As a child growing up in central Minnesota, David Bromstad dreamed of becoming a Disney animator, and, after a stint in school and a move to Florida, finally got going on that goal. Sadly, Disney didn't need quite as many Imagineers as it once thought, and after a round of layoffs, Bromstad became, in his words, "a starving artist."
That's when an interior designer friend suggested that he take on the kids' rooms in a series of model homes the designer was outfitting. Bromstad, who confesses to still "adoring Disney, because they do everything perfect, they make everything a story," took his experience as an artist and prop designer to create a story for the imaginary children and a memorable room for potential buyers.
Bromstad later showed his creations to the producers of HGTV’s Design Star and landed a spot on the show.
He went on to become the show’s first winner and now mentors the final-round contestants.
With no specific client to guide the process, Bromstad produced some outrageous designs, including a Finding Nemo-esque bedroom with clamshell bed (above); a surfing-inspired "Woody Car" room complete with a mural of his own design; a military-themed room with planes painted on the walls, camouflage bedding, and faux parachute; and a Tiki Room.
While each was over-the-top in its own way, Bromstad says everything was "always in keeping with the theme of the house." The interior designer would provide a color scheme and Bromstad would "play with it a bit, with pops of what he wanted, but with kids' rooms, it's all about fantasy, it's all about having a good time, it's all about pushing the envelope."
Of course, all that fantasy had to be reconciled with the shoestring budget allocated for the kids' rooms.
"I was working with a tiny budget, like $2,500, and that included my fee," Bromstad says. "He said, 'Here's $2,500, whatever you (have left) after making all your stuff, that will be your profit.'"
Thankfully, Bromstad's time at Disney had left him with the woodworking and painting skills necessary to produce his fantasy rooms without outside assistance. He treated the low budget as a "real challenge," and "learned to make things that looked really really fun and really really fabulous on, basically, a dime." Bromstad says he knew he "was doing these kids rooms for a reason, but I didn't know what." In his words: "I just knew that I loved doing it. Once I got on Design Star, I knew that was the reason."
The Tiki Room is probably Bromstad's favorite—and it was the one that won him that coveted spot on Design Star. This was the one he "chose to show the world...the producers, and they loved it. It was so much fun."
Nowadays, as he prepares a full, "floor-to-ceiling" home collection to launch in 2014, he says he still embraces the "fun," a philosophy that has certainly guided the design scheme of his own Miami condo. "Interior design can be very serious," he says, "and interior designers are so serious. I'm not that kind of interior designer. You'll always see one element that brings something visually interesting, something playful, and something that makes you smile."