Tuesday, September 11, 2007



Previously on Design Star: The designers teamed up to redo Wayne Newton's guest house. Todd created a giant Lazy Susan in the living room. Robb stuffed appliances into the peninsula. Hosting segments. Robb's jerkish behavior was deemed worse than Will's stiffness on camera. Robb got the boot. A grateful nation rejoiced.

Will likes the final three even better than the final four. Kim has made breakfast, so the others join her. Todd is shirtless and wearing his giant furry hat, which is two acts of tastelessness too many for that hour of the morning. Later, when everyone is actually dressed, Clive arrives and has everyone pick a paint can. It's the real people challenge. They'll get 26 hours, $10,000 and a carpenter. We meet the clients:

The designers open their paint cans to see which state they'll be visiting, although the identity of the family there remains to be seen. Will is going to California, Todd is going to Indiana and Kim is going to West Virginia. Which kind of gives away her family, but we'll pretend we don't know anything about coal mining.

The designers pack. Todd observes that this is the time to go for it. Unlike all those other challenges, where it didn't matter how you did, I suppose. The designers wish each other luck and depart. Todd observes that they have to be prepared for all three clients, since it's a mystery which ones they have. Will knows that there's a limit to what they can prepare without talking to the clients. Kim is working out designs for all three families.

Kim drives out into the West Virginia boonies. Todd thinks this is a very real-world challenge. Yes, designing for real people is pretty real. Will is happy to have the chance to "change someone's life." Kim really wants to win. The designers all knock on doors.

In Indiana, Todd meets up with the firefighting Kelleys. In California, Will and Bridget are both excited to meet each other. That leaves Kim with the Dean family in West Virginia. Surprise! She tells them she was hoping she would get them. She tells us that she can relate to their situation. Todd meets the rest of the Kelleys. He feels honored to be able to do something for everyday heroes.

Bridget shows off her big room. The Kelleys explain their complicated schedule; they just want an inviting room that everyone will want to spend time in. Will asks Bridget to tell him about her illness so he understands what she needs. Her mom chips in that it shouldn't look hospital-like, but Bridget has certain requirements. She needs the space to get around with her wheelchair or walker, and the floor needs to stay wood for the wheelchair. Will is impressed with people who don't let themselves be defeated by obstacles, especially at such a young age.

The Deans want to keep their big room nice and open, and they have to keep the woodstove because that's their heat source. Kim reports out that she has a lot to supply, since the floor is particleboard and the trim is missing in places. But as long as it's not a kitchen, she's good. Kim points out a ceiling beam, and determines that it's staying. The Deans want a rustic, log cabin look. They don't like bright colors, so Kim quickly settles on some nice earth tones. She interviews that although the dining room wasn't part of the challenge, it's visible from the living room, so she's going to redo that room, too.

Bridget's mom explains that she stays in bed while recovering from a bad fracture, so the room should be like a studio apartment. Bridget likes that idea. She also likes neutral rooms with splashes of color, and picks out a light cream color that's not as "harsh" as true white. Will enthuses that this is just the kind of clean, modern design he does. He's relieved that she has some definite ideas about what she likes.

Todd asks about how the Kelleys use the room and basically, it's your typical family room. He figures they want to have lots of toys out but make it easy to put things away. The corner wet bar and stucco finish could go. The Kelleys like color. Todd wants to ditch the ceiling beam if it isn't structural because it divides the room.

The families all skedaddle so the designers can get to work. Kim thinks it will be tough, but at this point, the challenge should be tough. She gets to incorporate a shingled outcropping over the opening to the kitchen, but that will just be part of her overall rustic room. The woodsy theme does not include the diagonal wood paneling, however. Clive choppers off to West Virginia to "drop in" on Kim. She shows him around a bit and then he officially starts the time clock ticking.

Todd thinks his room practically designs itself, since it's all about the functionality. He meets his carpenter, Mark. Kim is working with Jimmy and Will has John on his team. Will is planning "hotel-like amenities" for Bridget's room. He goes over the paint plan with John. Todd goes over things with Mark. He wants to get rid of the beam so he can put in a digital projector that displays onto the "heerth." I get the feeling he's not too accustomed to fireplaces. Mark advises a careful approach to the beam examination. Kim reviews everything with Jimmy. Mark pulls some sheathing off the beam and it turns out to be structural, as in it's holding up the house. Todd's bummed to be "limited" right off the bat.

Kim heads out to shop, but not before flattering Jimmy into clearing out the room. Mark goes over his projects. Will gives John a list of stuff to do while he's out shopping. For him, the room is about the space plan and the function. Todd picks up a lot of lumber, because that's what he does. He's going to have a kid's area for toys, and a game console for the big kids. Kim asks the saleswomen for help; she needs carpet installed the next day. She goes for a darker option to hide mud, although it still looks pretty pale to me -- sort of putty-colored. With an hour remaining, she returns to find out Jimmy has been busy. He keeps working on his woodbox project while Kim paints. Will returns with 30 minutes left to find his carpenter gone, but the work all done. Guess someone wasn't all that eager to be on camera. Todd finds a lot of work in progress. The fake-Tudor wall beams are down, but sanding down the stucco finish is going slowly. Everyone winds up their first day. Todd pouts about all the plans he won't be able to implement because the house isn't cooperating.

Day 2. It's pouring rain in West Virginia and Indiana, but California is dry. Will and John determine their first tasks of the day. Kim gets Jimmy started on some painting. Todd has had to revise some plans. They'll mud the walls instead of sanding. Kim gets started painting her own wall. Once the carpet people arrive and get started, she'll go shopping. John wonders if Will wants two coats of paint. Ideally, yes, but the time constraints don't allow for it. Todd gets extra drywall mud, just to be safe.

Kim's carpet arrives during a lull in the rain. Todd is all done with shopping. Kim is just starting. She observes that shopping in a rural area is different than shopping in a city -- everything is spread out. Will paints the walls, but not all the way up to the ceiling. He explains that he wants to shorten the room for Bridget, since she's sitting down in a wheelchair. Todd builds shelving units to go next to the fireplace; he shows how the different elements line up. It must be cold, because he still has his shirt on. Clive choppers in to tell him he's halfway through the project clock. Todd reviews the big plan. "You're building a Toddplex," Clive summarizes.

Kim buys furniture. She's very nice with the sales staff. Will creates some artwork for the walls. He explains that he does this if he can't find what he wants or the price is wrong. The rain is back in Indiana, so it's taking longer for the drywall mud to dry. It's also raining again in West Virginia. The yard is all mud, so now the new carpet has mud tracked on it. Kim hopes the others are muddy, too. No such luck in California, at least. Will is feeling good about his progress. With 30 minutes left in the day Mark starts painting. Todd thinks the red paint is actually pretty orange and he wonders how it can dry dark enough. That's why red takes multiple coats. I'm not sure how you can know enough about design to get on TV and not know that about red paint. Painting and staining happens in Kim's room. Time winds down and designers send carpenters home for the night. Todd gripes that he wasn't able to finish painting, so he still has that to do on the last day, and the whole project has been "brutal."

Day 3. Will lists his remaining projects, which are mostly staging. Meanwhile, Todd has to paint, hang the flat screen TV and the curtains, and load in all the furniture. Kim also has a lot to do. Todd got some darker red paint. Kim has to assemble furniture; she puts the wrong legs on the coffee table. "I'm having some second thoughts about whether this is really fun," she grumps. But with a twinkle. Time ticks. Todd brings in furniture. Kim discovers that West Virginia mud has "magical" properties -- when it dries, it turns into flakes and can be swept away. Designers install their final touches. Clive sneaks into Will's room and blows an air horn, nearly scaring him out of his shoes. He laughs and greets Clive with delight anyway. Todd and Mark congratulate themselves. Kim warmly thanks Jimmy. Clive sends Will off to the judges.

Everybody wants to win. Good to know.

The Studio. The final judging panel. Yay, no more purple walls! Monitors. Judges. Challenge recap. Will goes first. He explains that Bridget wanted something that wasn't little girl. Time for the reveal. Bridget is already squealing with excitement as she takes her hands from her eyes. Will talks about the repeated elements. Bridget is thrilled to discover a refrigerator. She's also excited to see her original bed, but updated. Will created a headboard against the side wall so she can lean against it to watch TV when she's confined to bed. There's a comfy sofa with a flannel covering that Bridget tries out. Will shows off the vanity and entertainment areas. Bridget's mom thinks it's a "very California" room; she's ready to hire Will for the rest of the house.

Cynthia calls the room "the coolest little bachelorette pad." Martha loves the colors but she wanted more personality. With a teen, I think it's more important to leave them space to inject their own personality, instead of doing it for them. Vern loves the room but thinks Will was nervous on camera. Martha thought he was forcing more energy into his performance. Will confesses that hosting is hard.

I love cool colors and wood floors, so this room is right up my alley. But I'm picky about color, so I think some of the fabrics are a bit off from the wall colors -- more earthy than bright. I don't have a terrific sense of the layout, but it does have that hotel-amenity thing that Will was going for. Overall, it's fresh and modern, and even though the room has a lot of low elements, it doesn't feel flat. And Bridget is obviously thrilled with it. So well done. Unfortunately, his hosting hasn't improved, but he's clearly very knowledgeable and competent.

Kim's next. She describes the situation with the double-wide up in the hills, and the request for a log cabin look. Now the reveal. The elder Deans are thrilled. (The little Dean is too little to have much of an opinion.) The living room is now a finished room with carpet over the particle board. The big living space is painted in shades of green while the dining room is tan. They have a big bench/wood storage unit by the front door and real curtains instead of droopy blinds. Lots of wood, including a new bar at the opening to the kitchen. Kim talks about drawing the colors from nature. There's lots of hugging.

Cynthia is feeling very sentimental. Vern likes her attention to her clients' wishes. Martha understands the issues of working in a remote area. Martha and Vern are concerned about some of the furniture angles, but Kim explained that a more squared approach felt "static." Vern is also not thrilled with the furniture arrangement overall. Cynthia likes the "rough-hewn" accessories. Vern brings up the dining room; Kim explains that she included it even though it wasn't part of the original room. Martha and Vern praise her hosting performance.

I like the colors and the wood, but the furniture feels sparse and oddly arranged. The TV only faces a single chair; the sofa is perpendicular to it. The whole center of the room is wide open. The seating area in front of the stove would feel more substantial with two chairs. The room looks only partly done. Her hosting skills, though, are pretty fully developed. I appreciate how she's able to show the same warmth to the people she works with; she really formed a great rapport with Jimmy.

Todd's turn. He mentions the large family and the movie watching. Reveal time. The family members all react to the room. Todd shows off a kid's corner with a wrap-around chalkboard and a hammock hung diagonally across the corner. There's also a corner-shaped bench/toy box. The walls are all red and orange. Joanie likes the kid corner. Todd shows off the gaming console and television, the mantel and bookshelves. He describes the loungers as the "most comfortable chairs I've ever found in my life." The Kelleys thank him for injecting some character into a dull room.

Cynthia likes the toy box for containing clutter. Vern likes his "sense of fun" but he's not thrilled with the furniture arrangement. Cynthia doesn't care for having all the furniture pointed toward the TV, so she doesn't mind. Yeah, but this is a room for watching TV, so I think it matters. Vern commends Todd for successfully seating all those people, though. Martha thinks his designs reflect his personality, or his on-camera personality reflects his playful design. Vern likes his energy.

I agree with Vern, the furniture placement is off. The largest portion of the sectional is perpendicular to the TV. The kids corner is a nice touch, but I'm not sure toddlers are really in need of a hammock. If you're too young to make your own breakfast, you're probably too young for unsupervised hammocking. The toy box doesn't look like it was constructed with child safety in mind, and I wonder if the shelving units are attached to the walls. I don't much care for the orange wall color; it's too similar to the red. While I like the idea of red, I'm not loving that color on the walls either. It's better on the TV wall, where it's broken up by all the shelving. And why paint the beam red when the ceiling is white? It just divides the space up more emphatically. The loungers are interesting, but they're big for a room that needs a lot of seating. As for his hosting, I still see self-congratulation. I don't get playfulness. He has energy, but not a sense of fun.

The designers go away while the judges confer. They start the agonizing. Martha thinks Will's(?) design is thoughtful, but perhaps "repetitive." Or "formulaic," if you're Cynthia. Vern prefers to think of it as a signature. Martha is concerned about the hosting. Will is confused by the feedback from the judges about his presentation skills. Vern doesn't see Kim improving design-wise, but she's very polished on the air. Vern is sure that the next winner doesn't need to have formal training. Kim and Todd would both be bummed to get cut after coming so close. Martha likes to watch Todd. Vern thinks the winner needs to have a perspective; he's concerned that Todd treats projects as art rather than design. The judges agonize some more.

The designers return. Vern addresses the contestants: he thinks they have all grown and have made the judges proud. Clive delivers measured praise and criticism. Will knows design and he really meets the client's needs, but his hosting needs work. Kim has good design and great presence, but her space planning needs improvement. Todd has a "dramatic" approach and good energy, but design also needs to be functional. Will gets the boot. No, not Will! He hugs the final two and thanks the judges for the opportunity. He doesn't seem too bummed about it. He wants to be a designer, and he doesn't have to be on TV for that. Plus meeting Bridget has made him a better designer and a better person, so he thanks her for that. See? Will can be great on camera. You just have to find someone who can draw it out of him.

Clive congratulates the final two. Kim is stunned. Todd isn't sure what he's feeling, except that "This is cool."

Well, hmph. They're looking for a design star, and they cut the guy with the strongest design skills. Todd has a point of view, but it's somewhat limited and tends to be impractical. Kim is doing better than I initially expected, but while she has kept up, she hasn't been outstanding. I'm sure I'm not the only person to notice that Kim's weaknesses are Will's strengths, and vice-versa. Put the two of them together, and you could have something. But unless Kim really biffs the final challenge, I'm voting for her. Todd is just too in love with his own greatness and he just doesn't connect with people the way Kim does. I think it would be easier to build a show around Kim than deal with Todd's limitations. Plus, I'm tired of Todd. If Kim does biff the final challenge, I'm starting a write-in campaign for Alice.


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