Did you guys catch the second-season premiere of “Top Design” last night?
The biggest makeover was on the show itself. This was a hundred times better than last season and totally blows “Design Star” out of the water.
I’m thrilled to see the changes that they made:
- India Hicks as the host is a huge improvement over Todd Oldham.
- Todd Oldham as mentor works. This is where he needs to be.
- Jonathan Adler no longer has to say the dreaded words, “See ya later, Decorator!”
There was also a snazzier opening, challenges outside of those boring white, windowless cubicles they were given last year, and a cast of truly talented contestants. Leave it to the Magical Elves behind “Project Runway” to get this show right.
Ready to recap? Here we go!
The episode opens with new-host India Hicks introducing herself and her six-foot-long legs (girl is TALL), as well as the judges: “Potter, retailer, and interior decorator Jonathan Adler; Margaret Russell, editor-in-chief of Elle Decker magazine,” (I think she meant Elle Decor), and Kelly Wearstler, who is one of the most influential designers in America.”
There are 13 contestants competing for $100,000, a spread in Elle Decker, and the right to say they have the top design.
First contestant: Nathan Thomas, who’s been designing “since the moment I came out of my mama’s ya-ya.” Hi, Mom! I’m sure she’s so proud.
Contestant #2: Ondine Karady, who is a set decorator for “Sex and the City.” How cool is that? Can’t wait to see what she comes up with.
Contestant #3: Shazia Kirmani, who has had a design company for two years. What sets her apart from the other designers? “I’m brown.”
Contestant #4: Kerry Howard, aka “Big Daddy.” He says his parents gave him $1,000 to redecorate his bedroom when he was 14. They were so impressed that they hired him to do the rest of the house. This story amazes me because I have a 13-year old, and I’m not sure I’d let him pick the paint color for his room, let alone everything else.
My husband Dave says, “My mom let me pick my wallpaper when I was 13.” Yeah, honey, and I saw it. Brown plaid foil. It was groovy. He’s still proud of that.
Contestant #5: Andrea Schroder. She’s a full-time mom and, oh, she’s married to that kid from “Silver Spoons”!
Contestant #6: Eddie Ross. He’s the senior style editor for Martha Stewart Living Magazine. He says, honestly, he wants to have his own magazine, his own products. He wants to be able to do it all.
Contestant #7: Natalie Williams, who is only 24 but insists she is NOT intimidated by anyone in the group! At least not yet. She’s a head designer of something…somewhere.
Contestant #8: Preston Lee, owner of Preston Lee Designs. He has worked for lots of celeb clients, including Kelsey Grammer and Janice Dickinson. I think if he can work with Janice Dickinson, he can work with anyone.
Contestant #9: Wisit Prapong, a former fashion designer-turned interior designer. He originally wanted to be an opera singer. He sings us a ditty to show us why he turned to designing instead. Can I uncover my ears now?
They’re in the Top Design Studio chatting with each other when India Hicks and Todd Oldham walk in and welcome them to Top Design.
India says, “The road ahead of you is going to be arduous. For the first challenge, we’re going to ask you to fully furnish and design an entire apartment in two days.”
There will be four teams and each team will work for a specific client.
(Dave comments that he had the same shirt that Todd Oldham is wearing, back when he was 13 and choosing that brown plaid wallpaper for his bedroom.)
Contestant #10: Teresa Keegan, an interior designer from Vegas, Baby, “where there’s a lot of bling-bling, zing-zing.”
Contestant #11: Serge Van Lian, a freelance designer from NY. “Unschooled designers have the advantage of being intuitive. They don’t have all these ideas that this is the way a room has to look. They can break the rules. I’m VERY artistic. I’ve got a great eye.”
Contestant #12: Robert Reid, an interior designer from Houston. His signature is his attention to detail. (Insert your own “Brady Bunch” joke here.)
Contestant #13: Jennifer Newsom, an architect. “I think I bring something original to our competition.”
They arrive at the lofts that they’ll be designing.
The Orange Team, Jennifer, Eddie, and Natalie walk into their loft and are greeted by Jonathan Adler. He’ll be their client. Eddie is so psyched because Adler IS a real designer, and he is known for his colors and his pottery, and he is talented, talented, talented.
The Blue Team, Robert, Kerry, and Preston walk in to find Margaret Russell. She’ll be their client.
The Red Team, Teresa, Wisit, Ondine, and Nathan, are greeted by their client, Kelly Wearstler. “My stomach kind of drops to the floor,” Nathan says, but he picks it up and puts it back in.
The Green Team, Serge, Shazia, and Andrea, will be working for India.
The judges tell their teams what they want from their lofts, which are big, empty spaces with concrete floors. Jonathan Adler wants “to walk in a feel happy.” Kelly specifies “no TVs,” Margaret says she’s all about TV’s, even in her bedroom. Margaret HATES beige. She loves hot pink.
India says she likes a warm, beachy feel. Not modern. But the loft is very modern, so the Green Team is a little nervous.
Jonathan wants them to take their cue from the toilet water, which is kind of a Caribbean blue. (Seriously? Seriously.)
They get started on their plans, measuring, choosing paint colors, considering wallpaper patterns, etc. And then they have an hour to scour the junkyard and thrift stores.
The next morning, India Hicks takes the contestants up to the balcony and says they have a little surprise for them.
This season they are going to give the contestants Pop Designs, which are pop quizzes that will “pop up” whenever they least expect them. Get it? It’s the design equivalent of “Top Chef” Quickfire Challenges. (Another of my faves on Bravo.)
There’s a table filled with shadowbox frames. Jonathan Adler instructs them to create something wonderful for their lofts out of these frames within 30 minutes.
There’s a mad scramble for the frames.
They spend 30 minutes creating instant art in their boxes. They come up with some pretty wild and wacky things in half an hour, I have to say.
Preston, for instance, says he has lost a lot of family members to various addictions, so that inspired his frame. Not sure if I’d want a shadowbox with cigarettes, pills, and playing cards hanging on my wall, but okay:
Shazia tries to mount a bunch of apples inside a shadowbox, but the apples keep tumbling out on her. She runs out of time and leaves them on the coffee table, like this:
Andrea tells the judges that her whole life is about peace right now, which inspired hers. Jonathan Adler comments that it looks more like the Mercedes label:
Former fashion designer Wisit drew three fashion designs for his frames. The judges are suitably impressed. If this gig doesn’t work out for him, he can always try out for “Project Runway.”
Eddie says his is about nesting. It’s all the stuff he brought from home. He must’ve had a LOT of luggage!
Natalie has created the display of a girl who is waiting for the New Year? Or something? The judges go, um, okay… They comment that it seems very high-schoolish. No, middle-schoolish.
Serge wanted to do something new to create innovation. Like putting a rubber ducky in a frame next to handcuffs. Wow! How innovative!
And I have to ask…why did he bring a ducky and a pair of handcuffs with him? Maybe we don’t want to know.
Nathan says his represents cleanliness going into godliness: a toothbrush, broken glass, Jesus, and a half-eaten apple.
The judges deem Natalie, Serge, Shazia, and Teresa the losers of the Pop Design. They liked Eddie’s, Kerry’s, Ondine’s, and Wisit’s. They give those four immunity.
Now they get back to work on their lofts. Lots to do! Lots to do!
Over at the Green Team’s loft, Andrea took the cushions off the filthy cream sofa she bought and washed them in the sink. She turned the water on in the sink and told Shazia, “I’m going outside. Turn the sink off in about five minutes.” Shazia says sure, and then walks upstairs.
That doesn’t bode well, does it?
By the time she remembers, it has overflowed all over the floor, the fabrics, everything. What a mess!
Andrea is afraid this project is turning into a train wreck. She’s nice about it to Shazia but tells us that she would like to wring someone’s neck. No word on who that someone might be, though.
Meanwhile, on the Blue Team, Preston is painting canvases and the paint goes through onto the floor, so he has to spend half the evening scrubbing it up.
Oh, and did I mention that they neglected to buy any lamps for the loft, so they’re going to try to MAKE some? Things aren’t looking good for Team Blue.
The next morning they’re getting ready and Natalie notices Andrea’s photo by her bed. “Gee, your husband looks just like Ricky Schroder!” Andrea chooses not to say, yeah, that’s because he IS Ricky Schroder! She wants to be known for who she is, not for who she’s married to.
Maybe you should take that picture down, then, Andrea. Just a thought.
They get back to work on the lofts.
Nathan says he wants to rock it out and prove he’s not about apples, broken glass, and Jesus, after that disastrous Pop Design challenge. “I mean, I am a little bit about that, but not as a decorator.” (I like him already.)
Robert and Preston are having some disagreements. They mostly seem to be giving each other the cold shoulder, but Kerry describes it as “two chickens in the barnyard about to go at it.”
Jen the Architect has the brilliant idea to build a little bed for Jonathan’s pampered dog Liberace. Smart! Anyone who saw Jonathan on the show “Welcome to the Parker,” a hotel he decorated and always brought his dog to on his visits, knows that this dog bed will totally win him over.
Todd Oldham shows up to give everyone some advice, and he advises Jen to add an “L” to the bed for Liberace.
He also helps the Red Team on how to hang the window treatments. Ondine says “He’s a shining ray of light. He’s such a nice person.” He does make a good mentor for the show.
And time’s up! Now it’s time to see how the lofts all turned out.
First up: the Orange Team, which was Jonathan’s loft.
Jonathan declares the dog bed, “J’Adorable!” I knew he’d go for that.
He also loves the yellow lamp. “This is what it’s all about,” Jonathan says.
On to Team Blue, and Margaret’s loft:
Kelly points out that it’s a good thing there’s a candelabra in the living room, since there’s no actual lighting in the loft. (Note: there aren’t even candles in the candelabra, so that won’t be much help, either.)
What is going on with this headboard?
Green Team is up: India’s loft.
India doesn’t “get” Serge’s thinking outside the box when he placed this mirror on the floor on an angle. She doesn’t understand his whole “breaking the rules” aesthetic.
The couch looks like crap and Andrea blames it on Shazia, who didn’t put all the stuffing back into the cushions after the covers were washed.
But the judges love, love, love the bedroom, which Andrea takes all the credit for.
Next up: the Red Team shows Kelly her loft.
The judges seem impressed. Kelly loves this table with the books on it:
It’s time for the first judging. Looky here–no more white room for the judging sessions! Now they’re in some sort of warehouse that is so dark you have to squint to see the judges.
There. The spotlights came on so we can see the contestants, at least.
Jonathan tells his team that they did a great job on his loft. “A little Golden Girls,” but otherwise he liked it. The other team that gets kudos is Kelly’s team, which gave her just what she wanted.
Congratulations to Kelly’s team, which had The Top Design!
Now to the losers. The judges were not so happy with Margaret’s loft. Preston, when pressed to name the weakest link in his team, refuses to throw anyone under the bus.
But Robert has no problem with it: “We had a weak link and it was Preston.” Niiiiice.
Margaret comments that she isn’t crazy about the dusty pink sofas. “I said I like hot pink, not dusty pink.”
She also harps on the fact that there was no lighting in her loft. Sheesh. There’s no pleasing some people!
The team hangs their heads in shame:
India’s team also draws a loser card. The sofa was a disaster. Shazia takes responsibility for taking too much batting out of the cushions. Andrea takes responsibility for creating the bedroom that India loved. Serge had nothing to do but lay the hardwood floors.
After a short debate, in which Jonathan says that Andrea saved India’s loft and Shazia “bored me into oblivion with her explanation about the incomprehensible sofa saga,” they decide that Serge is the most dispensable member of that team.
“Serge,” India says, “We can’t live with your rubber duckies, handcuffs, mirrors on the floor design. You’re going home.”
Poor Serge. He says goodbye and exits the Top Design studio. He’ll have to go break the rules somewhere else, I guess.
The previews for the upcoming season look great. I mean, they’ve got “Project Runway” alums coming on as clients! I can’t wait to see that!
And–is that Jeff Lewis? You all know how much I love him on “Flipping Out.” In the clip he says, “The show is called Top Design, not Over-the-Top Design.” He’ll make for an entertaining guest judge.
So what did you think? Do you agree that this season is new and improved? Did the right person go home? Will you continue to watch every week?
P.S. Check out the site Blogging Top Design for all the latest scoop on the contestants and the show!