HGTV's 'Battle on the Block': Family Time in Jersey

For Episode 6, HGTV's "Battle on the Block" went to the Central New Jersey borough of Eatontown, a quiet 'burb that's home to the Army's soon-to-close Fort Monmouth, the Monmouth Mall and not much else.

Three families have three days to redo their family rooms. So who will we root for in this battle? Read on.

Actually these are all pretty nice people, decidedly Jersey, but not like the "Housewives" or the stereotypes on "Jersey Shore." They're all eager to transform tired family rooms into stylish digs to win the $10,000 prize. As usual, they get a budget of cash, merchandise, and contractor-time. As usual, they expect to pull some all-nighters because the contractor's crew will only work normal daytime hours.

Couple One: Lynne and Vinny Spence are a likable couple. She's a bit of a neat freak, he's a guy who gets scolded for taking his cellphone to the dining table. They want to make their uninviting family room into a place that is actually family-friendly. They want a new floor, a new face for their fireplace, a new counter, and new paint colors. When host Genevieve Gorder looks over their design plan, she warns them that the brown, black and charcoal colors they've chosen will virtually suck the light out of a room.

Couple Two: Tammy and Marvin Jetter. Visibly pregnant Tammy announces that she's a design diva and that the other two couples live on "loser street." The look this couple wants is contemporary, chic, relaxed. They want to create a focal-point wall, add a fireplace, dramatic lighting, a stone wall, and a new floor. Tammy seems preoccupied with the question of where they will mount their TV.

Couple Three: Michelle and Ron Mackenzie are poker-playing couch potatoes who want a natural, organic design that incorporates a stone wall, dark wood floors, and new window treatments. Genevieve warns this couple that the Jetters have a similar design plan, so execution and results will make a big difference.

There's some mild-mannered trash-talking (you'd hear worse on a few minutes of the"Housewives of New Jersey" show), but everyone quickly gets busy with demolition. Soon it's like a block party, with couples breaking up tile, bricks, walls and everything that stands in the way of design success. Tammy: "These tools look great, but I have no idea what to do with them." Ron and the contractor break up the giant built-in, so it's easier to dump.

Disaster comes to the Mackenzies in the form of a fireplace that is too short and too narrow. The solution: to build the wall out -- a lot. There's no other choice. The fireplace drags the Mackenzies down, and Ron complains that it has turned into a time and money suck. As the deadline inches closer, the contractor tells the couple that they are "dead, dead last." Ron bravely jokes that the turtle won the race.

The Spences are also moving slowly, and Marvin Jetter says that both they and the Mackenzies have bitten off more than they can manage. Though Tammy is still concerned about where to mount their TV set, Marvin is working steadily. Tammy runs into a small problem when the floor she wants isn't available for quick delivery, so she has to settle for darker boards.
Gorder visits the couples and offers advice: "Make lists!" "Focus on what you can do!"

Day Three: The contractor is installing the Jetters' designer lighting. Tammy compliments herself on her "amazing style." The Mackenzies, with contractor help, are still struggling with that fireplace wall. The Spences are confident that their room is coming together. Everyone works well into the night.

After she calls "time," Genevieve compliments all the couples for coming in on budget. The local judges like the Spences' lighting, design and counter top, but criticize the carpet, which seems to be "thrown in," the fireplace, which seems "unfinished," and a design that has "no pop."

The Mackenzies, in spite of their fireplace problems, are praised for good floors, good carpet, good use of natural stone, and for managing an "amazing change." However their accessories are not bold enough, a "mish-mosh," and their cheesecloth curtains look like "dirty laundry."

The Jetters get props for a "fantastic wall," their fireplace, for their "stunning using of color," and attention to detail. They're criticized for the opening in the stone wall where their cable box and its wires are exposed.

The winner: No surprise -- it's the Jetters. Marvin credits Tammy, and she announces that "now, I'm really going to get into design."

What we learned:
1. Keep your D.I.Y projects manageable or they could overwhelm you.
2. Measure, measure, and measure again, whenever you're ordering something that has to fit within a given space.
3. Be bold with accessories. The right ones can make a room pop, and if you make a mistake, the cost to replace them isn't major.

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