Tuesday, September 05, 2006


No Stones, Please

Previously on Design Star: Everything. David, Alice and Tym scattered across the country to create dream rooms for three contest winners. Cynthia thought everyone was talented. Tym got the boot. David and Alice hugged. And previews of stuff that I'm going to wind up describing anyway, so why duplicate effort?

Clive is in Bryant Park, where two glass houses have been constructed in a stone plaza by a fountain. He urges "America" to watch and vote both at the HGTV web site and by text message. They have confusingly designated the letter "A" for David and the letter "B" for Alice. Why on earth wouldn't you use A for Alice? Seriously, what were they thinking? Here I've been watching this show all these weeks, and I've had some questions about things here and there, but I assumed that the people in charge were reasonably intelligent and had some idea of what they were doing, and now I find out they're really morons. It's disappointing.

Anyway, Alice and David have had a chance to go home and repair their sleep deficits. But now they're returning to New York and they have no idea what awaits them. David gets off a product-placed plane and walks through the airport. He interviews that he feels the pressure but he's not going to let it freak him out. Alice has her product-placed arrival. She interviews that the rest has done them good, and now they're recharged and ready to get to it. As he rides in a non-product-placed van, David explains that you can't prepare for a challenge when you have no idea what it is, so you just have to rely on your instincts. He arrives at a product-placed hotel. In her non-product-placed van, Alice recognizes that this last challenge could be "life-changing" and she's had a lot of anxiety, wondering what it will be. She also arrives at the product-placed hotel, whose lobby is entirely too red for me.

Upstairs, David finds a fancy-shmancy suite. He interviews that he really wants to win. Alice arrives and they hug and rock. She interviews that it's an "honor" to compete against David. They laugh at the suite's artwork, which was apparently transported from the brownstone's parlor. Alice interviews that she respects his talents, and that pushes her to step up her game. They talk about what might be in store. David doesn't want a makeover. Alice doesn't want a kitchen. David interviews that they've become close, even though they're so different. Alice interviews that she'll be happy for David if he wins. She wants it, but she wants it for him, too. They both say they'll be okay with losing to the other. They toast.

Morning. They're having tea in their bathrobes when Clive arrives (not wearing a bathrobe). David interviews about wondering just to drag out the suspense. Clive delivers the challenge parameters: individual spaces, 26 hours to work, shopping, access to tools. He'll meet them at the challenge location.

Now dressed, Alice and David ride in a big, black limo. (David opens the door for Alice because he's a gentleman.) In the car, they both wish Clive had been just a tad more forthcoming. They like having an even playing field. The limo arrives at the park and they get their first glimpse of the glass houses. David interviews that he was expecting something crazy, but not this. Bystanders cheer. Alice interviews that her reaction to the glass houses was, "Oh, my." Clive welcomes them. He reveals that they can create any room they want. The clock starts ticking. Alice and David marvel that they can do anything. They wish each other luck and get to work.

Alice interviews that this is the hardest challenge -- "the dilemma of choice." If you can do anything, how do you choose? David interviews that his brain hurts from thinking about everything, not just the view from the inside but the view from the outside. He's having a hard time grappling with it all. After taking measurements, they emerge from their respective houses and spot Jay McCarroll from season 1 of Project Runway, which is the model for this show. He doesn't flee at their approach, so they get to talk to him. Jay's advice is, "Have it represent you. This is not the time to pull out some kind of like surprise statement. But don't play it safe, either." (By the way, the closed captions suck.) He wishes them luck. That was pretty cool. Best of luck at Fashion Week, Jay!

Next stop is a product-placed flooring trailer. Alice selects a bamboo floor in a natural finish. David has a "stunning" hand-carved teak. Now they're free to run around and go shopping. This is a prospecting trip rather than a buying trip. David interviews that they wanted to hit as many stores as possible to get information. Alice interviews about the inside/outside perspective on the room.

David gets back to the hotel first and looks pooped, but gets to work on his design. Alice comes back and they talk things over. She interviews that she feels worried about time; she needs to shop some more, and that means nothing will be happening on the room. David interviews that a carpenter would be really nice.

Another morning. David interviews that he worked out the concept -- Japanese -- but he needs more time. Alice has decided on a child's room. They're both worried about time. They arrive at the park to find "the dreaded paint cans." Clive recaps the voting procedure. The clock has 21 hours on it. Clive announces that he's "brought some friends" to help out. Temple and Tym climb out of a cab. Hugs all around. Tym cut his hair! I like it better; he's not so fluffy-looking. Clive explains the process: one paint can has a star. That person picks who they'll work with today. They'll switch on the second day. So that evens things out pretty well. David has the star. He picks Tym to handle the building while he shops.

The designers take their helpers into the space and review the plans. David has a big headboard. He tells Tym that Alice is doing a children's room, which is funny because that's what David does professionally. Alice talks about her colors and a hanging lantern. They all head out. Alice relates that she has shopped with Temple before, and she "makes great suggestions," so it should be a good team effort. The floors are installed in their absence. David and Tym are at the lumberyard; David wants to let Tym get to work on the bed. David is happy with his labor strategy. Alice picks out some furniture. David consults about fabric to drape his bed and buys stuff. Tym builds. Buy, buy, buy. Alice still needs to find beds and still needs time. Back at Bryant Square, Tym builds and someone wishes him luck. He interviews about all the nice people who came by to watch. He even signs some autographs. Hey, slacker, shouldn't you be working? Alice returns to find a family from New Jersey brandishing a supportive poster. She tells them she'll try not to disappoint them.

Tym unveils the completed headboard. He and David manage to squeeze it through the doors (Tym measured -- accurately, thank goodness). Alice and Temple work on art. Alice is glad they're not rushing through it last minute and just slapping it on. At the end of the day, Clive arrives with pizza. The teams have a little pizza picnic and discuss their progress. Alice is still worried about time and finding everything. She interviews that the others assured her she'd be fine, but what else could they say? David tells Temple and Tym that he and Alice are so happy to have their help, because they were freaking out about time. They share a toast. It's nice to see them all together, getting along so well. Not many reality shows would have this kind of camaraderie amongst the final four.

The next day, we skip the wakey-wakey shots and get right to the park. Temple and Tym are waiting as Alice and David arrive. David reviews the plan with Temple. She interviews that David knows how hard she can work. Alice shows Tym pictures of some of her items. David wants to make a shoji screen. Alice discusses her headboard plan with Tym. They go out shopping while Temple and David build. David gets Temple started on the vellum shoji effect on the back wall and heads out. Alice finds a rug that she likes and some drapes that she's not crazy about, but she needs something. On returning, David is happy that Temple is burning through her list of chores. Work work work. David is creating an indoor/outdoor box. He tells Temple that he's nervous because he knows Alice will do something great. Tym and Alice hang her light fixture. She says she loves it, but perhaps she's too tired to work up any real enthusiasm.

Clive arrives in the rain to announce three visitors: the (former) judges. Alice interviews that she was surprised to see all three; one or two dropping by was all she expected. Hugs. David interviews that he was worried about their feedback. His room goes first. He explains that he's doing a Zen bedroom inspired by all the glass. Vern likes that he's doing fewer things, but on a bolder scale. Martha asks about color; David says it will be minimal. Vern would like even just a pop of color. Cynthia asks about schedule and David tells them that Temple is the hardest worker amongst the four. Temple interviews that it was nice to be praised like that. The judges decide to leave before David kicks them out so he can get back to work.

Over in Alice's room, she says her inspiration came from the park, and it seemed natural to do a child's room. Vern likes the glass dots on the upper walls; he and Martha want more of them for a bigger statement. Alice is fresh out but she might be able to get more. Cynthia worries that the curtains in the corners are "obvious." Martha thinks the curtains are too "rooted in reality" for a fantasy room. Cynthia wants "bigger and bolder strokes" and something soft for the floor. Alice tells them about her rug; they all seem dumbfounded by the proposed yellow color. Vern urges her to follow her instincts but go bolder.

Alice interviews that she appreciated the judges' advice but it made her nervous. She reviews that they didn't like the curtains, they didn't like the rug. Tym asks her what America will like, and that calms her down. She goes out shopping again, making some adjustments. Work work shop work. Alice returns with more glass dots. Tym interviews that she had a plan worked out when she came back.

As darkness falls, Clive arrives to stop the work. They'll have one hour to finish everything tomorrow. Alice interviews that she still has a lot left to do. Clive explains that they'll do on-camera presentations of their rooms. David interviews that he's nervous about that part, because he hasn't done well before. Clive recaps the voting instructions yet again and sends Temple and Tym away. Alice is bummed; she could use the help.

Ah, the wakey-wakey shots are back. It's early in the morning, still dark. Also, still rainy. At Bryant Park, the designers wish each other luck and charge into the last hour. Alice has to rush through a lot of last-minute stuff, like making the beds. David is shirtless again. It seems to be his typical response to stress. Work work rush work. They pass countdown ticks back and forth. Clive calls time. David puts on a shirt. Clive reviews the contest and it's time for the presentations. The judges will be on hand to watch and critique, but the decision is no longer theirs.

See Alice's room at HGTV.com

Alice interviews that the judges had her a little worried, but she felt fine on camera. She calls her room an "Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass-inspired children's bedroom." I like the name, but I don't think it really comes out in the room. You need flamingos and playing cards and grinning cats and a tea party for that name. Vern thinks the colors are "really popping on camera." Alice describes using color, functionality, shapes and graphic images. Martha is impressed with her presence. Alice advises parents to include pick some grown-up pieces instead of sticking only to kids furniture.

The judges love the presentation; now it's time to see the room up close. Alice, David and Clive stand outside and watch. The judges all call it "cute." Martha would like to see more references to the Alice in Wonderland theme, like maybe mirrors. Vern would like the beds facing the park instead of the street. Alice is trying to suss out what they're saying. So am I. Cynthia says something about the twin beds with dresser between; it seems disapproving, but I can't make it out and the stupid captions don't include it. Vern thinks Alice is being true to her femininity. Martha likes the rug, but maybe not for this room. Vern likes the mix of child and adult in the furniture. Cynthia tries out the polar bear rocker. Clive is pretty sure that's a good sign. Martha doesn't get the artwork. Vern likes the messages, but Martha and Cynthia would rather see them spelled out in the room rather than literally spelled out. But overall, they give her a lot of credit for pulling it all together in the allotted time.

I think it's a room with some interesting elements that didn't cohere into a single statement. I like that it's colorful, but I don't see the method behind the color choices. Also, the two canvases bother me; it just seem strange to have something that solid hanging on the glass walls. I think she should have used colored window plastic to dress up the walls and ceiling. Initially, I didn't much care for the yellow rug, but now I wonder if she wanted it to blend in with the bamboo floors. I'm not impressed with the headboards; I think they could have made more impact with color, but that would require choosing specific colors to highlight rather than working with a kaleidoscope. Vern has a point about arranging the beds to see the view, but I think that would cut down on the space available for playing. I do like how she worked in some storage pieces; the locker storage unit is a good choice for a kid's room.

See David's room at HGTV.com

Now it's David's turn. He takes a minute to pray and collect himself. The first feature he describes is the indoor/outdoor box. The judges think his presentation style has improved. He talks about some of the elements in the room, including the lighting, with which he's obsessed. But first, check out the floors. While his manner has improved, his presentation content isn't nearly as polished as Alice's; he jumps around a lot. Vern thinks he's "Mr. Smooth." He talks about the sculpture and the lighting. Vern loves the lights.

The judges go in to inspect. Vern finds the room "sophisticated." More attempts to deduce the judges' opinions by David, Alice and Clive. Too bad none of 'em know how to lip read. Martha wants the pebble rug he put outside the door. Vern longs for just a spot of color. Martha guesses he didn't want to take their advice. Cynthia figures it's a confident room, so he doesn't care what they think. David tells Alice and Clive about the judges' color suggestion. Martha and Vern agree it's serene. They all stretch out on the bed and marvel at the view. Then they test out the chairs. The view into the room is good, too. Martha calls it "transporting."

This room makes a much stronger and more coherent visual statement than Alice's, but is it a room that could be lived in? I don't like the placement of a tall lamp on one side of the bed; that's just asking for an accident. There's no storage, although there's room on the bed platform to set down a book. I don't know why anyone would need three chairs in a bedroom -- does the middle one serve as an occasional table for the outer two? -- and the chairs don't look all that comfy. I do, however, love the indoor/outdoor box, the headboard and the drapes over the bed. Now, if he had just added a nice green pillow in the middle of the bed, Vern and I would both be so happy.

Vern sums it up that the judges are proud of all of them and they both deserve to be there. Hugs!

Under a big umbrella, Clive kicks off a recap of each designer. Lots of happy stuff. Yay, designers! We see Alice's room again and then David's. Clive recaps the voting thing yet again, and we're done.

If only I knew how to vote....

This challenge didn't change my mind about anything. David has a very strong visual sense and experience has improved his presentation style, but he needs a writer. As a designer, Alice is less artistic and more functional; as a presenter, she's smoother and more organized. They both have their strong points. As for who would be best suited for a show, it depends on the show. Either one could do well with the right format. So this whole final challenge was kind of a waste of time. The main problem is that it once again squashed the design process into a very unreasonable timeframe. This makes for good television (presumably) but the design suffers for it. If you really want to see what designers can do, give them a couple of weeks to put a room together and let them shop from the resources they're already familiar with, instead of dumping them in the middle of a strange city and yelling, "Go!" Or let them present a few rooms from their existing body of work, so we can see their range. Either way, we'd learn more about the contestants abilities. We've already had six shows to see how they respond to a time limit, so the final should show us something else.

Nice post! Personally, I realy like them both and I agree completely with your assessment of their individual strenghts and weaknesses.
I so enjoy your recaps, they make me laugh . I am hoping you plan to recap show 8 too

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