Top Design: Bedrooms on Acid, Martha Stewart Showroom Frenzy, and Product Placements Galore!

by moderndomestic on October 24, 2008

The winning room. Could it possibly be a (gasp) hotel lobby?

I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you. I actually found last night’s Top Design pretty entertaining (gasp of astonishment). I mean, it wasn’t Project Runway or The Real (crazy) Housewives of New York City entertaining, but it was on par with a mediocre episode of Top Chef. And for Top Design, that’s saying a lot.

Yes, there was bitching, but there was also design! The designers designed rooms that didn’t look like crap! There was an Eddie smackdown! The Pop Design was actually interesting! This is not the Top Design I’ve come to know and . . . kind of like.

In week’s challenge (“Light It Up”), the contestants had to design rooms around chandeliers. Really, really fancy, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, which no one would ever actually own because high-end stuff like this looks ridiculous anywhere other than a fancy hotel bar. I think chandeliers like these masquerade as high-end design objects, but in reality they’ve been created to subconsciously make you buy a whole lot of overpriced cocktails.

The episode started off with more of Andrea’s whining— yes, was more whining than last week. Part of me feels bad for her, because the competition has killed her confidence and I know what that feels like. But the other, meaner, part of me wants her to either stop whining and get her act together, or go home. I mean, it’s reality TV. Hasn’t she seen an episode of Top Chef? Reality TV shows judges aren’t chosen because they hand out tea and cookies to contestants.

As if Andrea’s wet-dishrag act wasn’t enough, we also have to listen to Eddie bitching about how Preston doesn’t know how to do the dishes. Um, I don’t get it. Apparently Preston’s big offense is that he put soap in the dishwasher and then turned it on. Huh? Maybe Eddie could come to DC and do my dishes for me, since apparently I too do not know the “real” way to run my dishwasher.

After this fascinating and dramatic dishwasher showdown, the designers troop down to the studio for their challenge. But surprise! Before the actual challenge begins, they have a Pop Design! But it’s a Pop Design that’s actually relevant, people! No more boring quizzes or flower arrangements! No, they actually have to style a bunch of boring bland furniture using Jonathan Adler accessories. Okay, considering that Jonathan Adler then judges the competition, this struck me as a tad bit . . . masturbatory, but at least it actually showed off their decorating skills.

They actually all did a good job (well, except Andrea, who even told the judges that she didn’t know how to style her bookcase—not exactly the right tactic to take Andrea!), but it’s Eddie who wins the Pop Design and immunity. He used a nice mixture of accessories and a faux-animal skin rug (I’m so sick of the damn animal skin rug thing, by the way. I swear to God I see a rug like that once a day on Apartment Therapy or Domino) to style his space. When the judges praise his styling skills, Eddie takes the opportunity to go on and on about how he’s “more” than just a stylist. He’s a cook, he’s a decorator, he’s an editor, he’s a stylist, he’s. . . trying too hard?

After the Pop Design, it’s off to the real challenge. Since Eddie won the Pop Design, he gets to pick the order in which the designers choose their chandeliers. Even though he has immunity, Eddie chooses himself to go first (could we really expect anything else?), then Andrea (because she presents no competition), Nathan (because he has a secret crush), Ondine (because he doesn’t care about her), and Preston (dude, diss). Preston looks pretty pissed, and he’s even more pissed when he finds out that he has to work with a squat, pear-shaped chandelier that looks difficult to work with.

Preston’s concerns aside, I think the designers did great work in this challenge. Perhaps it’s because they were able to go to higher-end showrooms, had a higher budget, and worked in neutral spaces (we were back to the white boxes of season one), but the finished products they came up with were generally really great.

Andrea spent way too much time hemming and hawing over her lack of styling skills. But I actually loved her room. Maybe it was less polished than the other rooms, but her floorplan and wallpaper choices set off her green crystal column chandelier beautifully. I loved the huge mirror she hung on the wall, and I seriously covet her white tufted couch and chairs. Because of her lack of styling experience her room looked a bit empty, but she still hit her Hollywood glam note very well.

Andrea's Room - some of her best work. I want that couch!

Ondine’s room missed the mark. I liked her chandelier the most (the globe of light hanging in the mesh netting was sensual and unusual), but her room was dark and ubalanced. She had the opposite problem from Andrea—Andrea had too little accessories, whereas Ondine had far, far too many. The purple color she chose for one of her walls reminded me too much of the muted gray she used for her Room of the Future, and the results were similarly depressing. There was also way too much stuff on the purple wall, but then nothing on the wall behind the bed. In the end, you didn’t really notice her chandelier; it was lost among all the other stuff in the room.

I like Ondine, but this didn't quite work.

Nathan’s room was bizarre—and while I’m a Nathan fan, it was too bizarre for my taste. When I saw his room I kind of felt the way I feel when I look at postmodern art; I understand that it’s beautiful, but I don’t really like it. I hated his zany purple and green wall (that’s just too much for me), and I also hated the way the blue bed covering clashed with the wall. Of course, I’m sure it’s “supposed” to do that but, well, I’m not design-savvy enough to get it. I liked that he took risks with this room, and I liked the bold and experimental nature of his design. If you left out the crazy wall, everything else was great—the stools, the chess set, even the giant horse had an eclectic synergy.

Nathan's bedroom on acid. Nathan, you're too stylish for me.

Interestingly enough, it was Eddie that fell flat during this challenge. I think Eddie was trying to go in a modern and sleek direction initially, but then he got to the Martha Stewart furniture showroom and was caught up in a whirl of granny sofas and upholstered dining room chairs. The result is this weird combination of mismatching antique-ish pieces that don’t go with each other and certainly don’t set off the chandelier well at all. Plus the huge blocks of color on the wall separated with gold vines seriously looks like a Nathalie-esque creation, and wouldn’t be out of place in a college dorm room. The room was a mess and the judges thought so too, which Eddie couldn’t believe. I mean, he works for Martha Stewart Living! He’s flown on her plane! How could the judges possibly not like his room?

Eddie's room. Christian Siriano would call this "a hot mess."

In the end, it was the dissed Preston that won the challenge, his second win in a row. And, I have to say: while I was skeptical of his choice to do yet another hotel design, the results were pretty damn fabulous, if just a tad cold. I loved the mixture of furniture in his room—the orange chairs, the chaise lounge, and the stools set against the graphic wall paper. Although his room didn’t set off the chandelier the way Andrea’s did; my eye was  more drawn to his sunburst mirror than to the chandelier. It also made me wonder if Preston can do anything more than his uber-pulled together, slightly uncomfortable hotel look. His room was fabulous, but it looked like a hotel lobby—shiny and high-end, but also uncomfortable and stiff.

Since Eddie has immunity, the judges were torn between kicking off Andrea or Ondine (yes, they dislike Eddie’s room that much). But wait! Andrea has had enough! She’s had enough criticism! She’s had enough bitching! She’s had enough Margaret Russell! During the question and answer session, Andrea tells them that she wants to go home.

And here’s where Andrea really lost me. Because I can understand that she’s beaten down and just needs to leave the competition, but she keeps on framing her desire to leave as “she really misses her family” and that “she’s a mother first.” Sorry, but that’s a cop-out. They’ve been doing this competition for what, a couple weeks? Maybe a month? And this is supposed to be her dream? If she really can’t go for a couple weeks without seeing her family, to pursue something that’s supposedly very important to her, then why did she sign up for this competition? Seriously, have you ever watched Bravo? What did you think you were in for?

The judges have a difficult decision on their hands, because Ondine had the worse room, but Andrea clearly has given up. They put the decision to Andrea, and say that if she wants to go she can leave, but if she wants to stay, then Ondine is out. Andrea then stands there forever going on and on about how “she doesn’t know what to do” and sounding like a wet dishrag, before finally deciding to leave. Thank God.

Next week: According to the Bravo site this episode has no name, but it involves designing rooms in a house. Wow, creative challenge, Magical Elves production team. And doesn’t this sound exactly like Eco-Offices? But at least Jeff Lewis is back to judge! Yay! Although does this mean we have another Kelly-less episode, which means no weird hair styles to look forward to?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

vulcanella October 24, 2008 at 6:48 pm

I’m sad that Andrea chose to leave. She was my favorite designer from day one. Now I just have Nathan and Preston. There’s something about Eddie that rubs me the wrong way. It might be a bit of jealousy since he gets to work with the wonderful Martha, but I don’t know.

Thanks for your recaps. I love them!!

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moderndomestic October 24, 2008 at 8:18 pm

By the end I was just so sick of Andrea’s whining that I’m glad she’s gone. I want Nathan to win. I just think he’s the best, and his attitude would make him a blast to work with.

I think I’ve figured out one of Eddie’s peeves – it’s that, secretly, he thinks he should have been chosen to judge the show, and he’s mad that he’s just a contestant. I also think he’s sort of fascinating to watch – like, he’s so incredibly competitive and yet tries to pretend that he doesn’t really care if he wins or not. It’s like a fascinating psychological experiment or something . . .

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Cliff O'Neill October 25, 2008 at 7:22 pm

Great recap!

Will miss Andrea.

I just can’t wait to see Jeff Lewis read him for his hideous wardrobe (and inconsistent design) choices next week!

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moderndomestic October 27, 2008 at 5:24 pm

I know! I’m so totally excited for the Jeff Lewis. I just hope they don’t tone him down too much (I think they tried to make him too nice the last time he was on).

I also hope that there will be a Jeff Lewis/Eddie showdown, as they both have really different aesthetics.

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