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Top Design – Finale Part 1

Injera has written another witty recap of Top Design. I think she encapsulates the personalities of the contestants perfectly.

Top Design – Finale Part 1

We’re down to our last four contestants. Who will still be there at the end? Ondine is pleased to be in the final four and she is now doing it for Andrea. So, if Ondine wins, she’ll split the prize with Andrea? This is not addressed.

It’s the morning of the penultimate challenge. Nathan comes in with a birthday cake ablaze for Eddie. Eddie blows out the candles, while his voiceover generously acknowledges that the others have talent, and that he gets along well with Ondine and Nathan. Poor Preston is, at this point in the VO, lurking in a corner by himself. Apparently he’s not part of the “posse” because he’s “LA” and they are “New York”. As the posse leaves the room, Preston reflects that he needs “time alone… and I’ve had none. Zero. And that’s been one of the most frustrating things”. As he says this, he is shown, alone, gazing wistfully at the door the others went out. Awww. Then the edit cuts back to his interview, where he does a strange eye-roll – is he blinking back tears? Brave, lonely tears?

India meets the designers outside a row of hideous – sorry, “beautiful” – houses. The challenge? To design a room in one of them. They have two days. “But that’s not all!” The three finalists will then go on to design the whole house! The budget for the entire house is… $85,000. It would have been good if they were given that budget up front – I’m sure some designers would have been tempted to blow a lot on their first room – but this is not how India rolls. She gives them $20,000 for this room “to encapsulate (their) vision”.

Planning time! Ninety minutes to measure and order things. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot of time, does it? Ondine usually spends a year doing a whole house. Eddie kindly explains the layout of the house in an interview as he is shown walking through it – formal living room, dining/kitchen/family, master bedroom and “two little rooms at the end, which would be considered the office and a second bedroom”. Given that India described the houses as “three bedrooms”, I think a producer is going to have a job to do to placate the partner real estate agent for this contemptuous description.

Eddie is ostensibly trying to figure out which room he will design for the initial part of the challenge, and what he will do to it. Instead, he goes off into a reverie about his own “master bedroom” that he misses so much. It’s all blah-blah-luxury-blah-blah-easy-breezy-blah-blah-elegant-blah-blah-super-rich. Being in the Hamptons is a crucial part of his description. Will he seriously just superimpose that on a stucco LA monstrosity?

Preston shows a very sensible pragmatic approach by choosing the family room off the kitchen, because he can either do it as a dining space or casual space. He’s so LA, and so is this house! Unlike Eddie, he actually seems to have a vision for the whole house, so he would appear to be off to a flying start. He describes his vision as “transitional” which is, apparently, “contemporary meets traditional”. Is that really a style? It sounds like indecision. It’s how his home is decorated. This is starting to remind me of the Brady Bunch movie, where Mike continues to design the same house for any brief…

Nathan! At ten, he practiced his “vacuum lines” in his mom’s house. No, not limbering up for an adolescent coke habit; trying to get the carpet as perfect as he could. His magazine fanning habit also started then, with his mom’s Cosmos. He, too, goes for the master bedroom.

Ondine, for some reason, chooses one of the bedrooms, because she’s had experience “tricking up…tiny spaces” Back at the real estate agent’s HQ, somebody is losing their job.

Random interview snippets: Eddie doesn’t care what the judges want – he’s in it for him. Ondine echoes the thoughts of many reality contestants when she says “to come this far and not win would suck. It would totally suck”. Does she really think she has a chance of winning though? I mean, if Ricky Schroeder wasn’t such a stud, Ondine wouldn’t even be there today.

The designers head off to Plantation armed with sold stickers. Preston infuriates Eddie by liberally wallpapering the shop with stickers, then adding the prices up. What really should infuriate Eddie, though, is that Preston presumes to judge Eddie’s taste by telling him that “this is really you”. Unfortunately we don’t see “this”, but we see Eddie’s pursed lips and disapprovingly placed finger.

The designers finish up at Plantation and then head to Jaxon, another furniture store. Presumably they knew that this was in their itinerary, but it sees a bit odd. Ondine, for example, says she didn’t find much at Plantation, so she’s relying on Jaxon; Eddie and Preston seemed to buy a lot of stuff at Plantation – what if they see something better now? Ondine has lost track of time and has completely screwed up her shopping. She basically ends up leaving it in the hands of a salesperson.

Just before the break: a totally random 30 seconds of Nathan prancing around in a wig and costume, pretending to be “the host of Top Design”. No commentary, just the posse falling about laughing.

Shopping at the Top Design showroom. Eddie notes that they all have a decent shopping strategy worked out by now and, as they leave, calls out “watch my bush”. Eddie’s the kind of guy who’d buy an indoor plant purely for the chance to use this line.

Eddie celebrates his birthday with “hard liquor”. He seems to pick on Preston some more. While the others are shown drinking it up and having fun, Preston is brushing his teeth. In his voiceover, he talks about his father who died of alcoholism, and a cousin who died of a drug problem. Poor, sad Preston. He retreats into his own zone.

Ah! Context! Now we see Nathan in his “Top Design host” drag. His wig is black and curly and he’s wearing a green headband, tight green t-shirt, black… leggings?… and black pumps. For some reason, his “Top Design” is in Japan. It makes no sense and was obviously one of those things that was hi-lar-ious if you were there, and shitfaced. Eddie and Nathan then do a joint, drunk, interview where they start to slag off Preston, but then realise that they will come off looking like “pigs”, so call it a day. Very wise.

Elimination day! Ondine says she’s feeling a little pressured. She looks a little rough. Preston’s going to be happy when the furniture’s in and he can see what he’s working with. Nathan wants to prove that he’s not “paper plates on walls”, but that’s worked pretty well for him so far. Eddie? Is probably throwing up somewhere.

The wallpaper hangers have been and Ondine thinks her room looks “great”. The wallpaper is a very busy black pattern on white, which looks as though it might be flock. The room looks tiny. Furniture has been delivered, and there seems to be an awful lot of it in Ondine’s house. She’s pleased that everything she wanted came in, but I’ll be surprised if it all fits into her room. It hardly seems to fit into the big living space.

Contestants have two hours with the movers and there seem to be a lot of stairs to negotiate. Good luck with that! Just as Ondine VOs that the desk is key to her “office” space, the movers are shown struggling to get it through the door. With only two hours, she goes for dismantling the desk. It is glued together, so won’t come apart. Ondine will, and does.

Preston demonstrates his talent for directing movers, which he honed at a young age. We keep getting snippets of insight into the inner workings of Preston. I still think he may be a replicant – his verbal mannerisms can be quite odd. “My mother was divorced…”. Not “my parents were divorced”. Anyway, they moved around a lot and he was a perfectionist, is the gist of this. If it goes down to Preston vs Nathan, I hope the producers get a couple of ten-year olds in to act out their formative years. Young Preston could be in a smock; Young Nathan would be wearing a gingham apron. They’d be given a room, with furniture, accessories and cleaning products and appliances. They would have two hours to organise everything. Young Preston would spend all his time ordering muscular men to reposition lamps. Young Nathan would attempt to recreate the garden of Ryoan-ji with a hoover and cut-pile carpet.

Ondine’s movers have managed to get her desk in, and Eddie drops by to give his opinion: “gorgeous”. Nathan says it’s “really cool…very graphic”.

Here comes Todd! He validates Preston’s choice of an antler-y looking silver sculpture on the coffee table. He tells Ondine to “treat” the window. He tries to gently steer Eddie towards being mindful of the judges’ comments. He suggests that Nathan should put something between the windows. The only person he fails with is Eddie, but we all know how disdainful Eddie is of the opinions of mere judges.

During the whole Todd sequence, we are only given very small glimpses of the designers’ rooms, so it will be good to see them in their entirety. That is, of course, except for Ondine’s room, which is so small that no camera angle tricks could keep it a secret.

With the final 90 minutes, Preston is gluing plates to the wall. Nathan is a little worried that his strategy of doing something different – i.e. conventional, rather than wild – will backfire. Meanwhile, he is ironing the linen on the bed. Ondine has abandoned Todd’s suggestion of drapes, because she doesn’t think she’ll be able to do them properly. She’s taken on Eddie’s critique from the dishwasher stacking last week, but is going to a bold new place.

Here come the judges, and our chance to see the finished rooms. Margaret and Jonathan are joined by Jeff Lewis, the “house flipper” we last saw in Bachelor Pad. Eddie introduces his design, which is captioned “Easy Breezy”, by saying “welcome to my master bedroom in a second home in East Hampton.” I can certainly see that aesthetic in the room, but… this is not a second home in East Hampton, Eddie! Surely he’ll be caned for that. It’s blues and whites with a random lattice framing the windows. India looks dubious about the whole thing and Jonathan wants to talk “bedscaping”. Eddie doesn’t want to tschotchke it up with colourful pillows.

Nathan’s room is captioned “elegant and refined” and he describes it as “open and fresh and clean”. He does his usual talkfest and the judges scribble notes as the camera pans across the driftwood sculpture and silvered skull. Nathan thinks there’s a “sexual influence” in his choice of pieces, and Jonathan wants this clarified. Jeff hones in on the vase of nails by the bed as the phallic metaphor and I’m annoyed that “sexual” equals “phallic” for him. But then, he’s a tool. As they say, “if you only have a hammer…”.

Now to Preston and his “contemporary meets traditional” lounge right off the kitchen. The camera work for Preston’s design is a bit strange – the “before” shot seems to give the impression of a large, open space, but his design is extremely small and cluttered. His literal streak emerges when Margaret questions him about using plates instead of artwork on the walls – it’s near the kitchen! Just as well it wasn’t near the toilet (although Americans would never say toilet). He says the plates are easy on the eye and India chimes in with “you are easy on the eye! Never doubt it!”. Bless her, and her Crabtree and Evelyn range. Jeff wants to know where the TV goes and Preston indicates that it would be in the formal living space downstairs. How bizarre.

Ondine’s tiny “modern and graphic” office/guestroom looks a lot bigger than it did in previous shots. She sells her idea that designing a small space is harder than a larger space, but I wonder how she’ll finish the rest of the house if she gets through – she’s spent nearly a quarter of her budget on what most people would think of as an “afterthought”. Jonathan questions her about drapery and she admits that she thought of it (o rly, Ondine?) but didn’t want to do something that looked unprofessional. She also says she abandoned her throw pillows because they were too busy. The judges don’t ask her about her vision for the rest of the house, which they did to the others. Are they sending us a signal? Should she just pack her bags now?

(Oooh, thanks Arena! Looks like I’m going to get my first crack at The Rachel Zoe Project soon!)

The designers line up for what might be a final appraisal. Eddie has dressed for the occasion in a tweed jacket, waistcoat and a bow tie. That’s a whole lotta look.

Nathan is praised for the fact that he also styled the bathroom, but Margaret uses this positive as a springboard to pan his overall room. I agree that the bed didn’t really match some of the accessorising, but I think he’s being caned for their preconceptions. He says that he was “stuck” with the bed, which might have been a development that was left out in the edit. He wanted to show some versatility by making a “pretty” room, but obviously overlooked the fact that Margaret doesn’t think “pretty” is “memorable”. Quite possibly true, but can you see Nathan’s Light it Up room getting into Elle Decor?

Eddie’s reaction to Nathan’s appraisal shows that, while he is one with his posse in social terms, he would be super-relieved to have Nathan out of the running. We get a shot of all the contestants, and Eddie is wearing jeans to complete his ensemble. Bananas!

Preston’s space was polished and confident, which is one of the reasons the judges wear such wacky clothes each week – it’s so we know that the same Preston judging loop is not just being replayed. Jeff thinks there was too much furniture, but praises Preston’s taste. He does it in such a way that it’s really dismissive,- “you have great taste. You just do [shrug]”; as though it’s actually more of a hindrance than a help. The judges all go piling onto the great taste bandwagon, and all give variations of the “need to see some personality” critique.

Ondine’s room gives Jonathan a chance to spruik unnecessary throw pillows, and Jeff the chance to give Jonathan a smackdown. Black and white is “what’s hot right now”, Jeff says, with no regard to the fact that his input will likely count for nothing against the force of the iconic potter. Margaret loves what Ondine did with the space!

Jonathan finds a new way of saying “granny”, by describing Eddie’s room as “not the youngest or most personal room I’ve ever encountered”. In the shots accompanying his comment, it looks exactly like a spread from Martha Stewart Living. I guess you’ve gotta dance with them that brought ya… Jeff appreciates Eddie’s style, but doesn’t relate to it: “it skews an older demographic, and by older I mean walkers, bedpans and oxygen tanks“. This level of harsh is out of proportion to the actual offence caused by the room. Margaret thinks it’s a stylish room, but is surprised by the disconnect between Eddie’s personality and his designs. Oh, and “decorating isn’t just shopping!”. Thanks for that, Margaret. Eddie seems pretty devastated for someone who doesn’t give a rats about what the judges think.

Judges discussion. They love Preston. Ondine impressed them – “rose phoenix-like from the ashes”. Eddie’s clothing annoys Jeff as much as his design does. It’s personal! Margaret tries to defend Eddie and Jeff won’t have any of it. In the backroom, Eddie repeats his contempt for the judges, complete with pixellated gestures. Back to the judges. Nathan? Could be a disaster, but will have some surprises.

Bring the contestants back… after an ad for Jeff Lewis’ show, Flipping Out. It looks as obnoxious as he is, but I’ll probably watch it.

Ondine’s the first one going through. Preston’s second. Oh, no – it’s down to Eddie and Nathan! I want them to hold hands while they wait for the judgement. They don’t. It’s coming down to consistency versus creativity, basically. They are going with… creativity. Yay! Eddie is apparently hugely relieved to be going. India struggles to dismiss Eddie with the usual line, but works it in by saying -˜we cannot live with your design’ – it pains me to say that”.

It’s not the last we’ll see of Eddie. “Eddie Ross is bigger than Top Design.” Mark his words!

Next week? Nathan, talking about himself in the third person.

2 comments

1 Reality Raver { 03.27.09 at 12:09 pm }

I just watched this episode again another great hour of TV. I had written this huge response to your last week recap last week, and my daughter deleted it. So sorry about that.

Your recap was thoroug however you missed India’s amazing belt when she met the designers at the town houses for the first time

I agree with Eddie going as his townhouse would be styled like a Martha Stewart ma throughout. I liked Preston’s room but it was not practical there was no room to walk in it. Just felt a bit weird as a room next to a kitchen.

I hope Nathan wins the comp. I am not sure the townhouse sponsors will put their buildings on the show again as they attracted so many negative comments. India was particularly derogatory about the ensuite bathroom.

Agree the pissed Nathan in drag scene must have been a had to be there moment.

2 Injera { 03.31.09 at 3:12 pm }

Gah! The belt! To be honest, I had no words for what India wore then…

Can’t believe I have to wait until Sunday for the part 2. Hopeless DVR technology skillz.