Indiahicks Hello, design-loving boys and girls, and welcome to the second season of Top Design! Thankfully, the magical elves at Magical Elves (the production company responsible for Project Runway and Top Chef) have taken over this season, and Top Design promises to be far less migraine-inducing. We’ve also got a new host/judge, India Hicks (daughter of designer David Hicks), with Todd Oldham moving into a Tim Gunn-style mentor role. 

I was off gallivanting about the countryside last week when Top Design premiered, so let’s recap. The designers were split into four teams to furnish, decorate and design an apartment for one of the judges in two days for $2,000. Nathan, Wisit, Ondine, and Teresa came out on top, while Serge (of the sour grapes "Why go to design school when you could be a rule-breaking rebel instead?" attitude) was eliminated.

I think it’s also important to note that Andrea is married to Ricky Schroeder, Ondine was a set decorator for Sex and the City, Eddie is senior style editor for "Martha Stewart Living" magazine, Wisit can sing soprano, and Shazia kind of sucks. Also, Jonathan Adler’s obnoxious "See you later, decorator" catchphrase is no more.

This week, designers will be styling a 12’x14′ home nuclear fallout shelter in pairs. They need to showcase their individual style while working with their partner. Hmm. One of my biggest problems with the last season of Top Design was that the magnitude of the projects was such that team challenges were almost always necessary, thus preventing us from getting to know the designers’ styles as individuals, and ensuring that the show was about drama and personality conflicts just as much as it was about talent and design. Two team challenges in a row doesn’t bode well for a different approach this season, which is very disappointing.

The shelters are very…realistic. (Read: awful.) Gray, grimy, and concrete all the way. I know they probably made them for the show, but I’m totally wishing they had gone into homes built during the height of the Cold War and been like, "Hey, random homeowners. We’d love to spruce up your abandoned nuclear fallout shelter, if you don’t mind. Just think how nice that fresh coat of periwinkle paint and a dried flower arrangement will be when you’re living underground after an apocalyptic nuclear holocaust!" 

Wisit/Nathan boldly decide to scale it back to one bed. Because a couple (or non-couple, in this case) stuck in a room together forever would definitely never want to be even slightly separated for one night. Their concept is "Edited Elegance," and apparently it takes a long time to execute. The walls are a light pink, with fabric draped along the ceiling to soften the vault feeling. The low-to-the-ground furniture, including a white sofa, makes the room feel more spacious. The judges looove it.

Andrea_topdesign2_240 Andrea/Eddie want to remind the survivors of nature, with a "Country Garden" concept. They’re set back briefly during shopping when Jennifer takes pillows from a pile of their items (with no remorse). They paint a mural of trees on the wall, and personalize the room with their own belongings. The room is largely pale green with brown furniture, and seems almost like a screen porch in the woods. The judges really dig it, and pick it as the winner.

Natalie/Teresa are going for a "Zen Den."  …and Natalie thinks that Hiroshima is in China. Sigh. They work well together, and wind up blending their styles into a single final product. The green-yellow ceilings and patterned furniture give it a funky vibe, with box lamps and a wall screen adding an Eastern flavor. Way too much stuff, though, as Todd pointed out. Very cluttered. The judges agree, but like the warm feeling.

Kerry/Shazia go with "Clean and Classic Spa," and Shazia seems to think that it’s a good plan to have a billion candles burning in a stuffy underground bunker. Oh, Shazia. She’s also a bit of a whiny worker. Their bunker is in tones of light blue, tan, and gold, with satin pillows (hate) and, yes, spa-like decor. Two brownish daybeds dominate the room, unfortunately. I do like the bar stools and table, though. The judges think it was fine, but a bit boring.

Jennifer/Robert have different working styles and aesthetic styles, and go with a "Personalized Spaces" theme. Despite the early tension, they shop well together. Robert wants to divide the room, which leads to a non-cohesive bunker. Jennifer isn’t into it. And yeah, as Todd said, it looks like a dorm room, complete with a giant divider down the middle. Robert’s very plain half is in blues, and Jennifer’s funkier half has warmer colors and more patterns. Robert is very, very into his half of the room. I beg to differ. The judges call it a "total buzzkill," hating on the extreme division, and on each half.

Ondine/Preston choose to separate the spaces a bit into "His and Hers," but try to work together for final decisions to make sure everything meshes. However, the limited amount of space makes execution of their concept difficult. The room is pale blue, with wicker baskets (UGH) on the wall for storage and two velvet divider curtains beside the beds. It seems surprisingly spacious, given the dividers. The judges don’t feel that much was going on stylistically, aside from the general concepts.

Kellywearstler_topdesign2_240 Before I get into the results, I feel the need to call Kelly Wearstler’s hat ridiculous. Plus, the jaunty tilt of the hat plus hair sticking out on only one side made it look from certain angles like half of her head was bald. Okay, done. The judges pretty much criticize each of the bottom four designers in deliberations, but single out Jennifer and Robert for failing to make a cohesive space or two attractive non-cohesive spaces. They feel that Jennifer was less willing than Robert to communicate, and thus they "cannot live with [her] design." And as a surprise bonus, Robert is also headed home. Sweet–he was totally irritating.

Do you have any early favorite designers? How do you feel about the new and improved Top Design? How excited are you for the Project Runway designer challenge?!?!?!

Posted by:Liz Pardue