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.


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