A Design Of The Times


— The show’s not over for Dan Faires.

The Springdale native was eliminated from the HGTV reality series “Design Star” on Sunday.

Yes, he was surprised. No, he’s not bitter. And opportunity is still knocking. Faires is the “fan favorite” in online voting, and the winner of that competition gets his own HGTV online show.

“Even though it’s a consolation prize, it’s a big deal,” Faires said by phone from his mother’s home in Fayetteville. “It would still be a dream come true. And I already feel honored with all that’s happened.”

Judges Candice Olson, Genevieve Gorder and Vern Yip sent Faires packing at the end of the show’s fourth episode, after a design challenge using flowers as inspiration.

“I was surprised because I felt I deserved to still be there,” Faires said Monday, when he was free to talk about the competition. “But they were right in saying I kind of became a contractor instead of a designer.”

That’s where Faires has the most experience. He grew up in Springdale, working on a century-old home with his dad, Rick Faires, and gardening and watching HGTV with his mom, Jean Ann.

“I learned the old-school way, building with my hands,” Faires said. “It was always kind of a hobby.”

A 2001 graduate of Springdale High School, he studied biology at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville and then at the University of Arkansas. After he graduated in 2005, Faires moved to Gulfport, Miss., for a job in medical sales. Then Hurricane Katrina changed his life - and his attitude.

“Katrina taught me a lot,” he said. “I really understood at that point what ‘home’ means to people. I saw these families whose whole life had been taken from them; in one second, your whole refuge is taken.

“It’s one thing to see it on the news, but it’s another to experience it. It was an emotional time.”

Faires helped with the cleanup, then “started looking for jobs all over the place” and finally landed in New York, where he joined a prestigious construction firm.

“I learned the ins and outs of contracting and design work working for a high-end condo developer,” he explained. And then he went to the casting call for “Design Star.”

“It was the most rewarding but most challenging thing I’ve ever done, for sure,” he said of the show. “We were cranking out designs in two days when normally have you have twoweeks to a month.

“I embraced each challenge uniquely,” he added. From the first “white-box” design to his finalepisode, “no, I never felt like I wanted to go home.”

For mom Jean Ann, the whole experience has been “sort of surreal.”

“But to see how far he’s come is amazing to me,” she said. “He has embraced it and learned a ton.”

Just as all the hype for “Design Star” has said, Faires seemed to be the easygoing one among the contestants.

“He’s always had a calm demeanor, and I think people are drawn to him because he has a relaxed nature about him,” his mother said. “Now, put him on the soccer field, and he could get pretty worked up!”

“He was a fi erce competitor, very courageous,” agreed local soccer coach Dave O’Brien. “It’s been fun to watch the show. I think Daniel’s unique personality shows through, but he doesn’t seem to get caught up in the cut-throat competition.”

Whatever happens, “Daniel won’t change,” O’Brien said with certainty. “If he wins and something good comes from it, a lot of people will benefit from it. He’s not going to be self-serving about it.”

Faires already has a vision for his online show in place - and a title - should he be voted fan favorite. He’d call it “Trash Bash” and take the opportunity to collect leftover construction materials from around a community - tile, lumber, Sheetrock and even furniture, he said by way of example - and use them to work on a needy family’s home. He said the concept came from his Hurricane Katrina experience but also from his father’s death three years ago.

“After I lost my father, life took on a new purpose,” he said. “You realize you should follow your dreams, and you only get a few opportunities in life to do that. This whole thing has been a tribute to my father - and to my mother, who is still the rock in my life. She knows who I am as a person and supports everything I do. She helped make me the man I am today.”

As proud as she’s been of her son’s television stardom, Jean Ann Faires has something more important than “Design Star” on her mind. Dan and his high school sweetheart, Dasha Sprague, are getting married July 23 in Fayetteville.

“I am so elated,” she said. “This is something I’ve prayed for for years, and it’s finally coming to fruition.

“I’ve loved all the diff erent phases of my kids’ life, but I especially love adulthood,” said the mother of three boys, Dan, Tim and Ben. “The rewards of adulthoodare that it was worth every word - and every repeated word - and all the trials and tribulations. You’re reaping the rewards of your labor of love.

“Daniel has worked very, very hard. He’s deserved every bit of recognition he’s gotten, and he’s stayed humble,” she added. “If I could say anything about Daniel, he has the biggest heart, and I’m more proud of that than anything.”

Life, Pages 6 on 07/14/2010

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