The Untold Truth Of Tiffany Brooks

Regular viewers of HGTV will certainly recognize Tiffany Brooks, a fixture on the network since winning the eighth season of HGTV Design Star in 2013. In addition to her role as TV host — primarily in the network's annual Smart Home sweepstakes series — this busy wife and mother juggles her personal life with running her own successful interior design business in her native Chicago. 

Brooks' path to TV stardom was an unusual one, as was the journey to her chosen profession; in fact, she didn't become a professional designer until she was in her thirties. Even if she didn't realize it, however, an eye for style has always been one of her strongest assets. Being a designer, she said in an interview with Washington Gas, has "always been in me, I just didn't know it."

With HGTV's fall 2020 announcement that Brooks had been tapped to star in a high-profile project, there's renewed interest in this HGTV fan favorite as she prepares to launch a new series set to debut in 2021. Despite the familiarity viewers already have, there's still plenty to learn by reading on to discover the untold truth of Tiffany Brooks.

How a bet with her boss led Tiffany Brooks to interior design

Becoming an interior designer wasn't something Tiffany Brooks necessarily aspired to; in fact, her design career can be pinned on losing a bet with her boss. As she explained in an interview with Washington Gas, she was assistant manager of a luxury apartment complex in Chicago when she "took on the task of designing one of the models." After seeing what she was able to accomplish on a scant $3,000 budget, her boss was so impressed that he entered her project for consideration in Chicagoland Apartment Associations's CAMME Awards. "My boss made a bet with me that if our model won, that I had to pursue interior design for a career," she said. "Well, I won! Couldn't believe it."

When the complex was subsequently sold, Brooks saw an opportunity to make good on that bet — although it's fair to say she was no overnight sensation. "I had no clue what I was doing," she said, noting that she was holding down a part-time job as a school administrator when she sought clients by placing an ad on Craigslist. "I got one guinea pig to bite and my business was started," she said. 

Winning HGTV's Design Star caused Tiffany Brooks' career to explode

After launching her fledgling interior design business on a part-time basis, in 2013 Tiffany Brooks threw her hat into the ring as a competitor on HGTV Design Star. Sort of an American Idol for designers looking to break into television, Design Star is responsible for launching the TV career of David Bromstad, host of the network's My Lottery Dream Home

As Brooks told HuffPost while she was one of the show's competitors, her entry into the world of design came a bit later in life than it did for most. "It took me until I was 30 to realize what I really wanted to do," she said. Years later, she looked back on her Design Star experience in an interview with Washington Gas"Week by week went by and I was the last one standing," she said. "I had to keep it a big secret until the show aired."

When the grand finale finally did air, and she was declared the winner of Design Star's eighth season, her "career just skyrocketed and hasn't come down since!" Regarding her success, she said, "I have been so blessed and I am so grateful."

Tiffany Brooks' first HGTV show was not a roaring success

Tiffany Brooks' victory on HGTV Design Star, she explained in an interview with Local Life magazine, landed her "a four-episode pilot, and then they decide if they want to keep with the concept or if they move on."

Unfortunately, that short-lived series — The Most Embarrassing Rooms in America — "didn't get past the four episodes," she noted. However, HGTV execs saw something in her and "then they gave me the smart home special immediately after." As a result, each year since 2013 Brooks has hosted those annual specials, in addition to designing each year's HGTV smart home. 

In retrospect, Brooks eventually came to view the failure of The Most Embarrassing Rooms in America as a blessing in disguise, allowing her to hone her television skills while freeing up the time to capitalize on her booming design business, which grew increasingly successful thanks to her exposure on Design Star. "Of course, you're all bummed out when you hear that your show's not going to happen, but then something else happens even bigger than you thought you wanted," she admitted to Local Life. "It's crazy how life seems to work out."

Tiffany Brooks owns her own Chicago interior design firm

Launching her own design firm after she "lost a drunken bet" (as she joked to HuffPost) led Tiffany Brooks to a fulfilling, lucrative career that she never even envisioned in the earlier years in her life. "It did not come easy," she admitted to the outlet.

However, that firm — Tiffany Brooks Interiors — has come a long way since she posted that first Craigslist ad. As she told HuffPost, she characterized her design style as "classic with a twist or classic with a little bit of funk to it. If a client asks for something modern, I'll take the modern and then I'll throw in some antique pieces just to mix it up a little bit. Or, if I'm doing a traditional space, I'll bring in some mid-century modern pieces, just to funk it up a little bit."

The firm's success did not go unnoticed by Architectural Digest; in January 2020, the distinguished publication named her one of its "20 Most Famous Interior Designers Working Today." Brooks responded to the honour in a Facebook post, admitting it brought her out of the "weird, gritty, heart-wrenching creative battle I've been having," summing up her feelings in two words: "Holy S#|T!!!"

Tiffany Brooks unveiled her own holiday decor patterns

In 2020, Tiffany Brooks partnered with Shutterfly, a company that allows customers to use their own photography and artwork in a variety of creative ways, ranging from wall art to home decor items. This partnership resulted in Brooks designing 10 holiday patterns that fans could print on pretty much anything on Shutterfly's site, be it a throw pillow or wine glass. 

Speaking about her new collection of holiday patterns with Apartment Therapy, Brooks offered some tips for using Shutterfly's unique services to create personalized holiday gifts. "If you're looking for inspiration, you could create a photo book or calendar for your mom featuring pictures of the kids, send a personalized candle to a long distance friend, or have some fun by throwing a relative's face on a cozy fleece blanket," she said.

In fact, she revealed to People that she has a personalized ornament that happens to be the most precious of all her holiday decorations. "We lost my father a couple of years ago, and my favorite ornament is of my father," she said. "It's a picture of him two weeks before we found out that he had pancreatic cancer... that's my most prized Christmas ornament."

Yes, HGTV viewers really do win those smart houses Tiffany Brooks designs

What makes HGTV's Tiffany Brooks-designed smart homes unique is that they've all been at the center of an annual contest; each year, one lucky sweepstakes winner has received the deed to the home, with Brooks on hand to share the good news with the happy new homeowners.

"I thought it was a joke at first, but then I realized that no one would actually have all this equipment with the cameras, lights, and microphones," 2019 winner Maureer Rustrian told Architectural Digest of being visited by an HGTV camera crew when she learned she'd won. "And then, I heard [Brooks'] voice — it's so distinct — and it slowly started to sink in."

When devising her design schemes for these homes, Brooks needs to be mindful of how she incorporates all that high-tech gadgetry into the home; the living room, for example, should look like a warm and inviting space, not the deck of the starship Enterprise. "As far as the technology goes, I wanted to create a mix between actual tech and function," Brooks told Business of Home of her 2018 smart home.

Tiffany Brooks' revealed her 'design superpower'

When it comes to her interior design prowess, Tiffany Brooks has one secret weapon in her arsenal that she's admitted is as effective as it is dull. "My superpower is organization. It's so boring, isn't it?" she told HuffPost. It's that organization that allows her to combine her creativity with her "business mind" when formulating design concepts, she explained; as a result, "I can dream it up, but to install it and implement it, you need that organization and you need those business skills to make things work."

Speaking with Casaza, Brooks described her style as "soulful contemporary," a look she achieves by combining "contemporary lines" and "bursts of color," finishing the whole thing by adding "great vintage finds that have or look like they have a story, to give the space a touch of soul."

Asked by Casaza to share her definition of what "good design" is, she described a space that "feels approachable, like you can actually live in it." She knows she's succeeded, she added, when her clients "just want to sit down in the space."

Why Tiffany Brooks' own house was a 'hot mess' while she beautified the homes of others

When she first auditioned for HGTV Design Star, Tiffany Brooks wasn't worried about how it'd all shake out — but only because there were so many others vying for a spot on the show that she figured there was no way she'd ever be chosen. It wasn't until she was called back for the second round that she thought she might maybe have a shot.

This what-the-heck attitude, she told Chicago's Daily Herald, led her to make a bold choice when asked to film herself giving a walk-through of one of her design projects. Rather than showcase one of the posh pads she'd created for a client, she instead aimed the camera at her own home... which was not exactly at its finest. "I was living with my mom, my brother, my husband and my son. The furniture had marks and scratches. People don't even pick up cups. I make spaces beautiful for everyone else, but my house is a hot mess," she joked. "But I guess they liked it."

Winning Design Star, she admitted, had been life-changing. "It basically just raises your clout level a million times," she said.

Tiffany Brooks detailed homeowners' biggest interior design mistakes

After working with numerous clients over the years, Tiffany Brooks has encountered a lot of design disasters she's had to fix. Interviewed by Washington Gas, she detailed a few of key mistakes that she'd witnessed others make when designing their own spaces. One of the biggest one she pointed to would also seem to be super obvious: not taking proper measurements before slapping down a credit card. According to Brooks, "there is nothing more embarrassing than someone buying a huge sectional, only for the sectional to be spilled out into their kitchen."

Another big error she's encountered is when not enough thought is given to how a space is going to be lit. When lighting is added "as an afterthought," she explained, the result can be "this beautiful room and two lamps, and you can't see anything!"

And finally, she advised against purchasing "the entire display" in a furniture store with the intention of simply recreating the whole look in a home. "It takes so much time to curate a room," she explained. "You want your space to display the personality of you and not the furniture shop." On top of that, she called the move "lazy."

Working together hasn't always worked for Tiffany Brooks and her son

Tiffany Brooks often posts photos and anecdotes featuring her son, Ayden, on social media. One of those posts, however, wasn't a particularly pleasant one, considering the opening line to her Facebook message, which went up in 2018, revealed she'd been "nauseous for 20 hours." 

The reason, she explained, was because she was in need of a summer intern at her design studio after she "fired my son from his summer job at my office AGAIN."

According to Brooks, her son "basically told me he would rather sweep floors. Not sure what one has to do with the other." Her post wasn't merely about motherly complaining, but was apparently seriously seeking an intern to take over. "May be the most jacked-up help wanted ad ever," she wrote, hoping that what she'd posted would give aspiring applicants "an insight to the 'culture” in the office." About a year later, she tweeted, "My boy knows CAD essentials. Now Teaching Ayden Brooks Chief Architect and SketchUp so I can hire my son to do our simple project and furniture drawings. #keepthemoneyinthefamily."

Rock the Block welcomed Tiffany Brooks to the Season 2 cast

In 2019, HGTV launched Rock the Block, a new competition series that pitted four of the network's most popular female stars against each other: Alison Victoria of Windy City Rehab, Leanne Ford of Restored by the Fords, Jasmine Roth of Hidden Potential, and Mina Starsiak Hawk of Good Bones.

The series was a big enough hit that the network announced a second season the following year. This time out, the field of competition was being expanded. As People reported, the new season would feature four teams of two: returnee Victoria and Holmes on Homes star Mike Holmes; Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent of Nate and Jeremiah: Save My House; Brian and Mika Kleinschmidt from 100 Day Dream Home; and Tiffany Brooks partnered with fellow HGTV Design Star winner David Bromstad, host of My Lottery Dream Home.

After making a guest appearance in Rock the Block's first season, Brooks' star was clearly on the rise when HGTV placed her within its popular competition series. "Every competitor in Rock the Block is in it to win it," Betsy Ayala, HGTV's senior vice president of programming and development, said in a press release announcing the new season. 

Tiffany Brooks took to Zoom to review some Chicago celebs' homes

One of the unanticipated consequences of the 2020 pandemic has involved the manner in which guests on television make their appearances. Pre-pandemic, visitors to cable news broadcasts and talk shows would typically appear in person in a TV studio. In the new normal, however, they instead appeared via Zoom while sitting in front of their laptops — allowing viewers a glimpse at their homes, or as much as could be seen in the background. 

Chicago magazine decided to have a little fun with this phenomenon by inviting HGTV's Tiffany Brooks and fellow Chicago interior designer Jordana Joseph to offer their opinions on prominent Chicagoans' interior design sense, strictly by judging their Zoom backgrounds. As a result, the two designers critiqued the decor of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, WIlco frontman Jeff Tweedy, hip-hop star Chance the Rapper and local meteorologist Cheryl Scott.

While Brooks begged to add some color to Chance's monochromatic design scheme, she had mixed feelings about Tweedy's cluttered abode. "Looks like Jeff needs a visit from Marie Kondo more than me," she quipped, "but I wouldn't mind snatching up the cool vintage rugs from beneath all that stuff."

HGTV announced Tiffany Brooks had a new show in the works

In fall 2020, HGTV announced that Tiffany Brooks would soon be headlining her very own show for the network. Set to debut in 2021, the Chicago-based series — titled $50K Three Ways — would kick off with a one-hour special, followed by 10 half-hour episodes. 

The premise of $50K Three Ways features Brooks meeting with homeowners seeking a change, offering three radically different designs for three different spaces within their homes, all within a strict $50,000 budget. She then works with them to help them "choose which proposal works best for their family."

"Tiffany's work on HGTV Smart Home 2020 and her guest turns on such hit series as Rock the Block have been lighting up HGTV for years," said HGTV president Jane Latman in the announcement. "Her magnetic personality and classic design style with an edgy twist has made Tiffany one of our most popular stars." Understandably, Brooks responded enthusiastically to the news. "I am so incredibly thankful and full of joy! I'm thrilled I can finally share this with you all," she wrote on Instagram