Top Design – Finale Recap
Injera has seen Top Design Season 2 through to the end. Thanks Injera I hope this not the last we see of you guest posting on this blog.
Top Design – The Finale
Series recap, including another glimpse of India Hicks’ ensemble from last week (thanks for pointing it out, RR, it really was worth seeing again!). For the last time this season – and, perhaps, ever since Bravo is not publicising a “cycle three” – India reminds us what’s at stake: $100K, a spread in Elle Decor, and “the right to say they have the Top Design”.
The first we see of Nathan, he is shirtless and doubled over in the courtyard at Union Lofts. Yoga? Food poisoning? As he contemplates how narrowly he made the final, we see him – shirtless again – getting ready for the final challenge. He has a newfound confidence and he is expressing that with an orange shirt that he is struggling to get into. There must have been a shirtless-screen-time requirement, because the next shot is another topless one. This time, thank God, it’s Preston. He is reflecting on his journey and we see a montage of photos of little Preston (that’s Preston as a child, people! Not a euphemism for his junk).
As Ondine’s first interview for the episode starts, we see her wrangling a lot of shopping bags down the stairs. She tells us that they have a busy day ahead, with $60,000 to spend and “many stores to go to”. I think she’ll find it easier to manage the shopping if she starts off empty handed, but perhaps she’s planning to shoplift some of the smaller things to supplement her budget… She’s “very excited” to make the final three. As she talks about her path to Top Design we see some photos of her as a teenager, dressed in early-Madonna-drag.
The final three squish into the back of an SUV to go to Aztek (sic) Wallcoverings. Preston and Nathan are napping; Ondine is making notes. She has a pen in her mouth and one in her hand. She’s serious about this! I rewound a couple of times, but couldn’t tell whether she also had one behind her ear. As they arrive at Aztek, the caption tells us that they have 8 hours to spend their $60,000, which is $7,500 per hour or $125 a minute (near enough to $2.08 per second). This is going to be action packed!
I hope the next shopping destination is going to be more interesting than Aztek! They had already chosen the wallcoverings, so they just pop in and collect their orders. You can bet there were some arguments in the editing suite over this particular scene, which must have made it in due to a contractual obligation.
As the three are driven to their next stop, we get images of signs of what Ondine describes as “some of the most unique stores in Los Angeles”. PSA: do not modify the word unique. The first store we see is nadeau. nadeau is so unique that it doesn’t need a capital letter. Nathan picks up an enormous Indian chest because it reminds him of a sarcophagus. It will fit into his overall concept of “hip, young, good-looking… art collector’s home”. Preston’s theme is “sleek and modern with a traditional twist… clean and polished” and Ondine is going for “Danish modern chic”, so of course she’s looking for Indonesian furniture.
India is waiting outside the houses for them, and reminds them that they have just over two days left. She has thoughtfully painted and wallpapered their houses for them. Thanks India! One thing, though, how did you manage that when they had only picked up their wallpaper a couple of hours ago? She is also giving them two carpenters and a seamstress each.
She gives a cunning grin as she suggests that even these resources might not be enough. Anybody not born yesterday will know what’s coming next, although all those on screen will make a huge effort to look surprised. There is much screeching as Andrea, Natalie and Eddie appear. Eddie interviews that he’d much rather be on the beach right now, so we know he’ll be a huge asset as a helper. Each finalist chooses a paint swatch to reveal their helper. Nathan gets Natalie and their happiness looks reasonably genuine. When India reveals that Preston’s “red” choice means he has Eddie to help, the “yay”s are forced on both sides. In fact, this is the first time I’ve seen Preston smile in anything less than a dazzling fashion. Poor baby. Preston interviews that Eddie is very good at what he does, so he’s happy to have his help. Eddie interviews that he will tell Preston to “go f*ck himself” if he asks Eddie to get him a coffee.
This means that Ondine and her BFF Andrea will be working together. Ondine is “super happy” and acknowledges that Andrea “gave her the place in the competition”. Andrea is pleased to be back, but – in the decisive fashion I always loved her for – is “kinda” frustrated because “this would have totally been a challenge that I think I coulda done good at so I’m definitely kinda kicking myself for breaking”. For the last time, Andrea: Shut Up.
Preston shows Eddie around his townhouse and describes his vision. Eddie sees that Preston is doing the usual slick hotel schtick. He says that, because they are both professionals, they can respect each other and work together, but “I’m here to help him, I’m not here to make him win”. Sometimes, in his efforts to be petty all the time, Eddie stops making sense.
Natalie ooohs and ahhhs over Nathan’s ideas, which is exactly what you’d want at this stage, I think. Moral support, and some gophering. As they wander around, we get a Nathan-as-a-boy montage and he was cute, but no Preston. He reminds us that his parents split when he was young (which isn’t quite on the Preston sympathy scale, but then “each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”) but he doesn’t revisit the fanning-of-the-Cosmos as a turning point in his design career. I’m sorry that this could the last time I see Nathan’s crazy grey interview sweater, because I still haven’t quite figured out how it works.
Ondine is meeting the carpenters and she has lots of things for them to make, including a headboard. At first I thought she said it was “all 12 by 12 metre tiles” and was thinking that she was having a Nigel Tufnel moment. I had to watch it back a few times until I got “mirror” tiles, which seems like a hideous idea. She says that she’s worked with the carpenters before, and that Larry is “a liiiiiiitle slow”, so of course I am going to spend the rest of the episode looking for William Sanderson, whose last unexpected appearance was in “Lost”. And then when it’s over, I’ll watch me some Deadwood.
We’re back with Preston, and he’s explaining that the room that won him through to the final is being changed to a dining room, now that he has a chandelier. The space works better as a dining room, given its position and size, but he seems to be giving himself a lot more work as a result. Hope it pays off!
As Nathan’s sarcophagus is hauled upstairs – by seven guys – he has a moment when he raises his hands to tear at his hair and finds… that he’s bald. He loves the chest but it’s twice as big as he needs. Ah, well – live and learn.
The designers now have a chance to spend $5000 at a store of their choice. What a novel idea. As Preston heads off to shop, confident that Eddie “the professional” Ross is capable of handling things in his absence, Eddie skives off to Nathan’s house and encourages Natalie to play hooky with him. Preston calls with a whole lot of instructions. Eddie puts him on speaker and makes some “listening” noises – and some not-listening faces – then puts the phone down on the stairs and walks off, leaving Preston talking to no-one.
Heeeeeeeere’s Todd! He validates Preston’s choices for mouldings, likes Nathan’s cantilevered shelving idea, and suggests that Ondine uses some bright colours to contrast with the dark furniture. She says she’ll do that “with flowers and pillows”, which seems a bit after-thoughty.
Outside, Todd expands on his impressions of the designs so far. Preston’s is masculine, with a nice balance between sombre and vibrant. Nathan’s is “Nathanesque”, and you can’t ask for more than that. Ondine’s is a masterful balance of colours and textures. Todd can’t tell who’s going to win!
The day is over and the designers, and helpers, jump into the pool. They all seem to be having fun, and Nathan interviews that they were realising that it was one of the last times they’d all be together, so… Preston gets out of the pool (oh, why, Preston? Why?) for some quality “alone time”. Seriously, I get that he’s probably a Myers-Briggs “I”, but there are only two days left, then there’s all the “alone time” you could wish for!
Last full work day. Ondine’s painting, Preston’s deciding on quick’n’not-dirty-looking solutions rather than complex, not-going-to-be-finished-in-time ideas, and Nathan is using paper plates to make a chandelier. Is he being sponsored by Royal Chinet? Ondine is starting to worry that she won’t get everything done, so shifts into “crazy gear”.
Final morning! Nathan is obviously one of those “breakfast is the most important meal” people – he tucks into the largest bowl of Cheerios I’ve ever seen and then chows down a banana (and he obviously never watched “Australian Princess”, because he just peels it down and eats it like a monkey. No knife and fork!). He is musing about what will happen if he wins. Watch out for Nathan Thomas Wallpaper, Bedding and Furniture. Ondine wants to open a “storefront” in Brooklyn with the prize money. For Preston, it’s all about the pride, so I guess he’ll donate the money to Interior Designers Without Borders.
The final touches are going ahead now. Preston and Eddie are draping fabric over the bed and Nathan is making art. Ondine doesn’t have time for such frippery – one of her beds still isn’t made, and by “isn’t made” I don’t mean “hasn’t got hospital corners”, I mean that the carpenter is still hammering (or using liquid nails).
The designers and their helpers celebrate finishing, some more enthusiastically than others. Eddie congratulates Preston, hugs him and leaves with a breezily insincere “we’ll definitely chit and chat sometime soon”, then interviews that he likes Ondine’s and Nathan’s designs better. Nathan and Natalie hug and she leaves. Andrea would love Ondine to win because 1. she will totally take credit for it and 2. she will guilt Ondine into giving her some of the prize money. Like she needs it.
Here come the judges! Kelly Wearstler is with them, thank God, and she is wearing a very short, very ruffled, very white dress with those revolting gladiator style shoes that all the young things seem to be so fond of these days. Unfortunately she’s not wearing a hat. They visit Ondine first, who explains her concept as “hip, young, retro glam”. The hydrangeas say otherwise. Kelly asks about continuity, which is a good question, since there is no cohesion whatsoever. I want Ondine to stop saying “mirror” – it sounds like she’s talking about the space station.
Preston’s house is next for the walkthrough. There are no comments on the downstairs living space, but when Preston draws attention to the orange slices he put into a decanter of water “for a splash of colour” in the upstairs room, Jonathan tells him that he wants more. Nobody says anything about the dining room, but Jonathon wants to know where the “splash of colour” is in the master bedroom. Not a good sign. If you have to ask… Preston eagerly points out the colour in the guest suite and India’s “oooh!” sounds edited in. The office? Has all the colour. Kelly is the only judge who asks questions that are not rhetorical. She asks Preston who the client is for his house. Preston says the office would work for “a man or a woman” and that the whole house would suit either “male or female” which are the worst answers in the world. His first response indicates that he thinks there are only two clients; that all women want the same thing and that all men want the same thing. His second response seems to reveal that he doesn’t even restrict that to human divisions. “Male or female”. Well, it would suit the First Lady, my grandpa, a lioness or a peacock. Of course. Kelly looks deeply sceptical.
Nathan welcomes the judges to his “bohemian bourgeois cottage entry gallery foyer space”. That’s exactly what he says – punctuation doesn’t help make it any less unintelligible. Or any more intelligible. The judges remain fairly quiet as Nathan does his talk-through, although India admonishes him to “copyright” his Nathan Thomas Collection Paper Plate ChandelierTM. Nathan shows off his sarcophagus and Jonathan says he would have preferred that it was used as a “table top or something”. He doesn’t suggest how it could have been used as anything but a feature piece – it’s huge! Way too tall to be a practical table “or something”. There are now blinds and drapes in the master bedroom, but the bed is still the same. When Nathan points out that he didn’t change the bed, Jonathan snaps “Well, you should have”. He’s in a pissy mood! As the judges leave, Nathan once again tries to tear at his non-existent hair.
This is a tough one to call! I think it will be like Masterchef, where Greg and John always eliminate one of the final three, then choose between two. Ondine will be the early discard.
India introduces the judges, and Jonathan looks a lot more relaxed now that he’s on the couch. Nathan is first up for judging and Jonathan puts him at his ease by telling him they were expecting lots of low points from his work, and he surprised them. It wasn’t nearly as bad as they thought it would be! Anyway, he asks Nathan what he thinks is the lowest point and Nathan really has a couple of choices here – he can say “the bed”, and make Jonathan happy, and he can say the sarcophagus, and hope that makes Jonathan happy. He goes with the sarcophagus and Jonathan nods enthusiastically. Good call, Nathan! He explains that he kept it because he couldn’t bear to ask the removalists to move it after all the effort put into getting it up the stairs. Margaret asks if it wasn’t “worth $100,000 to move it?” and if she’s seriously going to rule him out because of this, I’ll never buy Elle Decor again! Kelly likes the entrance room and the dining area. Jonathan loves the art. Kelly likes the “vocabulary” of the objects and art chosen and the “friction” created by them.
Ondine is praised for producing the most “pulled together” work she’s done. Margaret uses the word “loved” a lot in her summary of the house. Kelly suggests that some of the “assessories” could have been pulled back. Without prompting, Ondine decides to blame a lack of time for not editing the accessories on the carpenter to deflect criticism. She opens the door for Margaret questioning whether she asked too much of the tradespeople. She says she didn’t – that her crew could have done it – but she really did.
Preston’s house gets some positive comments, particularly his choice of mouldings for the guest room. Kelly doesn’t like the dining room because the furniture looks too much like a “set”. Jonathan is “wowed” by the little touches Preston brings to things, like draping the fabric on the bed. He uses the phrase “great design”. I’m getting mixed messages here! Cannot predict! India dismisses the designers so the judges can get down to the real business.
Kelly thinks they each did an incredible job. Her accent really comes out when she’s being gushing. Jonathan loves each of the houses, for different reasons, and is “wildly conflicted”.
India decides to put a stop to the love-fest and introduces some structure to the discussion by asking the judges to present the case for Ondine. Margaret liked some things – the headboard, the girl’s bedroom – but criticises her planning. Kelly thinks the story was more “cohesive” than with some previous work, but I just don’t see that.
India kicks off the Nathan discussion by pointing out how strong and individual he is. Jonathan liked it – found it provocative. Margaret thinks he’s “wildly inventive and creative” but felt that some of his ideas are a bit “random”, and I think she means that in a literal way, not in the current teen usage. She doesn’t see the point of Nathan’s front room. God, it’s a “bohemian bourgeois cottage entry gallery foyer space”! Duh! Really, what she should be doing is giving whatever architect designed the townhouses an absolute caning. It’s a ridiculous space – pointless and arbitrary. Margaret and Jonathan hate on the wallpaper a bit, but they all give the “wall of ex-boyfriends” a huge rave. Jonathan is really getting in some good lines tonight! When India starts rhapsodizing over the “fun” Nathan has, he interjects with “just like Samantha Fox said”. Once again, I wish I could screen grab – India’s expression in response to this is gold.
So, what do the judges think of Preston? Or, as India says, with no thought of objectivity at all: “perfect Preston”. Margaret thinks it was the most polished, so maybe we can say “perfect polished Preston”. Do we have any advance on “p” adjectives? Margaret loved the guest room, but Jonathan thinks more “punctuation” was needed (well, it’s a noun, but it starts with P). As Margaret raves on and on about Preston, Kelly stage-yawns and mainstream Margaret gets all defensive.
Jonathan wraps up the judging (at least, I’m hoping he’s wrapping up! This seems to have gone for-ev-ah) with this: “If you wanted… a house that looks sharp and would wow your friends, Preston would be your guy. If you want a house that just sort of has a nice vibe, Ondine would be your gal. If you want magic, Nathan would be your guy, but you would know that you were taking a risk”. Any clues there? Backstage, Nathan seems to have accepted defeat – he’s referring to his sarcophagus as merely a “coffin” now.
Back to India – do we have a winner? Well, you’d bloody hope so! The designers come in for the verdict, but Jonathan just wants to say some (more) final words. Oh, god, it’s like being at a bad wedding! Enough of the speeches, already. Nathan – versatile, dramatic failures but also dramatic successes. Ondine – be more you! Keep being bold and whimsical! Preston – you’re brilliantly talented, polished and perfect, confident, amazing, beautiful.
Drum roll! It’s Nathan, which I am really pleased about, but… most of the adjectives pointed to Preston. He’ll be gutted. We see final interviews with Preston who says nothing unpredictable, except that he might try to be less safe, and with Ondine who has learned that there’s room for everyone to be successful. Nathan seems totally overwhelmed, but still manages an eyebrow pop in his final interview. “Bravery is the way to go.”