Trading Spaces: Expanding design experiences

May 30, 2019

An interior designer from Stantec’s Miami offices shares lessons learned from his experience on a nationally televised design competition

By Jason Valentin


In April 2018, TLC launched its new online series “Training Spaces”, in which young designers compete to be a design assistant on the cable channel’s hit show, “Trading Spaces”. Stantec’s own Jason Valentin, an interior design coordinator in our Miami office, had the opportunity to compete on the web show and then won the chance to show off his skills on national TV with “Trading Spaces”.

We spoke with Jason about working on both shows, how his work prepared him for the experience, and what he learned throughout the process.


Jason Valentin filming on location with the “Trading Spaces” crew.


What inspired you to audition to be on “Training Spaces”?

Jason: Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the show prior to my time on it. I never watched an episode and wasn’t familiar with anyone on the show. A friend of mine tagged me on the Facebook post for the casting call and the casting agency reached out to me directly. My initial thought was “oh, this could be fun”. But I didn’t expect to get selected for an interview. I had never done anything like this before. It’s a completely different approach than interviewing for a job in the market.


What was different about designing for a personal residential space versus the commercial spaces you design at Stantec?

Jason: The biggest difference is abiding by building/ADA codes. In residential, we are free of those restrictions. For commercial projects, we need to specify contract grade materials for all project materials. Contract grade materials must pass flammability tests, must withstand high volume of traffic in most open areas, flooring cannot exceed a certain slip resistant rating, and so on. Residential projects, on the other hand, can use any type of material we come across in the market. It was freeing and inspiring to be able to work with new materials and really stretch my creative muscles in new ways.


Eve at the District Apartments in Miami is a recent multifamily project designed by the Stantec interior design team. 


After winning “Training Spaces”, you had the opportunity to appear on “Trading Spaces”. What was it like working with the other designers? Did you take away any valuable lessons from them?

Jason: I had an opportunity to work with Frank Bielec, who is considered the grandfather of the show and one of its best personalities. He is a hoot! I was really inspired by the joy he got from working even under stressful situations. At one point while filming we ran into some small issues that put extra time constraints on our project, which made things more stressful. I tend to panic internally during tense design situations but watching Frank work gave me a sense of comfort. Even when things weren’t going our way, he still had fun and enjoyed his work. That’s definitely something I’ll take away from this experience.


What was the biggest challenge you encountered on either show and how did you overcome it?

Jason: The biggest challenge was the bargain shopping and DIY projects. Working on Stantec projects, I’m used to working with commercial-design budgets. On the show, we had more limitations and had to be resourceful (one of the three graded components on “Trading Spaces”- creativity, resourcefulness, and time management). We went extreme bargain shopping at local stores for our DIY projects, one of which was not my favorite at first, but it turned out great. I had to make a small self-created piece of art for the room we worked on. To save money, Frank had us use branches from the backyard as paint brushes! I was extremely skeptical at first, but once we hung them on the wall, the finished product looked great.  


_q_tweetable:Even when things weren’t going our way, he still had fun and enjoyed his work. That’s definitely something I’ll take away from this experience._q_

What is one takeaway from this experience that you think all interior designers should know?

Jason: The show really does challenge you to think fast and create a high-end environment on a very limited budget. Working on the show you quickly learn that art and accessories do not have to come at a high price to create the look you want. Sometimes achieving a vision for a room means making a $50 piece look like a $500 piece. It really pushes you to be creative.


What skills/training from your time at Stantec helped set you up for success throughout this experience?

Jason: The skills in furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) that I developed at Stantec were invaluable during my time on the show. Working on-site during construction and FF&E installs, I often run into challenges that require me to think quickly and come up with effective solutions – experience that prepared me for the fast-paced nature of the show.


Stantec’s design for the common area at Solitair Brickell Apartments in Miami.


How were you able to juggle your work/client demands with filming the web series and show?

Jason: We have a great team here in the Stantec Miami office. Our principal allowed me to delegate staffing and project duties during the time I was out filming for the show. Everyone on the team was incredibly supportive and our other designers really stepped up to make sure we continued to meet our deadlines while I was able to pursue this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Tune into TLC on Saturday, June 1 at 8pm Eastern/Central Time to see Jason compete on “Trading Spaces”.


About the author

As an interior design coordinator in Stantec’s Miami office, Jason Valentin specializes in multi-family residential towers and workplace design. He is especially passionate about furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) projects, and takes pride in coaching his fellow team members on the fundamentals of FF&E.


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