“Before the home gets pretty, the competition gets ugly.”
That’s the slogan for NBC’s new design reality competition show: “American Dream Builders.” A combination of “The Apprentice” meets “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “American Dream Builder” puts 12 contestants, all design professionals from across the country, on two teams. Each week’s one-hour episode features a different design competition that each team has to complete on a budget and in the allotted timeframe. At the end of the episode, the finished projects are judged and the losing team has to meet with the judges, where one member will be voted off. The winner of the show receives $250,000.
Since the contestants have to complete different design projects that cover all aspects of designing a living space, NBC’s show has three very different judges to critique each team member’s performance. Nate Berkus and Monica Pederson are both interior designers, and Eddie George is a landscape architect.
A 1995 Heisman Trophy winner at The Ohio State University and former NFL running back, George says he is excited for what landscape professionals will take out of this.
“I hate to say it, but as landscape architects we’re often overlooked,” he says. “But (the show) did a huge emphasis on curbside appeal.”
Already unlike the typical home improvement show, an interesting aspect is the judging.
“Every week they are judged by a neighborhood council who determines the winner,” George says. “These are people from the neighborhood that know the architecture, that understand the way of living for each specific architectural style, and they determine who wins.”
The losing team then meets with the three judges and their actions are critiqued before a team member is voted off.
Without giving anything away, George says there is one episode landscape professionals won’t want to miss.
“One week is an outdoor oasis that they have to create,” he says. “And really it’s adding square footage by using the outdoor space; having an open dining area that’s outside. You’re defining the space through plant materials as well as ground materials and pavers and so forth, and creating those intimate gathering spaces.”
While this kind of show may be geared towards everyday viewers, professional landscapers will still be impressed by some of the projects.
“Given the amount of time that they have each and every week is going to be interesting to watch,” George says. “I think most gardeners and architectural landscapers will look at it and say ‘how can I learn to create a beautiful design that’s high end and tells a beautiful story within a week’s time on a budget, without feeling the constraints of that?’ And I think they’re going to see some pretty compelling things on the show.”
As a professional landscaper himself, George says he was drawn to do the show because of the role he could ensure landscape architecture would play.
“For years I was trying to figure out how I could marry entertainment and landscape architectural design and no one was really interested,” he says. “This allows me to not only show the expertise of landscape architectural design within residential homes, but it strikes a balance with the interior of the home, how the two are merged together, are married together. They’re not separate. I think it’s so important that the outside has to be just as beautiful as the indoors.”
George says he was also excited for the project because of what he and other landscape professionals can take from it.
“That’s what really intrigued me because now I get a chance to be inspired and also able to encourage people to really take advantage of what you’re given in terms of the outdoor spaces,” he says. “I think you’ll walk away from watching the show with something you can learn that you can do for yourself at home. You can go to your local Lowe’s and buy some of the materials and install it yourself. And I know for me personally, having my home and seeing what I can do better, I have some ideas of what I want. There are some ideas that I’ve been inspired to do that I think people will get something from.”
The series premiere of “American Dream Builders” is Sunday, March 23, at 8 p.m. on NBC.