Kellywearstler_topdesign2_240 Tonight on Top Design, the designers finally strutted their stuff as individuals! And, shocker of all shockers, the result was an episode focused on design rather than drama. Definitely a welcome treat for those of us who stuck around long enough to see it happen.

The challenge is the "Top Design Triathlon," which will test their creative vision, styling ability and aesthetic versatility. Leg One is to take an unfinished chair and transform it into a complete piece. The winner will be immune from final elimination. A flurry of wood staining, bad upholstering and sanding commences. Also ugliness. So…much…ugliness. They can say "glam factor," "modern," and "unique" all they want, but most of these chairs are Not Attractive.

Wisit actually paints his fabric, which works out beautifully.  The judges love Ondine’s Betsy Johnson-inspired chair, but the bright pink paint, floral fabrics, and horribly tacky trim just make it look like a bad craft project to me. Nathan’s looked like a burgeoning disaster at first, but somehow the blue wood and sparkly gold-striped fabric really work. He’s named the winner.

Leg Two is to design and style a dining table. As in a Sandra Lee-style "tablescape." Now, I tend to come from the "spend your time and money on the food, not on sterling silver napkin rings" school of thought, so this is pretty painful for me to watch. Nathan makes the bold choice of going casual, while Natalie tries to focus on keeping it uncluttered. Many of them are using their own families as inspiration.

Nathan_topdesign2_240 I loooove Eddie’s simple, modern table with low green floral arrangements and Asian-style place settings. Nathan’s unconventionally un-set casual table is graceful and comfortable. Dude’s on a role! Preston and Wisit go way overboard with the flowers and Wisit sings a little opera (UNcomfortable). Ondine and Teresa’s designs are uninspired and muddled. Nathan wins the day again over second place Eddie, and is justifiably worried about being stabbed in his sleep by the other contestants.

Leg Three is to take inspiration from nature to create a breathtaking room which tells a story for a photoshoot. The winner will be in Elle Decor magazine. However, their only shopping location is a garden center. Awesome! I try to focus on what the designers are shopping for, but mostly all this garden center footage makes me mourn the lack of sunlight (and thus plants) in my apartment.

The designers start painting, and Teresa goes for "zen" once again. Nathan, hilariously, freaks out and paints over everything when he realizes that a) his brown paint color is awful and more importantly b) his finish is the same as Teresa’s ugly one. "I poured that poop color in my pot and painted like I’ve never painted before." Ha! Many of the designers pretend the space is outdoors. Preston clearly focused on painting stripes on his walls rather than designing the rest of his space. Teresa’s, as anticipated, is super ugly. Dark maroon walls with plants lining the border.

Wisit cleverly painted furnishings on his walls as well as a pattern on the floor for his "Paris in the springtime" room. It’s really cute. Natalie steps it up with a functional sun porch, though I don’t love the drab gray color. Ondine’s "60’s pop" room is kelly green and white, and definitely makes a statement. I love it, but I can see how it would be a matter of taste. Eddie’s room, with pale green walls and a central plant arrangement, is a bit disappointing for me. He takes umbrage when the judges call it "granny," even though they really like it.

Teresa_topdesign2_240 Natalie wins leg three and the Elle Decor spread, but Nathan wins the triathlon overall. Fair enough – her room was more of a real room than anyone else’s, and Nathan did an amazing job in the first two challenges, even though he phoned it in on the last one. Teresa and Andrea wind up in the bottom two, and it’s not at all surprising when Teresa is eliminated.   

I would be remiss not to mention Kelly Wearstler’s hair in the final judging. It’s crimped, about two feet tall, and wrapped around what I assume is a basketball on the top of her head. I half expected her to turn around and part the back of her giant ball of hair, exposing Lord Voldemort’s face growing out of the back of her head and hissing instructions about floral arrangements and tablescapes.

Did you agree with the judges’ decisions tonight? What do you think Kelly Wearstler is hiding in her hair? Where the heck was Todd Oldham, and did you miss him?

Posted by:Liz Pardue