HGTV Design Star Danielle Colding Talks Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Danielle Colding, you’ve just won Season 7 of HGTV’s “Design Star!”  What are you doing next?  That’s right, you guessed it… she’s going to Disney World.  One of the perks of winning HGTV’s Design Star is appearing at the upcoming Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.  Danielle Colding chatted with “Adventures by Daddy” about her experience with reality TV, design, travel, and Walt Disney World.  So continue on to read and listen to our interview with HGTV’s latest Design Star, and maybe find out just where she’ll be dining at Walt Disney World.

Click on the “play” button below to listen to the full interview with Danielle Colding

[audio:|titles=HGTV Design Star Winner Danielle Colding Interview]

A designer in New York City for the past 8 years, Danielle Colding launched her own business designing for clients in 2006.  She was also a big fan of HGTV, and watched every episode of Design Star.  However, Danielle never considered competing for the title herself until friends pushed her into auditioning.  She elaborated,

I was on the fence as to whether I wanted to be on it [Design Star] or not.  I wasn’t sure I’d be great on camera, I felt pretty shy about the whole prospect, and just wasn’t sure it was for me.

The initial interview/audition was a simple 5 minute conversation in a crowded New York City restaurant with 100s of other people wanting the same thing.  “She [the producer] cut me off so quickly,” Danielle described, “I was getting into it and she said ‘stop, just come back,’ I was really thrown off by that.”

After that brief conversation, the process snowballed for Danielle until she was selected as a contestant for the show.  She described some of the difficulties participating in a reality television show like Design Star,

It was such a rigorous experience.  Pretty much like design boot camp.  Six weeks straight, no breaks, in front of cameras every single day, and have to be creative and on point every day.  It was really a pressure-cooker.

Shown (L-R): Designers Hilari Younger & Danielle Colding talk with client Kris Jenner about her needs for the kitchen break room they will be creating as seen on HGTV Design Star season 7. Photo by Aaron Rapoport © 2012 HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


The tight television schedule was so different from how Danielle normally worked with clients.  “There’s not much process,” and she noted there was not much time to deliberate and carefully consider choices.  Colding went on to say how important it was to always remember you’re in a competition, and even when working with a partner, there was an underlying “I’m competing against you” dynamic.  At times during the season, Danielle struggled with time management.  In her business, she had long periods of time to design, but that was not the case during the 6 weeks of shooting for Design Star.  For example,

With the Kardashian episode, which was the first one I had some ‘issues’ on, I immediately learned to stop being so attached to these little details.  It’s all about big picture.  It’s all about these big, dramatic moments.  The camera changes things… it’s a completely different way of designing.

Shown here is before photo of the kitchen/break room made over for Kris Jenner, matriarch of the Kardashian family, by designers Danielle Colding and Hilari Younger as seen on HGTV Design Star season 7. Photo by Aaron Rapoport © 2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Colding acknowledged her particular design style was more about details and finishing touches, things the camera does not necessarily see.  Therefore, she realized it didn’t make sense for her in the competition to spend time on little things the camera never noticed.

Shown here is after photo of the kitchen/break room made over for Kris Jenner, matriarch of the Kardashian family, by designers Danielle Colding and Hilari Younger as seen on HGTV Design Star season 7. Photo by Aaron Rapoport © 2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Danielle developed a close bond with her fellow competitors over the course of the season, in particular the final 6 contestants.  She went into detail.

I don’t know that I would have made it through the process without them.  We all just became really, really close.  I’ve stayed in touch with everybody.  We’re all friends.  There’s no lingering hard feelings about anything.  But I have a few really close friendships that I think I’ll maintain over the course of my life from this.

Over the course of the season of HGTV Design Star, Danielle said she never thought about winning – everything happened so fast, and there was always the next challenge to tackle.  However, once she secured a spot in the finale, a peaceful calm came over her while the judges were deliberating.  She described her thought process as, “whatever happens, I’m going to be happy because I feel like I did the best I could do.”

Calm was not her reaction the moment she found out she won.

“I have to say when they called my name it was… SHOCK.  It was like a dream world.  There’s all this confetti and stuff flying, and all these people looking at you and smiling.  I looked over the screens, and there’s my picture.  It was amazing.  It was pretty trippy.  I remember seeing Vern Yip coming towards me smiling and thinking, ‘that’s Vern Yip! What is going on?’  It was really quite fun.”

Shown in this photo, designer Danielle Colding congratulated by the other designers after being named the winner of HGTV Design Star season 7. Photo by Aaron Rapoport © 2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


As winner of Design Star, Danielle Colding did not have much time to rest and reflect.  She immediately turned around and shot 5 episodes of her new show Shop This Room.  The show examines how finding a piece of artwork, furniture, or an accessory leads to a new design.

Of course when Danielle entered the Design Star competition she knew she loved design, but having no prior experience with television, she wasn’t sure about the process of shooting and producing a show.  She explained,

I love it!  There’s nothing like having this team of people around you that are all trying to achieve the same thing.  I love collaboration, and making a show is the ultimate collaboration.

Danielle finished shooting “Shop This Room” at the end of June, and episodes are airing now on HGTV.  She’s currently waiting to see if HGTV picks up the series for renewal.

Host Danielle Colding (right) talks with homeowners David (left) and Rebecca (center) Levitsky about her design for their kitchen on the premiere episode of HGTV's Shop This Room. Photo by Anders Krusberg © 2012, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


We ended our conversation discussing Danielle’s appearance during the first weekend of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, in Walt Disney World, September 28-30.  Even though she’s never been to the festival, Danielle’s excited about attending, “I love to eat!  I love wine; I love food; I feel like this is right up my alley.”

Her presentation will focus on creating entertainment experiences based on travel.  She explained,

I love to travel.  It’s one of my main sources of inspirations for all of my work.  And I want to show there’s easy ways to bring that inspiration into their dinner parties or have people over for cocktails.  How do you do little, simple things that make it fun and travel-inspired.

Her presentation sounds like a great match for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, drawing inspiration from all the different countries and kiosks around the park’s World Showcase.

From left to right: Dark chocolate mousse with chili and salted caramel; yogurt panna cotta with orange cake, raspberries and pomegranate; and lemon custard verrine with blueberry compote. Photo by Matt Stroshane © Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Having family in Tampa, FL, Danielle’s no stranger to Walt Disney World, and went regularly as a child.  However, she has not visited the resort in decades, and can’t wait to see the changes in the parks.  Like many new visitors to Walt Disney World she’s a little overwhelmed with the trip-planning process, “I’m working at trying to craft my itinerary right now so I can see as much as possible.”  She asked for a restaurant recommendation, and I quickly offered one of our family’s favorites from a recent trip.  We always enjoy the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and loved Sanaa – with its fusion of African and Indian cuisine, combined with a great view of the Disney’s recreated African savanna.  Plus, it’s a little out of the way, and doesn’t have the crowds of some of the other restaurants.  “OK, that’s on the list,” she said.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurant Sanaa features the art of African cooking with Indian flavors. Sanaa boasts interiors inspired by African art and remarkable views to a savanna of free-roaming animals. © Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Because Danielle’s Epcot International Food and Wine Festival presentation will focus on “travel-inspired” dining, we wrapped up our conversation talking about tips and advice for family travel.  She emphasized finding appealing things to do for all different age groups.

I remember with my Mom, one Christmas, we went to Belize and went scuba diving.  Something we were both terrified of, but it was such a bonding experience because it was something that we could do together, that got us into a completely different environment, where we learned a ton, and were so inspired.  It’s all about finding fun things that people can do together.  That’s what you remember.

I totally agree that it’s those shared experiences with the family that make family travel fun.  I want to thank HGTV Design Star Danielle Colding for taking the time to chat with us, and hope she has a wonderful time at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.  If you’re going to be down there September 28-30, please stop by her presentation and come back and let us know what you thought in the comments below.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.