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Jennifer Bertrand, Matt Locke complete final 'Design Star' challenges


By Christopher Rocchio, 07/28/2008 

Jennifer Bertrand and Matt Locke participated in their final HGTV Design Star third-season challenge during last night's penultimate broadcast of the reality competition series.

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Now it's up to home viewer votes to determine whether Jen, a 33-year-old from Olathe, KS, or Matt, a 38-year-old from Los Angeles, CA, will take home the grand prize of his or her own HGTV show.  Home viewers are able to vote for either Jen or Matt via HGTV's website until Wednesday at 10AM ET.

HGTV Design Star's penultimate third-season episode began with Jen and Matt meeting host Clive Pearse, who explained that for their final challenge they'd be traveling to New Orleans to design for two families who lost their homes during Hurricane Katrina.

Each finalist would have 36 work hours and a $20,000 budget to design a kitchen, dining room and living room for either the Oleaga family or Gowland family.  In addition, Sears would supply kitchen appliances while Lumber Liquidator would supply wood flooring.

Jen and Matt then arrived in New Orleans, where Clive introduced them to the Oleaga and Gowland families, who also happened to be neighbors.  Clive revealed Jen would be designing for the Gowland family, while Matt would be designing for the Oleaga family. 

The challenge then commenced, with each of the finalists meeting with their respective families and receiving a tour of the homes they'd be working on.

"Your heart breaks when you hear a story like that," said Matt.

Matt planned to use a pallet of colors to tie together every room -- giving the Oleaga family the "clean lines and minimalism" they're seeking.  Jen's plan was to provide the Gowland family a "contemporary home" that still felt "very inviting."

Both designers then met their carpenters before making trips to shop for flooring and appliances.  The carpenters got the unenviable tasks of cleaning out the spaces and putting the primer up.  As time expired on the first day, both Matt and Jen met with a granite counter-top installer.

The next day, previously eliminated contestants Trish Beaudet and Mikey Verdugo arrived to lend a helping hand.  Matt selected Trish to help him on the second day while Mikey would aid Jen, and both contestants would switch the following day.

With the hardwood floors installed overnight, both finalists began to dispense tasks to their teams of carpenters and focused on what they needed to get done during the 12-hour second day.  The third day began and work towards the completion of each finalists' designs was underway, as appliances and furniture started to fall into place.

The fourth and final day of the challenge then commenced, with Jen concerned about couch layout in the living room because she didn't realize there were pieces where the sectional needed to be attached.

"It's just a lot to get done in 36 hours," she said through tears.  "I totally want it to work for the family.  It's just such an awkward space."

Matt seemed to be having a much easier go at finishing everything off, putting his head down and making sure he didn't run out of time.  Jen also decided to not spend all of her time on the couch and focused on the finishing touches for the rest of her design.

The final challenge then came to a close.  After Matt and Jen received congratulations from HGTV Design Star's judging panel -- former Trading Spaces interior designer and current Deserving Design host Vern Yip; designer and author Cynthia Rowley; and In Style magazine executive editor Martha McCully -- each of the finalists explained their designs.

The Oleaga and Gowland families then arrived and received a tour of their redesigned spaces.

"I didn't think that being on Design Star would be this much of a reward or that it would change me this much or make me more appreciative of my friends and my family," said Matt. 

"To survive all of those challenges and to be here now is just amazing," said Jen.  "I will never forget this whole experience in all my life."

HGTV Design Star's third-season finale will air Sunday, August 3 at 9PM ET/PT.

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