07/25/07 — Duplin native is finalist on HGTV 'Design Star'

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Duplin native is finalist on HGTV 'Design Star'

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on July 25, 2007 1:45 PM

A Duplin County native is one of 11 finalists on the HGTV's "Design Star."

Will Smith, 31, who originally hails from Kenansville and now lives in Charlotte, decided to change the look of his entire house -- room by room -- following a painful breakup with his former girlfriend.

Friends who saw his "new" home said Smith should be a designer.

"I had never thought about it," he said.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a degree in criminal justice and African-American studies, he worked for a finance company and insurance firm, but started doing design work on the side.

His first customer was a co-worker. Through word of mouth, he got more and more design jobs.

After two years of designing part-time, Smith decided it was time to make it his life's work.

"I wanted more formal training. I was self-taught and I knew a lot. But I also knew there were some things I didn't know because I had no formal training. It would give me more of an edge," he said.

Eventually, he opened his own design business, Interior Motives. Since then, he has redesigned homes, beauty shops and businesses.

Smith's design style leans toward natural elements.

"I'm into wood, rocks, water and sand," he said. "I use natural elements and balance it out with things people traditionally have in their homes. It makes their space more alive because the elements are more natural ones."

That technique is what got him a spot as a finalist on Design Star. Out of more than 2,000 people who competed for a spot in the finals, Smith was chosen. He sent in samples of his work and a video explaining his design style.

"I was blown away just to be chosen," Smith said.

The 11 finalists lived together in one house, leading to both creativity and tension, Smith said

The show premiered Sunday and will run through Sept. 9. On Sept. 16, the winner will be announced. The contestants' grand prize is a chance to have a show of their own.

For some of the projects, the designers worked alone. For others, they worked in teams. Smith said each episode builds on previous ones.

Even if he doesn't win, Smith said he still feels blessed.

"Every day I wake up and think 'Wow, I'm an entrepreneur,'" he said. "I'm making a living and doing what I love."

And he says he has the dissolution of that former relationship to thank for it all.

"If that bad breakup had never happened, I would not be where I am now. Sometimes people give up on their dreams when something bad happens. To me, it is a breeding ground to make good things happen."