At the beginning of every season of MTV’s The Challenge, the castmembers get off a bus and bolt into their new home, jumping over tables and bumping lamps in order to scope out the best bedroom. But before Johnny “Bananas” Devenanzio, CT Tamburello, Cara Maria Sorbello and the rest of the cast invades, the space is placid, clean, and quiet.
And PEOPLE got to experience the War of the Worlds 2 compound in that state.
In the exclusive house tour — conducted by the show’s longtime host, T.J. Lavin — viewers see inside the four bedrooms where the American team and U.K. team will try to strategize and catch some Zzzs.
“I don’t think that they realize that there are only a couple bedrooms,” Lavin laughs. “They’re not choosing their roommates. It’s awesome.”
The bedrooms each feature eight military-like beds and shelves that were hand-crafted for the space by production designer James McGowan.
“I researched sleeping areas of embassies and military bases in the 1940s and 1950s just to make it feel very real,” he tells PEOPLE. “The wooden beds with the little fold-out tables were based on beds in the embassies in Indonesia.”
After the bedrooms, Lavin moves his tour into the living area, complete with couches, long tables, and ample greenery to reflect the season’s jungle theme.
“For this jungle house, we very much wanted it to have a Lara Croft-y vibe,” McGowan says.
“Typically, they will drop their bags off and rush into the kitchen for something to eat and/or drink,” Lavin says as he moves into the kitchen. “Probably the latter.”
Adjacent to the kitchen in this home is a pool table.
According to McGowan, the kitchen is often the most difficult part of designing a Challenge house.
“Kitchens are always problematic,” he says. “I always find you can make bedrooms and living rooms that fit with the theme but then in these houses, you often have built-in kitchens that are just suddenly like, ‘Oh my god! You’re in 1996!’ “
The solution? “I try to make them go away because they just have to be functional but you don’t want to make too much of them.”
In addition to a pool, every Challenge house has to have a gym, and, according to Lavin, “this one is particularly nice with a beautiful view.”
Now that the tour is over, it’s time for the games to begin. The Challenge: War of the Worlds 2 begins Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on MTV.