Thursday, August 03, 2006


Designing to Sell Out

Previously on Design Star: Donna leapt for the money but didn't make a budget. Vanessa yapped her way to the win over David and Teran. Ramona decided to play artist-in-residence and was booted for making self-indulgent crap.

Clive summons the designers to the living room. Vanessa explains how wonderful she is -- she's been published, she teaches design at college "to adults." She also wears pukey green eye shadow. She's already a winner, and she's going to win this. First rule of television, Vanessa: less tell, more show.

The designers all stand behind stools which hold paint cans. Clive has them open up the cans. Three cans contain money and their lids have cardboard stars attached to the underside. Donna gets one of them. She's not entirely thrilled to see money again. Joseph and Tym have the other money cans. On the star is written the name of a room. Donna has kitchen; Joseph has living room; Tym has master bedroom. Clive summons the team leaders to stand by him.

The challenge: They have a house that has been on the market for 8 months. Why doesn't a good house sell? Bad design. Three rooms have been targeted for a makeover. The teams will have 24 hours work time and a budget of $2000. If this all sounds terribly familiar, it's a rehash of Clive's other show (Designed to Sell). Time to pick teams -- playground style, and you have to explain your reasons for choosing. The remaining designers squirm. Teman has flashbacks to school days. Donna gets to go first. She plays nice, saying how wonderful everyone is and how she liked working with Teman. But no, wait, she's not actually picking Teman. She goes with David, because he's an artist. Joseph picks Vanessa because she won last time. Tym picks Teran, the remaining member of the winning team. Clive has Tym pick again, and he chooses Teman so he can have both twins. Joseph chooses Alice, leaving Temple for Donna's team. Donna graciously says that they're happy to work with Temple, who bounces over to hug her teamies. Donna interviews that Temple was probably the last to get picked because the others knew she'd be hard to work with. This would be what the literary types call foreshadowing.

Everyone piles into vans, one per team. Tym tells the twins that he wants to "push the project manager thing" and it's not just him being bossy. Donna tells David and Temple that they're the dream team. Vanessa grumps to Joseph that he'd better be a good captain. She interviews that it's hard for her to be led instead of leading. Joseph teasingly responds that she'll have to let him talk sometimes.

Out on Long Island, they pull up in front of a big house in the Tudor style. Team Tym is happy that it's not some cramped space. Inside, they get their first idea of what they're dealing with. Tym describes it as someone having made "all the wrong choices for like thirty-five or forty years."

Team Donna finds the kitchen. It has dark brown wood cabinets, an intense terracotta tile floor, yellow wallpaper with teacups, and clutter all over the counters. David calls it "weird" and disses the wallpager.

Team Joseph encounters the living room. It's very long with an awkward arrangement of old furniture. There's a sectional in a black and white tweed that doesn't go with the deep wine leather of the armchairs. The walls and carpet are both tan.

Saving the best for last: Team Tym enters the master bedroom to discover a room covered with murals representing the view from a castle tower -- countryside on one side, the rest of the castle on the other. The far wall is brick and has a fireplace, but otherwise, even the ceiling is painted. There's also a large bronze statue of Mercury or some other figure of Greek mythology in motion. Teman calls it a "bad high school play."

Down in the living room, Vanessa mentions working with the style of the house. She interviews that the team decided to work the budget angle and do the room for just $1000. Why? Your first priority should be doing a good room. Stop trying to game the competition and just do your jobs.

Donna outlines their priorities -- make the cabinets pop, dress up the walls with texture, new draperies, light fixtures. Temple tries to jump in but has to wait for Donna to wind down a bit. She offers to antique the cabinets. David wants to know if she intends to go lighter.

Tym tries to get his team to get past all the distracting features of the bedroom and see its potential.

Vanessa prods Joseph for marching orders. He wants to take inventory and then start coming up with ideas. Vanessa goes for the Polaroid camera again. Joseph sees his role as organizer and facilitator; he needs to keep the ideas flowing. Oh, Joseph. You're a nice guy, and that just never works on a reality show. Step up and put on the Boss hat. And when people want to throw away half the budget, squash 'em. Joseph solicits ideas. Vanessa proposes a window treatment. She talks up the idea by explaining how she was published and won a competition with it. Oh, Vanessa. It doesn't matter if you won a competition with it in some other room entirely; what matters is how it's going to look in this room. So stop telling everyone how great you are and focus on making the room great.

The bedroom team talks colors. Teman interviews that the mural has got to go. I'm on board with this design direction.

Temple is talking about antiquing the cabinets again. David laughs. Temple asks if he's against antiquing in general. David disclaims; he just doesn't want too much antiquing. Temple explains, "It's design." Thanks for clearing that up. David understands, but he thinks there are more ways to make a room cohesive than antiquing everything.

Alice interviews that the sofa from the sectional was too big. Her upholsterer has cut down sofas before. Joseph looks at the underside and says that he can make it into a loveseat. The sofa doesn't look all that big once they pull it apart from the other pieces, and the room has a lot of space to fill up. I'm not feeling the dire necessity of chopping up the furniture.

Team Tym discusses the floor. Tym wants to go with birch. Teran points out it could help them choose a wall color. Teman interviews that they're lucky -- they could burn down the room and the judges would call it an improvement. I agree, at least about the lucky part. The most offensive feature in the room is easily neutralized.

Team Donna agrees on paint colors.

Joseph hands the money over to Vanessa. Alice lays out the plan -- skimp on the budget, keep the neutral walls and carpet, declutter, rearrange. She and Vanessa go shopping.

Team Donna hits the home improvement store with 21 hours to go. Temple interviews that she had a whole list of things that could be fixed for very little money. Okay, but how about time? Focus on the priorities -- don't let doing the easy things distract you from doing the important things. Temple spots an inexpensive sisal rug and tells the team it's exactly what they need. She suggests a pot rack, but Donna and David want to keep things simple. Temple asks about tiling on top of tile. She wants to check the price of something. Donna is ready to get out of there and get started. Temple wants a $3 can of spray paint. Donna exclaims, "You and spray paint!" Temple is the only person I've ever seen spray paint an armoire. She must have a permanent divot in her fingertip. Donna and David watch Temple lay out some window fabrics. Donna interviews that Temple kept coming up with ideas and she just wanted to get projects going. It looks like they got the sisal rug, though.

Back at the house, Joseph deconstructs the sofa. He's happy with his team. Alice and Vanessa arrive at the home improvement store. Joseph claims he "assigned" them the choice of fabrics and colors so he could stay behind and do stuff. Like mangle the sofa.

Team Tym has made some decisions. With 19 hours left, Tym heads out to get supplies while the twins clear the room and tear up the carpet. It took them 5 hours to plan? It takes all of two seconds to realize you're going to need a ton of primer. Get that started and hash out the rest while you paint.

Team Donna returns to the house with 16 hours on the clock. That's 5 hours of shopping. No wonder they got cranky. Donna wants to focus on getting work done. Temple says, "Okay, you're the boss." Temple means, "Whatever." In the kitchen, she gets ready to use a little sander on the cabinet doors. David asks if it wouldn't be easier to do it by hand, since she just needs to sand the edges, but Temple thinks the sander will be faster. Donna and David start painting the walls. Donna is a dabber when it comes to painting.

David announces they have 30 minutes left to work that night. Alice and Vanessa are measuring the windows when he arrives to spread the news. Joseph is outside still messing with the sofa. Tym returns with stuff. He works on pulling up tack strips while the twins start to paint the fireplace wall. Teman interviews that they were hoping to get all their painting done of the first day, but they barely did any. He suggests starting with a particular wall the next day because he expects it to have the longest drying time. Donna is pleased that two projects have almost been completed. David interviews that he and Donna both think Temple has been trying to take too much control. Everyone files out.

In the van, poor David is literally and figuratively stuck between Donna and Temple. Donna thinks Temple is just "searching for things to complain about." Temple thinks Donna is just bossing her around like a prima donna. Donna thinks Temple is the prima donna with her whole beauty queen thing. David tells them not to get personal. They need to stop fighting and focus on the task. He interviews that he's tired of mediating. It doesn't matter how talented everyone is -- if they can't work together, they'll fail. He tells his teammates that if this keeps up, one of them will be eliminated. Temple is sure she won't be. Why? Nobody's immune. Temple needs to step it down a notch or five.

The next day, everyone heads back to the house. David interviews that this is the big workday, with 14 hours left, and he's worried. Donna paints. Temple works on the cabinets. Upstairs, Team Tym starts painting over the murals. There is much rejoicing. Joseph reviews paint colors with his team.

Clive arrives for status reports. He starts in the living room. Joseph explains that the plan is to work on the flow of the room and arranging the furniture properly. Vanessa says the room had no flow when they arrived and Clive describes it as more of a "clog." Alice contributes that they're focusing on things that the owners can take with them. That's very kind of them, but job one still has to be making it look good.

Next it's the kitchen. David interviews that he thinks the judges have high expectations of him, since he was on the winning team last time. Donna explains to Clive that the room really just needs to be toned down. Clive describes the plan as "crank down the scary knob." Donna thinks the room makes buyers run away. Clive asks about the team dynamics, and Donna pretends nothing is wrong. Clive knows better. Temple says they were upset that she kept coming up with ideas; Donna says Temple wouldn't stop talking and neither she nor David could get a word in. Clive makes them all hug, but even he doesn't think it will create a lasting peace.

Clive arrives at the shell of the former master bedroom and is stunned by the emptiness. Tym reports that the initial team reaction was "aghast." They knew they had to get everything painted right away. Clive asks about the design theme. Teran talks about a North African or Mediterranean thing and Tym chimes in with Bombay, which is clear across Asia Minor and the Indian Ocean, so I have to wonder if they actually have a design plan. Clive is left wondering how the north of Africa fits with a Tudor house. He asks about time. Tym figures that even if they just get the "basic shell" into place, people will be excited about the room. Or at least not be overcome by a giggle fit.

Alice and Vanessa are going shopping again. Vanessa wants to use the lamps to create a stage for their reworked sofa, so everyone can appreciate how much work went into it. Sigh. Home buyers don't care how much work went into the sofa. Stop playing to the judges and focus on making the room look good. They find an open fabric store with 11 hours left on the clock. Alice likes something, but Vanessa wants more richness. She proposes a combination that Alice finds too shiny. Vanessa tries on a Southern accent to illustrate the reaction she doesn't want from Alice. It's more of an exaggerated hick accent, which isn't Alice's accent at all. Alice says if it looks good, she won't have to say it looks like crap. Vanessa promises that it will look fabulous. Alice agrees. She interviews that she gave in because a bad choice is better than nothing.

Temple is rubbing a black stain on the cabinets. She's pleased with the results and happy that the team trusted her to do it. The aged look of the cabinets will work with the aged walls that David's doing. He's adding a slightly darker glaze to the walls. It won't be very noticeable. Well then, why spend time on it? Bang for your buck, people. That's what you need to focus on.

Vanessa interviews that she and Alice didn't agree on everything -- I thought Alice gave in? -- so she went shopping with Joseph. He approves the paisley fabric. Vanessa interviews that they worked "really cohesively together," which means that he agreed with all her suggestions. Vanessa thinks that this could be "a learning experience" for Alice. What, that you should always go shopping with the team leader? She's pleased that she turned out to be right. Like she ever doubted she was wrong.

On the way home again, with 9.5 hours remaining, Joseph and Vanessa discover a potential crisis. Joseph explains that they had told Alice to paint the coffee table when they left, and only now have they realized that the table isn't supposed to be touched. The suspense builds as they enter the house and walk into the living room to find -- Alice hasn't painted the coffee table! They hug her in relief, causing her to ask what's wrong. Joseph explains again about the excluded list. Alice breaks the bad news -- they did put a test splotch of green on it. Joseph says he'll take responsibility, but his teammates demur. Alice points out that they all could have remembered and none of them did, so it's not all on Joseph. He interviews that he still stands by his decision. I agree that all of them were equally capable of catching the error, but if it comes down to it, Joseph is ultimately accountable. Vanessa interviews that she's the one who dabbed on the paint. She starts to cry that it's not fair for her to be eliminated for that. On the contrary, it's completely fair to boot someone for screwing up. Unless she means that it's not fair for her to be eliminated instead of Joseph, in which case, shut up. Vanessa runs into the nearby powder room to cry.

With 8 hours remaining, Team Joseph is discussing the table some more. Joseph understands how it got missed, with all the stuff that got moved around. He says they'll fix it so no one could ever tell it happened. He starts working on the paint smear. Vanessa interviews that if she were team captain, she would have paid attention to every detail. Hindsight is 20/20, missy. She tells Joseph that she doesn't want to be held responsible for the error; he replies, "It's too late for that." Vanessa interviews that just because she was the one who actually did the painting, that shouldn't make her more responsible; it was still a team effort. Interesting how she's all for joint accountability when something goes wrong, but it's all about her contributions when things go right. I know you need drive to make it in show business, but this goes beyond drive. It's desperation, and it's just not attractive.

Team Tym is looking drama-free. The walls are now a creamy color with a slight pinkish tone. Tym figures the big issue is drying time. Once they finish painting, he'll get started on the floor, they'll apply polyurethane last thing, and then load in the morning.

Donna is shopping with 6 hours left. Shopping, shopping, shopping. Home improvement store, antique store. Turns out Donna loves to shop. (Who'da thunk?) But she's also finding bargains, like on the chairs. So she spends as much time as she needs. Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, David wishes Donna would get back. Temple wonders if she doesn't understand how much work has to be done. David thinks they can still finish on time if Donna's not too late.

Joseph is holding a lightbulb up to the table where the paint was. He claims "they're gonna need one of those forensic guys" to tell where the paint was. He has the other two come inspect his work.

Tym thinks things are coming together. Teman interviews that Tym is a nuts-and-bolts guy, which is good because he likes to skimp on that to get to the fun stuff.

Joseph announces the 5 hour mark. Alice interviews that she's happy with the room. It doesn't reflect the taste of any of the team members, but they all work with clients who have different tastes and it's about making the client happy. She's doing all the sewing on the floor. Don't they have a table and chair for her to use? That's so hard on the back.

David is outside picking up sticks for a "sculpture." That's probably what he told Donna and Temple, anyway. With 3 hours left, Temple tells Donna that someone has to deal with the light sockets or she'll put them back unchanged and it won't be her fault. Yes, I'm sure SocketGate will be a big factor in the judges' decision. Donna isn't swayed by the blame game; she says they're supposed to be working as a team. Temple pounces: "You're right, so where've you been all this time?" Donna is now pissed. She has been buying things they need, not going out to have lunch. Temple isn't accusing her of lunching, but she has made five trips to the store. That is a lot for one day, what with travel time. Meanwhile, out in the yard, David interviews that they're getting along better, but the two women are still clashing. Temple lectures Donna that she should have started out by making a list of everything that needed to be addressed in the kitchen. Well, no. Just because that's how Temple likes to work, Donna's not obligated to work that way. Donna interviews that when Temple comes up with an idea, she won't listen to anyone else or their ideas; it's just all about Temple. Temple complains that she and David did the whole room. When Donna asks why Temple didn't go shopping, she zings that Donna is a slow painter. David explains that "Donna doesn't just shop, it's what she likes to do. She's pretty good at it." Donna hears Temple saying that her contributions are more important than anyone else's. Temple disagrees, but starts listing everything she's done. Donna says she worked hard, too. Temple says, "Well, some people work hard, and some people could have just done it right the first time." David says he's tired of the fighting and it drags them down. Donna doesn't know what she's done to Temple. Temple says, "The truth will be known." Donna agrees. They both figure they've won at this point.

Good grief. Temple seriously needs a big dose of Shut Up Already, plus a dose of Get Over Yourself. Donna is the team leader and she gets to run the project however she wants. If you're worried that Donna's time management means you won't get finished, say that. But there's no point in telling her she's incompetent, because there's nothing that can be done about it. And if you're thinking Donna can just turn over responsibility, think again. I'm not entirely thrilled with Donna as a team leader, but it looked like she was doing the right things in terms of setting direction. And she let Temple antique the cabinets, so she has been taking input from the team. Meanwhile, Temple picked the fight with Donna and hashed over bygones instead of asking what they could do now to make sure things got done. So Donna is ahead in the teamwork department.

Upstairs, the birch plywood floor has been laid, but they only have 30 minutes left before going home. Tym doesn't think they have time to do the polyurethane, but he gets talked into it. He realizes this could break him, because if they only get it half done, it's going to look terrible. There's a furious bout of rolling. They get it done in time. Go, team!

Another day. Everyone gets ready in the wee morning hours and it's off to the house. Teran sets his stopwatch for 2 hours. And go! Vanessa spots Joseph on the placement of shelves under a high feature window. Alice sews on the floor some more. (Get that poor woman a chair!) Temple handles clean up, David touches up some artwork and Donna tweaks the window treatment. Team Tym has a list of things that need to get done with names and time estimates; they just start at the top and work their way down. Work work work. The twins stain a headboard. Vanessa spots Joseph on the placement of a plate on the wall. 15 minute warning. 10 minute warning. 1 minute warning. Clive arrives and puts an end to the work. He sends them all off to the studio for judging. Alice interviews that she's nervous because of the table debacle.

The studio is still ugly. I can't wait until they're given the job of making it over. Clive does the screen/cancellation spiel, introduces the judges (still Martha, Vern and Cynthia) and recaps the challenge.

See kitchen pictures at

Kitchen ($1573): Cynthia asks about the theme. Donna says they were going for simple and neutral but a little rustic. Cynthia likes some of the styling but she's not seeing a big difference before and after. Donna comments that they knew they wanted to change the wallpaper. True, but it turns out that wasn't such a big change. Vern thinks the floor was more significant and it should have been more covered. Going neutral was probably a good step, but he would like to see a stronger design direction. Donna comments (presumably in response to a question) that she and Temple had some miscommunication and disagreement. Temple plays the "I'm not a professional designer" card (so what are you doing here?) and says her challenge was to prove herself to Donna, who is 30 years older and has that much more experience. Okay, Temple just lost any sympathy I had for her. That's just so petty. Temple continues that Donna didn't trust her to do anything. Not even antiquing the cabinets? Donna tries to clarify and they're both talking at once. Clive says, "Here we go again." David comments that his biggest job was mediating. Vern scolds them about their lack of collaboration; with a tight timeline, there's no time to waste on bickering.

See living room pictures at

Living room ($1057): Martha thinks it's emptier but still "disjointed." She asks about the little sofa. Joseph explains that the original sofa was too big, so he cut it in half. Martha thinks the sofa died in vain; she doesn't like the reupholstery. Vern doesn't think the three little plates arranged on a great big wall make sense, but he likes the addition of the drapes. He thinks saving money on the budget wasn't worth the result. Clive asks Vanessa to explain the table debacle. They were planning to paint it, but then it turned out to be an heirloom. They had painted a 1"x1" test square (I'd say it was a little bigger than that). She and Joseph worked on it (since when does watching and whining constitute "working"?) and it's all fixed. Joseph says they accept accountability. Vern frowns that it's a huge mistake and you really have to respect people's stuff. Vanessa asks to speak (just say no!). She has been a "successful interior designer" for seven years and she has never let anything like this happen. I really don't see what that has to do with anything. So it never happened before -- it still happened now. She tries to say that the challenge was a different environment, but Martha's not having it. This is what it would be like with a show. Vern tells them they lucked out that it could be fixed. He's pleased they recognize the seriousness and are taking responsibility.

See master bedroom pictures at

Master bedroom ($1886): Cynthia gives it a "wow." She likes the floor. Tym explains the details. Vern seems to be looking at a portfolio of photos, so I guess they don't just go by the videos. Vern thinks they could have done more with color, maybe making the fireplace wall more of a focal point.

Clive sends the designers to the green room while the judges deliberate. Martha's not sure the owner got any help from the designers. Tym observes that they really don't know how the judges are making their decision. Vern is encouraged to see Tym's willingness to "tackle a big idea." Teran thinks the big question is whether the project leaders will take the blame or if they'll look at team members. Cynthia isn't sure what one of the women brings to the table. David thinks it's up in the air "because two of the rooms did not have a wow factor with them at all." Cynthia isn't surprised that Donna and Temple were fighting. Donna tells Temple she'd like to get along but she doesn't want to be insulted, which is what she felt Temple was doing. Wow, that was stated in a very therapist-approved way. I think I'm impressed. Vern says it's about discovering "the great undiscovered talent."

The designers return. Clive has the team leaders step forward. Team Tym gets the victory. They can go hide in the green room. Donna was mediocre but her team squeaked through. They also get to hide in the green room. Clive announces that Team Joseph had the most disappointing room. Vern tells Joseph that he has potential, but they didn't see any of it this week. Joseph accepts responsibility for what happened. Martha has one word for Vanessa: "Plates." Vanessa, shocked, says, "The plates weren't my idea." Alice looks ticked. It seems like Martha was trying to pin all the blame for the plates on Vanessa, which really would have been unfair, and that's what Vanessa was reacting to. But she should have said it was a team decision, not that it wasn't her decision at all. But it seems what Martha was getting at was that last week's winner and a designer with seven years' experience (see, this is why you shouldn't brag) should have known better. Alice has something to say, if she can get it out through her tears. She's not trying to defend herself, but the wrong team is in the studio. They were given several judging criteria (that would have been nice to see). This team was good with budget and they were good with teamwork. The team members are holding hands. They all thought Joseph was a good, democratic leader and Vanessa endorsed the plates. "If he goes, then we need to go, because every decision we made in that room was a group decision." The judges are touched, but Vern says it comes down to the room. It will always come down to the room.

Clive tells Alice that her work was "judged as solid." She is dismissed. Alice stands there. She can see what's going to happen and she hates it and she wants to do something, but there's nothing she can do. Finally she walks out.

Joseph gets the boot. Vanessa tells him she's sorry; she disappointed him. She's crying as he leaves. Joseph thought he might be able to make it to the final four. But he figured it was more important to have a cohesive team that believed in the project than to have a miserable team. Well, yeah. But you still need a decent design.

Vanessa returns to the green room. No cheers or hugs. Vanessa asks Alice what's wrong. Alice is upset by Vanessa denying responsibility for the plates when it was a team choice. Vanessa agrees; she even said it was a team choice. That's not how Alice reads it. Vanessa says, "Whatever." Temple interjects that they need to not tear each other down. Alice points out that Temple was arguing with Donna. Temple says that's because Donna was trying to compete with her. Well, duh. It's a competition, Temple. Teman has had enough. He tells them to knock it off or they'll be out, too. Temple pouts that she would rather just go home to her family if this is the way it's going to be, with everyone fighting all the time. She can't believe people are acting like this. Oh, piffle. She was a pageant girl, she knows from cutthroat competitors. I'm sure she's seen far worse than people arguing.

Was the right team left in the studio? If it really does come down to the room, then yes, I think so. The only good things about the living room were the drapes and the shelves under that high feature window. The refurbished love seat was an ugly patchwork and far too small for the space, especially with only a single chair to keep it company. The glass table and the open back chairs (scavenged from the kitchen team) at the narrow end of the room had no presence; a tablecloth would have helped give that grouping some weight. The table and two chairs in the middle of the room were awkwardly positioned, but that's partly due to the malformation of the main seating area. I like the red of the curtains but it doesn't entirely blend with the dark wine of the chair leather. The striped panels were too contemporary; I would have used the paisley that Vanessa liked so much for the sofa. I don't think Joseph took a dive for the paint incident. I think he was booted for winding up with a muddled room. Leadership isn't the same thing as tyranny; a strong, clear vision would have helped the room and the team.

Team Donna made some improvement to the kitchen, if only by covering up the teacup wallpaper and decluttering. Since the terracotta tile was on the backsplash as well as the floor, and couldn't be entirely obscured, I think they should have brought in more golds and red to help the tile make sense. By making the room more neutral, they made the tile stand out more. Oh, and give Temple a can of black appliance paint for the big white refrigerator.

So Team Tym had the only room that showed significant improvement. As Teman predicted, they got a huge value just from painting over the murals. The style of the room is too modern for the house and the floor is probably not a keeper. But it's easy to cover that floor with something new, so it's much better than the seafoam green carpet. The deep brown was a good choice, but I agree with Vern that they needed to do more with color. I think they could have skipped painting the brick wall with the fireplace; that would have given them the color difference to make it a focal point and the brick looked like it would work with their palette.

At this point, Alice is the only woman I'm rooting for. Donna's all right, but I haven't been impressed with anything but her ability to shop. (But since HGTV seems to be turning into the channel of stuff to buy, perhaps a shopping show would fit right in.) Of the guys, Teman seems to be the choice for snappy comments, so that bodes well for him. David seems sensible and I liked his bedroom artwork. Tym has done interesting work so far and seems to be a good, organized leader. Teran hasn't really distinguished himself yet, but I haven't seen any real negatives except in his wardrobe. So it's still a wide open race at this point.

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