Saturday, March 31, 2007

Top Design's top elements (episode 8)

This Wednesday I was excited to see the four remaining designers challenged to create an upscale hotel room.

When I travel, this type of hotel is where I stay... and those who say travelers are only concerned about clean sheets and a lock on the door are sadly mistaken in my case. Before I make reservations I pore over the web sites of every hotel available (four stars and up), and if the rooms don't cut it aesthetically, they're off the list. Everyone's looking for something different, of course; I look for rooms that appeal to my own design aesthetic---clean, simple, and upscale---and heavenly bed linens you can sink into.

The addition of the four elements (earth, fire, air, and water) was a nice way to mix things up in this challenge, too.

Matt consistently gets it right, and his room was lovely, but Carisa's was a surprise hit.


Her finished design struck me as almost feng shui-inspired. The blues she chose ranged from lively to soothing, and divided by dramatic black slats, popped... but paired with the serene white curtain wall, white bedding, platform bed, dark woods, white upholstery, white towels folded on the table, and wooden floor, it offered a unique mix of drama and a spa-like atmosphere. And though I could have done without the quirky dog statue its proportions were right, and the tall, colored glass bottles and the lamps chosen were all nice touches.

The only real ding I'd give it is that middle screen: the idea is neat, but the execution is a little heavy. You don't want to feel like you're in jail while lying in bed.

Carisa seems to get a bad rap with viewers and the judges alike, and I have the idea Carl really hates life while working with her, but she doesn't strike me so badly. I'd say she's just out there trying to make her own way, and she's done an excellent job with this room.


Matt's style sense, as ever, is right on here. He started out well, tipping and gazing at some bottled water for inspiration. In the hands of a lesser designer, a water-inspired room might have waterfalls, water droplet light fixtures, yadda... but Matt focused on the idea of clean clarity instead, painting his walls in the palest of blues and pairing it generously with white. His floor lamp selection was perfect, and the mirrored bedside tables continued that theme. His screen (between bed and seating area) was minimal and light, and though the judges didn't care for the khaki rug, it offers a nice grounding element. He took a design risk with the low wainscoting and it paid off: the judges loved the vertical feel to the room. I could easily stay in this hotel room for days or weeks.

Matt's personality is quiet but confident, and until now has tended not to offend anyone, though he tended a bit toward the arrogant in this last episode. He strikes me as more versatile than the other three, with the possible exception of Andrea, and I'd bet he work wells with his clients.


Andrea was off her game this week. I can sympathize; to an extent a designer can operate outside his or her natural style and areas of strength, but it never feels natural to them, and if they're not fortunate the end result can appear stilted or forced. In my own work (graphic design) it's good to work with clients whose styles and demands are outside my own natural style, because it causes me to stretch and do things I might not otherwise, but my ideal client has found me because s/he has seen my style and wants that same look or mood for his/her project. That's not to say that every project done within my natural style will look exactly the same; to me that would be a travesty, but there is much to say for using someone's strengths to advantage rather than asking a right-handed person to write with their left hand, so to speak.

Despite this, Andrea turned in at least a decent performance, and she impressed me with her hard work: how many other designers were up at 4 a.m. working on their design?


One of the innovators, with valuable experience in architecture, Goil strikes me as one of the most honest, nice personalities on the show.

I have my quibbles with him design-wise, chief of which is his dogged use of stark white walls (think of those years living in a rented property where the landlord wouldn't let you paint the walls) paired with brightly colored stripes (hearkening back to poorly funded college dorms everywhere...ack!). The padded stripe he used this time, while utilizing a gorgeous montage of colors, reminded me of handicapped-accessible hospital hallways, alas. If he would have only painted the rest of the walls in a deep red or burgundy, at least...

The judges call it "not designing a complete room/a room people want to be in" and the above, I think, is at the heart of the problem. He has brilliant ideas, though, from his striking beach cabana structure to his Bacardi Limon chandelier idea, and when he selected the arching bronze sculpture at the beginning of this project my heart rose. Because the judges on these types of shows tend to reward innovation, from the beginning of Top Design I thought he'd make it to the top three.

He's young, though, and his design style has decades to mature: over time I think he'll marry his ideas and design elements into a more cohesive style. For his personality and innovation alone I'd love to have him on my own project. I hope his participation on the show brings him greatly increased success. May his phone be ringing off the hook.

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