Monday, March 26, 2007


Parties Apart

Previously on Top Design: The designers had to make a garage multi-functional. Andrea's design took the prize. Carisa found the garage disgusting; Ryan found the challenge "goofy." Andrea decided Carisa was a "slacker" for spending all her time in the shed-turned-home-office. Michael and Carisa argued about her participation. Michael was spanked for falling in love with his dreary curtains; Carisa was spanked for not being a team player; Ryan was booted for the unrealized graphics. He went off to create on his own terms. Step one: stay away from reality show contests.

The designers arrive at the PDC. Carisa interviews that she's happy to be halfway to the finish wire. She always starts projects convinced she's going to screw things up, and then is thrilled when she does well. Lowered expectations -- the secret to a life of happy surprises, rather than pained disappointments. Erik is also happy to still be in the game, and he hopes to stay in the game.

Todd greets everyone in front of the PDC to talk about the next challenge -- designing a party for the product-placed product, hosted by Margaret's magazine. Erik interviews that putting on an event is a "specialty kind of area" because designers aren't the same thing as event coordinators. I can see an event coordinator hiring a designer, though. He thinks this will be a tough one. Todd explains that the party will be held where they're standing -- the PDC plaza, also the site of Elton John's Oscar party and therefore "sacred ground." In the Church of the Poisoned Mind, perhaps.

Alas, it's another team challenge, so Todd has the designers pick paint chips to sort themselves out. "These group challenges I'm completely over because you have to deal with a bunch of crazies on your team," Matt grumps. Specifically, Matt gets stuck with Carisa and Michael, the Bicker Twins. First a garage full of crap, and now this. "Oh, God, Michael is really difficult to work with. No matter what you do, he is going to complain very loudly about something," whines Carisa, with no sense of irony whatsoever. Andrea, Erik and Goil are pleased to be on the other team. Goil reveals his inner fanboy: "Since I got here, the one person I wanted to work with is Andrea. She's a better model of me. Like, I'd be R2-D2 and she'd be R2-D345. She's many, many models ahead of me."

The product people like to think the product is "sensorial" so the parties should appeal to all five of the senses. The partygoers will vote on the designs, although I don't think they get to pick the winner; the judges aren't ready to abdicate to mob rule. One member of the winning team will get an extra hour to complete the next challenge; one member of the losing team will get the boot. Each team has a budget of $8500 with which to deck out a 30'x40' tent.

Sketching. Andrea describes her team's design as "supermodel party in Iceland." So, people with hardly any clothes on standing around freezing and pretending to eat? (Actually, that's not entirely fair; Iceland has some interesting climate features and isn't a year-round block of snow and ice.) Goil proposes a Dorothy Draper-like chandelier made out of product bottles, and the others love it. Goil provides a little background on Dorothy Draper, but y'all are just going to have to Google her because there's lots more to write about here.

The Bicker Twins listen respectfully as Matt describes how some plexiglass thing will be filled with lemons. Michael describes their design as "chic" and "minimal." He gives Matt and himself credit for limiting the use of yellow, so it won't turn into "a Disneyworld of lemons." Yep, traumatized by Mickey at a young age. Matt stays busy drawing as the Bicker Twins bicker. Carisa proposes treating something "as one" but Michael thinks making everything "one-dimensional" is "boring." Carisa laughingly interviews, "Michael's role on our team, apparently, is to create conflict." Carisa proposes two bars, but Michael objects that people cluster near the entry. Okay, traffic flow is a valid point. Carisa interviews about the impossibility of pleasing him. She proposes some seating areas, but Michael claims that people don't like to sit down in "this kind of atmosphere." And then -- and it sounds really funny, but it's true -- he turns pushing up his glasses into a gesture of utter condescension. It's an awesome power, if only it could be harnessed for good. Carisa proposes a shade of yellow and Michael mimes retching at Matt, who smirks, while Carisa looks at them like, "Are you guys for real?"

Over at Team Saving-My-Sanity, they discuss carpet. Goil tries to interject an idea, but the others don't pay any attention to him and he peters out. Goil interviews that the others are ignoring his input. Once again, Goil tries to talk but Erik talks over him, and Goil recaps that he was shut out. I don't think Andrea and Erik are doing it deliberately or maliciously; it's just that they're sparking off each other nicely and Goil doesn't really command attention. Consider it an object lesson on the downside of being cute.

Todd calls time. Erik and Carisa have fabric duty; Todd tells them to pick up some phones as they head out for half an hour at the store. Andrea and Michael will visit the party rental company; they get an hour. Matt and Goil will be selecting the menus; they also get an hour.

Michael interviews that he just knew he wanted the party rental job; he's sure he knows what he's doing. Paging through the catalog, Michael indulges his fantasies: "I'm getting a fountain of chocolate." Not! He jokes he's planning the bar mitzah he never had.

Erik and Carisa browse fabrics. Carisa interviews that she'd like a "sharp" black-and-white pattern, but "the boys" aren't interested, so she'll get a nice selection of solids. She asks Erik if the swatches they're looking at a flame-resistant; Erik observes, "Not everything's marked." He helpfully interviews that California requires flame-resistant fabrics for outdoor events. Good to know. Carisa bleahs at her choices. Erik continues that they didn't have many options to choose from, especially with their color schemes.

At the catering company, the saleswoman explains that the ten hors d'oeuvres choices were designed to appeal to the five senses. Matt and Goil will taste the samples and each select five choices. (Presumably they're allowed to overlap.) One of the choices is a truffle pizza; the saleswoman tells them that white truffles go for $2000 a pound. Goil interviews that this is all a new experience, since he's "used to a small hole in the wall in Chinatown." That's where you can find some of the best food, though. Matt interviews that he was trying to appeal to a broad audience with his choices. Goil coos over a miniature burger. At the end of the session, he asks if he can take some food home and the saleswoman says, "Of course." I can't say that it never hurts to ask, but if you're going to ask, cameras often help.

Another saleswoman sets Andrea and Michael loose on the party rental showroom. They browse around and try things out and get advice. Michael mock-scolds the saleswoman about the price for some benches.

Back at the PDC, Todd gives the teams 30 minutes to "download" their carpenters. Jared's worth downloading, but I don't know about the rest of 'em. Andrea, Erik and Goil have Blair, Jared and Sarah. Andrea interviews that they have to build and paint lots of walls with impeccable finishing, because the staff of Margaret's magazine will be there. Erik interviews that working with two architects means that "everything was about the detail of the structure" but he has a bigger picture in mind. Their construction projects are about creating atmosphere, rather than functional pieces.

Carisa, Matt and Michael have Carl, Ed and Cary. Carisa draws out a plan for the bar area. She interviews that she came up with a "square donut" motif that was repeated throughout the space. After she has gone over it all, Michael chimes in that it doesn't really suit the client's "aesthetic." Carisa interviews that they're leaderless and struggling with decisions. Michael draws out a plan; Carisa quietly says, "Fabulous." Michael asks her, "Could you be a little positive?" Well, I suspect she's had all the positivity sucked out of her by a nattering nabob of negativism. Matt chides her that they all have input, and Carisa agrees, "We're all having input." "Oh," Michael pretends to be shocked, "That's something new." Which is really quite brazen of him. Nonetheless, Carisa steps back from direct conflict (stop being such a girl!) and promises to shut up. But that's not enough for Michael. "We all should be able to express our opinion without being talked over and put down," he lectures. Which would be an excellent time to look him straight in the eye and laugh your head off. But Carisa doesn't, and gets to listen to Michael condescend some more while Matt stands around smirking some more.

I'm really getting tired of Michael's "Isn't Carisa awful?" game. Carisa is a drama queen and a teacher's pet, but those faults are largely due to a lack of filters. Michael's Mean Girl bitchiness is deliberately cultivated, and I suspect he's rather proud of it. Carisa can learn to do better; Michael doesn't want to. His bitchiness isn't just fun, it's also tactical: Michael needs to tear down Carisa so that he's not the low man in the pecking order. And by playing Mean Girl, he has Matt -- one of the front runners -- playing up to him. I hope Matt feels really stupid when he realizes he was playing sycophant to Michael, of all people.

Designers and carpenters confer some more. Carisa recaps the challenge for those of you just tuning in. Once again, she is drawing while the others look on. Todd arrives to end the consultation. They'll have until midnight (6.5 hours) to work. In the morning, they'll start assembling down in the PDC plaza.

The work begins. Carisa sums up the plan: "We're making sort of a big, bold, graphic statement out of our tent." Matt draws while the others look. Michael claims that they all worked on the design, but then he and Matt "developed on it," using Michael's experience as a New York event-goer. Why would Michael get invited to events?

Erik recaps their goal as a "mod, clean, contemporary kind of space." He claims responsibility for some "wall systems." I'm wondering how many walls you want to put in a tent. It's only 30' x 40', which fills up fast when you start adding people. Andrea wants to make sure everyone has a chance to shine. She wants to concentrate on making a "beautiful" space.

Todd drops in, which is always fun. He compliments Erik and Goil on all their "interesting" ideas. Goil explains that they're really featuring the product bottle, which Todd finds "very smart." He visits Matt and Carisa as they review their rectangular cocktail tables built like nested shadow boxes. Carisa explains that the outer rim will have lemons while the inner box will have pebbles and a reclining bottle. Todd worries that it looks like the bottle is lying in a casket. Carisa suggests ditching the inner box and just doing lemons. Matt admits that he had casket thoughts and Carisa agrees, but she didn't want to say anything. Todd points out that this is the time to raise concerns. The tables will be black on the outside and yellow on the interior. Todd thinks the yellow lemons against the yellow paint will look "amazing." Matt interviews that everyone needs to do their best because the judges are looking for an individual contributor. In that case, he might want to think about speaking up when he has casket concerns.

Work, work, work. Matt finds Carisa painting the interior of the table black. She explains that both she and Carl thought it would look better. Matt asks if she checked with him (obviously not). She explains how they tried it and the yellow really popped, but then she realizes that Matt doesn't like the black. Matt confirms, so Carisa concedes. Matt interviews that they don't have time to waste waiting for paint to dry.

Erik interviews that he came up with the idea of making the chandeliers into "floor chandeliers" because of the difficulty hanging them. They have four 2x2 posts in a square; the shelves are square donuts that slide over the posts and are braced with pegs. So now they're more like towers than chandeliers. Goil recommends adding x-braces for stability. He interviews that he had the original chandelier idea, and he always knows how he's going to build something when he proposes it. Now other people have gotten involved and the execution is all messed up. Goil tells Sarah that he prefers the thinner edge, but she tells him that Andrea prefers the thick edge and he should talk to her about it. I don't think she means "Andrea's in charge of the edge" but rather "You guys come to a consensus." But I don't think Goil is hearing the same message. Goil interviews that no one would listen to his suggestions, and looks defeated. In the studio, Erik and Andrea agree that they won't let Goil work on the chandeliers; Erik thinks Goil will "obsess" over them. It definitely sounds like they think Goil is someone they can boss around. They aren't being mean about it, but it felt a little clique-ish. Goil interviews that he's doing whatever needs doing, because he wants to be a team player, but if his team loses, he's "fried." This man desperately needs a good night's sleep.

Michael shoos some carpenters away while he makes a phone call to a dancer. He interviews that Matt's idea was to hire a dancer to "add some energy." Carisa arrives and listens as Michael explains that the vibe is "fun and sexy" but "classy," or at least "as classy as a go-go dancer could be." Carisa interviews that she wanted to make sure Michael's instructions wouldn't have the dancers show up looking like "working girls." Michael is trying to explain the wardrobe requirements but finally has to stop and order Carisa away. Michael interviews that Carisa was making noises and faces. I didn't hear any noises. Michael continues that Carisa "made a scene" during his "professional phone call," and she's "kind of a bitch" when it comes to teamwork. He heads off to confront Carisa: "We need to talk about this." Because Michael cannot possibly pass up the opportunity to condescend to someone. He complains that she was "distracting" him with her "hemming and hawing" and making him "look like an idiot" during his phone call. Carisa just wants to get on with the project. She interviews her reaction: "What a dick." Probably just as well she didn't actually say it; I don't want to see Michael in a full-out hissy fit.

It's 5 a.m. Andrea interviews that she and Michael were up early to buy flowers. Michael interviews that he was looking for "architecturally interesting flowers," so he chose calla lilies. Andrea interviews that she wanted textures and bright colors to offset all the white. And the flowers, they are bought.

PDC Plaza. The tents are up, and the designers have 4.5 hours to get everything done. Erik interviews that he was "worried" because the tent was a new environment. Carisa reveals that she's "a little stressed out" about getting everything done. The work begins. Goil struggles to lift one of the wall assemblies while Erik and Andrea talk about what needs to get done. I don't know why Goil's trying to move stuff all by his lonesome. He interviews that he's getting all the "dirty work" and he has to do it to be "a team player, uh, you know, whatever that means."

Matt warns Carl that they have no time for perfectionism. Carisa interviews that Matt has been "the tick-tock guy" keeping everyone on schedule. Carisa advises, "Everybody needs to take a deep breath and relax, and just plow forward." Matt's not having it: "None of us has two minutes to stand." Carisa checks in with Michael, who explains that he has finally figured out what he's doing with the flowers, so he can crank through it. Carisa exasperatedly interviews that Michael was "arranging flowers all day" while everyone else was constructing up a storm. Carisa talks through some painting tasks with Michael while Matt squintily observes. He interviews that he thought they had figured out who's doing what, and then Carisa drags Michael off flowers to help with painting. Not that Matt says anything about it.

Andrea explains that Goil is on "special projects" because "he really wants to focus on one thing at a time" and now some things aren't getting done. They just aren't managing to get it together. Goil interviews that the execution was inefficient: "I wish that they would listen to me because I feel that I am kind of like a halfling, you know, I'm a half-human, half-carpenter kind of person, and I can really help out here." As long as he's not the kind of halfling with hairy feet.

Michael complains that a yellow banner "looks like caca." Matt defends it as "the only pop of yellow" they have. He consults with Carisa, who thinks it's okay, so Michael is overruled. It looks pretty half-assed, but I can see how they'd want some yellow up high to balance the lemons in the cocktail tables.

Workety-work. Todd calls the 20-minute mark. Frantic workety-work. Todd calls the 5-minute mark. More frantic workety-work. Todd calls time. The teams collapse in relief. Todd congratulates them on their efforts and sends them off to the White Room. Goil interviews that he knows he's the "scapegoat" if his team goes down.

White Room. Todd recaps the challenge and introduces the judges. Jonathan is wearing a yellow, black, white and possibly red striped shirt; his tie is black with white polka dots and has a knot as big as his chin. Kelly is wearing a dark pink sheath gown with a cascading ruffled skirt; since this is an afternoon party, she's wearing it over a light pink t-shirt and gray leggings. Margaret is wearing a gold lace frock. The guest judge is event planner Ben Bourgeois, who did Elton John's last Oscar party. Todd takes off. Jonathan lays out the judging criteria: overall design, execution, incorporation of the five senses, teamwork and individual contributions. The guest reactions will also factor into the decision. The judges are going to the party; the designers get to watch it all on TV.

Guests arrive. Guests party. Designers watch. Erik describes his team's tent as "space glamour, fun, eclectic, contemporary styling." Way too many adjectives there. Andrea describes the layout: entrance at the short end of the tent with a wall screening off the entry, dance floor in the center. They used the product bottles as "crystals of a deconstructed chandelier." These chandeliers were about sight; the flowers provided "color and visual texture;" cut lemons provided scent; the change in floor textures (soft seating area, hard dance floor) appealed to touch. Goil explains that they used the chandelier bottles satisfied the client's need to feature the brand. Michael interviews that the other guys had some "ambitious" ideas but his team had better execution.

Matt explains that they designed "a crisp and clean environment." The front of the tent was left open to attract people with the vista; the beverages and food appealed to taste; the DJ took care of sound; for touch, they went for smooth finishes. Michael thinks the addition of a bouncer helped create "a cool, clubby atmosphere." Carisa's favorite part of the design is "the overall look of it and the concept," which she designed. Or at least helped design. She did come up with the square donut, and the room does have her strong lines and graphic punches, so it's not a complete fabrication.

The guests diss the "shower curtains" in Team AEG's tent and Andrea looks despondent. Andrea voiceovers that Team CMM's tent was too safe, and design should be about pushing yourself out of your "comfort zone." A guest likes the strings of lemons at Team AEG's tent, while other guests think Team CMM's tent has the "more classy" environment. The judges depart the party. Matt interviews that he's not sure if it's Michael or Carisa who'll get booted if his team goes down.

See Carisa, Matt and Michael's tent at See Carisa, Matt and Michael's tent at See Carisa, Matt and Michael's tent at

White Room. The designers have had a chance to clean up. Jonathan starts with Team CMM. He likes the layout. Kelly loved their doorman "assessory." Michael takes credit for the idea. Carisa and Matt explain that they were originally thinking go-go dancers, but came to their senses. Margaret wants to hear more about the go-go dancers. Michael assures her that they wouldn't have been "trashy." "Tasteful go-go dancers," Margaret clarifies. Jonathan wants to know about the "margarine"-colored "schmatte" hanging over the bar. Carisa points out the limited availability of fire-retardant fabric. Michael disclaims all responsibility for the offending piece of fabric. Go, team! Jonathan turns to Ben, who says that anything that doesn't make the right impression needs to get tossed. Matt just didn't want it to look like they hadn't thought about the ceiling. So it looked like they thought about the ceiling at the last minute, instead. Jonathan and Margaret both like the lemons in the cocktail tables.

Jonathan wants to know about individual contributions. Michael claims he leveraged his party-goer experience to produce both low and high seating. But his party-goer experience informed him that party-goers don't like to sit. What's up with that? He also did the floral arrangements, with which he is "very happy." Jonathan calls on Carisa for rolling her eyes. It was a bit more looking heavenward and sighing, but close enough. Carisa is surprised; perhaps she no longer notices when her eyes roll. Her eye muscles must be incredibly buff. Anyway, Carisa finally confesses, "The floral arrangements could have had less cabbage." Michael points out there was only one cabbage per arrangement (which he thinks was "beautiful") but Carisa is willing to go with "no cabbage." Margaret doesn't see how the flowers tied in with the party theme. Ben points out that calla lillies don't have a scent, so what was the appeal? Michael talks about the "architectural" lines -- which didn't really stand out against the cabbage. Ben asks how they appealed to smell and Michael answers, "We had lemons." Specifically, "cut lemons on the bar." Carisa's turn. She says she came up with "the whole concept of the structure." Jonathan asks about the bar and DJ stand, and Carisa says, "I kind of did that also." Now Michael's eyes are moving. Jonathan asks Matt if he agrees. Matt temporizes, and Carisa says, "I'm talking about the shape." Matt says they started out with something more complicated, but they simplified to make it feasible. His voice, by the way, is sounding really ragged. Michael says they started with one thing and wound up with something else. Carisa agrees. Matt doesn't want her to say that she did the whole design. Which is not what she claimed. At least in front of the judges. Michael tells the judges that he was a good, thoughtful designer. "Past experience has proved that, you know, sometimes being a little nicer is better," he laughs. "And you're the spokesperson of nice," Carisa "agrees." Michael shoots her a death glare. Kelly wants to know if everyone "high-fived" upon finishing or just Matt and Michael. Matt tries to say that they all high-fived, but Michael is busy congratulating him and ignoring Carisa, so there's not much point.

I prefer to keep things simple, so I like this room. It's a little plain, but not boring. With the open front framed by columns and all the mirrors, the tent feels spacious. I think they could have used a few more pops of yellow higher up (after ditching the "schmatte" above the bar). Something like Goil's lemon strings would help dress up the space without being bulky.

See Andrea, Erik and Goil's tent at See Andrea, Erik and Goil's tent at See Andrea, Erik and Goil's tent at

Okay, time for the other team. Jonathan likes all their "great ideas." Margaret also appreciates their attempt to be "avant-garde." Jonathan wants to know what made them happy. Andrea mentions the chandeliers. The judges are perplexed by the "chandelier" reference, so Erik explains how they started out as chandeliers, but then they became floor pieces because of the hanging issues, and they became "more abstract." Andrea talks about the bottle being a crystal in the chandelier, and that they squared off the conical shape. Goil brings up his original Dorothy Draper allusion, which is a nice way of claiming credit for the original idea without being all "Me! Me! Me!" about it. Jonathat wants to know how the idea progressed from the original. Andrea explains that she had her idea of what Goil was talking about and figured out the structure of that. Goil admits that he wasn't pleased with the changes, but "at some point you have to put your ego aside and just move forward with the design." Jonathan disagrees; a big part of being a designer is getting your ideas across. Goil confesses that he had trouble; the team "was a kind of club that I cannot join." Ben asks about the flowers and Andrea takes credit; she wanted them "to be slightly odd." Margaret is less than enthusiastic about the flowers. Andrea brings up the avant-garde and the Iceland party; Erik chimes in that they were trying not to play it safe. Erik explains that he came up with the concept of the space "and we all broke off of that" -- showing that he's no dummy when it comes to taking credit -- and he did the wall at the entry. Jonathan asks Andrea about the wall and she thinks it was well-executed. Jonathan asks Erik whose was "the dominant voice, visually?" Erik guesses that would "probably" be him.

Lots of interesting ideas, and yet not much I like. The entry wall deserves to be part of another project. It's substantial enough to interfere with your view of the tent but too insubstantial to provide a sense of privacy and exclusivity. For a party like this, I think a walled entry should provide only tantalizing glimpses of the interior. The chandeliers are loaded up with too much stuff. It's a pity, because it's such a cool idea, but the execution just doesn't sing. The seating areas are boring and the flowers, while colorful, don't really work with anything else in the room. Overall, kind of a mess.

The designers are shooed away. Back in the waiting room, Andrea tells Goil that she didn't mean to be "bossy." Goil is upset that he didn't get to execute any of his ideas. He just couldn't fit into the team. Andrea explains she just wasn't getting what he meant. (Have these people never heard of sketching?) Goil says, "It really felt like Jan Brady. And I don't want to be a Jan Brady." Andrea enjoyed working on the project. Goil didn't. "You were the first person that I thought that I would really like to work with, and it's a mess!" Goil goes over to Michael for a hug. Michael? Really? Michael says, "We have no idea where this is going. No idea." Well, I'm glad that Goil was finally able to communicate his frustrations to his team, but it would have been nice if he didn't have to gripe in front of the judges to get their attention.

The judges confer. Jonathan thinks Team CMM had a "confident" room. Kelly liked the "terracing of the bar and then the DJ booth" and the way it kept all the "function" confined to one area so the guests had room to mingle. Ben thinks the overall design was "cohesive," even though everyone was arguing all the time. Margaret thinks Matt deserves credit for keeping the team on point, but she seems a little sorry to have missed out on the go-go dancers. "It would have been memorable," Jonathan agrees. Which reminds him, the bouncer was memorable. Everyone agrees he really helped set the party atmosphere. Ben points out that at least Team CMM had an entry; Team AEG was rather lacking. Kelly points out Erik's responsibility for the design, which felt "haphazard." Jonathan thinks Erik is "an old-fashioned decorator," which piques his interest. There were a lot of interesting ideas, but they needed some editing. Jonathan isn't sure what to think about Andrea. Margaret is quite certain that flowers should not be furry.

Dear Margaret,

Flowers can too be furry.

Love, God

Goil's turn. Kelly thinks he had good ideas, but the team picked the not-so-good ones. Jonathan is still convinced that a big part of design is convincing people to adopt your ideas. Ben thinks Goil "got pushed out." Jonathan is kind of right, in that you have to sell your ideas, but he seems to think communication is all about sending the right signal, and the receiver is just assumed to be actively engaged. I think Goil could have done more to get his ideas across, but I also think Andrea and Erik were tuning him out. Jonathan sums up their choices: a complete, pulled-together room or a room with interesting ideas. The judges decide.

The designers return. Team CMM are praised for a "confident and cohesive" room; Team AEG is praised for "lots of interesting ideas." The win goes to Team CMM. Turns out the guests voted for their tent 3-to-1 over the other. That's a decided preference. Also, the product people liked it. So even if the teams were more or less tied, the votes could easily have put Team CMM over the top. Michael interviews that the result "was exactly what we were trying to achieve from the very beginning." Carisa interviews that she feels "responsible" for the win. The judges saw Matt's "imprint on the space," so he gets the extra hour for the next challenge. Matt's interview is basically, "Extra time good." Carisa is still convinced that it was her design, no matter what those judges say.

Andrea gets spanked for her "decorating choices" and flowers; Erik is spanked for his discordant vision; Goil is spanked for not making his ideas heard. Goil is safe. Andrea is safe. Erik is out. Andrea hugs Erik and Goil starts to cry. Erik hugs everyone as he interviews that he's still proud of his design and happy to claim responsibility for it. Sadly, he says he wouldn't change anything. Does that mean if he had been given an extra few hours, he wouldn't have used them? I don't think so. Todd arrives to console him, but Erik doesn't seem to need any. Todd tells him, "You have something unique. You have old-school skills." I wish I knew what that meant. Erik interviews that he feels successful because he came on the show to try something different, and he did. Now it's time to go back to the real world, but with a new attitude.

Right winner? Team AEG had better design ideas, but Team CMM had better execution. Given the crazy time limits, I'm inclined to give more weight to good ideas. Neither team was particularly inventive about appealing to all the senses, so I think that's a wash. Both teams failed at teamwork, although Carisa, for all Michael's carping, was never sidelined the way Goil was. As for individual contributions, there's limited information about who did what. We saw people proposing things, but we didn't see the whole process of revision and adaptation, so it's hard to assign credit. In the end, I think function tipped the scales. Team AEG's tent was just too crowded, both visually and physically. Team CMM's tent was somewhat basic, but it left room for people, and that's why people preferred spending time there.

As far as the individual win goes, it's still hard to say. I don't know what Michael's design style is, other than "unimpressive." I don't have a good handle on Matt's style, other than clean lines and elegance. Carisa is clearly about strong, simple (frequently horizontal) lines and bold punches of color. Looking at the tent, it's easy to see Carisa's style in there. If pressed, I would say she had the most to do with the overall look of the space. But I can see how the judges would assume that Matt was the one holding the team together and moving them forward. Unfortunately, what we saw was Matt smirking with Michael at Carisa's expense, so he was willing to allow at least some of the bickering. I'm willing to believe that Matt was the strongest contributor on the team; I just wish I had seen a better case made for his contributions.

Right loser? Hard to say. Andrea was responsible for the white round tables and chairs, which were entirely ordinary, not avant-garde Icelandic party. I'm okay with furry flowers, but the arrangements didn't sing. On the other hand, Erik was the one who had the whole visual concept, and the tent was too busy for comfort. Either one seems like a reasonable choice. You could even make a good argument for Goil, since his contribution to the design was limited. I think Jonathan was eventually persuaded that the lack of communication was at least as much Erik and Andrea's fault. Goil reacted rather childishly, but Erik and Andrea did shut him out.

I can't say I'm happy to see Erik go. He was creative, hard-working and generally pleasant. I was hoping he'd give Matt a run for his money in the finals. I'm sure he's a much better designer than Michael, and better than Carisa. These stupid team challenges give weaker designers a chance to hang on while more talented designers get the boot, and that's just not how a talent competition should work.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007


A Place for Their Stuff

Previously on Top Design: The designers finally got to meet some clients before designing. Carisa bonded. Ryan rejoiced in an opportunity to ditch the conformist crap. The failure of Carisa's desk ruined her for carpenters forever. But she won, so she'll get have first choice of those faithless folks. Ryan made non-conformist crap, and the judges questioned his desire to be a designer. Felicia's client had thoughts of suicide over the granny afghan, and Felicia wound up getting the boot. But she learned that granny afghans are bad, so that's something.

The designers arrive at the PDC. Matt recaps that the judges beat him up, but then they put him in the top two, but then he lost to "Miss Carisa." She is a little freaked over winning, but at least has the sense to know that she could still get the boot any day now. Todd arrives to give the updated designer count (seven) and describes the upcoming challenge as "a family affair in more ways than one." If they have to design bedrooms for each other's moms, I'm betting on Ryan to be the guy to make someone cry. Andrea wonders what the heck Todd means; Michael guesses it's a family room challenge.

And a family pulls up in a product-placed vehicle. Todd introduces the Bells: dad Isaac, mom Patty, kids Dora, Bea and Avery, and dog Mac. The challenge is to redesign the garage so it works for the family while still having room to store the product-placed vehicle. Because nowadays, you can't just assume that people will use their garage to store their car; that has to be spelled out. Todd herds everyone off to the workspace, where this meeting could have taken place if they hadn't had to show off the product-placed vehicle.

Up in the studio, the designers each have a drawing of the garage footprint and some pictures of its current state. Isaac gives some background on the house while the designers discover what they're in for. Matt interviews that the garage is full of stuff and the best solution would be to burn it down. Isaac would like to be able to send the kids out to the garage to play and to do their homework. Because nothing encourages kids to learn and have fun like unventilated, uninsulated auxiliary spaces. Oh, and it would be nice to put the car in the garage. Maybe the kids could use it for their schoolroom. Patty would like more organization for their storage (easy enough: it would be hard to have less) and maybe a desk for a home office space. Bea votes for a stage so she and Dora can put on plays. Ryan interviews that the project has too many requirements for the space. Carisa asks the family about colors. Survey says: "pink and blue," "a pale-ish yellow," "red or purple," "a lovely green," and ditto on the green. Matt recaps that everyone wanted different colors and "someone" needs to step up and start saying "No" to a few things. We don't see him asking for volunteers.

Todd sends the Bells away while the designers put on their thinking caps. They have two hours to come up with their presentations. Instead of sketching their designs, they have to make 3-D models. Carisa interviews that she hates model-making. As twists go, it's not so bad. They get three minutes each to make their pitches. The designer with the winning plan is team leader (boo!) and wins immunity (yay!). That's one way to get past the "leader as designated scapegoat" scenario. Michael interviews that he wants immunity, but Goil interviews that being team leader would be a pain.

The designers design. Carisa admonishes herself to "Make it work" but fails to sound even remotely Tim-like (I don't think she was trying; I'm just feeling nostalgic). Michael observes, "Do you know how hard it is to make a little chair?" And it's not even upholstered. Andrea interviews that she added storage, and all sorts of requested features. Carisa interviews that she's putting everything on wheels. Matt interviews that he's not a modelmaker (he's a chef) and this whole project is crazy and daunting. Drink! Goil interviews that his stage can "slide" out on to the driveway, so the kids can play outside. When modern parents hear "play outside," they immediately think of Lyme disease and child molesters, which is why they make their kids play in the garage. In the future, children will be hermetically sealed at birth and hung in a closet until graduation.

Todd calls time and the presentations begin.

Todd reviews the designs with the Bells. Andrea's has a lot of storage, but the stage is a "permanent fixture" and the kids might outgrow their theatrical interests. Dora approves of all the stage in Carisa's model, but Patty thinks stuff on wheels can only lead to dents in the product-placed vehicle. Ryan's design would require parting with stuff, which Isaac thinks is just a temporary measure. Because the suff will find its way back again, like homing pigeons? Patty likes the way Matt carved out an office, but it cuts into the garage space too much. Dora likes Erik's colors, and Patty observes that he has the biggest area for the stage. Bea approves of Goil's rolling stage, but Patty is disappointed that he removed the loft. Isaac likes Michael's stage idea and his colors, but Patty thinks the storage space is a little lacking. Todd leaves the family to decide. Bea lobbies for Goil's stage, but Isaac observes that it will be hard to build. The rest of the comments all come from the parents, so it looks like they're in charge of the decision.

The Bells are not on hand when Todd announces the winner: Andrea. She interviews that it will be a great relief not having the threat of elimination hanging over her for once. Todd tells her to get to delegating and to make the most of her $5100 budget. How'd they come up with that number? I suspect intoxicants. Todd puts the project on hold for a moment so that the designers can choose their carpenters. Since it's a team project, the carpenters don't matter this week, so they could have done the "random assignment" thing and done this next week. But no, we're doing this now. Twelve carpenters file in and attempt to look competent, or at least enticing. Todd explains that the choice of carpenter won't matter this week, but it will matter on down the line. So it sounds like this is a permanent partnership. Carisa interviews about how important the choice is, just in case we weren't feeling enough suspense about it. After Carisa picks, the other designers draw numbered paint chips.

That would have been much more interesting if I had any idea who these people were.

The remaining carpenters magically disappear. Todd gives everyone until 10 pm (or 5.5 hours) to build stuff. The designers immediately waste time hugging their carpenters. Andrea interviews that her design is unique because it's so practical, what with the giant stage. I hope her remarks were edited, because otherwise, they don't quite add up. She asks Goil to help her draw elevations. Goil recaps his role in an interview, because we're stupid and can't remember stuff. Andrea wants to do graphics on the floor; she interviews that Ryan is in charge of that, and it would be a huge detriment if they didn't get done. She talks about purple, but not in a fabric because "the other one didn't like it." Michael suggests an "imperial" purple and Andrea agrees as long as it isn't "mauve-y." She interviews that Michael and Eric have the fabrics and everything theater-related. She shows Carisa the desk area. Carisa asks about storage and Andrea wants identical bins. She interviews that Carisa has the home office, plus styling, while Matt will handle the bulk storage. She feels sorry for him. So, to sum up:

Andrea heads out to the site while the others head off in various directions. Matt and Carisa go shopping at my favorite organizing store, which I have to remember from my trips back to Dallas and the occasional catalog, because they haven't made it up to New Hampshire yet. (Hello? We have small houses up here; it's a no-brainer.) Carisa interviews that they needed everything as we watch her and Matt denude the store of inventory. Michael and Erik visit the fabric store. Somehow, I don't expect a fabric store at the PDC to carry the kind of royal purple polyester velvet that I would make garage stage curtains out of. Michael explains that they're looking for "dark purple and charcoal grey," colors forced on them by Andrea. He'd prefer saturated primary colors for brightness, but he's just following orders. Goil and Ryan work on building stuff. Ryan interviews (without enthusiasm) that he'll be pitching in to get done whatever needs doing. And based on the cabana episode, he's good about getting down to work.

Andrea meets with her clients. Isaac wonders if she had any plans for the adjacent shed. Andrea goes with them to check it out, and Patty has the idea of using it for the home office. Why? If she's working from home, the space is too small and not wired for phones or computers. If she's using it for family business, does she really want to walk through the garage and around the outside to file bills and school papers? It might be suitable for writing the next great American screenplay, if it had a plug for a laptop. I'd store the bikes and other bulky items that get used outdoors there, and free up some room in the garage. (Why, yes, I have watched many episodes of Clean Sweep and Mission:Organization. Sadly, it seems the Bells have not, or they would have called someone else for help with their garage.) Andrea recaps the change of plans for those of you who were distracted by my ramblings and forgot where we were. She calls up Matt (still denuding the organization store) and tells him about the change, explaining that Carisa will have to work in a "separate area" now. Andrea interviews that she wants Carisa to make the office and garage look like the same project, even if they're two separate spaces. Matt tells Carisa about the change of plans, which she promptly recaps in an interview because our brains, they're like sieves. She seems dubious about her ability to improvise a solution. She picks out filing cabinets as Matt calls for her. I guess they had a time limit for shopping. Carisa finds Matt at the checkout area and promptly collapses.

Back at the PDC work area, there are 15 minutes left as Andrea tells Goil they have to load everything onto a dolly; if it's not on the dolly, it gets left behind. Everybody starts packing and loading. Ryan interviews that they have a lot of work ahead of them. Matt interviews that everyone is nervous because they know that screwing up can get you booted. You'll be shocked (shocked!) to learn that he's nervous about the challenge.

And it's morning at the Bell house. The designers have 6.5 hours to work. Carisa interviews about the mountain of "disgusting" stuff they had to clear out of the garage, and it's kind of unprofessional to badmouth the clients like that (even if they deserve it). Fortunately, they have 14 bodies to throw at the job. Andrea explains that Goil is designing all the "millwork" -- I think she means everything that's being built, rather than crown molding and such -- while Ryan is in charge of the "execution" side of the carpentry. Erik and Michael talk theater. Erik interviews that he took the painting and the stage building, while Michael handled the drapes. Matt and Carisa sort through the mountains of stuff. Andrea voiceovers that they're designing the office and all the "organizational systems." With 4.5 hours on the clock, she confers with Carisa about the time she needs -- presumably for the styling, since Carisa figures she'll need 1.5 hours at the end of the project. Andrea thinks they're about 10% behind schedule.

Workety-work. Andrea directs some carpenters. With 4 hours on the clock, she reveals that most of the construction is finished, but they still have to paint and Ryan has to do his graphics. We see him lay tape and roll paint on the floor. Somehow, I suspect dozens of grey footprints would not be the graphic statement Andrea's going for. She might want to think about putting some of those graphics up on a wall. Ryan ho-hums that it's a "goofy" challenge, but he's just trying to keep in interesting without selling out to the man. Goil constructs a box as Andrea describes how he designed a dog bed on wheels and devoted himself to that instead of painting. On the one hand, with all the bodies they have running around inside, maybe they're better off with Goil doing something else. On the other hand, a dog bed with wheels? Ridiculously overengineered. Unless the dog has some kind of joint disease, there's no need for an elevated bed, and a big cushion is just as easy to move around as a cushioned box on wheels. Plus, the children can't fling themselves onto a big cushion and roll down the driveway into traffic.

Carisa puts a desk together in the office shed. She interviews, "I was pretty sure everybody had their projects under control." Not that she really needs to know, since it's Andrea's job to keep track of that. She figures there's enough going on in the garage without her in the mix. Andrea tells Ryan they need three more bodies working in the garage. Matt interviews that Carisa missed the big picture, putting all her efforts into the shed instead of helping everyone finish the garage. The two of them have a little back-and-forth where Matt seems to be asking for help while Carisa wants to finish the office first. Michael believes Carisa was "slacking" while Matt was hustling and getting grubby. Matt and Michael struggle to stuff an inflatable pool into a plastic bin. "It's like trying to put Carisa in stretch pants," Michael whispers. Matt laughs in an "I'm about to weep hysterically" way.

Todd drops in and finds Carisa amongst the bins and storage items. He asks how things are going and she says she's pleased with her shed project. Todd calls the space a "bonus." I'm pretty sure Todd doesn't have an office in a shed, though. Next, Todd finds Ryan, who is just getting things done, so he's not dealing with "the big picture." Todd announces the 1.25 hour mark. Andrea wants everyone to finish with the paint.

Workety-work. Andrea calls the 20-minute mark and sings "Mad rush!" in a fake-panicked voice. Erik warns that they have fabric in the room now, so people should be careful with their paint. Workety work work work. Ryan tacks up one last yellow rectangle over the garage door when Todd calls time. And the judges are here for their looky-loo. Everyone files out. Goil interviews that he wants to be Top Designer rather than "top follower" so it's a hard situation for him.

On the Bell driveway, Todd recaps the challenge, including Andrea's immunity, and introduces the judges. The guest judge is Mark Rios, an LA architect with his own line of products, so he kind of counts as a product placement. Jonathan lays out the criteria: design and execution, teamwork, meeting the family's needs and individual contribution. You know, judges should judge only what they see. If they're going to judge the teamwork or contributions, they need to observe them. Jonathan has already been through the garage with the Bells, but now it's judge time. Huh. Kelly seems to be wearing normal clothes. How'd that happen?

Jonathan prompts Andrea to talk about the project, so we have something to listen to while we view the space. Andrea recaps the challenge, and explains that they moved the car into the center so they could use the space along the walls for all the other demands. She shows off the storage and the stage (with reversible curtains) and Mac's moveable bed. As the judges poke around, Michael voiceovers that he was a good little designer do-bee, incorporating the family's aesthetics (with the color palette) and all the family's requirements. On the other hand, Ryan's voiceover is, like, "Please, boot me, you tasteless cretins, and let me go back to the art world where I'm appreciated." Jonathan leads the other judges to the shed as Andrea's voice explains how it got foisted onto her as an office space; she talks it up as being near the kids but not sharing the same space, like the inconvenience is now an asset. Except without the office area, where's the kids' homework space? Carisa voiceovers that the original shed was "gross" but she made it into the bestest little home office ever.

White Room. Jonathan sums up the challenge as being about function, which he contrasts with some of the "dysfunction" in the room. The worker bees are sent out so the judges can interrogate Andrea, who is now free to badmouth whomever she wants. So there are rewards to being a team leader besides immunity. When Jonathan asks, Andrea says the layout was good but they could have "pushed" it by another 20%. I'm not sure what she's measuring. I guess she's saying she'd give the project a B. Kelly asks how the Bells liked it, and we see them go "wow" over the newly clean garage. The kids are thrilled with the swing. Are they allowed to use that without wearing helmets? You can't be too careful, you know. It looks like they'll have to hook it up out of the way or the car will bang into it. Maybe the car should wear a helmet, too. Mac immediately locates his bed, but doesn't climb aboard. The parents appreciate all the stuff arranged in the clear plastic bins. The kids check out the stage. Next it's off to the shed. Patty calls it "better than nothing at all." Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Jonathan has Isaac perform the all-important product-placed vehicle parking test. It fits!

Back in the White Room, Jonathan brings up the blank back wall. Andrea "explains" that Carisa was responsible for styling. Matt was in charge of most of the organization, but Carisa was given the home office. She tried to give people jobs they could be excited about, which is why Ryan was assigned the graphics. Kelly wonders why he didn't do anything artistic on the back wall. Andrea explains that they wanted to do more. Jonathan asks what Ryan was doing, and Andrea says he was busy but his efforts were "scattered." I suspect she wanted him to take more of the big-picture role instead of being Mr. Pitch-In all over the place. However, there's a limit to how much floor painting anyone could do if they all have to run around and finish the space. Margaret asks if the dog bed could have been simpler. Andrea points to Goil as the culprit and agrees with Margaret. Jonathan asks about the colors and Andrea says they used the kids' suggestions. Jonathan is specifically interested in the purple of the curtains, and Andrea pins that on Michael. She thinks the color is too dark for a kid's room. Jonathan asks about Erik, whom Andrea praises as a good team player. Kelly asks, "Who was the slacker?" Andrea picks Carisa for being off in the shed. Which is where Andrea decided to put the office. That was assigned to Carisa. But Andrea would have liked her to style the walls in the garage. Kelly wonders if Andrea yelled or hit her. Note to self: do not send resume to Kelly.

Off in the sit-around-and-wait room, Michael opines that it's good that Andrea's being questioned in isolation so she can be honest. Carisa wonders if Andrea will really nominate someone to get the boot. Erik says the biggest flaw was the lack of styling. Michael "wonders" who was "in charge of styling and the stuff." Carisa says, "Matt and I." Which, since Michael brought the stuff into it, is true. Michael claims he never saw Carisa, and she didn't communicate, but Carisa points out that she spoke a lot to Andrea in the morning. And we saw some of that. Michael claims that he "saw Matt moving heavy, gross swimming pools, going through stuffed animals that were drenched with squirrel urine" but he never saw Carisa move anything. While Michael has an excellent (if exaggerated) turn of phrase, he's wrong. Carisa did move stuff around in the first part of the morning. She tells Michael he's wrong. Michael says she didn't do what she said she would. Which is partly true -- she didn't style the garage. Carisa practices active listening: "Your impression is that I was doing nothing." Michael argues that the project was the garage, "and you designed the shed." Carisa explains that there were too many "cooks" in the garage, so she worked on her project. Michael tells her, "Don't be a cook, be a sous chef!" I think he means that she should be a team player instead of a solo artist. Carisa says, "You're absolutely entitled to your opinion." Which is a polite way of saying, "You're a moron." Michael responds by announcing his need to pee, which makes me think that his argument with Carisa was a figurative way of waving his dick around, and now he's escalating to a more literal version. Michael is a little bit right in that Carisa needed to contribute to the garage part of the project, too, but he's wrong in blaming her for not helping Matt. I think he's annoyed that she wasn't around to get stuck with the job, so he got stuck with it instead. But then what would he have swanned off to do with his copious free time? Compared to everyone else, "drapes" is just not that big of a contribution. Perhaps he senses that he's the most at risk for having had the least impact, and feels the need to make someone else a target. And after the cabana challenge, I suspect people are thinking Carisa's idea of hard work is not quite as strenuous as everyone else's.

The worker bees return for their grilling.

The judges send everyone out while they confer. Kelly and Jonathan feel sorry for Matt and his mountain of crap. Mark Rios repeats his criticism that Matt didn't do any designing. But I think the regular judges are convinced that Matt is a good designer, so the lack won't hurt him. Mark Rios thinks Goil's "passion" is evident, but Kelly doesn't get the dog bed. "What dog wants to be on wheels?" I bet Snoopy would get into it. Jonathan wasn't impressed with Ryan getting all socio-political on them. "It's a garage!" agrees Margaret. Jonathan jokes that "he's floating on a higher plane as an artiste" and Margaret jumps on the lack of art. She pokes Kelly about how she fell for Ryan's big ideas and now he doesn't have one. Kelly excuses him as taking a supporting role, but the others aren't convinced. Jonathan thinks Erik has to take some blame for the purple fabric, but Mark Rios compliments his "intuition" as demonstrated by the last-minute window treatment. The judges proceed to blame Michael for the purple; Jonathan thinks he's irresistably drawn to the "grape." Margaret finds the colors and fabric "too sophisticated" for a mere garage. Mark Rios isn't feeling the drape love. Margaret sums up Carisa's contribution as "she just went off and did her own thing." Jonathan thinks she at least "injected herself" into the space, instead of just following orders. Margaret argues that she sacrificed the garage to finish the shed, and the garage was the major part of the project.

The designers return to learn their fates. Jonathan tells Andrea she's lucky to have immunity, because the judges didn't love her design. But she's safe. Matt, Goil and Erik are all safe. Carisa gets spanked for doing her own thing instead of working with the team, Michael is spanked for loving his curtains far more than they deserved (although he is praised for his hard work), Ryan is spanked for the lack of graphics and his dismissive attitude toward the challenge. Carisa is safe, since she "had a point of view." Michael is safe. Ryan is sprung from this hellish experience that he chose to sign up for. He tells the others, "Fight the power." Probably not the best career advice for an interior designer. He interviews that the judges are awfully "conservative." Todd is bummed; he saw Ryan hard at work all day. Ryan just sighs that the judges "weren't ready" for his "socio-political rants." Probably because they were expecting interior design instead. Ryan interviews that interior design "should be an event." I don't know -- when I come home from work every day, I don't have the energy to invest in an event. You will be shocked to learn that Ryan is against "standardized, homogenized, catalogued" design. So, I think, are the judges. It's just that Ryan's idea of "standardized" seems to stretch to include everything that's ever been done before. Design has a functional component, which means tossing out working ideas just because they've been used before is a big waste. Ryan's off to get down and dirty in the war against conformity.

Right winner? Hell if I know. The Bells chose the one they liked best; if that's the criterion, then the right design won by definition. Andrea did seem to have a reasonably clean and complete design, so it wasn't an outlandish decision.

Right loser? I'm coming around to the idea that maybe he was. Yes, he worked hard, but I think everyone did. Carisa didn't put all of her effort in the right place, but she made that effort. Ryan executed, but he didn't contribute much to the design, and he could have. The only one who comes close to him in lack of impact is Michael. His only design contribution was the stage curtains, and the judges saw them as more of a negative. Goil's dog bed didn't really add anything but it wasn't a negative. Carisa's office did add something (or subtract something, in the sense of making more room in the garage), so despite Patty's mild praise, it was a positive. Erik's work was also a positive. As for Matt, well, let's not even think about booting him after his heroic efforts. Based on the criteria, it looks like Michael is the best choice for the boot -- Ryan beats him in design (barely) and execution (lots), they were both team players, both addressed the family's needs (Michael a bit more specifically than Ryan) and their individual contributions were mostly a lot of busy work. But Ryan didn't want to play any more, and it showed, and I can't quibble with his ouster. It was bound to happen soon enough. But I never imagined Michael as being in the top half of the field.

Carisa or Michael? I think Carisa is more right than Michael, but she uses condescension to disengage while he's often marvelously waspish, so he balances being wrong with being entertaining. They're both incredibly immature. I just hope they don't wind up as the final two, or my head will explode.


Thursday, March 08, 2007


Cheap Tricks

Previously on Top Design: The designers teamed up to create beach cabanas on an actual beach. Elizabeth charged ahead and Matt let her. Ryan told an incredulous Carisa that his rooms are an obnoxious noise while hers are conservative. They clashed interminably. Team Tahiti won for their roofless but otherwise decent cabana. Ryan was spanked for not fixing his furniture, Matt was spanked for slacking off, Elizabeth was spanked for Team Miami's grotesque color palette. Elizabeth got the boot and regretted getting stuck with "ugly colors" on her resume.

Daytime. PDC. Ryan interviews that he hasn't had an opportunity to shine yet. "Given the right set of circumstances" -- like a client who's into punk rock and skateboarding -- "I would really be able to blow some minds." Because that's what interior design is all about. Matt interviews that he didn't like being in the bottom three and he'll try not to do it again. In the last episode, Ryan and Carisa got the opening interviews and then spent the episode feuding. Are Ryan and Matt going to duke it out this time? I would love to see Ryan get smacked down, but I don't think Matt's the guy for the job.

Everyone sits on the bright green grass as Todd introduces the next challenge. The designers are pleased to learn that they'll get a chance to talk to their clients before coming up with their designs (what a wacky twist!) but not so pleased to learn that their clients will be picky, since they're interior design students. The challenge is to create a "post-college living space" for sleeping, eating and working. No socializing? The clients find their designers and get to talking.

Todd sends the designers off to take care of paint and fabric; tomorrow, they'll tackle furniture shopping. All told, they'll have 2.5 days to complete the challenge. Wow. That's like six years in real-world time.

The designers head to the fabric store for 20 minutes of shopping. Michael interviews that fabric is usually his starting point for a project, and he draws colors and textures from that. Matt is having trouble finding what he envisions. Carisa sympathizes. Ryan interviews that his fabric is very "pop" and "loud." He confesses to the clerk that this is his first fabric purchase. No wonder he didn't want fabric duty last time. Still wondering why he signed up for this show. Felicia interviews that she won't just cater to a client's wacky demands; she's going to give the client her best efforts. And what happens if the client doesn't want her best efforts? Something Donald Trump's decorator has to ask herself or himself on a regular basis, no doubt.

At 6:25 a.m., Todd apologetically wakes up the women. Carisa interviews that she never imagined awakening to the sound of Todd Oldham's voice. There's much moaning and groaning. Todd then wakes up the guys. More moaning and groaning. I thought TV shows got off to an early start, so what's the big deal? Todd even brought coffee and muffins. He explains to the assembled designers that the challenge will incorporate a "great American tradition -- the garage sale." The designers would probably be more shocked if they weren't half-asleep. I actually like this twist. It fits with the idea of someone young and just starting out, furnishing their new digs with hand-me-downs and scavengings. Andrea confesses that she has never been to a garage sale, so she was "horrified." Todd warns that the judges will be looking at their ability to make over their finds. They'll get $500 (which can get you a lot at garage sales) and can shop until noon (although the good stuff is usually gone by 8:05 a.m.) with a randomly-assigned travel buddy. Only so many product-placed vehicles to go around, I guess. Todd heads off for a nap while the designers venture forth in search of bargains.

The graphic says the designers have 4 hours to shop, so it looks like they're moving out at 8:00, which is a late start if you're hitting garage sales. Everyone has maps. Carisa fusses that they have to turn around. Her travel buddy Michael interviews that they went all over the city. Carisa disses the neighborhood they wind up in, convinced they won't find anything. No more grumping! Goil introduces himself to the homeowner, who giggles over his name. "Some bastards are already here!" Michael announces as he climbs out of the product-placed vehicle. Go get 'em, tiger! He finds some Danish modern chairs, while Carisa goes for something orange and mod. The seller wants $200 for it. Is this a real garage sale? Who charges $200 for their discards? Michael does a "my stuff is great but her stuff is crappy" interview, because we can always count on Michael to pooh-pooh someone else's choices. He tries to shake off Carisa by striding off to another sale down the street.

Erik does some bargaining. He interviews that no one starts out with big budgets, and the challenge reminds him of his own early years. Which, since he's 28, are only a year or two in his past, at most. Felicia interviews that she's not used to working with such a small budget. She finds some necktie fabric that reminds her of wallpaper. In texture rather than pattern, I hope. Goil finds a kilt and does a quick jig, but Felicia will not be distracted. Matt marvels at the piles of crap spilling out of someone's garage. If only there were a chance of a Clean Sweep/Top Design crossover. Matt interviews about his steal of an outdoor dining set. Andrea interviews how she found a lot of raw material for reworking. For someone who never saw a garage sale before, she got right into the spirit of things.

Ryan interviews that he found a bunch of "upscale junk" -- no low-class junk for him! -- that he has to rework. He much prefers doing his own thing to buying the same things as everyone else. Yes, yes, you're unique and special. But unless you're customizing your socks and underwear, don't pretend you're too good for mass-merchandising. Goil has racked up $100 in items. He interviews about all the stuff he got, that he'll be reworking. Felicia offers $25 for a granny-square afghan that's worth maybe $3, and the seller does a good job of acting like he's doing her a favor.

Back at the PDC, Todd announces that the carpenters are imminent. But first, an announcement. "Uh-oh," sighs Felicia, who has learned (like the rest of us) that late-in-the-game announcements are not a good thing. But the twist is, this is not a twist. Instead, Todd informs them that they will get to pick their carpenters in the next challenge, and the winner of this challenge will have first pick. Will the carpenters be wearing little black slips? I would pay good money to see that. Carisa interviews that it would be great to be able to pick a carpenter. The carpenters arrive for consultation and Felicia celebrates. She interviews that her carpenter is good about getting her explanations. Carisa has Sarah, the only female carpenter. She wears a tasteful bead necklace with her black t-shirt and brown cargo pants. If she doesn't make it as a carpenter, I think she has a future as a stylist. Carisa interviews that the centerpiece of her design is a rolling desk, which will be awesome if it can be "executed correctly." More gabbing from designers. Todd calls time and sends the carpenters to shop at the hardware store.

Now it's time for Todd to check in with the designers, which is always a highlight. Felicia explains that she's having a little trouble with her paint selections, and Todd suggests toning down her lavender with some of her gold paint. Felicia recaps the suggestion; she's pleased with her direction. Matt explains that he decided to plank his back wall with reversed flooring; Todd compliments his creativity. Carisa tells Todd about a handmade rug she found. He loves her colors, but raises a concern that she's doing green and orange again. Carisa gets his point, but her client loves orange. Carisa interviews that she never mixed orange and green before coming on the show. Todd gives the designers six hours to work, with the promise of more time the next day, and heads out.

Workety-work. Designers unload their stuff. Carisa paints a wall red and makes a pre-emptive apology to her client for not using orange. Ryan interviews that he's going to pretend the room is an art installation, because he knows art and he doesn't know design. His room is black with white stripes accented with crushed glass for a diamond effect. Somewhere in France, Hilda Saint-Tomas stands up and cheers. Goil seems envious of Ryan's "bold" color choice. Felicia interviews that Ryan is "totally in his element." He inspects the application of glass in one of the broad black stripes. Felicia can't tell if his room will soar or flop. Goil has a little miscommunication with Jared, his carpenter. He interviews that as much as he loves Jared, he gets along better with a couple of other carpenters. Carisa frets over her rolling desk, which she interviews is a "major" piece. She offers to help Sarah, who's like, don't help. Carisa confesses that she gets nervous when the time ticks down. She interviews that she's trusting Sarah to get it done. Her face interviews that she doesn't trust Sarah one little bit. And the designers are done for the day.

And it's morning again. Andrea interviews that she has lots of little things to finish. "Let's roll, sugahs!" Michael urges as they load into their vehicles. And back at the PDC, sparks are flying as someone welds or maybe cuts metal. The camera's not getting too close. Matt interviews that he thinks he has a shot with his "high-end" room. Felicia's feeling much better now that she's getting her fabric "wallpaper" up. Michael does another "diss a fellow designer's choice" interview about Felicia's wallpaper; he thinks maybe she's having trouble because she usually does "high-end" design. Goil explains that he divided his room into two areas, one raised a foot off the floor to create separation.

Carisa interviews that she and Sarah are not on "the same page" and the room is starting to get away from her. Sarah reveals that the desk is not coming together, despite her best efforts. It's very long and there aren't many supports. Carisa interviews that Sarah's wood choice was too heavy. But it has to be strong enough to support the long span. I don't know my lumber tolerances, but it seems like there are some trade-offs involved. Carisa frets. Sarah tells her to calm down as she fixes the paint job. Carisa "borrows" Michael to confirm her decision to ditch it, because she can count on him to hate it, too. Sarah tries to find out what needs fixing, but Carisa is past it. She interviews her disappointment. "I'll never trust a carpenter again," she mourns. Drama queen.

More workety-work. Erik compiments Ryan's colorful bullseye tabletop and predicts a win for him. Ryan "sobs" that he's scared of success. Michael urges his carpenter to make something "straight." Todd calls five minutes. Cleaning and sweeping and last minute details. Todd calls time and the designers file out. Matt interviews that he thinks he has disguised the low origins of his furnishings, so he feels good about his chances.

The White Room. Todd recaps the challenge and introduces the judges. Apparently scientists have discovered time travel and the only way to preserve the integrity of our space-time continuum was for Kelly to make an appearance at Studio 54, and she just got back. That's my best explanation for her appearance; feel free to make up your own. The guest judge is set designer Joe Stewart, who has 23 Emmy nominations and the White Room in his credits. I'm thinking the White Room is not going to make it 24.

Jonathan outlines the judging criteria: design, execution, meeting the client's needs and refurbishing the garage sale purchases. He already has the clients' feedback. Time to review the designs.

Michael does another designer diss interview, calling Ryan's room immature and "Willy Wonka"-looking. I'm guessing Michael had a typical middle-class childhood, and he hated everything about it. Ryan interviews that he doesn't care about any negative opinions, because they're from people who don't get his awesomeness. The whole "they didn't see it" excuse is really arrogant. First, it means that he must have been completely successful in presenting his idea. Second, it assumes that his idea was worth the effort. From what I've seen of Ryan's work, he hasn't earned those assumptions.

See Matt's room at

The White Room again. Jonathan asks Matt what came from the garage sales, and Matt says it all did. Even the bed? Margaret thinks he did a "brilliant job" providing what the client requested, and Jonathan confirms, "The client really dug it." We see Chad admiring the space, and when Jonathan asks, he agrees that he would rent it. Margaret and Joe criticize Matt's choice of green as too common. I guess green is no longer the new black. I don't care if the green is common; it's a nice color. I love the desk unit and the dark back wall. The wall stain came out better than the stain on the furniture; the weathered effect works for the table and chairs (to contrast with the back wall) but not so much on the bed. The fabrics aren't really my thing, but they work in the room. I'd ditch the gold statuette and put some shelves on the side walls, but it's really a solid room, and it doesn't look at all like a garage sale.

See Andrea's room at

Jonathan likes the functionality of Andrea's room. He wonders what Joe thinks, since he frequents garage sales to dress his sets. Joe likes the storage on the walls and her upholstery work. Kelly thinks the bed is too narrow. Andrea explains Steve's willingness to sleep on a couch. Yeah, but a narrow couch? Margaret asks if she considered a single cushion instead of the "split cushion" she used. Andrea explains she wanted a couch look, but agrees that a single cushion would be more bed-like. My first impression is that this is more of a work space than a living space; it just doesn't feel homey. Nothing really says "comfort." The couch tries, but it's not something you can really settle into. And after studying the picture, I think the room is unbalanced. The right side is boxy and solid with the built-in sofa, while the left side is all leggy with the chairs and tables. The wall treatment would work better in a room that wasn't so full of pieces.

See Goil's room at

Goil's turn. Jonathan thinks it's his "most room-like" work so far. Margaret likes his creativity with the wooden chairs. Kelly wonders about the recessed mattress. Goil wanted to keep the horizontal line "clean." Kelly asks about comfort, and Goil thinks it works because "you never fall off your bed." Points for making the judges chuckle. Zeal tells Jonathan, "I definitely could sleep here. Me and another person." This room needs some wall color stat. Goil has gone beyond "clean" to sterile. Well, at least he put some colorful items on the walls. The chairs are kind of silly, although resting them on the elevation means they take up less floor space. But if he rearranged the work desk (which is pitifully small) so it didn't crowd the table, he'd have room for fully functional chairs. I also disagree with the fully-recessed bed. He has a mound of pillows messing up the clean plane of the elevation anyway, so pop up the mattress a couple of inches and make it more inviting.

See Felicia's room at

Jonathan wants to know about Felicia's afghan. She thinks it fits the client's "funky edge," but Jonathan reveals that the client was "really disappointed." Mary tells Jonathan that she'd want to change a lot of things, like the chair. When he asks what she "love, love, loves," she says she likes the wallpaper, but the afghan feels like Granny's house. When Jonathan asks for her general reaction, she says, "I'd shoot myself." Jonathan tells Felicia that the afghan became the focus of Mary's distaste. Felicia confesses to wavering on the afghan. Margaret compliments the wallpaper and her lacquered chair. I really like the black lacquered chair, and kudos to Felicia for mocking up a window. Other than that, it's really kind of a mess. The wallpaper just doesn't tie into the golden tones in the rest of the room. Even if you get rid of that (and toss the afghan while you're at it), the remaining pieces don't really pull together. There's eclectic, and then there's muddled.

See Erik's room at

Kelly admires Erik's use of space. She and Jonathan both love his little green chair on a pedestal light, but Kelly thinks his artwork was "scary." Apollo tells Jonathan that it looks like "John Wayne Gacy art." Erik was going for "pop literal fun" but admits that maybe he didn't pull it off. I like the combination of wood and metal; it has a good balance. I'm not so fond of the mini-dividing wall; it makes the bed feel like an MRI machine. And the big cream ottoman, although nice, feels sort of smushed into the room. I like the little pops of red; there's just enough color. But the artwork is just not working for me. If you're going to be that literal, you need to be more playful, I think.

See Carisa's room at

Carisa confesses that she had to ditch her "really interesting" rolling table. Jonathan was impressed by her garage sale finds. Margaret asks about her pillows and Carisa explains that she made some from napkins. Margaret gives her a pass from the "pillow police" for having just enough pillows. Eden tells Jonathan that she repeatedly requested storage. Jonathan points out that other designers managed to incorporate storage on the same budget. Carisa can't argue the point, so she says she did her best. Did she make the coffee table out of the failed rolling desk? Because otherwise, I can't see how the desk could have fit into the room; there's not a whole lot of space to roll around between the bed and the chair. The bed is rather spartan, but I love the shelving at the end. The white walls are also rather stark; she should have used some pillow fabric to create wall hangings and turned the failed desk into shelves to break up all that white.

See Michael's room at

Kelly likes the lamp in Michael's room, which he included for its "organic" or "handcrafted" qualities. When Jonathan asks, Justine admits she likes the lamp, although she doesn't enthuse. Jonathan turns to the colors, which he calls "grape and banana." Michael disagrees with that characterization, as well as Kelly's contribution of "macaroni and cheese." I think the judges need a dinner break. Michael asserts that he achieved a "happy and bright" look, but Margaret disagrees. The yellow looks cheerful enough on my TV, but the purple is way too heavy. I love all the construction along the back wall, but the furniture arrangement makes it hard to see. Put the seating area on one wall and the desk (preferably a more substantial desk) on the other, and you've got something. I confess, I like the wooden partridges. They have such a great, curvy shape.

See Ryan's room at

Ryan is ready to take the judges on. At least he's not shadow boxing, although I wouldn't put it past him. Kelly calls the room "chaotic." You'd think she could appreciate that, given her hairstyle, but no. Joe wants to know about the screen. Ryan explains that he wanted to add privacy and divide the space. Kelly doesn't like the permanence; a drapery panel would be more flexible. Ryan thinks that's a "standard solution." A functional standard is better than an original failure, though. Jonathan reports, "The client, she thought, like, you know, she was sleeping behind bars." Carrie tells Jonathan that the space is "a little too eclectic" but she likes the art. Joe wonders if Ryan treats his spaces like "art pieces." Ryan thinks this was his time to shine, since he reuses and recycles things. Too many people shop just to have stuff. He doesn't just wave around color chips, he tries to "think about things on a much deeper level." And what deeper level would that be? You can't just assert that you're deep; you have to show depth. I'm not seeing the depth. Margaret observes, "Actually, there's nothing wrong with paint samples and fabric swatches" and Ryan agrees. "But you speak about them in a really derogatory manner," she complains, and the other judges concur. "Do you want to be a designer?" Margaret wonders. Excellent question. "As long as I can have it, you know, have my own rules," replies the eternal rebel. Bad answer. "You know, I can make a room pretty but, you know, I don't think that's a hard thing to do." Not if you know what you're doing. I suspect Ryan doesn't. So does Jonathan, apparently, since he advises Ryan to start with the pretty and then add the art. I don't know why Ryan bothered with the crushed glass; with so much black in the room, it just fades into the background. The "screen" doesn't create any privacy for the bed area. Putting the bed on legs is an interesting way to visually expand the space, but the bed is at a really awkward height. What's up with him and beds? Plus the bedding fabric is random and garish. But if you ignore the back left corner, the rest of the room is not that bad. I like the locker, the work table and the hanging benches/art. There are just too many ideas competing for attention. Ryan needs to learn how to edit.

The designers go away while the judges talk. Jonathan likes Matt's consistently good style and furniture placement, and Kelly likes his accessories. She and Jonathan love his conjoined lamp, but Margaret isn't into it. Jonathan thinks Andrea's room had nice "bits" but nothing with real impact. Kelly approves of the industrial look and Joe thinks the room worked. On the other hand, Joe thinks Goil had a lot of "interesting ideas" but they didn't add up to a coherent room. Margaret thinks the bed needs to be revisited. Kelly thinks "the overall design was flat." Jonathan turns to Felicia. Joe points out that granny afghans aren't "youthful and hip." Jonathan is thinking Mama's Family, not chic young designer. "What was she thinking?" Margaret wonders. Jonathan reports that the room made the client feel suicidal. Kelly praises the tie fabric, but that's it. Margaret just can't understand how someone so experienced could produce that room. Kelly likes Erik's room; he satisfied the client and his shopping choices were good, although the art was a off note. Jonathan agrees that it satsified the client but he'd like to see Erik's taste improve a bit. All the judges admire Carisa's shopping choices. Joe likes the use of napkins to make pillows. Margaret finds the room thoughtful and well-done. Jonathan points out the client's disappointment about the storage. Margaret and Joe are not getting the "clean, bright and happy" feeling from Michael's room. The judges all hate the grape color. Jonathan thinks he at least showed some taste. Margaret thinks this was better than his kid room, and Jonathan agrees that he has shown improvement. Finally, Ryan. Kelly finds the room thought-provoking. Thoughts like "What was this guy on?" and "What's the fastest way out of here?" Jonathan isn't loving the attitude; if you're going to be all "badass" then you need to have the chops, and Ryan doesn't. Margaret thinks he lacks sophistication and experience. She's shocked that he can speak so slightingly of standard designer tools. Kelly sticks up for him because he at least has a point of view. Oh, dear, it's a Santino redux. Margaret seems unconvinced. The judges reach a decision.

Jonathan recaps the carpenter bonus for the winner. Erik, Goil, Michael and Andrea are all safe. Matt is praised for delivering Armani Casa with garage sale finds; Carisa's room was "well-edited" and "balanced and beautiful" with successful colors. Carisa gets the win. She does the "yay!" interview. Matt is safe. Felicia is spanked for disappointing everyone with her "depressing" room; Ryan is spanked for impracticality and a prison atmosphere. Felicia gets the boot, so Ryan lives to fight another day. She hugs Goil on the way out. In her parting interview, she disagrees with the result. Todd consoles her that the stars just didn't align. She interviews that the challenges don't leave time to step back and "critique" your own work, so that's her lesson learned. "I have to say that anybody who can paint so beautifully in a Prada skirt" is going to go places, Todd tells her. Felicia continues that it was a great experience with great people, and "of course" she would have done it differently if she'd heard the feedback. Well, good for her; she really did learn something.

Right winner? I think Matt was gypped. Let's looking the judging criteria again: design, execution, meeting the client's needs and refurbishing the garage sale purchases. I find Matt's room more appealing than Carisa's. Execution? Can't really tell, but they both seem reasonably complete. Carisa's room lacked the requested storage, while Matt's client seemed entirely happy. As for refurbishing, Matt made a high-end room out of garage sales finds while Carisa's room involved more building than transformation. Seems to me Matt definitely comes out ahead.

Right loser? Felicia and Ryan both had ugly rooms, so you can make a case for either one going. I don't buy Kelly's "point of view" defense of Ryan. First, I'm not convinced Ryan's "point of view" is anything more than self-indulgence. Second, a crappy point of view is still crap. I suspect this is a case of lowered expectations working in Ryan's favor. If I watch something that I expect to be bad, then I'm happy to relate to it on its own limited merits. If I watch something that I hope will be good and it disappoints me, I relate to it based on my expectations. The flaws bother me more if they mar otherwise good work. Ryan's room was par for the course for him; Felicia's wasn't.

So, how many trips to the bottom three can Ryan survive? Will he manage to hang on longer than Michael? I hope neither of them is long for the contest. That leaves Andrea, Carisa, Erik, Goil and Matt. Of them, I think Goil has the most "wow" factor but he seems to be more architect than interior designer. Carisa's immaturity just bugs. The other three are solid, but I'm not in love with anyone's work yet. I'd like to be dazzled, please.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?