Winning by Design, Bettering the Lives of Others

Dan Faires – Season Five HGTV Design Star finalist. Photo Credit: 2010 HGTV
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Dan Faires – Season Five HGTV Design Star finalist. Photo Credit: 2010 HGTV

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Dan Faires grew up in a century-old home, working beside his dad tackling remodeling projects throughout the house. He and Richard Faires had to be resourceful, since money was scarce and the budget always tight. Faires says he had to learn to think outside the box, making furniture from scrap wood and non-traditional materials.

He is one of 12 designers on the newest season of Design Star, which premiered June 13 on HGTV. He is vying to win his own show. If he does, he says it will be a tribute to his father.

“After losing my father three years ago, my passion for bettering people’s lives by design has taken on new meaning for me. He is a big part of my motivation. He taught me so much, so many skills. I was raised very well. He taught me morals, to be confident in who I am as a person. He and my mother are why I am who I am today,” says Faires.

He graduated from the University of Arkansas in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, a background not likely to lead to a career in design. But he has found that his understanding of biology has informed and at times inspired his designs.

“In biology I learned to pick things apart, a skill that translates into my engineering and construction mentality. You want to see how something works, what every element of a building is, not just what you see on the surface. You don’t just make pretty things but must understand function of things, how it works for the client. Form and function are big elements of design, and you must find the balance between the two,” says Faires.

While he was growing up, when he wasn’t working on construction or landscaping projects, he was in front of the television, addicted to watching HGTV shows. So it is fitting to be on an HGTV show now, which is where he learned a lot of the skills he has today.

After earning his degree, Faires moved to Gulfport, Miss., for a job in medical sales, but his professional plans changed when Hurricane Katrina hit. The destruction of so many homes rekindled his passion for building and he soon left his sales job to join a construction crew.

“People’s homes are their refuges, and at the end of the day, their retreats,” says Faires.

Faires, who has a warm heart and an easygoing personality, continues to work in construction and design. He defines his style as “rustic” and believes that “design should always incorporate rustic elements because it adds texture and warmth to every space.”

He was born in Fayetteville, grew up in Springdale, and attended the University of the Ozarks before he transferred to the University of Arkansas. He lives in New York City now, where he has worked for a high-rise condo developer.

One day he went online to the HGTV site and saw they were doing a casting call. Thousands try out, so he knew the odds were tough. He said they raked him over the coals, to be sure he was confident both of his designs and of himself as a person.

“The process opens your eyes. You have to stand out there and be confident to be a successful designer. You must embrace your skills. My standards are based on my upbringing. Boundaries to me as a person translate into my design,” he says.

Even with an audience, Faires observes, the challenge is to be true to himself as a designer. Win or lose, he says he will continue doing what he is doing. When he gets ready to settle down and start a family, he plans to return to Springdale.

“I made a lot of great friendships in Arkansas. I grew up a big Hog fan — you have to be if you are from Arkansas. My best memories are going to sporting events and being involved in the college community,” he says.

Three generations of his family have their names etched into the campus sidewalks: His grandfathers Rayford Pascal Faires and Dale Killian, his father Richard Lee Faires and his mother Jean Ann Killian, and of course, Faires himself.

Design Star has already been filmed all the way to the finals. Thirty hours of film have been tightened into four hours of footage. To view episodes or see Dan’s designs, see the Design Star profile page.

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