Top Design Season Finale: Suprisingly Snark-Free


Nathan (left), Ondine (center), and Preston (right) face off in the Top Design Season Two Finale.

My God, so many things came to an end this week: the election, The Washington Post Cupcake Wars, the ModernDomestic Presidential Cookie Bake Off, and now Top Design. God only knows what I’ll do with myself in the next few weeks, without the plethora of competitions to command my attention (Top Chef, perhaps?).

So did anyone else think that this show was a little . . . bland, without Eddie? I have to say that, even though I hated him, I also loved to hate him. The episode was so empty without the bitching, the Martha talk, and the snide comments. Now I feel like such a hypocrite! Really, he was the only piece of casting gold on this show (Nathan is amusing, but a little too understated to command the show like Eddie did), and it’s amazing how light the program feels without his giant bitchy star.

Also, I wasn’t pleased that the designers only had four days to design an entire house. Please. Last season the two finalists got to design loft apartments (which I bet were smaller than these three bedroom houses) and they had at least a couple of months to do it in. The result? The finalists created some really great spaces, and you were able to see what they were capable of.

But, like so many of the challenges this season, the finale was much more about time management than it was about design. This became extremely evident as we watched Ondine desperately paint valances, while Preston went through his massive to-do list with a strange and robotic calm. The final designs were good, but they could have been so much better if the designers had more time. I think the season finale missed that big payoff, that big sense of “wow, this is what they can really do” that you get when you watch the runway shows on Project Runway. But enough of my soapbox . . .

Granted, there was still some Eddie in this episode, as the designers got to work with the recently kicked off designers, but it wasn’t quite the same. I think the producers rigged it, so that Eddie “assisted” Preston, all the while bitching about him behind his back. Nathalie assisted Nathan (which seemed to be a drama-free relationship), and Andrea assisted Ondine (and had an obligatory whining session about how she could have done really well in this challenge and, man, why did she have to implode and leave? Andrea really needs to put a sock in it).

Despite the huge time constraints, there were some really excellent designs in this episode.

Ondine’s house was my personal favorite, because it represented the modern, eclectic, feminine style that I want to achieve in my own apartment. I especially loved her living room with the bright pink chairs, black and white accessories, and really awesome metal wall sculpture.


I love Ondine's living room, especially the wall sculpture.

I also really liked her bedroom, especially the mirrored headboard her carpenter created for the bed. Some of the pops of green in her accessories were a little distracting from the overall color scheme, but in general I liked the room.


Not sure about the green, but I love the headboard.

And how cute was her red and yellow children’s room with the built-in bed? I would have killed for a bed like that when I was growing up. Even though her carpenter almost didn’t get the bed done in time, I still think her choices were excellent in that room.


Love the bright colors in this children's bedroom.

Preston’s house was kind of boring in a lot of places, and I don’t think he took the judges’ advice to show more of himself in his designs. What was up with his living room/foyer area? I was amazed that the judges didn’t tear that apart more, because it was such a bland, cold space.

I was glad that he did away with the “lounge area” off the kitchen, which he designed for the last episode, in favor of a formal dining room. While the space was a bit cold, I really loved his chandelier and I’m so glad he took those damn plates off the wall (at least, I think he did–you can’t see that wall in the photo)!


Preston's dining room.

I liked his bedroom okay, but I actually through that the bed looked a little big for the room, and I’m not sure if the contrast between the masculine bed and the feminine wallpaper (which I loved on its own) really worked for me.


Preston's bedroom. My god do I love that wallpaper.

My favorite room in Preston’s house, by far, was his tiny gray guest room with the decorative molding and yellow accent colors. I loved the fresh color combination, I loved the furniture, and I just loved the entire space. I felt like it had the most personality of any of his rooms, and yet it was still his own restrained, polished style.


This was the best room in Preston's house.

And what can one really say about Nathan’s house? Some of it definitely wasn’t my own personal taste, but it was very creative, conceptual, and showcased his flair for accessorizing (although, man, he didn’t get rid of the grandma bed from the last episode!).

The judges liked Nathan’s foyer the best, despite the fact that the room had little practical use. I especially liked the wiry gold baskets he hung on the wall above the giant cabinet, and I liked how the big round entryway table grounded the space.


Nathan's foyer, the best space in his house.

His living room was very Nathan – calm, collected, with quirky accessories, although I felt like it looked a little uncomfortable. Also the giant carved sarcophagus piece (I think it’s actually a chest) was way too big for the room, which both Nathan and the judges agree on.


My god that carved chest is huge!

I also loved the abstract painting he created for the dining room, as well as the paper plate chandelier he hung over his dining room table (now I totally want to do something like that in my apartment!). I don’t know how I feel about the ornate chairs around the parsons-style table, but maybe that’s just because I’m not design-savvy enough. Still, even with my mixed feelings about those chairs, it was a great space with a distinct personality.


I love the paper-plate chandelier.

Perhaps because Eddie is no longer on the show and everyone who’s left is pretty likable, but the judges seemed rather subdued this week. Even Kelly, who sported a dress that looked like a piece of frilly underwear, didn’t bring much snark.


Look! It's an underwear dress!

The judges dissed Nathan on the giant sarcophagus-chest, they wished that Preston had more “pops of color” (must everyone have pops of color these days?), and they wished Ondine had let herself go more. But I get the sense that the judges were just a little bored with these designs – again, perhaps because the designers had only four days to put together an entire house, so it’s not like they could bring their best stuff.

In the end, Nathan wins, which really surprises no one. Preston’s spaces were just too cold to be great, and Ondine house wasn’t quite pulled together enough. This was always Nathan’s competition, and he put together some strong designs for the finale that worked very well.

So congratulations Nathan! I can’t wait to see your spread in Elle Decor. Although with the way Eddie’s been lapped up by the media these days, he may beat you to it.



  1. Joellen said

    Ondine was also my favorite this week. I loved all of her rooms and she truly staged a comeback. I was shocked that Preston didn’t win. I thought Nathan lost it when the judges noticed that he hadn’t done anything to improve the bed, even after what they said last week. It shows an unwillingness to incorporate criticism, but maybe I’m just bitter because Ondine didn’t win.

    And how funny was it that Andrea began to regret her decision to leave the show?

  2. moderndomestic said

    Yeah, she did such a great job. I mean, I knew the judges weren’t going to give it to her because they’ve been pretty critical of her work throughout the competition, but man, I loved her house. I actually think that she suffered the most under the time constraints-like, she’s just not like Preston, able to methodically think out EVERYTHING he needs to do and get it all done (I’m also really scattered – people like Preston scare me).

    Oh dude, like, Andrea doesn’t get to say she wishes she were back. She cracked under the pressure and she made the decision herself.

    I kind of understand why Nathan didn’t change the bed. There was just so much to do in that house, and I can see why he didn’t have time.

  3. Loved what Ondine created! Was a tad confused by Nathan’s (particularly the Chinet piñata and wasting a whole room in a house), though there were elements I adored. Preston’s bugged me the same way Preston bugs me. Everything is too perfect, impersonal and devoid of personality.

    I have issues.

    Well, this was fun. Until next time, “Sarcophagus!”

  4. Your comment about this being a show show about time management vs. actual design is spot on, I think. For my podcast interview with the three finalists (to be posted soon!) I asked all three if they were surprised that they didn’t have more time, like they did in Season 1 and I asked if they felt it would have made a difference. Nathan said he’d forgotten about the time, but no, he didn’t think it would make a difference. Ondine said it would have definitely made a difference; and Preston said he just wished he’d had access to the high end furnishings that the Season 1 contestants had. But, time-wise, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Basically, they all responded as you would imagine.

    Cliff – Chinete Piñata – bwahahahaha!!

    Thanks for the recaps this season!

  5. moderndomestic said

    Hi Linda – thanks for the comment! Interesting that Nathan didn’t think that time mattered. I really thought that when we saw each of their homes (even if it was just glimpses), the quality of the work was so much higher, which made me think that the time issue really had to be coming into play throughout the competition. I wonder if the Magical Elves will reevaluate that for next season.

    Glad you liked the recaps! If there’s a season three I’ll definitely be back!

  6. […] sure that Top Design fans were thrilled to see that Ondine Karady, the Top Design season two finalist, was featured in The Washington Post! She’s splitting her time between […]

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