‘Rock the Block’: Tarek El Moussa, Heather Rae Young on Kitchen Designs

HGTV’s “Rock the Block” is back for Season 2—with new houses and a star-studded roster of designers all competing to impress guest judges Tarek El Moussa and Heather Rae Young.

This time, instead of four individual competitors, the show features four teams of two, including Season 1 alums Alison Victoria from “Windy City Rehab” and Mike Holmes from “Holmes on Homes.” They’re up against Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent (“Nate and Jeremiah: Save My House”), Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt (“100 Day Dream Home”), and David Bromstad (“My Lottery Dream Home”), who’s paired with fellow “Design Star” winner Tiffany Brooks (“50K Three Ways”).

Meanwhile, Ty Pennington hosts this competition, announcing weekly challenges.

As Pennington explains at the top of the competition, the four teams each have an identical, three-story house and a substantial $225,000 renovation budget. But these designers and builders will need to pace themselves if they’re going to make that quarter mil work for such a big house.

On this season premiere, the teams start in the heart of the home: the kitchen. These teams have just seven days to take their kitchen from a blank slate to a beautiful space. While each team wants to win the first challenge, El Moussa and Young can choose only one kitchen as the winner.

Read on to see what kitchen trends these guest judges adore—and what leaves them cold—which contains some important lessons and tips to make the most of your cooking space, too.

Give your kitchen island extra style around the edges

Each kitchen is identical to start out, so it’s up to the teams to put their individual style into it.

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Brian and Mika explain that they’re going for a Southern-Craftsman style with their home, and this week, they impress the judges with a stylish kitchen perfect for a large family.

“We feel like it’s going to be a family that ends up in this space, so we want it to function for a family,” Mika says.

They make sure to include a big island and lots of seating. Plus, Brian and Mika choose to use lots of white, which makes finding messes easy for a family with young kids.

Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt's island is beautiful, but it's missing one thing.
Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt’s island is beautiful, but it’s missing one thing.

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El Moussa and Young love the space, but El Moussa has one idea that could have made the space better.

“The only thing I would have done different here is, it would have looked awesome with a waterfall edge,” El Moussa says, pointing to the island. “Or if you did a drop-down countertop, maybe 3, 4 inches thick.”

It’s a good lesson that a big island isn’t always enough on its own—it deserves big style.

Blue, gray, and white are ‘out’

The colors in Tiffany Brooks and David Bromstad's kitchen are brilliant and bold.
The colors in Tiffany Brooks and David Bromstad’s kitchen are brilliant and bold.

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Bromstad and Brooks want to make sure their home stands out, so they plan to give their house a modern Tudor style. This week, they get started by choosing a color palette for the kitchen.

“I don’t think that, with the kitchen cabinets, we should do blues, whites, or grays,” Brooks says. “That’s played out.”

Bromstad agrees that those colors seem old, and they decide to make a statement with bold green cabinets.

When their kitchen is finished, the green cabinetry looks beautiful, especially when paired with the clean, white counters. However, El Moussa isn’t impressed with the choice.

“It’s a little tough for me,” El Moussa says of the color. “It’s very specific and sometimes, as you guys know, people can’t look past something like that.”

So, while green cabinets may feel fresh, it seems Bromstad and Brooks may have gone a little too bold this time.

Don’t be too quick to paint brick

Alison Victoria and Mike Holmes make the right choice when it comes to this brick.
Alison Victoria and Mike Holmes make the right choice when it comes to this brick.

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Victoria and Holmes are going for a French country vibe with their home, and they want to reflect that in their kitchen. One way they plan to do that is by giving their kitchen a brick feature wall with a grand arch over the stove. The two love the idea of this old-world design, but Victoria almost ruins the look when she suggests painting the brick white.

Right away, Holmes pushes back against the paint, saying that the brick is beautiful as is.

“Don’t give it character and then cover it up with all white,” Holmes says.

Luckily, Victoria ends up changing her mind and they go with the natural brick look. The brick looks lovely and El Moussa and Young are impressed.

“This is gorgeous,” El Moussa says when he first sees the brick feature.

Decorate a dining space with more than just a table

This dining table could have used a brick feature as well.
This dining table could have used a brick feature as well.

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While El Moussa and Young are fans of Holmes and Victoria’s kitchen, they’re more critical of the dining room. The beautiful brick feature ends right before the dining room begins, and the judges say that this is a mistake.

“Maybe you guys could have carried this look into the dining room to make the kitchen feel a little bit bigger,” El Moussa says.

Young echoes El Moussa’s concern, suggesting, “You should have put, like, a wet bar–wine area with floating shelves.”

Shelves should always be functional

Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent design a gorgeous kitchen.
Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent design a gorgeous kitchen.

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Berkus and Brent want to give their house a European farmhouse look, and they work hard to tie that style into the kitchen. They incorporate a beautiful reclaimed wood island, modern white counters, and lots of beautiful gold accents.

One unique feature in this kitchen is the open shelving, which features built-in lights. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful design, but El Moussa is concerned about functionality.

Berkus and Brent's unique shelf has light fixtures attached.
Berkus and Brent’s unique shelf has light fixtures attached.

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“I like the glass shelves with the gold bars and the lighting, but it’s a staged house, right?” El Moussa asks. “So, imagine a family’s living here. Imagine how full those shelves are going to be, and then what’s the kitchen going to look like? ‘Cause there’s really no cabinetry.”

While Berkus and Brent may have some of the most beautiful shelves in the competition, without function, they won’t fly.

‘Rock the Block’ round 1: Who wins?

After El Moussa and Young closely scrutinize all four homes, they decide that Holmes and Victoria’s kitchen is the best. True, their dining room is a tad plain, but the beautiful brick feature and French charm is enough to win this round.

However, this is just the first of six big renovations on the show, so you’ll have to continue tuning in each week to see which team ultimately comes out on top!