Sunday, February 11, 2007


Room to Grow

Previously on Top Design: Designers arrived at their new digs. At the PDC, Todd challenged them to create an "inner sanctum" for a client, inspired by five objects the client collected. Goil and Elizabeth worked well together. John and Michael did not. Goil and Elizabeth won. Heather and Lisa got the boot for their Chinese restaurant lobby. Heather was very sad.

The remaining ten designers hang out. Carisa interviews that John was having issues with aggression and decided to speak up. He announces that he's HIV+ and has been for several years. The infection depletes testosterone, so he received a massive dose from his doctor to carry him through the filming. (They don't have doctors in LA?) He's speaking up not to make excuses but to address the tension among the group. He disclaims any hatred or ill-will toward Michael. How can anyone work with Michael for two whole days and not hate him? I've only watched him for a couple of hours, and I want to squash him. John interviews that "nobody could get past" the John and Michael Show, and he thinks the resulting tension is "unhealthy." He tells the group that he spoke up because they "all have to live together." Michael interviews that of course he was shocked, because it was all so shocking. Elizabeth kindly interviews that she hopes John "can feel well" or at least "less pain." Ryan interviews that John "is an aging prize fighter, at some level." It's obvious he feels a lot of respect for what John has dealt with. John escapes to take a hot bath, leaving the designers to talk amongst themselves. Or not.

It's a new day, and we're back at the multi-colored PDC. Michael interviews that he needs to prove himself after the last challenge. Todd arrives with the new challenge. He has information on 10 new clients who want bedrooms designed. They'll arrive at 3:30 for a presentation. The rooms are all 12' square. The designers have $600 for paint and supplies, plus $8000 for shopping at the PDC. Matt interviews that the budget was an issue, because you can easily spend it all on one piece of furniture. I guess the PDC doesn't have an Ikea showroom. They will receive mattresses, but they must build the beds themselves. So that's one piece of furniture they don't have to buy. After meeting with their clients, they'll get a little more money for bed linens. The winner gets immunity. (Everyone looks happy.) The loser goes home. (Carisa looks stunned.) Todd gives them 30 minutes to design and lets them grab client info sheets at random.

Erik interviews that he's a little worried; normally you at least get to meet a client before putting together a presentation. Andrea recaps the challenging aspects of the challenge, like the lack of time and the lack of client impressions. Everyone picks out flooring from a big table covered with product-placed samples. Carisa interviews that she picked a bamboo floor because her client likes South America (where they don't grow bamboo) and rain forests (where maybe they do). John whines that Felicia took the sample he wanted. If you can't make up your mind, is it her fault? Ryan plans to make a custom easel for his painter and a cat walk for her cat. It's like he has two clients. Todd is impressed to see that Goil has made a mock-up (or maquette) of his room, including a scale figure representing someone six feet tall. Felicia is providing her client with a king-sized bed so he'll have plenty of room for a "lady friend."

Todd calls time on the design phase and sends them out "shopping" in the PDC showrooms. Michael asks a showroom assistant for help, since he only has an hour. He interviews that the items at the PDC are expensive (just in case you've forgotten since the last time someone mentioned it) and it was going to be hard to get everything he wanted for only $8000. Carisa rejects a $4200 item as too expensive and looks harried. Goil tells an assistant, "My client is a comedian, so I need something that is sort of fun." The assistant shows him an oversized clear glass fishbowl-type vase, which is only $400. Not seeing the humor in it, but Goil grabs it. Matt scores a couple of end tables. John interviews that he didn't get all the pieces he needed. The Art Deco-like chair he likes is $4500. Erik interviews that he got the items he planned for, but he still doesn't know if they're what the client wants.

Back in the workroom, Todd brings in the clients and the designers are flabbergasted. The clients are all ten-year-olds. Okay, time to rethink those presentations. I have to say, 10 years is a good age. Before puberty, kids are willing to be individuals and indulge their creativity; once they hit puberty, they start worrying about conforming to their peer group. The designers clap in welcome, which is nice of them. The clients find their designers. Ryan shakes hands with Madison; he interviews that he was expecting someone fifty years old. Michael interviews his "moment of panic": "Oh, shoot, I should have bought something pink and fuzzy." Now, now, let's not make assumptions. Maybe your client hates pink. John tells his client that she's "50% tomboy, 50% girl." He interviews that his design could take her through her teen years. Erik proposes an access door to his client, who approves. Erik interviews that he discovered his client was really into "pirate ships," so "we changed our room just a little bit." Elizabeth proposes a soccer field to her client. Andrea wants to give her client a Murphy bed. She interviews that she doesn't get girls, because she grew up with two brothers and now she has two sons. So, she never played with other girls? Carisa explains that the room will look like it's in a forest, and her client is all set to play Tarzan. Matt explains to his client that he already spent most of his money, so he'll have to work around the things she does like. His client nods, patiently waiting for him to tell her something she cares about.

Todd the timekeeper puts an end to the consultations. The randomly-assigned carpenters are coming in next. Todd says they have $400 to spend on supplies. But the original allowance was $600 for paint and supplies. What gives? After the carpenter consultation, the designers will go shopping again for more "kid-friendly" items. Everyone has $300 except Goil and Elizabeth, who get $400. The others "ooh" with envy. Michael interviews that the extra money is "probably" an advantage, but "it could change the direction of a lot of things." Todd throws out the final twist: the mattresses they're getting are all for twin beds. And it's carpenter time!

The designers consult. Felicia interviews that she had to change her bed design (she originally planned for a king-sized bed), so she turned her twin bed sideways. John interviews that he didn't pick a wood floor because he didn't like his remaining choices, so he picked a "high-gloss linoleum floor." Todd the timekeeper kicks off the shopping expedition.

The designers shop at a non-product-placed store. Goil rides the red plastic shopping cart down the aisle. He interviews that the extra money was a big help. Everyone heads for the bed linens. At the checkout, Goil teases Ryan about his foofy pink items. Erik, wearing a giant fake anchor chain around his neck, thinks Ryan's hot pink feather boa can't compete. Ryan interviews about all the "pink, pink, pink, pink" items he bought. Michael gets almost everything he wants for $298.60. He announces to the others that he's "really pooping a brick right now" because he's so impressed with his accuracy. I'm pretty sure this is not what "party in my pants" means.

Back at the PDC, it's time to get to work in the 12'x12' spaces. Andrea interviews that she had a lot to accomplish. Goil identifies painting as his "first priority." Michael paints. See, even if he doesn't win, it was a learning experience. Ryan apparently doesn't have all the materials he wanted; he's painting a big wave mural with a broom. He's making a "beach scene" so his client can "paint at the beach." No sunblock required. Everybody paints. Michael jokingly offers painting tips to the other designers. Matt wants to know if Michael will paint his room next. John grumps that he's missing a "duvet insert." He interviews that his carpenter was over budget at the store, and didn't get the floor, so now he has to figure something out. He's "fustrated" with everything going wrong.

Morning. The designers are back to work. Workety-work. Andrea interviews that "people are a little panicked right now" with time counting down. Erik worries about getting all his "finish details" taken care of, since they always take so long. He paints a design on a piece of cheesecloth and the paint goes through, onto the floor. Hope he got a rug. Michael congratulates himself for installing his own floor and Felicia gives him a high five. "Probably the most manual labor I've ever done in my life," he interviews. Ryan interviews that he thinks he really "nailed" the design, incorporating the client's creativity and the client's cat. Goil interviews that his room is "fun" and "interactive." He sums up: "The concept of the design is to have a room that is more than what it seemed." Matt interviews that he has to finish his recessed lights; they mimic the lights from a makeup counter, since his client is an actress and wants the glam. Felicia asks if he'll be able to turn on his lights. How come Felicia has time to talk to everyone? John discovers that his duvet is too big and tries not to freak out. He interviews, "There's nothing I can do right now except do the best I can with every single thing that is left." He refuses to "be a drama queen" about it all.

Todd wanders in for a looky-loo. He's blown away by Erik's construction; there's a pier in the middle of the room. Erik describes how he discovered his client was into the pirate thing. He put a door on the side of the platform bed (which is about 18 inches tall) so the client can stash treasure under there. Todd thinks the client will be "thrilled." In Goil's room, Todd finds skateboard wheels under the bed, so it rolls. He compliments Goil's "ingenuity" and Goil sort of curtsies. Todd is concerned about Matt's use of black, but Matt assures him that the client signed off. Todd calls it "counterintuitive to most children's design," so now he's intrigued. Matt interviews that his client is very "sophisticated." Over in John's room, Todd provides a little counseling as he listens to John's tales of woe. John interviews that his "biggest mistake" was "not just settling on a hardwood floor." It seems like his floor choices have put him in a downward spiral, so yeah, I think that's right. John describes how he tried to paint the floor brown, but all painting has to get finished on day 1. (The floor is half brown and half white.) Todd tells him to focus on his priorities and starts making some suggestions. John interviews that he has to work on his top three things and hope that will be enough to earn a spot. Todd wishes him luck.

With about 40 minutes to go, the designers load in furniture. Felicia interviews that she's confident, with just finishing touches to do. Her room is "sophisticated." Well, since it was originally designed for an adult, I'm not surprised. Carisa needs help knotting rope. Michael interviews that he feels confident in his "beautiful, girly" room; he disparages Erik's pirate ship enterprise. Michael compliments Matt's lights, but doesn't like anything else. Todd calls five minutes. Andrea interviews, "There's this peculiar calm when there's that much stress." John rushes through with more stuff. He interviews his hopes that he might "have a chance." Erik is "nervous" but wants complete all his little touches and "make it great." Todd calls time and summons the designers. John hugs his carpenter, who wishes him luck.

White Room. Todd recaps the challenge and introduces the judges. Guest judge is Liz Lange, maternity wear designer. Andrea, mother of two, interviews her gratitude to the guest judge. Todd turns it over to Jonathan, who announces the judging criteria as "design concept, execution and how well you modified an adult presentation to satisfy a 10-year-old client." The judges inspect the rooms:

White Room again. Everyone regroups for the ritual quizzing. Overall, I'm seeing some typical designer flaws, like assuming the rooms will all have spacious closets for storage. Most of these rooms have no places for stuff, and kids have lots of stuff. In a similar vein, the rooms don't have much latitude for a kid to make his or her mark on the space with pictures or posters or favorite items. It's like the room is supposed to be complete on paper, and must never deviate from the designer's original vision.

See Goil's room at

Margaret likes Goil's room but wonders how the hole in the wall for the bed would work in a real house. Goil answers, "Space doesn't go anywhere, right? So, like, it would sort of get displaced into another space. So it's a good way for children to learn about sort of, um, space." Okay then. I still like Goil, but I suspect he's one of those architects who can't be allowed to design kitchens because he's more interested in cool ideas than how things actually function. Footage of Matt rolling the bed around and looking at the niche. Kelly, accepting the room as more of a concept piece, jokes that Matt wouldn't have to make his bed; however, the hiding niche needs a door. I like the open space and the wheels, very appropriate for an active boy. The wall treatment is interesting but I don't know how personal it feels to the client. Most of the "activity" in the wall design is lower, so it should be possible to hang art or posters. The fold-down desk is clever but how often would it be clean enough to fold up? Still, there's at least some storage available, so it's reasonably functional except for the bed and niche cutouts.

See Carisa's room at

Jonathan wants to know how Carisa's design changed once she learned her client was a child. She explains how she was having trouble finding furnishings she liked, so she decided to build the end tables and desk into the bed. Again, it sounds like she didn't change much at all. Kelly likes the "depth of field" and the orange walls. Footage of Kevin trying to climb a knotted rope. Margaret likes the way she wrapped the color around all the furniture pieces, but she doesn't like the hard edges for an active boy. Carisa agrees on the need for "more softness." I'm very fond of the back wall and the construction of the end tables, but it's too reminiscent of her previous room with Erik. Also too reminiscent of the past room are the big pillows on the bed. Pillows are nice for color and texture, but they're just too fussy for everyday living. I don't think there's enough room to swing around on the ropes, so they're not as interesting an addition as they first seem. The particleboard surfaces need to be smoothed or covered. But it's certainly a good start for a room.

See Andrea's room at

Jonathan tells Andrea that Shea would have liked "more girly touches." Footage of Todd asking Shea if there's anything she'd change, and Shea suggesting more glitter. Andrea says she did buy "glitter and pipe cleaners and beads" but didn't have enough time to do anything with them. Margaret admires her chairs but doesn't think they're quite comfy enough for a bedroom. I'm not so fond of all the brown in the room; it's not the right tone for the blue. The chairs are attractive but not really suited to a kid's room. I do like all the bookcases; a perfectionist might enjoy arranging them and storage is always good. The Murphy bed is interesting but what moves into that space when it's up?

See John's room at

Next up is John, who is asked about the floor. He unfolds his tale of woe -- no dark hardwood, and then no floor from his carpenter. Jonathan tsks, but John says that he really did the best he could. Kelly complains that the end tables are too far from the bed. John argues for a while that they're not, but he's assuming the room has a queen-sized bed to fit the headboard, and the room actually has a twin bed, so Kelly wins. I like the headboard design. The larger side table works as a desk, so that's good. The big mirror needs to be fastened securely, and I think it's more than any girl really needs. Also, I don't see how the room addresses the tomboy half of the client; it's all pretty girly.

See Felicia's room at

Felicia is praised for fitting her bed to her headboard (by rotating it). Liz likes the outline and hooks for the bicycle, but overall the room was "a little serious" for a kid. Felicia claims that he seemed "a lot older than his body size." Jonathan says Joey liked the chess set but not the wall color. Felicia says she showed him the color and Jonathan sympathizes about "those fickle clients." I like the color palette, but I agree it isn't very youthful. The only signs this is a kid's room are the outlines and hooks on the wall for bike and skateboard, and a couple of soccer ball drawer pulls. There's not enough fun. The drawers under the bed are nice for storage, but shelves or drawers under the night stands would be nice, too.

See Elizabeth's room at

Elizabeth learns that Victor liked the soccer theme. Footage of Todd asking Victor about the soccer net, which he likes. Jonathan continues that Victor was confused by the buckets (inset into the desk). Elizabeth explains that they were for his memoribilia. I don't think buckets are the best containers for that sort of thing. The buckets only hold the memoribilia, when it should be displayed. I'm thinking more along the lines of shadow boxes or shelves. I'm not sure what's up with the yellow rope on the red chair. The chair seems to have rockers, so it would belong on the floor, but the rope makes me think it was supposed to be suspended from the ceiling. The shelves are nice, and I like the little rolling table by the bed. However, the bed itself and the desk look like they've been squeezed into the corners by the green astroturf, so it feels a little cramped.

See Ryan's room at

Jonathan is perplexed by the emptiness of the shelf along the top of Ryan's walls. Footage of Madison jumping up to touch the shelf. Ryan explains that the shelf is a catwalk, so accessories would be counterproductive. Jonathan complains, "Without a cat there, it looked kind of sad." A cat does add something to a room. Kelly compliments the mural, but thinks the room skewed more toward the cat than the girl. Ryan wonders if the easel and the bedside "art station" don't balance out the cat features. Margaret thinks the art supplies should be kept by the easel. Ryan argues that he paints, and that's his set-up. Margaret condescends that he's "a professional artist and this is a 10-year-old." Despite the huge mural, this room feels overwhelmingly white with the empty floor. It needs a little rug by the bed, which is much too high for comfort. What's the point of making it that tall? And the easel needs to hold the art supplies. I don't think the room is all about the cat, but I do think the cat elements were designed better than the girl elements.

See Matt's room at

Matt also gets the "we suspect you didn't make many changes to your adult design" question. He agrees that it didn't change much; his paint color was chosen to suit any age. Liz is worried about "the sophistication level" with the touches of black. Footage of Samantha complimenting the white and black fabrics. Matt assures the judges that the client was on board with it. Kelly compliments the recessed lights. I think the problem with the black headboard fabric is that there's so much of it; that rectangle has too much visual weight. A broad band of black around one of the black-and-white fabrics would have had the right balance. I like how the molding creates panels on the wall, and the lights are a good idea (although they'd need to be implemented differently in a real room, for safety). But how can you have a room for a girl called "Hollywood" without a mirror?

See Erik's room at

Margaret is surprised to find that she "loved" Erik's room. Footage of Trent grooving on the pirate theme. Margaret explains that the most popular designs for children's rooms in her magazine are the theme rooms, and this one was "fun" and "creative." Kelly likes it but finds it a little too reminiscent of an amusement park. I want to know, what happens when the kid grows out of pirates? It's a great room if you can afford to redo it in a few years, but I prefer more flexible designs. Most of the pirate decor is up on the walls, but you're still looking at some kind of outdoorsy theme if you clear that all off. I do like the desk and the underbed storage, so it's reasonably functional for an amusement park ride.

See Michael's room at

Finally, Michael. Margaret sums up the room as "granny." Footage of Breanna leaning on the bed, reading. Margaret thinks there are more youthful ways to do flowers and reading. Jonathan found the "Home Sweet Home" pillow depressing. Michael disagrees; the pillow is "quaint" and he "accomplished her personal design aesthetic." Kelly agrees that the room is functional, but it made her think of "an assisted living facility." I like the wall color, at least the deep teal that appears on my television screen, but I'm into blues and greens. The room does seem rather ordinary in arrangement. The shelf is too high for an avid reader's books and where is she supposed to write her poetry? As long as you're building a bed, create a platform resting on bookshelves, so books are a featured element in the room.

The designers go away so the judges can talk. Margaret gives Goil high marks. Liz thinks it has the right kind of sophistication, something that adults enjoy looking at but is still child-like. Margaret takes points away for random items sitting on the floor. Jonathan hopes Goil will get over that. Liz puts Carisa high on her list. Jonathan calls it "confident" and thinks she was creative in solving the functional needs of the space. Kelly likes the desk. As for Andrea's room, Liz is just okay with it. Jonathan is still impressed with the functional Murphy bed. Margaret thinks John started out with a "strong" design that captured the client (footage of Tessa telling Todd how the wall color matches her shirt), but couldn't pull it off. Liz is unimpressed with an unfinished room. The judges are all uimpressed by the excuses. They all commend Felicia's handling of her bed in relation to the headboard. Kelly did find the room comfortable, but they all agree it felt like a hotel room. Kelly didn't like all the soccer stuff in Elizabeth's room and Margaret didn't like the carpet, but they agree when Jonathan observes that it was an actual kid's room (rather, I think, than a barely-tweaked adult room). Ryan's room did not win Liz over, and Margaret thinks the bed is too high for safety. She complains, "I mean, you just can't design a room around a cat." I bet you can if your client asks you to. Kelly sticks up for Ryan; at least he had an idea and it worked as a kid's room. Jonathan calls Matt's room "confident" and all the judges like the lighting. However, they diss the black headboard fabric. Jonathan points out that the client was a "sophisticated kid." Jonathan is impressed with Erik's execution, even if it was over the top. Margaret has fallen for it and can't get up. Kelly thinks it was a bit much, but that's okay for a kid's room. Margaret hopes the client "really likes pirates." Jonathan brings up "the very, very, very, very sad room of Michael;" he calls it "melancholy." Kelly observes, "It could have been designed by a state-appointed designer." Jonathan thinks the wall color has "a mournful quality." Liz damns with faint praise when she observes that at least it was finished.

I wish the judges had viewed the footage of the kids inspecting their rooms, rather than just relying on summary comments. If pleasing the client matters, shouldn't they see for themselves how well the clients were pleased?

The designers return. Jonathan confirms that the winner will get immunity. Andrea, Matt, Elizabeth and Felicia are all safe. Goil is praised for his innovation and for "capturing your client's personality to a T." How would Jonathan know; did he ever meet the client? Erik is praised for a "cohesive and successful" design. Carisa is praised for her "confident and creative" design. And the winner is -- Erik. He interviews that his room was "total fun" and he accomplished what he intended. Goil and Carisa are safe.

So the bottom three are Ryan, John and Michael. Ryan gets spanked for designing for a cat; his "artist mentality" didn't translate into design. Michael gets spanked for designing for "a nursing home." John gets spanked for his messy floor and unfinished room. Ryan is safe. Michael is safe. John gets the boot. Jonathan gives him a hug. John bids farewell to Michael, who is standing closest to the exit. He interviews that he wanted to win, and he had all the necessary assets, so he's disappointed. Todd arrives for consolation. John doesn't understand how the judges couldn't see the design's direction and just recognize "that (bleep) happens." He tells Todd that it's just part of the same bad day (or two days), but at least he was one of the chosen few. He feels "cheated" but he knows the room isn't a true reflection of his abilities.

Right winner? Let's review the judging criteria: design concept, execution and adaptation of an adult design to a child. Of the top three, all had interesting concepts. Carisa's room needed a little more polish on the execution and she didn't do much adapting. Goil's execution was good and he clearly adjusted his design to make it more fun. However, Erik had it all over everyone when it came to execution and he obviously came up with a whole new design, so I can see how the judges would find his work (if not his room) the most impressive. I think Matt's room was also strong, but perhaps a bit empty to stand up to the top three in terms of execution. Felicia's room was well-made, but felt more like an adult room. Andrea's room was also rather staid, but I think it allowed the most room for her client to add her own personal stamp.

Right loser? I was pretty sure Ryan was safe. It wasn't a great room, but he really thought about his client's interests and the wave mural was cool. I think Elizabeth was the other possibility for the bottom three; the room was almost cartoonish with the colors and the simplicity of the furnishings. So it came down to Michael's uninspired but finished room versus John's more sophisticated mess. At that point, it's a matter of weighting the criteria. Since John was booted, execution was deemed more important than concept. That seems backwards, considering how unrealistic the execution schedule is. However, John's room wasn't so much poorly executed as incomplete, and I can see how the judges might consider that unprofessional.

The floor problem really derailed John and he never managed to get back on track. It seems he was off his game during both shopping trips, too. It's possible the hormones impaired his ability to concentrate; it's hard to tell. I do think he's capable of better.

At this point, I really want to see the designers break out of the white boxes and the PDC. Design Star did a good job of coming up with challenges using actual rooms (including the designers' own living quarters), so it can be done.


I don't know about anyone else but I could care less about John's Testosterone levels. Everyone has problems of their own, some less some more. I was annoyed by the producers wasting my time by airing it. Its not why I watch a Design show - even a reality design show.

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