Chris Goddard, designer and principal of Goddard Design Group in Springdale, is one of eight contestants on HGTV’s “Design Star: Next Gen.” After three decades of design work, Goddard’s known in the Northwest Arkansas area as much for his personal aesthetic (Goddard spoke in a TV broadcast this year about a return to “comfort and quality,” sporting red plaid and royal blue glasses frames against a gold and crimson Oriental folding screen) as he is for being able to shape the look of a space in his clients’ image. Now, he’s taking that balancing act to the six-episode reality competition series for a chance at $50,000 and his own TV show. Inspired by the original “Design Star,” “Next Gen” features dancer/influencer Allison Holker Boss as host; renowned interior designer Jonathan Adler as head judge; and cameos from a handful of celebrity guests. All six episodes are available on Discovery’s streaming service, discovery+. The finale airs March 31 with Goddard in the final grouping.
You’re an established designer, you’ve been doing this for 30 years, you work all over the world, but the other people on the show were a bunch of young upstarts. How was that?
It was a little tricky at first because, you know, we walked into this blind. When they called at the beginning of the pandemic, I was like, sure, that sounds great. So we went to spend a month and a half in California in this wonderful, safe bubble of design and creativity. I was like, sign me up! And then I got there and kind of panicked like, “Oh, my God, I actually have to do this! And people are watching, and everybody here is so much younger.” You know, when I started my business, I taught myself how to do everything. When I’m dealing with contractors and people, I know what they’re talking about, and we can speak the same language. But I haven’t done that in years because my firm is so big that most of my time is spent designing and managing and being creative. But it’s funny because your fight-or-flight kicks in, and all that stuff from my 20s came right back to me. It’s funny how you never forget that.
One thing that impressed me so much is that here you are with all this experience and this global brand, but you came into the show with such modesty and humility.
My big deal is that we’re always growing and we’re always learning, and the reason I am successful is because I surround myself with people who can teach me things. … The only way to evolve is to educate yourself and be open. That was another big reason I went on the show. The design industry can be a little snobby, and I wanted to kind of break the image of that. I wanted to show that no matter how successful you are, you can get down and get dirty and paint and do whatever. You know, at the end of the day, none of us is too good to do any of that. So I think it’s really important to show it. No matter what age you are, you can do anything. No matter where you are in your career, you can’t forget where you came from.
That sounds like a sound strategy for remaining successful and relevant.
The biggest problem you can have is to get in a rut. I always tell people — when I give talks or when we bring in new designers or interns — if you’re doing the same thing you were doing three years ago, you’re doing something wrong. And if you have one look or one style, you’re not going to make it very long. Your taste can evolve as long as your brand is the same, and mine is quality and timeless elegance. So I believe you should invest in a few quality things a year and build a home over time. Rooms need to look like they’ve evolved over time, not overnight.
You’ve said that, “The key to being a great designer is designing for your client and not yourself.” But it seems like some designers are more concerned with leaving their “stamp” on a project.
The biggest compliment I get is when someone comes in, and it looks like I was never there, and they say, “Wow, this room looks just like me.” … I’m creating their home. My stamp is creating something of quality, something that’s new and different.
I also read that, for instance, if you use a certain fabric, you’ll remove the swatch from the fabric catalog book so you never use it again.
We don’t ever do the same thing twice. We don’t use the same fabric or wall covering twice, which is really nice because you’re not replicating what your neighbor has. A lot of people think there’s safety in numbers, but why do you want to be like your neighbor? Why not be yourself?
This has worked for me for 30 years, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. At this point, I just keep throwing things in there to have fun.
I was interested in something you said about clients not wanting their parents’ style, but their grandparents’. Can you explain?
I always find that nobody wants what their parents had. They want what their grandparents had. I think it’s because kids rebel against what they grow up with. We’ve all done it. And now I work for families where I’ve worked for three generations. And it’s funny because the youngest generation wants their homes to look like their grandparents’ homes because that’s where the best memories were. It’s the reason, for instance, that you’re seeing a return of brown furniture … and it was funny on the show because all the younger ones are obsessed with the ’80s. I realized that I’m now at the age where [the styles] from my childhood are trending again. It ebbs and flows. That’s just the cycle of design — and life.