Jonathanadler_topdesign2_240The second season of Top Design is coming to a close, and I think we can officially declare its makeover a success. Tonight’s episode had the perfect hint of drama, but kept the focus where it should be: on the designs.

After brief interviews with each finalist (including hilarious childhood pictures), the designers jump right into designing the full houses. They run around town shopping, and meet India at the challenge site. They have two days left, and are given two carpenters, a seamstress, and their painting and wallpapering is done for them.

Aaaaand, they get a little extra help. Andrea, Natalie and Eddie are there to help them with "anything and everything," though Eddie immediately chimes in, "We’re not your assistants! We’re here for moral support!" He’s laughing, but in an interview confirms that he wants to "slit [his] wrists right now." Oh, Eddie. I didn’t miss you at all. Nathan is paired with Natalie, Preston with Eddie, and Ondine with Andrea. Um, seeing as Andrea gave up her spot for Ondine so she could see her family, I’m really hoping she got a couple days at home before having to come back to the show! Andrea interviews that she’s kicking herself for leaving. Of course.

Ondine’s house is going to be a "Danish modern chic/retro glam" theme, which sounds pretty close to "Swedish modern chic," Ikea-style. She’s worried that her carpenters won’t be able to finish all her projects in time. And, as expected, tons of items are still incomplete two hours before judging.

Ondine_topdesign2_240 Her home is very funky and modern, with contemporary furniture, bold wallpapers, and great abstract art. The family room with bright pink sofas and zebra print accents is fun and awesomely over-the-top, which works since it’s a small space. The dining room and living room are less successful for me, without colors that pop and with drabber-seeming furniture. The dining room in particular is heavy, almost.

The master bedroom is gorgeous, with light blue walls and gold accents. The mirrored headboard is interesting, and the funky ethnic accessories really work with the eclectic vibe. The kid’s room is veeeery colorful, with wide yellow and white stripes on the walls and an inset bed dressed in hot pink. Upon seeing the bed, the judges wonder if she created too much work for her carpenter. She kept the office very similar.    

Preston dismantles the living room area he won with last week to turn it into a dining room for his "modern meets traditional" house. Hmm. He also puts a bit too much trust in Eddie, who isn’t really interesting in following orders, even abandoning his cell phone at one point while Preston tries to tell him what needs to be done. Still, he feels like he’s in pretty good shape toward the end. Eddie interviews, though, that he finds Nathan’s and Ondine’s houses more creative.

The downstairs living room is a disappointment compared to what he created last week, lacking his signature splash of color and coming across as too muted for my tastes. However, I love the gorgeous walnut coffee table with the paint brushes lying on it. The lounge area also doesn’t speak to me, with several bold patterns on the sitting chair, rug, and throw pillow, but again no color (which Jonathan Adler notes). It’s very eclectic, which is fun, but…it somehow fails to be fun. His dining room is also joyless, with heavy, dark furniture – a world away from the original lounge room.

Preston_topdesign2_240 The master suite is much better, with beautiful chocolate wallpaper with huge blue-green flowers, a beautifully dressed four poster bed, and nice accessories. However, the judges again ask about the splash of color. The guest room is interesting, with a gray, black and white theme, but with actual splashes of color in the form of throw pillows with chartreuse flowers. He’s done beautiful moldings on the walls, and added some really cool ornate mirrors for accents. Still, the room just doesn’t do it for me as much as some of his recent work has. The office is a bright spot, with a big pop art piece which is full of color (FINALLY), and a nice red bench. The gold on cream patterned wallpaper really works, though I’d never pick it myself.   

Nathan, who clearly needs a soulless assistant like Eddie, thinks a giant wooden chest he bought is too big for the space, but can’t bear to ask the movers to carry it back out since it’s so heavy. He’s creating his own art for the space, and I kind of love it. His house is awesome. The foyer has some really neat, funky furniture, a colorful kinetic sculpture on the table, and a great rug with wavy earth-tone lines that adds interest to the space. The upstairs entrance area also has some great pieces; I love the table he’s painted white with irregular black lines, in particular.

The dining room has a crazy cool paper plate chandelier, the drip painting he created, and some funky chairs around a modern white table. His family room is a little less successful for me, with the giant chest sucking up a corner of the room, and a very bold piece of art made to look like graffiti that seems out of place with the linen sofa and muted brown tones in the rest of the room. The judges aren’t digging the chest, either. The master bedroom is the same aside from white curtains due to time management, and he didn’t change the bed. (Adler: "Well, you should have.") Ah, well.

The kid’s room is amazing. The custom daybed looks great, and the details (bright blue lamp, dinosaur sculpture, colorful Calder-style mobile, bucket of yellow balls) are very chic and Nathan-style, but also completely kid-appropriate. I seriously can’t decide if I like the office. I love the random thrift store-style art and portraits and the funky modern sofa, but the other half of the room looks like Crazy Grandma’s Salon, with the same wallpaper Preston used in his master bedroom, but paired with teal walls that are too matchy-matchy to the paper. The ornate mirror is too much when combined with the ornate chair at the desk, and the empty shelves are just odd.

Judging: Wearstlerwatch ’08 continues with a super-frilly white dress that would be acceptable if it didn’t have sleeves, a flower in her hair, and insanely high red stilettos. Far from her craziest look, and she actually looks great in judging. Way to go, Wearstler! I assume you’ve been off getting made over the past couple episodes, and I approve.

Nathan_topdesign2_240_3 Nathan gets praise for his chic, intellectual approach, especially the in foyer and dining area. The judges also love the transitions and the crazy thrift store portrait-looking wall. They ding Nathan for keeping the heavy chest, even though he knew it wasn’t right.

Ondine is praised for having a cohesive look, for her inventive ideas, and for her use of art. Wearstler thinks she could have edited out the accessories a bit, and Ondine goes into this tangent about how her carpenter was too slow. Mistake! The little girl’s room gets props, and the judges believe the house is Ondine’s best work yet.

Preston gets praise for a "lovely job" in general, and especially in the guest room. The dining room is rightfully dinged, but he’s praised for excellent details elsewhere, and great creative vision in transforming the bed in the master bedroom.

Privately, the judges praise Ondine’s big ideas and cohesion, but criticize her too-ambitious plans and several rooms that were "sleepy." They love Nathan’s creativity and sense of fun, but wonder if he’s too random. The criticisms seem like they’re grasping at straws, though. Preston gets praised for being the most polished, decorated, and thought-out. However, Jonathan Adler feels that he needs to crank up the "punctuation." Agreed!

Adler sums it up thusly: Preston is your guy for a polished, impressive home. Ondine is your gal for a home with a great vibe. Nathan is your guy if you want "magic," but using him would be taking a risk. It should be noted that America completely disagrees with my disappointment in Preston’s house, according to Bravo’s poll. Sorry, America! I guess I just like things a little more funky and exciting. And colorful. But yeah, his house is obviously gorgeous – just not as matched to my tastes.

Nathan is named the winner! Huzzah for my favorite house actually winning! All the houses really were great, though. Way to go, Top Design, for coming up with an interesting group of designers and really pulling the show out of its rut (yes, it somehow managed to get into a rut in its first season of existence) to make for a surprisingly fun season.

Did you think Nathan deserved to win? Who was your favorite designer this season?  

Posted by:Liz Pardue