“Top Design” Recap: Decorating Triathalon


At the beginning of last-night’s episode, Eddie Ross says he wishes they would be given some individual challenges now. So do I! I understand that group challenges bring on the interpersonal drama, but it’s hard to know what someone’s style really is if they’re always working as part of a team.

Tonight our wish for individual challenges is granted, three times over.

India and Kelly (whose arms seem to have disappeared inside the comically large sleeves of her outfit) inform the contestants that they will be participating in a Decorating Triathalon.

There will be three challenges, the first of which is to choose a chair and give it a makeover. And they’re off!

After spending two hours painting and upholstering their chairs, Kelly and India walk around to see the results and judge them.

Wisit hand-painted the fabric on his chair, and the judges were impressed:

Eddie went for a bright yellow with silver fabric on the seat. Kelly and India like it, but Jonathan’s take on it (on his blog on BravoTV.com) was that it “felt like a Saturday-morning cartoon.”

Jonathan Adler said Natalie’s chair made him think of “Prom Night, 1987.” And not in a good way. Kelly says it looks like “a remnant from a Vegas hotel.”

Andrea’s chair was kind of blah and not upholstered well. She practically cowers behind it when the judges come by and admits, “I’m not having a very good day.”

Teresa’s chair looked a little tie-dye:

Ondine went for a Betsey Johnson vibe, and I think she nailed it. It would certainly fit into Betsey Johnson’s decor (take a tour of Johnson’s home here). Kelly and India thought she took a risk and it paid off. I wasn’t crazy about the pom-poms hot-glued to the back of the chair, but I thought the hot pink color was kind of fun. The judges didn’t ask me, though:

The judges LOVED Nathan’s chair and gave him the win. It was fashion and art colliding as one. Or something like that. Kelly and India deem it “Loud in a good way.” Kelly said it “looks like an important piece of furniture.” Does it? Really?

Next leg in the Decorating Triathalon: Set a Pretty Table. Seriously. Okay, so they go shopping in the Top Design warehouse and then set their tables. Here’s how they turned out:

First up, Teresa’s table, which she describes as being “Zen.” We’ll hear a lot about Zen out of Teresa in this episode. Not crazy about the floral arrangements, or whatever you want to call them, on her table. Jonathan Adler made an “I smell something unpleasant” face when he saw it and heard her “Zen” description:

Natalie’s table was blue and white. Jonathan sniffed at her flower arrangement and said, “The taste level just isn’t there,” but he liked the rest of it:

Eddie’s table had something to do with the Hamptons, I think. They declare it “so chic!”

Andrea set a table for her daughter Faith’s birthday party:

Wisit entertained the judges with some operatic singing, which they praised as “wonderful!” (really?!), but they had less to say about his table.

Nathan went a less conventional route and didn’t actually set the table. The judges ate this up. They raved. They felt transported to the French countryside, or something. Jonathan said it was “done with panache.”

The judges declare Nathan’s “deconstructed table” the winner. He remarks that he’s sure he’s gonna be poisoned by the other contestants for winning two in a row.

For Round 3, they’re told to decorate a white cubicle with things they buy from a nursery. As in a place that only sells bird baths and plants. The winner’s fake room will be photographed for Elle Decker (as India Hicks calls it).

First they shopped:

Then they go back to their cubicles with three walls and start to transform them with paint and plants. These look like the white rooms they worked in last season on every episode. I’m not too happy to see a return to them.

They painted. They arranged their pots of plants and flowers. And now the judges have arrived.

Okay, my husband and I laughed out loud when Kelly Wearstler rounded the corner in this ‘do. It was definitely the most interesting thing about the episode. And a bigger “wow” than any of these faux-garden rooms that you’re about to see. I should probably just stop the recap here on a high note. (Get it? A “high” note? Because her hair is so high? Oh, never mind.)

Preston went wild with stripes. I swear I sold this exact wallpaper pattern when I worked for Wallpapers to Go in the mid-90s. They say nothing about the stripes (which I really hate), and go wild for the jasmine intertwined on his chair.

My question: can anyone actually sit in a chair intertwined with jasmine?

Teresa went for another “serene, Zen space,” which apparently means you paint everything dark red and put lots of leafy plants on the floor.

Wisit actually tried to make his space look like a room with faux french doors, a bench, and herringbone floors. I think this should win because it actually sort of resembles a real room, unlike the others. Not sure how well this would photograph for Elle Decor, however.

The theme of Nathan’s room is, “I have immunity, so I’m not too concerned about this challenge. Let’s just say this is a beachside kind of shack in baja. You know, where you’d wear flip-flops and tank tops.”

Sure, Nathan. Whatever you say. I can’t stop looking at your plaid pants.

Ondine went for an eye-popping kelly-green room. I like kelly green, but this is a bit much for me and my retinas.

I’m not sure what happened to the shutters on her fake window or the window panes. It’s never mentioned, never explained.

Andrea’s theme is an edible garden, with yellow walls and trees that aren’t in pots. There are just clumps of dirt with the roots exposed. The judges are puzzled by unfinished look of it. Jonathan says he wishes she had shown some sort of creativity with some sort of material, somewhere. Me, too.

Eddie says his garden space is all about GLAM. The judges say, “It’s more GRANNY.” Eddie is highly offended by this, even though he had just finished telling us that his grandmother was his role model and inspiration as a decorator.

“I’m, like, the furthest thing away from Granny!” he says, indignant.

Natalie’s garden room wows the judges. Margaret says she can see putting this in her magazine. I don’t really see why this vignette is any better than any of the others, and I can’t imagine how it will fit into Margaret’s high-style mag, can you?

On to the Judging Warehouse, where the contestants file in for the verdicts.

They declare Natalie the winner of the faux-garden-room challenge, and Nathan the overall winner since he rocked the first two rounds.

As for the losers, they’re pretty down on Andrea and Teresa.

They warn Andrea that she “runs the risk of being insipid.”

India adds, “You’re a red-hot chick, so go out there and get ’em!” I’m sure this is the most helpful career advice Andrea has ever received.

In the end, Teresa and her Zen sensibilities are out. They can’t live with her designs. Teresa seems like a perfectly nice person, but I think they got it right this week. Do you?

Frankly, I found this entire episode dull, uninspiring, and a little ridiculous. I didn’t understand the point of those faux-garden rooms.

I would love to see the designers given a realistic budget, real rooms, and enough time to put together something really great. Something that would inspire and excite us. Not fake trellises and plant groupings on the floor.

Please, Bravo reality-show producers. No more making contestants shop in grocery stores, garbage dumps, and hardware stores. It was novel and fun in the beginning (like, 5 years ago), but now it’s just getting old.

Let them shop where they want. Give them the time they need to pull their visions off! The results would be so much more interesting than these rush jobs. Even Jonathan Adler admitted on his blog that he could never whip together something with these kinds of time constraints.

Okay, I think I’m done with my rant. Just had to get that off my chest.

One great thing about my new website is that I can finally put a poll right on my site instead of sending you off to vote on things elsewhere. So let’s try it out and see what you guys think about the remaining contestants.

Well, guys, I'm in a hotel room in Indianapolis and didn't have a chance to recap "Top Design" for you this week. I know, I…
By JULIA @ HOOKEDONHOUSES.NET Believe it or not, last night I finally had a chance to watch "Top Design" for the first time in several…

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  1. Tori says

    Julia, I totally The designers should have realistic work spaces and time schedules.
    I didn’t really get the point of the challenges. I mean why would you want a faux
    garden space?

  2. says

    Just finished watching the DVRed episode! I agree with your plea to the producers, and, just for the record, I liked Wisit’s chair and his room the best! They were definitely the most creative and interesting …

  3. says

    I think it was just the boring rooms they came up with, not the challenge. This is like Project Runway, it would be too easy if they had all the time and money they needed. These competitions weed out the truly non-creative people. I think miss Silver Spoons will be gone next. She is the type to look at photos and copy a design but change a little with her own touches. That’s what they would do if they had time. These quick challenges give them no time to research, they have to do it on the fly and under pressure. Gets me pumped up!!! There is your prospective from a creative gal:-)

    Okay Nathan rocks! I still like Eddie’s design better. He’s more my style. Guess I like Granny!!! ha.

  4. says

    I don’t watch this show, but love the commentary. It reminds me a bit of a show I watched on HGTV – Design Star – what a waste of precious hours of my life that show was! But your commentary on it was great as well!

  5. says

    I’m sorry for just responding now…I’m just rising from my slumber after being put to sleep by last night’s episode. 😉

    I actually think I, of no design background whatsoever, could have been in the top 3 last night. Why would Elle Decor want such nonsense in their magazine? It’s not one iota reflective of their aesthetic. The highlight (pun intended) was Kelly’s hair. Much like when someone I’m speaking to has a speck of spinach in their teeth, it’s all I could look at! They’d be focusing on Adirondack chairs; I’d be focusing on crimped chignon madness. Maybe Kelsey’s missing tulle was in there? Whoops…my bad…wrong Bravo show. 😉

    Sorry, Kelly. I can not live with your design.

  6. hookedonhouses says

    Maybe you’re right, Amy. I guess I’m just so bored by what they’ve come up with week after week, that I thought maybe if they shopped somewhere with actual furniture and fabric and were given more than 2 hrs to do something, we might get to see something more interesting. So you think it’s more of a lack of talent on their parts than a lack of resources and time?

    I think we need to send some of our best blog-talent to audition next time. Now THAT would be a good show! -Julia :-)

  7. Billy says

    It is sad that Kelly’s hair was the best part of the episode. Why has she looked like a post transformation Stepford wife that got left out in the rain this season?

  8. says

    Last week I stayed with Bravo for three hours of competition shows and had bad dreams about being judged! It’s a very negative vibe (I’m from California, I’m allowed to talk like this!) that comes out of these reality competition shows. There is a new show coming to Food Network about taking some “at risk” young people and giving them chef training. Now, that sounds great! Reality, but with a good purpose (hopefully!). Why not make an entire season about one community project that all the hopefuls have to work together on and then judge at the very end, based on 6-9 weeks worth of work? Anyway….that’s me- always looking for Utopia! Great recap- goofy episode!

  9. says

    I loved the fact that they had individual challenges this week. I’ve been waiting for that.

    Eddie CRACKED ME UP when he was poking fun at Teresa’s “tobacco” room (I can’t remember exactly what he said but he was funny!).

    My favorites:
    ROOM: Natalie & Eddie. I imagined I was flipping through Elle Decor magazine when I scrolled through the pics you posted. They have the only 2 designs that I could imagine in a magazine……well, maybe Wisit’s room too.
    TABLE: Eddie
    CHAIR: Ondine (cool & funky)


  10. says

    I try SO hard to pay attention to this show every week and it makes me fall asleep! I just can’t get into it, mostly for the reasons you mentioned. At least Design Star gives them real rooms to work with.

  11. oldhousejunkie says

    The difference I see between Top Design and Design Star is that Top Design is all about shopping. Design Star seems more about design. For example, I saw the adirondack chairs and little tables in a couple of rooms here. On Design Star someone would have taken them apart and rebuilt them in a whole different style.

    I don’t have cable, but follow both shows here and on their network websites. Maybe the advantage goes to Design Star for me because HGTV posts more video, even full episodes of the show than Bravo posts.

    Both shows have quirky judges who sometimes dress kinda odd who I don’t always agree with. I like a cool individual style of dress, but what is up with Kelly W? I don’t find it attractive or even interesting. It’s like she’s channeling the 80’s, and not in a good way. 😉

  12. says

    I really liked Wisit’s room, and pretty much only his room… well, two-walled-photo-shoot-space.
    I liked Nathan’s table more than his chair… I think that challenge needed more time. Having reupholstered several chairs: it is hard work to get it done nicely. I think Eddie should have won the chair comp.
    I predict Eddie and Nathan in the final two. Guess I agree with everyone else who’s taken your poll (so far).
    Who will come in third? Wisit would be my wild stab, though personally I like Andrea’s style quite well.
    Guess I’m a tad boring, but I don’t want the crazy flashes we get from Natalie and Ondine.
    And Preston? He just doesn’t have much style at all – or at least poor execution. I am totally not a zen style gal, but like Adler said, Teresa couldn’t even do her forte well so it was absolutely time for her to go!

  13. says

    I had a hard time getting back into Top Design this season, and I’m having an even harder time staying engaged. It just doesn’t have the same appeal as Top Chef or Project Runway. The tasks this week were lame, and the end results were even lamer. How long can they expect the public to keep coming back week after week just to see what Kelly wears and how she styles her hair?

    I thought Ondine’s chair just looked crafty — not “designery.” I liked Wisit’s chair best and his garden room best. Honestly, though, none of those garden rooms deserves mention in Elle Decor, much less a photo. I didn’t really like the table-setting challenge. I know people who are great decorators but not always the best at table settings.

  14. says

    I also think that Eddie and Nathan will be in the top 2. But I’m not necessarily happy about this, because while they may be very good designers, they both seem to have really snarky, back-biting personalities (especially Eddie). I think personality goes a long way when I’m voting for someone, and these guys…well…you just kind of wish someone a little nicer or more genuine would win. I actually like Andrea a lot, and Ondine does some good stuff too. They seem a little nicer to me. But I realize the show is called Top Design, not Nicest Designer…*sigh*.

  15. says

    I totally agree – Wisit’s room should have won the challenge. It was the most creative and thoughtful. And, I agree that they need to give them more time to really create something beautiful.

  16. says

    What a great re-cap! I am actually enjoying watching this season more than the first season of Top Design. I was very happy to have an individual challenge this week. I agree that they picked the right person to go home. You could kind of tell of tell throughout the episode that she was going home. I am tired of hearing about Andrea being married to Ricky Schroeder. I did like Natalie’s room the best. It looked like an actual room.

  17. says

    Maybe we could nominate Kelly for TLC’s ‘What Not to Wear’. Gimme a break! That’s not creative, that’s wacko! That hair made me think Bride of Frankenstein.
    (Thanks for commenting on my blog, Julia!)

  18. says

    OMG, if it weren’t for Kelly and her craziness (and boy does she bring it), I would have given up on this show a long time ago. But I cannot stop watching because I might miss something supremely insane from Kelly. Damn you, KW!
    Oh, and to the pp who wondered if Kelsey’s tulle might be in Kelly’s hair: you are awesome! I don’t know who you are,but I *heart* you a lot. Can you imagine a KW reality show? Oh the possibilities!

  19. says

    I can’t believe it took me until Sunday to read your recap!! I agree…this episode was a bit boring. But I like the bland white rooms though…I like to see what these people can do with nothing. I’m rooting for Nathan and Eddie. Everyone else? Snoozefest. Oh and Wisit? Yiiiiiikes. Kelly’s hair scared me. As soon as I saw it I couldn’t wait to read what you’d say about it lol