Thursday, August 17, 2006


The Power of Positive Thinking

Previously on Design Star: Clive recaps everything since the beginning. Picking up where I left off: Vanessa and Teman got the boot, leaving Teran to forge on as a solo act.

Morning. Waking people. David comes to visit the Scary Lime room. Donna asks how Teran is doing. David reports that he's bummed, having lost both a roomie and a twin. Alice and Teran join the others; it looks like David has made tea. Teran interviews that he has to be more focused, but it's harder now.

Clive arrives and summons them to the family room. He gives them the next challenge, which will require both design and presentation skills. One designer will be eliminated after the presentations and another after the project is complete. Donna interviews that the rapid pace of dismissals is "gettin' kinda scary." The clients are Tom and Kelley, a couple who got suckered into entering an HGTV sweepstakes for a $10,000 room makeover. Naturally, they chose their kitchen. The submission video shows an ordinary Cape house in Stratford, Connecticut. I wonder how they would have handled it if the winning couple had been in, say, Alabama. They have bad linoleum and too many appliances (including washer and dryer) smushed into a smallish eat-in kitchen. The countertops are pink laminate with a silver trim. Kelly is hoping for granite counters, terracotta tile, stainless steel appliances (including the addition of a dishwasher) and Tuscan colors. David interviews that the kitchen was "horrible" and needed a lot of work. Clive gives them one day to come up with their designs, which they'll present to Tom and Kelley. One designer will get the boot. The remaining designers will travel to Connecticut and complete the winning design with 32 hours of work time. All the designers laugh at the time limit. Tym interviews that he has experience with kitchens and a major remodel just won't fit within the time limits. Everyone has an information packet, so it's off to their workroom to get designing. Temple interviews that the time limit is tight, but you just have to keep your eye on the goal and get it done.

Tym introduces a trip to a local kitchen/bath store to shop for ideas. Donna tells him that it's the biggest challenge yet. Tym recognizes the risk: you can win the first part of the challenge and then get booted for not delivering. Temple voiceovers that they could pick out samples of things like paint, flooring and fabric for their presentations.

Donna is right about the challenge: kitchens are the biggest deal to design. They're chock full of specialized equipment and finishes, plus they're highly functional (essentially domestic manufacturing spaces). In reality, if you want a kitchen remodel, you should find a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD) who specifically does kitchens and follows all the new products and knows what is cost-effective. At least find someone who does kitchens regularly.

Back in the work room, it's 10 pm. Tym announces to the group that budget is not the limiting factor; time is. He interviews that his pitch will be the "voice of reason." As they work, Tym tells Alice that no one's going to get any sleep, and Alice agrees. Her design will be warm and friendly, with the stainless steel providing a sleek element. At 4:26 am, we get our first shot of shirtless David (drink!) illustrating his design. He's feeling the pressure of higher expectations, but he has "technically" never done a kitchen before. At 5:30 am, people are still up, working on their boards. Donna figures she's had about 10 hours of sleep for the week. Temple goes into personal rah-rah mode, declaring that she's going to make a win happen. The clients will be happy if they choose her. David and Alice would like Temple to get off her own bandwagon.

The wee hours of morning turn into the not-so-wee hours. Tym comes downstairs to find Donna and Teran pulled an all-nighter. Donna is now "beyond tired." David interviews that everyone's nervous about the clients choosing who goes.

The clients arrive. Alice is first up. But instead of seeing the actual presentations, we get a montage. Way to let us see the designers' work, people. The designers greet the couple. Teran is having trouble keeping his boards on the easel. Tym explains how he sees time as the biggest constraint, even moreso than budget. Teran puts his boards on the coffee table. Temple has a view of the room from the entry, but it's too small to see well. Alice talks about how Tom does the cooking, so he needs convenience. She has the old design overlaid with her new design. Teran has a wall which folds around to hide the refrigerator. Tom asks why he put the refrigerator so far across from the sink and the stove; Teran promises that it will all make sense. David and Tym both show the stainless steel appliances in their budget. They look like the same set of stainless steel appliances (including a mixer). I detect the hand of a sponsor. David wants to talk about the problem areas, like the floor. He thinks tile is a problem with their time limit. Alice proposes getting the same look with vinyl. Tym has areas of slate. Donna proposes a travertine floor. Teran suggests a wooden floor with a dark, dark stain. Temple wants to install 1x8 pine planks as the floor; it's really inexpensive. David would love to do a black granite tile, but the time constraints might force him to use laminate. Alice is also talking laminate, but with a nice edge finish instead of silver strips. Teran thinks glass or even plexiglass would be interesting. Tym doesn't want to remove the cabinets. David proposes staining around the edges; Alice would add molding. Donna wants to reconfigure a section of cabinets. Temple wants to try to get them new cabinets. Tym has the dishwasher across from the sink, inside a pantry cabinet. Clive asks Donna about counterspace and she draws a blank. Tom gets Temple to confirm that she wants to replace all the kitchen cabinets. Downstairs, David joins Teran on the floor, stretching out to await a decision.

Kelley loves David's presentation; it's how she envisioned things. David is very nervous. Clive asks about Teran, and Kelley is stumped about the fridge location. Tom likes Alice because she spoke from experience. I catch a glimpse of the stupid mural behind Tom. Why has no one painted over that yet? I can understand the designers being too busy, but surely somebody on the crew could spare an hour. They have to be as tired of it as everyone else. Alice is feeling "okay" but still a little nervous. Tom likes Tym's pantry and the possibility of hiding the dishwasher. Tym wants to win, but his feelings about winning have changed since the beginning. Kelley also likes Temple's design, especially the way she angled the countertops at the ends of the cabinetry runs. She's not so fond of Donna's presentation, especially the cabinet reconfiguration. Donna is convinced she's going home. Temple tells her to "think positive."

I'm worried about the dishwasher across from the sink and the refrigerator across the room. There are two major philosophies of kitchen design. The work triangle places the sink, stove and refrigerator in a triangle with the sides adding up to between 9 and 22 feet, so you can move efficiently around the kitchen. The zone approach creates areas for specific activities like prep, cooking and clean-up. The dishwasher is part of the clean-up area, near the sink; you also want it near the cabinets that hold the dishes. The refrigerator is part of the prep zone and should be near a sink, as well. Beyond that, I didn't see enough of the designs to have any idea how they'll work, and that sucks. If you're going to the trouble and expense of a remodel, you should get a good, workable layout. I like Alice's idea of adding molding to the cabinets to dress them up. I'm not so sure about Donna's marble floor, since that would need sealing; I hope it's marble-look tile.

The designers return for the clients' decision. Kelley thanks them for all their hard work. Temple wins. Everyone claps. She interviews that this is unexpected; she only took a drafting class in high school. Clive tells her there's a lot of work ahead. David interviews that Temple was too ambitious and promised the clients too much. Teran is cancelled. Hugs all around. Alice interviews that she felt sad, because she likes him. Teran interviews that you have to be at your best, or you go home. Overall, it has been a rewarding experience. I'm not surprised he got the boot; architects are notorious for wacky kitchen designs. But that was pretty anticlimactic.

The next day(?), the designers arrive in Connecticut. Temple is excited; she knows the team will get the job done if they just stay positive. She goes over things with the team. They don't know what will be behind the backsplash. Tym warns that pulling out the moldings could damage the wall; she knows, but encourages positive thinking. (Are you starting to see a trend?) Alice is worried about all the work: "We're handy but we're not contractors." Temple encourages everyone to be open; she won't be offended. Tym interviews that it quickly became apparent that Temple had pitched more than they could manage.

Temple assigns Tym and David to start on the demolition while she takes Donna and Alice shopping so they can look over curtains. Okay, why do we need three people to go shopping? With 30 hours left, the guys start tearing out as the gals head out. At the store, Temple goes for cabinets. Donna worries that Temple and Alice will drop one on their heads, but they get it down safely. Donna and Alice load the boxes onto a hand truck.

With 28 hours left, David asks Tym what he thinks about Temple's plan to redo the upper cabinets. Tym's not behind it; it would be easier with "traditional" cabinets but that's not what they have. He interviews that he has hung cabinets before, and he thinks there's just not enough time to do everything promised. The womenfolk look at countertops. Temple is sure the "boys" are working away.

With 27 hours left, David and Tym discuss how they both had the dishwasher across the room because they were worried about fitting it in next to the sink. Now that he's in the space, David realizes his design would have worked beautifully. Tym "ahems" to point out he's not the only one. Donna asks Temple if they're going to fill in the knots of the pine floorboards; Temple just wants to sand them down for safety but keep them "imperfected." The guys are having trouble removing the cabinet next to the sink. Tym is reluctant to chop it up.

With 26 hours left, the ladies hit the paint store. Donna interviews that she had issues with the paint, because the clients asked for Tuscan colors. She warns Temple that her color choices are neutral, but they also have to think about the judges and introducing color somehow. Temple says she's only concerned with making the homeowners happy. Which doesn't explain why she's doing a mushroom kitchen for people who want Tuscany.

The females return to the house with 24 hours left. That's 6 hours of shopping and demolition. I find this worrisome. Demolition should go really fast -- my kitchen and bath were gutted within 2 hours -- and a total of 8 hours without getting anything started is just not a good thing with their schedule. Temple explains to the team that "all we have to do" is demo the old stuff out and install the new stuff. Well, that describes any remodel. She wants everything to go. The team rebels. Temple argues that the clients chose her, and she proposed new cabinets. She interviews that the team didn't think it could be done. So, Temple, you know how you're always saying that this is a wonderful opportunity to learn from people with more experience? Now would be a good time for that. Temple argues that she hasn't hung cabinets before, but she has hung heavy shelves. Tym and David argue that they're not the same thing. 23 hours on the clock. Tym interviews about the intricacies of hanging cabinets. And he's right, it's fiddly work. If you want it done fast, you need people who do it a lot. David would like to work with the existing cabinets. Temple reminds them that they have to replace the base cabinet where the dishwasher is going. She's sure she can get the cabinet out, even if she breaks it. Tym interviews that he and David already spent an hour on it. The cabinet is ancient and glued together. I see the problem -- with all the gluing, there's a risk of damaging the adjacent sink cabinet if you try to bash it out. Temple is all for ruining the base cabinet. Tym should just trust her. She interviews that the team doesn't believe in how much can be done; she can't change them and she can't do everything herself.

With 21 hours remaining, Tym pries the base cabinet away from the sink cabinet. Finally he gets it free. Temple interviews that they decided to refinish the cabinets. She applies a stain to a sanded door, but it looks just like the existing cabinets. The clock is at 18 hours. (That's 14 hours on site.) Temple wishes they had gone with the demolition. David and Tym remind her of the lack of time. Temple interviews that she has proved people wrong before when they said something couldn't be done. She wants Tym to see that he isn't giving himself enough credit. Temple proposes a creamy off-white paint with a tea-stain glaze. "Gorgeous," David approves. As she paints, Donna lists the things that the clients wanted but aren't getting -- so far, it's paint color and cabinets. Maybe this is not the best time to be bringing that up. Temple says if they don't like it, she'll be going home.

The next morning, Temple calls a pep rally. She interviews that she was unhappy with how things had gone and she wanted them all to believe in her. She passes out little notes for everyone. Everyone aws. David and Alice and Tym read from their letters. Donna just summarizes. Temple tells everyone they can make the kitchen "awesome" because the clients are excited and they're excited for the clients. Tym is touched. Temple sobs in an interview that she just wanted them all to know that she wasn't trying to drag them down. Donna cynically finds the notes a manipulative ploy, which, well, that's what pep rallies are. Morale is nice and all, but I'd be more inspired by a project plan. Temple goes around the room to make sure everyone has something to do that makes them feel good. As they scatter for their appointed tasks, Donna snots that maybe they'll get another note if they're good. Okay, not helpful.

Clive drops in for a tour. He asks for a quick update first. Temple tells him that everything in the plan has changed. Inside, they've started putting the wood floor down (that hasn't changed). The countertops are a granite-look laminate; only one section looks installed. The cabinets are primed and painted; they'll do molding if they have time. Clive starts to say that it would be an improvement even if they stopped now, but that isn't quite true. He warns them that they're about halfway through the schedule. He'll be back to put a stop to the work. Temple hopes they'll be finished. Clive is sure they will be, but then he spots a flock of pigs through the window. Everyone laughs, at least until he leaves.

With 11 hours on the clock, Donna hits the furniture stores to find a dinette set. Temple works on the floors. Tym tiles the backsplash. Donna naps in the van and then shops some more.

It's now dark and there are 5 hours left. David is putting the stain on the cabinets. It's coming out yellow; he thinks it's boring. Temple likes the white better. Donna returns with Tym's caulk. He wants latex but not clear. It's latex but clear. Donna says that's all the store had. Tym doesn't call her a liar, but he's "perplexed" because he shops there all the time.

Tym and David warn Temple that they still have a lot to do. She knows, but they still have two hours the next day. It shouldn't take all that long to hang the cabinet, right? Tym is like, okay, here we go again. He interviews that to Temple, everything "just takes a second." She says the countertops will be done in two minutes. Tym disagrees. Temple argues that you just measure it and cut it. I suspect there's some kind of adhesive involved as well, at least if you want them to stay attached to the cabinets. Tym wants a plan. Temple says they're not going to get done if everyone keeps being negative. Tym argues that not talking about things is not the same as making a plan. He explains what a plan is. Temple thinks they're "basically done." Tym disagrees. Temple asks for a list of what's left. Tym starts listing. Temple says "Okay" but Tym has barely started. He grumps that she asked him a question and then she's talking before she lets him answer. Temple cries in an interview that she doesn't mind being the leader (so why is she crying?) but it's hard to have people "looking at you and judging you completely." Sounds a lot like a beauty pageant to me.

Donna gripes that the cabinets "look like crap." Temple thinks the white is fine. Donna wonders why it wasn't a group decision. It was a group decision; if she had gotten back from shopping sooner, it would have been a larger group. Alice tells Donna to just work. Donna thinks Temple doesn't listen to anyone. Temple tells Donna that she needs to grow up. She cries some more in her interview that it's really hard to stay motivated, especially when the negativity comes from Donna. Why Donna especially? She doesn't even like Donna. Seems to me that it would hurt more to be dissed by someone she respects.

Morning again. They have 2 hours to wrap it up. Tym interviews that "everyone but Temple" knew they couldn't get it all finished. Tym grouts. Temple and David work on getting the refrigerator in while Alice and Donna hang window treatments. Tym comes out and reports that he's out of grout. Temple replies that the guy at the store said what they had would be plenty. Looks like store guy was wrong. David on-the-spot interviews that he doubts they'll get everything done. Temple interviews that they had to remove the refrigerator doors to get it in to the kitchen, and that took time. Probably more than just a second. They have 30 minutes to go. David and Temple slide in the dishwasher. 20 minutes to go. Temple asks Tym why he isn't doing the mortar and Tym says he's out. Temple is impressed that he finished so fast, and Tym repeats that there was only enough to do the tiles behind the stove. 10 minutes left. Donna paints a cabinet door. David works on door hardware. Temple looks for L-brackets to install the countertops. Tym is outside working at a trash barrel and the brackets are next to him. But when Temple asks the question, he's inside grouting the backsplash behind the stove. (Nice editing.) Tym reports that he recalls seeing the brackets but he doesn't remember where. Alice volunteers to look in the basement and Temple goes with her. She goes back into the kitchen to ask everyone there to think. Donna bets they're in the dining room. Tym reports that Temple is still trying to finish everything that got started. Temple tells the camera they'll have to do a cosmetic installation for now. As she checks the van, she gripes to Tym that she brings stuff right into the kitchen. He countercomplains about her lack of follow-through. 2 minutes left. Temple runs through the kitchen to set down a piece of countertop next to the fridge.

Clive arrives to stop the work. He says the room is completely different than the day before. Alice interviews that sure, it's beautiful, but you can see the subfloor through the cracks of the surface material. If you spill milk, it's going to seep through the cracks. "That's bad," she whispers in horror. Okay, rancid milk between the floorboards definitely qualifies as scary. Clive sends everyone off to get ready for the studio. Temple interviews that she is sure she has more at stake than the others.

The studio. Clive handles the usual housekeeping. Vern looks taken aback by the time limit for the challenge. Clive asks Temple about her design. She talks about having to merge all the things the couple had asked for. There's a "before" look at the kitchen. I wonder where the laundry machines wound up. I can't see having them in the kitchen if I had any other choice, so what happened? Now for the finished product. There's a shot of the finished kitchen and then some close-ups on some of the features. Temple beams. The walls are a dark greenish-brown neutral; the cabinets are white with bigger hardware. The countertops are laminate with the look of black granite and the backsplash is 2" tiles in a variety of earthy colors. The floor is pine planking with a tea-colored stain. The windows have tan and rust valances; the dinette is a dark brown. There's a new dishwasher next to the sink; across from that is the refrigerator flanked by two small counters. I can't see the cabinets well enough to tell how they've done blending new with old.

Cynthia thinks the floor and the backsplash made a big difference, as well as the new appliances. The one thing that didn't fit was the stark white of the cabinets -- not exactly Tuscan. Yes, but it's the only thing keeping the room from being completely cave-like. Vern damns the wall color with faint praise. He's happy they didn't mess with the original sink. (It's a huge, double-bowl porcelain farmhouse sink -- old-fashioned but highly functional.) Clive continues that it looked good on first impression, and David nods like he knows what's coming. The video shows Clive wandering around finding fault. Lots of missing switchplates, problems with cabinet doors, countertops aren't attached. Clive asks the judges if the time was sufficient. Vern thinks they could have done what Temple proposed but that requires a "good assessment" of the team's capabilities. Well, I think Vern could have done it, but he has experience planning for efficiency under time constraints. Temple tries to blame Tym for overselling himself, but he ain't having it. Tym once again explains about hanging cabinets, and Temple interrupts. She wants to say something, but Tym thinks she's had plenty to say. She protests that she hasn't gotten her own say about anything. Tym tells her to go, and informs the judges that this was a typical exchange. Temple starts to go into a for instance, but Vern cuts her off. (I love Vern.) He tells her that she has to be able to execute everything on her own if she has to. Martha asks what her plan was. Temple says she gave a pep talk. Martha wants to know about tasks. Temple says she went around the room to see what people wanted to work on. Vern is disappointed, because this is a house belonging to real people. Cynthia adds that kitchen, more than any other room, has to function, and this one didn't.

Clive reveals that HGTV sent in a clean-up squad of contractors to fix everything up before bringing in the homeowners. Next is footage of Tom and Kelley seeing their new kitchen. Of course they're freaking out, because it's not their ugly old kitchen. I want to see footage of them after they've used it for a week. Not that I feel sorry for them. Tym, Alice and David all talked about the time constraints, but they let their greed overrule their good sense. Temple starts crying as she tells everyone that she's proud of making the family happy and she's proud of what she did, and she thanks everyone for all their work. Clive asks David who he would boot if it were up to him. David hates the question, but Martha says they just want input. David finally offers up Donna. She worked as hard as anyone, but she would be the easiest to cover for. Alice volunteers Temple "because of inexperience, not because of talent." Temple of course picks Donna, for not coming to her looking for solutions as the others did. Tym picks Temple for "lack of planning and lack of listening." Donna of course picks Temple because the project was "chaotic."

Clive sends the designers away so the judges can talk. Vern thinks it's a tricky position -- happy to be chosen but worried about being a target. Martha was not pleased to hear about Temple's lack of experience; she considers that a negative. Vern thinks she has talent, so it's a matter of weighing what's important. Temple tells the others she had the plan in her head, and she just wanted to get things done. Maybe getting the plan out of her head would have helped. Cynthia thinks Temple's failings can be remedied, but Donna can't be trained in aesthetics. Martha's not convinced that organization and leadership can be taught, either. I'd say in both cases, you need a certain amount of natural aptitude or the training's not going to stick. Alice recalls that the team leader got booted the last time a team failed, and this team failed. Vern wonders, if you have a plan that can be executed but the design sucks, is that any better? He doesn't think so. Alice wonders if they'll look at cumulative performance. Nice segue to Cynthia asking at what point are they going to start judging cumulatively. Martha wants to focus on execution, but Cynthia wants to look at who was the least productive. Temple says, "If you have a leader, you don't question, you just go." Would that be the philosophy she used when Donna was the team leader? 'Cause I wasn't seeing it. Temple thinks that they might have finished the project. It would be really tempting to just shut up and do whatever Temple said and let her hang herself, but I think that would be a dangerous move with these judges. They're not going to let you out of your responsibility to the client just because your team leader can't plan. But it would have been really interesting to see how far they got.

The designers return for judgment. Cynthia reports that they almost had a hung jury. Vern warns them that they're doing cumulative judging. Clive summons Donna and Temple. Martha beats up Temple for her lack of execution and her inability to get along. Vern tells Donna that they appreciate her hard work, but she hasn't made her mark as a designer. Clive tells Temple that her design won, but only because she promised more than the others. Her leadership and decision-making put the project at risk. Donna could have made more progress and contributed more. She is cancelled. Donna and Temple hug, and Donna leaves. She feels she "never had the chance to shine" and she'd like to be known as something other than the "Tchotchke Queen." But she did learn from week to week, so it was a good experience. It was pretty clear from day one that Donna was out of her element, so it's kind of impressive that she hung on so long.

Clive tells the remaining designers that the remaining challenges will be individual efforts, so they'll have no one to blame but themselves. Temple interviews that she knew she deserved to stay over Donna, so she just had to trust in the judges. Okay, I'm officially tired of Temple. I'm sure she calls it "thinking positive" but it's starting to look like Vanessa's sense of entitlement, and I don't need any more of that. She wants to play the "inexperienced" card when she does well, so she looks more impressive, but she doesn't want her inexperience held against her when she messes up. If she wants to compete with the big dogs, she can't be shrugging to the judges that she's just a little dog and they can't expect her to be a big dog. If she can't step up and be a big dog, she doesn't belong. I'm sure Donna hasn't wielded a paintbrush in years, but we didn't see her whine to the judges that the challenges aren't what a real designer is used to and they can't expect her to be a contractor. If Temple were really interested in learning from Donna, that would be lesson one.

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