Saturday, April 14, 2007

Top Design's top elements (finale)

With the way the show was building, I honestly expected the judges to choose Carisa in the white room. Words like "exuberant" and "bold" were used to describe her style, while in a rare and brief moment, Matt was demoted to a simply "a decorator."

And in this, the final episode, Matt's quiet arrogance built up a head of steam and became just a bit too much for this designer. I said earlier that I felt Matt would work well with clients; if he takes this kind of attitude, though, his welcome could wear thin quickly. Of course, the producers of the show are able to pick and choose from reams of footage and perhaps they were playing up the drama; maybe they asked him leading questions or baited him, one can never know.

But onto the actual designs!


As elegant as ever, it's difficult for me to quibble with Matt's loft. The furniture was pristine, I adored the chocolate browns and the very occasional accents of blue, and the master bedroom was spare elegance itself, clean and inviting. The chandelier and aubergine walls in the bathroom were where Matt took his boldest risks, and they paid off.

The only thing possible detraction is that it is not very loft-like; Matt seemed to try his best to turn it into a fairly modern house in the suburbs, but that's just a matter of style. Some will gravitate toward urban loft living, some will gravitate toward traditional suburban living.

Bottom line: I'd live in this loft in a New York second.


Carisa showed a surprising amount of (a) affection toward Carl and (b) generosity and compassion in this episode, with the exception of the decidedly uncomfortable moment during which she walked off cursing from a threesome of carpenters who had just busted their rears for her. But again, the producers will show what the producers will show...

I admired Carisa’s bold use of red, paired with black and white (many times in the form of a grid) in her loft. The corkboard wall and dining table-slash-ping pong table were very cool, and she surprised and delighted the judges with her round, sunken bed. I noted she chose the same dining set for one of the rooms that Andrea had utilized in her chef’s room, which makes me wonder how extensive the Pacific Design Center really is (they always make it look huge on the show, but in the chef’s room episode there were only four designers and yet Carisa could not find a matching set of chairs that had not been taken except for patio chairs) but I can’t blame her: it’s a striking set. I liked the black shelves besides the table but do wish she had filled it a little more with accessories. My own style is more minimal than Carisa’s natural style, but this was too minimal even for me.

The green shade of the bathroom was risky and striking, if a little harsh, but the mirror would have driven me crazy every time I looked at it. It’s nice as a piece of art, but as a mirror when you’re trying to get ready in the morning, it would be a cruel joke.

I came away from the entire Top Design show with an important lesson (thanks, Todd Oldham!): always let your natural style shine through. So often on these reality shows, contestants seem to be chosen on the strength of their personal style, but the judges quickly become bored with it and then want them to branch out into what are truthfully their weaker areas, and that’s not always fair. These judges didn’t seem to want that; they did seek to shore up weaker areas and they did want to see risks taken, but they applauded each contestant’s natural style and missed it when it wasn’t there.

When I look back at all of Matt’s rooms (at least, those where his voice is evident enough; in some of the group challenges it’s not), I see his signature elegance carried all the way through, and it became even stronger in the end. He knows his style and as a practicing designer, if he chooses his market/niche to match, he’ll be in a very strong business position. This is a good reminder for me as a graphic designer as well.

(Apologies for the late date of this post; due to severe storms we lost power over the weekend when I normally post, and it took down not only our cable modem but that of many others, so that there was a long waiting list for a replacement. Life without internet and email = life in the dark ages, ugh.)

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