out how to optimize existing spaces. I think that’s extremely important,” she said.
Introducing the new concepts in select Super 8 locations as early as next year and anchored by unique features, among the likes of vintage arcade games and individual sleeping spaces for up to four guests, the innovative room concept was sourced through the brand’s recent ROOM8 Design Challenge. Calling out to aspiring designers, co-living experts and urbanites, thousands submitted renderings of an original concept that would provide a functional, yet elevated experience to today’s increase in group travel.
“The fact that it’s called ROOM8 is awesome because people are traveling together whether it’s millennials or teams,” she said. “Think about sports teams that travel all the time, what their experiences used to be and what they can be, and I wanted to be a part of it, so I’m so happy that I got to act as a mentor and then Candice got to work with the brand and with Wayfair. I gave her some feedback because she did such a great job, she didn’t need that much. So, the design and the re-imagining of the spaces is all Candice.”
Buttars tells PopCulture.com exclusively that the whole experience has been “really rewarding.”
“I think a big part of being an aspiring designer is that you try to design spaces that are really going to meet the needs of people, and really design is all centered on people,” the Utah State University student said. “I think it’s really cool that Super 8 is taking and finding the gap that they can see and elevating their rooms to the next level, so it really fills that need in the market. It’s really cool to see that being a college student I’ve had this opportunity to work with professionals, to work with Alison Victoria throughout this whole thing, and to use what I’ve learned so far and apply it to a real project in real life. It’s been really unbelievable.”0comments
Photo credit: HGTV / Discovery; Diane Bondareff/AP Images for Super 8 by Wyndham