Sunday, August 05, 2007
Opening Night in Vegas
It's a new season of Design Star, HGTV's little show that could. And we're in Las Vegas, which is an excellent setting for crushing people's cherished dreams. Should be fun. Our cast of contestants:
- Robb, 39, Orlando, creative design specialist. He claims to be representing the men of America. What he means is that he's representing the manly men of America, the ones who build but don't quite lay claim to sewing. He prays he won't be the first one eliminated, so look for him on the chopping block.
- Neeraja, 42, Palm Springs, photo stylist. She's willing to run over people to get what she wants. Sounds charming.
- Lisa, 26, Pennsylvania, restaurant interior designer. She's here to represent the "punk element" and she has the reverse skunk fauxhawk to prove it. Sigh. The punk movement is turning 30, and I don't think it ever did perky.
- Will, 31, Charlotte, interior designer/entrepreneur. He's not willing to run over people to get ahead, not that he has to. He's immediately fascinated with the metal garage door in the workroom.
- Scott, 37, Santa Barbara, event planner/interior designer. He arrives carrying an espresso machine -- don't leave home without it! His design style is natural and outdoorsy. "I feel like a kid being shipped off to design camp, it's crazy!" That there is the right attitude for this enterprise.
- Josh, 25, St. Paul, green designer. He describes his style as "metro hippie," which balances high style with eco-friendly design. He's just going to be himself. Good plan. Being someone else all the time is tiring.
- Adriana, 37, Orange County, interior designer/business owner. She's the plucky immigrant success story.
- Christina, 30, Georgia, homemaker/interior designer. She uses design to add "much-needed balance" to her life as a stay-at-home mom. Lisa is befuddled by Christina's high-octane niceness.
- Todd, 35, San Francisco, artist/landscape architect. He's just your basic surfing, skateboarding California boy. He's confident in his design and construction skills.
- Kim, 34, Queens, design enthusiast/hair stylist. She is certain that hairdressing is "an extension" of design. Yes, but how does it relate to interior design? She's a stalwart HGTV viewer, so at least she understands the audience.
- Josh, 33, Tennessee, interior designer. With a mane of flowing blonde hair. Right off the bat, he's larger than life. He describes his design style as "big" and "fluffy," although he tries to keep it in the bounds of good taste. As he wrestles two giant suitcase inside, he quips, "These are just the hair products." Oh, yay, someone who can laugh at himself!
The contestants arrive in the workroom, outfitted with eleven desks. It lets out onto the balcony and there's even a little pool area. Neeraja squeals over the penthouse view. From all the green, you'd think they overlook Central Park. I'm just not into the whole "let's move to the desert and pretend that it's really a fertile plain" mindset. Lisa realizes that there are eleven workstations. She notes that they had ten contestants last season, but that doesn't mean they're stuck with ten this time around.
A helicopter lands on the roof and Clive heads downstairs. On the way, he manages to change from a brown suede jacket into a gangster-like pinstripe suit jacket. The contestants all cheer him because he's on TV. He handles the exposition and gets the contestants to "Woo!" at regular intervals. One point of note: the judges view the designers work on TV so they have the same perspective as everyone at home. Interesting.
The first challenge: Just as in the first season, they must design their own living space. Unlike the first season, they get 28 hours (a slight increase) and $15,000 (twice the money). One designer will be eliminated. Clive pulls out a remote control and the garage door rolls up to reveal a huge loft space. The floors are stained concrete with a central dark "path" that also creates curved areas on the interior side; the exterior side has enormous walls of windows. The designers wander around, oohing and aahing. The upstairs has two bedrooms -- one large and one small -- and "several bathrooms." Thank goodness.
Kim is about to pick up the paint can on the kitchen counter when Neeraja swipes it. She interviews that she wanted to handle the money so she could boss people around. After about an hour, everybody meets downstairs to get organized. Robb takes an interior living space demarcated by a big circle on the floor. Minnesota Josh puts his carpentry skills at Rob's service. Scott likes the sunken pit by the kitchen and Kim teams up with him. Lisa takes the entry. Todd wants to create a quarter pipe near the pit. Perhaps he'll use it launch himself over the pit, a la Evel Knievel. Christina is intimidated by Lisa and Todd's unconventionality, so she decides to steer clear and take the smaller bedroom. Will wants to work on a bedroom as well, and Tennessee Josh volunteers to help, so they have the larger bedroom and Adrianna will team with Christina on the smaller. That leaves the bar and main staircase to Neeraja.
Will sees two problems to address in the big bedroom: the bad carpeting and the number of beds. He wants the room to have a serene, earthy feel. The team gets to work sorting out the beds, which are kind of in a pile at the moment. Adriana shows a sketch to Christina, who interviews that she had "much different ideas." Well, sketch 'em out and put 'em on the table, sweetie. She proposes fabric hangings, but Adriana wants to keep the feel "very contemporary." She interviews that their styles weren't meshing. Once they wrangle the beds into an arrangement, Adriana asks what Christina thinks, and Christina says, "Uh." Adriana thinks it works. They spend two hours coming up with colors and when Adriana tries to get confirmation, Christina finally says, "I'm compromising." So that pretty much covers that team dynamic. Meanwhile, in the other bedroom, Will and Josh have no trouble agreeing on a palette.
Lisa plans a "contemporary, punk, elegant, chic kind of space." If you're using that many adjectives, you don't have a clear idea of what you're doing. Her first project? A "telephone book sculpture." Yes, that would be my priority when designing a space. Over in the "Living Lounge" space, Robb and Josh decide to build their furniture. Neeraja plans something "dramatic" with her bar and stairway. Scott and Kim plan to turn the pit into a dining area, since it already has bench seating. The little space behind it will be a small "meditation area." Because when you're in the middle of a big ol' loft housing a heap of people, it's going to be nice and peaceful. Todd takes inspiration from the concrete floors, the windows and the ceiling height, and promptly comes up with a quarter pipe and a hammock between two trees. Oh, right, landscape architect. Indoor spaces are a new thing for him, I guess. Kim laughingly interviews that no one even thought to question the whole skateboard thing, and the judges might find that odd. Not just the judges.
Downstairs Josh thinks the challenge is "tough" because the living space doesn't provide a lot of definition. Sounds like a design opportunity. The downstairs people gather to talk about color. They decide on bold red tones for accents. Josh and Robb hit up Neeraja for money. Upstairs Josh thinks Neeraja did an "awesome" job handling the money. Perhaps that's why we don't hear anything more about it. Time to shop. Downstairs Josh, Robb and Scott buy lumber. Neeraja, Kim, Lisa and Upstairs Josh all shop at a home decor store. Lisa hits up the counter staff for a phone book. Meanwhile, Will tapes off the room and makes the beds. In a less fancy home store, Adriana picks out accessories while Christina disapproves of her choices.
Back from shopping, Lisa gets to work on her "telephone book sculpture." This means tearing out pages and folding them into accordion pleats. So, it's not a sculpture made out of telephone books, it's a sculpture made out of paper which comes from telephone books. Upstairs, Will is happy with Josh's purchases. They get to painting, and Lisa keeps folding, but the others spend their last few minutes of work time eating. I'm sure they'll learn better soon. Clive arrives and calls an end to their work period. He reveals they have 22 hours of work time left, and heads out.
Morning. It's a good thing Will made those beds, because they're sleeping in them. The bathrooms are kinda crowded as everyone gets ready. Clive returns to kick off the work day; they'll get 14 hours. The downstairs crew dives into painting. Scott reveals he and Kim made a deal with Todd: he builds the "skeleton" of their dining room table and they help him paint. A shirtless Todd has a fun time crawling all over the table as he builds it, and then jumps on it when he's done. "My favorite tool is a Todd," Scott interviews.
With 10 hours left in the day, Robb visits a junkyard to find a car door. He interviews that he has always wanted to use car doors; doors are a metaphor for opening and closing. Well, they're more of a mechanism than a metaphor. Kim feels ambivalent about Scott's giant light fixture. Downstairs Josh fumbles with a tape measure. Cut to shirtless Todd practically doing pushups as he saws through the table top. Upstairs Josh reveals that the copper paint he's applying is "the color of spray-on tan." Painting. Awkward Josh carpentry. Slammin' Todd carpentry. Painting. Awkward Josh carpentry. Staining. Painting. Awkward Josh carpentry.
With 5 hours left to the day (so after spending 9 hours), Robb returns with stuff to find Josh behind schedule on the carpentry. They still need to buy foam and fabric. Yeah, this is going to turn out well. Why couldn't Robb buy foam and fabric if he was already out shopping? Upstairs, Will has Josh check out the paint design on the bedroom doors; Josh approves. Adriana suspects their paint color is not "speaking" to Christina (at this point, I might not have been speaking to her either) but they marshall on. Time ticks as people work.
It's not quite light out the next morning when Clive returns. They're missing a Josh; Christina thinks he was washing his hair, so you can guess which one. The Josh with lovely hair interviews that they do have two Joshes: one is more organic and one is more sparkly. Will calls his partner "Sparkle" as he urges him to get going. Clive kicks off the final 8 hours and then wanders around interrogating people. He thinks the dining area is "unfinished" but Scott assures him that it's all detail work at this point. Meanwhile, Organic Josh tells Robb they don't have time for details. Clive wonders why they're running behind and Robb explains that they made furniture by hand. "Was that wise?" Clive wonders. Robb figures they'll find out when the time's up. Upstairs, Clive asks Will and Sparkle Josh about their working relationship, which has improved over the past couple of days. He makes them hug. The second bedroom team also gets a teamwork question, and Christina basically says they keep having to work through disagreements. Neeraja has no bar stools. She has money; she just can't find what she wants. Well, then, find what you can live with. Clive asks Todd, will it be worth it to get booted over a skating ramp? Todd figures yes, since he had fun. Lisa explains that the stencilling is everyone's names spelled backwards. Clive asks if all the spaces are coming together; she replies, "At the moment, not yet."
Only 2 hours into the day, Todd finishes his quarter pipe and tests it out. No one gets hurt. Organic Josh and Robb go shopping for pillows. They return with 2 hours to go. Josh gets back to work finishing the banquettes. As he cuts luan (?), the piece he cuts loose flies across the room and bangs into the quarter pipe before it has a chance to amputate anything off anyone. He gets Robb to hold for the next cut. Robb interviews that maybe Josh is lacking experience. Well, Robb claimed he can build anything; maybe he should take the lead on construction. What exactly has he been doing with all his time? Time ticks down as people scramble to finish. Robb fusses over the pillow arrangement. Clive sounds a horn and time is up.
The Studio. It's spiffier, but it's still black and purple. The judges are still Martha, Vern and Cynthia. (Hi, Vern!) Clive lists the judging criteria as "design sense, creativity, execution and the final result as it appears on TV."
- Will & Sparkle Josh, master bedroom: The main bedroom area is
painted in rust and chocolate. The beds have copper bedspreads and a
single floral pillow against a plain white pillow. Round Chinese lanterns
with a brown zebra stripe hang over each bed. The window seat is a mossy
green and is loaded with more pillows in creams, rusts and browns. The
bench cushions, wall hangings and carpet are all still a charcoal/black
Martha likes the cohesive use of color and shape. Vern likes the repeated element of the lights. Cynthia thinks they had good teamwork.
I like their palette and the overall feel of the room, but I wish they had picked colors that worked with the carpet and windows drapes, rather than just ignoring them.
- Neeraja, bar & stairwell: The columns beside the bar are coral red,
the wall behind the stairs is black, the curve of the stair is painted
grey. She has a lot of shiny bar accessories placed around the bar.
Vern is missing the bar stools, and he's not seeing much design. Neeraja objects that she really couldn't alter the space except with color. Vern also objects to the pink lightbulbs in the chandelier, which failed to make it any more attractive. Cynthia understands the power of paint, but a bad paint job can ruin a room.
The dark wall paint just peters off; it needs to end somewhere. I think her color choices didn't enhance the space, and a different chandelier could have echoed the shape of the staircase more. And, of course, bar stools.
- Scott, Kim & Todd, dining and living spaces: The pit now holds a
large, stained wood table that actually looks pretty decent. The nook
behind has two "chaise lounges" that are basically mattresses on the
floor with back rests; there's a wooden table between that rises to a
wooden panel on the wall. The stain here isn't quite as good. It's
dressed with candles for a calm feeling, but the low seating would make a
good conversation "pit." Next to the pit is the quarter pipe; a hammock
has been strung between two support posts near the windows.
Vern is all over the quarter pipe; they showed personality. And the pit makes a great dining area. Cynthia also loves it; she's likes having "an activity" in a room so people linger. I don't think I'd linger for skateboarding. Martha's not feeling the quarter pipe love; it makes her nervous. Vern asks about the nook and Kim explains the meditation concept. Vern is impressed that they have so many areas with different functions, but the look is cohesive.
I'm with Cynthia on the quarter pipe. But the shape echoes the curves on the floor, so I can see how it works. The dining pit is really clever and the meditation nook is not bad for a space on-the-cheap.
- Robb & Organic Josh, "Living Lounge": Robb explains the Organic
Josh/Sparkle Josh distinction. A rounded banquette starts at a post and
curves around inside the circle on the floor; it's covered with pillows
in bright pink, orange, purple and blue. Purple and silver scarves hang
on the support columns and cover another curvy banquette in a corner. A
car door hangs on a solid green wall.
Cynthia doesn't want to say anything. Vern thinks "a harem was let loose to have their way with the space." He's not into the pillows. Robb explains that they couldn't find what they wanted, so perhaps the judges could look past the color palette. Kinda hard. Martha wants to know what the plan was. Organic Josh says Robb was going to address the walls -- Robb chimes in with his doors-as-metaphors thing -- while he built the furniture from scratch. Robb disagrees; it was "a collective effort." Robb says that Josh claimed he could whip out the seating in one day, so he left him to it. Josh finds this ridiculous; anyone who has worked with wood knows rounded shapes are tricky. Vern wants to know if Robb was in charge of the pillows, and Robb says it was a last-minute thing. When Vern asks, Josh says the pillows "wouldn't be my first choice." I don't think they'd be Robb's, either. Vern would rather they had skipped the pillows.
I agree -- piles of bad pillows are worse than no pillows. They might work for a tween fantasy bedroom, but not in this earth-toned living space. The scarves are also completely out of place. I think they would have been much better off looking for interesting furniture. A lounge should have comfortable seating; this doesn't.
- Lisa, entry: The walls are moss green with names spelled backwards in
giant stencilled letters. The planter boxes to each side of the door are
orange. The left side has a rug with earth tone circles and a curving
bench flanked by two side tables; dark poles line up along the wall. The
other side has a long paper "sculpture" snaking around a light fixture(?).
Vern is befuddled. Lisa explains that she was trying to mix industrial with punk. I'm not really getting either of those. (Punks might write on the walls, but not with stencils.) The judges all wonder how it's supposed to function. Lisa figured it's a place to sit and have a drink. Cynthia confirms that "it's just a passageway." Vern thinks it's a total failure.
I don't think it's that bad; the colors work and I like the rug. But it's not really good, either. I don't see anything that really relates to the door, and I think there are better ways to make it functional. Give people a place to stash their stuff, like you do in any entryway, maybe with lockers to tie into the metal door. Or provide benches to make it a gathering spot for heading out. Hang a full-size mirror for checking your look before you go. Something besides sitting and drinking, which can be done pretty much anywhere.
- Christina & Adriana, second bedroom: Two beds come out from the
walls; these have narrow curtains hanging on either side of the head
framing a painted circle in various blocks of color on the walls. Two
beds run along the opposite wall; a shelf between them holds tchotchkes.
The palette is mostly muted blues and greens with a punch of cranberry
red. The window bench cushions have white cloth wraps and white pillows
with red random dots.
Cynthia likes the lengthwise beds, which seem more couch-like. Vern approves of the fabric drapes, but the accessories are driving him bonkers. Adriana deflates and Christina gloats, "The accessories did not totally work for me. I compromised, I feel, a lot in the space and the fabric was what I was geared towards." Adriana says Christina was all "Okay, I'll compromise" on every choice she made. Vern pulls the rug out from under Christina -- she is responsible for making her voice as a designer heard and too much compromise will lead to getting the boot. Hah!
I like the palette overall and I think the wall paintings are a way to make the bed spaces more individual, but I am not a fan of stuff for the sake of having stuff. Living spaces get cluttered up with things people actually use; they should have made more room for that, and less for the superfluous.
The designers are sent off to the green room to wait. Cynthia starts off with Lisa: "Making sculptures out of phone books is not design." Lisa sniffles, "I'll be in bad shape if my artwork isn't accepted because that's who I am." Sigh. It's not a freakin' art competition! Vern is flabbergasted that Neeraja couldn't find bar stools in Vegas. Robb expects he's getting pulled apart. Vern thinks he at least was able to talk about his intentions, but Martha thinks none of his contributions worked. Scott gets choked up after observing that 10 out of 11 of them will get booted at some point. Cynthia marvels, "This is the first time we've ever disagreed." Interesting.
The designers return. Kim, Christina and Adriana are called forward. They're the "acceptable" group. They get to wait in the green room. Will, "Josh Sparkle," Todd and Scott are called forward. They're the "way to go" group. Clive sends them all to the green room. Wait, no winner? Robb, Lisa, "Josh Organic" and Neeraja are on the chopping block. Josh had time management problems but "showed originality;" he's sent to the green room. Neeraja merely decorated, but that was enough this time; she's sent to the green room. Robb made bad choices and Lisa made her space non-functional. (Well, it functioned, just not well or sensibly.) Lisa is cancelled. She thanks the judges before she leaves. In her parting interview, she says it's the show's loss, but it still "sucks" to be the first one to go. Robb returns to the green room celebrating his survival.
Once again, the wacky artsy woman goes first, although Lisa was a far more credible candidate than Ramona. But she made the same mistake of thinking this was about art instead of design, and that got her booted. Was she that much worse than Robb? I think the explosion of sequined pillows was the worst thing in the room and the car door wasn't much better. Lisa's space at least had some connection to the rest of the room. Perhaps what saved Robb is that he had a teammate to absorb some of the judges' disapproval, while Lisa took the full weight by herself.
At this point, Sparkle Josh is my favorite. He made a really smart choice by going with a calm bedroom so the judges could see he's not all about the shiny. The sheen on the copper spreads and the zebra print on the hanging lights reflected his personality, but worked with the room. I also like Will, because he gets along with people, but I don't have as clear an idea of his design style. Scott and Kim made another good team. Todd will probably become annoying, but he does know how to build stuff. Organic Josh has potential, but right now it looks like he's in over his head. Adriana needs to get off the tchotchke train. Neeraja needs to learn how to just get it done or she's never going to last; she's sour enough that I'm not going to miss her. Christina can take her syrupy-sweet veneer and go back to her family. And Robb? Robb needs to shut up and go away.
Labels: Design Star