“Rock the Block” season two debuted Monday, and out of the four women who appeared in season one, only one has returned: “Windy City Rehab” host Alison Victoria.
Surprised to see Victoria on another HGTV show? The Chicago-based designer is facing multiple lawsuits from disgruntled homeowners and a split with her former business partner, builder Donovan Eckhardt. But that doesn’t seem to be bothering the network because executives ordered another nine episodes of Victoria’s show, so let’s move on.
This season of “Rock the Block,” hosted by Ty Pennington, pits four teams of two HGTV series hosts to design four identically built homes on the same block. The designers have six weeks to add the most value to their homes on a $225,000 budget. The winners receive the chance to name the block, presumably after themselves, and brag about it until next season.
Fellow HGTV stars Tarek El Moussa (“Flip or Flop”) and his fiancee and real estate agent Heather Rae Young will judge the designs and name the winning team.
Victoria’s paired with Mike Holmes, star of “Holmes On Holmes.” The Ontario-based general contractor, known for his “Make It Right” attitude, believes in building solid, sustainable homes, and he’s dedicated “to improving building standards and sustainable construction,” according to his website. (He was also a judge on the previous season and gave Victoria the challenge win for best kitchen and dining room.)
Other teams include: Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent of “Nate and Jeremiah: Save My House;” David Bromstad of “My Lottery Dream Home” and Tiffany Brooks from the upcoming show “50K Three Ways;” and Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt of “100 Day Dream Home.”
The episode kicks off with designer introductions, and right away, Bromstad and Brooks identify Victoria and Holmes as their biggest competition.
“She knows how to win it,” Brooks explains. “She knows what won last time.”
Victoria swears she never thought she would “do this to myself again,” but she says she’s back and better — and best of all, she knows what not to do.
The first challenge gets the designers cooking — they need to design the kitchen and dining rooms of their respective homes. They also have to begin planning the outside of the home, though this will be judged on a later episode.
In the previous season, Victoria won this challenge. Can she do it again?
Right away, Victoria and Holmes agree the existing kitchen feels too closed, with a half wall separating the kitchen from the dining room and the rest of the room opening up to the family room.
The duo decides to remove the half wall, add a brick wall and arch over the stove, widen the island and add custom cabinets and a built-in fridge. The total cost is about $48,000.
“I like where you’re going,” Holmes tells Victoria. “I feel really good about this.”
Holmes describes his style as functional as well as sustainable, with most of his projects designed to be practical for families.
Victoria says her style is vintage and modern, which is a confusing way of saying that she throws in an antique or two into her otherwise modern designs. Her goal, she tells the audience, is to create a “lived-in” feel.
“If we’re going to bring it, I almost want us to be unpredictable,” she says to Holmes.
The first sign of competition hits Victoria and Holmes like a ton of bricks — because a ton of bricks arrive by truck for Berkus and Brent’s exterior design plan. While other designers rag on the brick house (laugh it up guys, look what famously happened to two little pigs), Victoria and Holmes aren't laughing at Team Double B.
“Are you worried about these guys,” Holmes asks.
“They’re the ones I’m worried about,” she confirms.
The season’s first surprise challenge arrives in the form of Ted Allen from “Chopped.” The reality TV host gives each pair of designers four items that need to be integrated into their design. The items include chicken wire, faux leather, subway tiles and mason jars.
The designing continues, and bricks for Team Victolmes’ kitchen design arrive. Of course, Victoria insists on painting the brick.
“It’s such a natural beauty,” Holmes says.
“In my head, the brick is white,” Victoria shares. “It’s going up, and it’s getting painted. I paint brick a lot in Chicago.”
Holmes is not here for this.
“Please don’t paint it,” he begs her. “Don’t give it character then cover it up!”
It takes some convincing, but Victoria gives in, and the house is better for it.
With the kitchens and dining rooms fully staged, El Moussa and Rae Young arrive to judge the spaces.
“Oh my God!” they both exclaim when they see the Victoria-Holmes kitchen. The brick — thankfully unpainted — makes for a striking feature over the range. The custom cabinets are painted white with a matching refrigerator. All the hardware is brass, and the hardwood floors add the perfect complement.
A traditional-styled statement chandelier hangs over the dining room table next to the kitchen near the windows. Heavy curtains dim the lighting in the room, and a massive painting looms over the top of the table.
Three of the four challenge items were integrated in the pantry off to the left of the kitchen, and the mason jars were melted down to create a glass bowl.
El Moussa and Rae Young love the statement look of the brick and praise the designers for making good use of the space. However, they point out the somewhat drab design of the dining room. El Moussa said he wished there was more design connectivity between the two rooms.
And the week’s winners?
Victoria and Holmes — marking Victoria’s second kitchen and dining challenge win.
“Not only did you kill it with the mason jar ‘Chopped’ challenge, but we think your kitchen added the most value to the home,” Young tells this week’s winning team.
“So far, so good,” Victoria says, smiling.