Posts Tagged design

Weekly Roundup: It’s finally spring edition.

Purple Flower

It's finally spring in DC!

Good Friday Modern Domestic Readers! I think it’s finally spring in DC. Thank goodness – it took long enough!

  • Usually I like the Open House Blog’s “Splurg vs. Steal” entries. But I totally disagreed with their latest entry – I don’t think the West Elm Parson’s desk is that much of a splurge, and I definitely don’t think that crappy Ikea desk is much of a substitute!
  • More cheap (*ahem* affordable) booze from DC Foodies. This time it’s Two-Buck-Chuck-White Zin. Um, that seriously is drinkable? I’m skeptical, yet intrigued.
  • Granville Moore’s chef is a possible Next Food Network Star. Go DC!
  • Tanya’s making delicious macarons over at Take the Cannoli

  • The New York Times examines how design will react to the recession.

Happy Friday!


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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 . . .

Well, okay, there was a little Eddie . . .

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Top Design: Apocalypse Edition

Ondine's room was my favorite. I just love that wallpaper.

This was the apocalypse episode of Top Design. Ondine rose from the dead! Nathan was crippled by the evil powers of Granny Chic! Eddie met his doom! Maybe next week Top Design will feature zombies careening out of cemeteries and taking over the earth.

This latest episode of Top Design (the creatively named “House Challenge”) started off, again, with Eddie bitching about how he doesn’t like Preston. My god, so what else is new? I’ve asked this question before, but it bears repeating: what is so awful about Preston? And why must they harp on this week after week? Sure, the guy seems a little reserved, but is he really deserving of such scorn?

After the obligatory Preston bitch-fest, we move to Eddie’s birthday celebration, which is the night before their final challenge. After Eddie eats his cake and opens his immaculately wrapped (we’re talking a Martha Stewart wrapping job here) gifts, he, Ondine, and Nathan hang out and drink margaritas, while Preston shuffles off to bed. The producers use this little episode to illustrate how isolated Preston is, but I think he’s probably just exhausted. Aren’t they all sleep deprived? If I were there I’d be trying to get as much sleep as possible.

While Preston sleeps, the rest of them drink a whole bunch, and Nathan gets the brilliant idea to do an impersonation of a “Japanese Top Design” Host, all decked out in what I presume is Ondine’s clothing. I can’t really describe his impersonation because it made no sense. I’m sure it was really funny to the three of them because they were drunk. However, like much drunk humor, it’s merely awkward and confusing for the sober.

Next it’s time to find out their challenge—and, guess what, it actually involves designing rooms! My God, three challenges in a row that are more about design that gimmicks! For the grand finale, the three final contestants will get to make over an entire house. So for this challenge, the contestants will make over one room in the finale house.

Is Eddie breaking down? Or just yawning?

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Top Design: Bedrooms on Acid, Martha Stewart Showroom Frenzy, and Product Placements Galore!

The winning room. Could it possibly be a (gasp) hotel lobby?

I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you. I actually found last night’s Top Design pretty entertaining (gasp of astonishment). I mean, it wasn’t Project Runway or The Real (crazy) Housewives of New York City entertaining, but it was on par with a mediocre episode of Top Chef. And for Top Design, that’s saying a lot.

Yes, there was bitching, but there was also design! The designers designed rooms that didn’t look like crap! There was an Eddie smackdown! The Pop Design was actually interesting! This is not the Top Design I’ve come to know and . . . kind of like.

In week’s challenge (“Light It Up”), the contestants had to design rooms around chandeliers. Really, really fancy, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, which no one would ever actually own because high-end stuff like this looks ridiculous anywhere other than a fancy hotel bar. I think chandeliers like these masquerade as high-end design objects, but in reality they’ve been created to subconsciously make you buy a whole lot of overpriced cocktails.

The episode started off with more of Andrea’s whining— yes, was more whining than last week. Part of me feels bad for her, because the competition has killed her confidence and I know what that feels like. But the other, meaner, part of me wants her to either stop whining and get her act together, or go home. I mean, it’s reality TV. Hasn’t she seen an episode of Top Chef? Reality TV shows judges aren’t chosen because they hand out tea and cookies to contestants.

As if Andrea’s wet-dishrag act wasn’t enough, we also have to listen to Eddie bitching about how Preston doesn’t know how to do the dishes. Um, I don’t get it. Apparently Preston’s big offense is that he put soap in the dishwasher and then turned it on. Huh? Maybe Eddie could come to DC and do my dishes for me, since apparently I too do not know the “real” way to run my dishwasher.

An actually interesting challenge! Who knew it could happen on Top Design?

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Top Design: Space Age Rooms Evoke Yawns, Heart Attacks

The winning room. Maybe it's polished, but that doesn't make it interesting.

Wednesday on Top Design, the challenge was to design “The Room of the Future.” True to the title, the designers created rooms for the year 2108, proving once again that the Magical Elves production team isn’t exactly pushing the envelope on Top Design.

Seriously, this would have been an “innovative” challenge at the 1939 World’s Fair. Even Disney Land’s “House of the Future” closed in 1967 people! Is this really the best they could come up with?

Yawn-evoking concept aside, I liked that the designers worked separately in this challenge, so we really got to see what they were capable of. And because everyone was working separately, the drama factor was definitely down, which was a nice respite from last week’s bitch-fest. After all, watching crazy people scream at each other for little to no reason is what The Real Housewives of Atlanta is for.

Granted, Ondine ran around like a chicken with her head cut off during most of the episode, but I would do that too if I lost my shopping list in Ikea. In the final frantic minutes of the challenge Ondine also spilled varnish on Eddie’s white couch, which the previews tried to portray as “sabotage,” but it was obviously an accident. And in the end, the judges didn’t care about it at all.

The Good, the Bad, and the Dull

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HGTV’s Top Three Worst Design Trends

If you too are tired of hearing how drapes “soften” a room, or hearing your coworkers go on and on about their design “inspiration objects,” then I suggest you check out this New York Times essay on how  TV-decorating mania has spawned an overabundance of home decor terms.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m interested in decorating as much as the next homemaking-minded gal, and I’m generally a fan of HGTV. Even if I too find the constant talk of “focal points” wearying, I like that HGTV encourages us to use our imaginations and really pay attention to our living spaces. (Side note: I also think HGTV fueled problems in the housing market by encouraging people to view their houses as investments rather than homes, but that’s a subject for a whole other post).

Still, this article reminded me that the world would be better off without some decorating concepts embedded in HGTV dogma.

The Top Three Worst HGTV Decorating Trends

1. Water Features. I’ve never understood HGTV’s obsession with water features. According to HGTV, water features belong in every room of the house. But why would I want a fountain in my bedroom where it will get the rug wet? Or in the living room where guests could knock it over? I’m not against a tasteful fountain in the backyard, and I have very fond memories of my grandmother’s goldfish pond, but I swear to God every HGTV room has some kind of cheap fountain that looks like it would be a pain to keep clean. I’m sorry, but I don’t want an ugly fountain taking up space in my home, especially if it serves no discernible purpose.

2. Outdoor Rooms. Perhaps it’s because I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest, where it rains nine months out of the year, but I find the whole idea of creating an elaborate “outdoor room,” complete with furniture, drapes, and nick-knacks, ridiculous. In the real world, I don’t want to leave a bunch of fabric-covered items sitting outside through summer thunderstorms. And even if I live in a dry climate, outdoor furnishings are still going to gather dust, dirt, bugs, and God knows what else. Plus, where are you supposed to store all the furniture in your “outdoor room” come winter time? I think it’s fine to get some nice lawn furniture if you think you’ll use it, but creating an entire outdoor space is just excessive to me.

3. Anything Can Be Art. Now, I’m not against making your own art; in fact, I absolutely love doing amateur art projects, and many of my creations are hanging in our living room. But I dislike that the designers on so many HGTV shows grab random objects (coasters, tea cozies, trivets), nail them to painted boards, and call them “art.” I know that those shows are under huge time and budget constraints, but for real people, it’s better to wait and collect (or create) pieces that you really like. If you get a bunch of random crap and throw it up on the wall because you have space to fill, you’ll be sick of it in two months. For those of you interested in learning more about affordable art, check out this Apartment Therapy post on affordable art. I’m also a big fan of the indie band posters over at The Small Stakes, which run about $25 and are hauntingly lovely.

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Top Design: Is Eddie Ross Top Design’s Stephen Asprinio?

Eddie's room, complete with stolen rug-padding textured walls.

Eddie Alert. Eddie Alert. Eddie’s blog has hit the blogosphere with a silver-plated bang, and his home was featured in The Washington Post yesterday. I feel torn, because I actually liked the pictures of his home, and his blog has some really lovely stuff. But I completely dislike his overly competitive, put-down, “I’m fabulous because you’re not” attitude on the show. He really has begun to remind me of Stephen Asprinio from Top Chef’s first season (who, to his credit, got much nicer during the last challenge).  I think the producers are also torn; they clearly like to villainize Eddie because it makes for great TV, and yet he’s a shoe-in to win. In my opinion, it’s either him or Nathan.

Anyway, on to the episode which, like most of the Top Design episodes so far, was pretty downright dull. Although I wasn’t that disappointed, because whatever hopes I had for this episode were dashed when I found out it was the “green” challenge. I know this goes against the prevailing sentiment in TV-producer-land, but I don’t think that “green” design challenges are very interesting to viewers. I’m sure it really changes the experience for the designers, forcing them to use different fabrics and materials than they would otherwise. But for viewers, shopping at a remnant store doesn’t look all that different from shopping at a regular fabric store.

For the “Green” challenge, the designers had to do a “green” overhaul the offices of an environmental consulting firm. They used green materials and reused as much as possible from the original offices. I had a strange sense of deja vu, because the firm’s offices had the makeshift, thrown together, “We got this desk at Goodwill,” look of every nonprofit I’ve ever worked for. I know that some environmental consulting firms have really nice digs, so I wonder if those guys do a lot of nonprofit work or something.

The challenge also had a “twist;” halfway through the show, after everyone had met with their clients and bought their materials, the designers switched rooms. So each designer had to work with someone else’s color and fabric choices. And this is supposed to showcase their individual design aesthetic how?

Next: Andrea frets, Eddie strutts, and Wisit wilts

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Top Design, Episode Five: Backstabbing, Smokeathalons, and Alientastic Hair

Wisit Garden

Wisit's room could be a set piece for Daddy Warbuck's mansion!

This week’s Top Design was the “Triathlon of Decorating,” where designers had to perform a bunch of different tasks (and by “a bunch” I mean “three”) that put their design skills to the test: re-upholstering/refinishing a chair, creating a table setting (I refuse to call it a “tablescape”), and designing a garden room for an Elle Decor photo shoot.

So who here thinks that Eddie is going to win this competition? The judges seem to think his designs are from God on High, and even if he doesn’t win all the time he comes darn close. I’m actually rooting for Nathan – I like his subdued and modern style, and I think he has a sense of refinement that really comes through when he’s working on his own. But I just don’t see the judges fawning over him the way they do over Eddie. I wasn’t a fan of Eddie’s neon-yellow and silver chair, which was just too out there for my taste, but boy-oh-boy did the judges eat it up. Their Eddie preference was very obvious in the garden challenge, because they didn’t tear apart the weird black lines on his walls, even though they just looked awful and didn’t really make any sense.

Eddie Garden

What's up with the weird black lines on Eddie's walls?

It looks like Eddie fatigue is setting in among the other designers, mostly because he can be a teensy-weensy bit vicious to the other contestants. Andrea was unnerved at the way Eddie tells other designers they’re “fabulous” and that he “loves” their work, only to completely trash them behind their backs. He was especially catty with Theresa in this episode, saying that he “loved” the tobacco colored walls of her garden room, only to say behind her back that her design gave him “smokers cough.” Rwar.

Next, Garden Rooms and Alien Hair

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Top Design Episode Four: Can Eddie Get the Ladies To Drop Their Panties Through The Sheer Power of Decoupage?

This week on Top Design: grab your febreeze and your heavy-duty laundry detergent, the Top Designers are designing for bachelors!

So this week’s episode, “Bachelor Pads,” had a whole lot more drama than last week, due single-handedly to Shazia’s whining (astronauts could hear her whining from space). Sensing that the sharks were circling in the water (she was in the bottom two on the last few episodes) Shazia tried to have the design “reflect” more of her style this week. Unfortunately, this meant complaining a lot and bugging the hell out of her teammates, Preston and Nathan, and choosing to do projects for no other reason than that she suggested it. Excuse me, but when cornice boards are supposed to be your “design statement,” I think there’s a problem.

Of course, I felt a little bad for Shaz, I really did. Because she was in the bottom, it was obvious that no one wanted to work with her, and no one wanted to listen to her ideas for fear that she may pull a Wisit. I’ve been in that situation and it really, really sucks. Unfortunately, once you’ve lost your credibility with a group of people you can’t really restore it in the course of one 48 hour project. And whining, swearing, and stamping your foot a lot won’t help.

The project split the designers up into teams of three, each of which had to design a room for a bachelor. Natalie, Eddie and Ondine designed for a 23-year-old law student who looked like he had just left the womb of a frat house; Andrea, Teresa and Wisit designed for a very cute producer who looked like, with minimal effort, he could land his own Bravo dating show; and Preston, Nathan and Shazia designed for a cool-as-a-cucumber investment banker.

The funniest thing about the whole episode was that even though all the bachelors were pretty different, their apartments were in the same state of disaray. At best, they maybe owned couple of chairs, a sectional, and a huge flat-screen TV. My favorite part was the investment banker, who had a huge shoe rack dominating his living room. I’m sure the smell was just lovely.

Even though the designers had two days, $10,000, a team of painters, wallpaperers, seamstresses and carpenters for this challenge, a lot of the rooms still looked “meh” to me. Perhaps this was because we didn’t really get to see the rooms that much? I think the camera crew needs to watch a whole bunch of HGTV to really get a sense of how the “reveal” works. All they’d need is to do is watch, oh, like 12 hours of the channel, and they would have seen all the “reveals” they’d ever need. Hell, I feel like I could film a “reveal” after watching a couple episodes of Designed to Sell, and I’ve never picked up a camera.

Andrea, Wisit and Ondine’s design for the producer bachelor won the episode, but I didn’t think it was so much better than the other team’s rooms to merit all the praise it received. I will say that their design felt the most pulled-together of the three teams. I like the use of the LeCorbusier chairs and the dark table in the living room; the piece’s dark colors complemented the warm brown tones in the couch and the walls. But it also felt like a hotel room. In fact, all of the rooms on this episode felt like hotel rooms.

More winning and losing designs.

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Top Design, Episode Three: Everybody Go “Meh.”

I had high hopes for the “Window Display” episode of Top Design this week—after all, it had all the elements of what makes Bravo such fulfilling trashy TV: design, fashion, and Project Runway. The challenge was to design window displays for the “boutiques” of former Project Runway contestants. Given the personalities involved (Santino! Andrae! The Other Daniel Who Isn’t Daniel Vosovic!) I thought it was going to be completely awesome.

But not even Santino couldn’t breathe life into this episode. In the end, many of the designs looked like teenage bedrooms (broken mirrors! Fuschia and black!), rather than fashionable window displays. And many of the designers—Eddie and Teresa, Kerry and Wisit, Nathan and Shazia—just didn’t realize that the whole point of a window display is to display clothes—rather than just make overly-neon design statements.

Oh sure, there were a couple of choice moments. When the Other Daniel dreamily recited a poem about his window display (it involved branches, golden sand, and floating), which would have been creepy were he not a reality show celebrity. When Eddie wouldn’t stop talking to Santino in their initial meeting, all but begging with puppy dog eyes to be named team leader. When Wisit mentioned kept on talking about “Rococo” this and “Rococo” that, even though his client (Jeffrey) had specifically told him that he didn’t like the Rococo idea at all.

Still, these moments couldn’t make up for the “meh” designs. I understand that the show’s producers want the designers to work under tight time constraints to rev up the drama factor, but I think that the time limits are ultimately hurting the design and the show. The end products the contestants come up with are entirely underwhelming. And who wants to tune in for “meh” design?


I loved the contrasting yellow and gray here.

Even though they didn’t win, I liked Preston and Andrea’s design the best. Granted, their client (Daniel) spoon-fed them the concept, and they had the best dress to work with, but still—the lemon-yellow dress contrasted against the gray background was fabulously dreamy.
Next: The Losing Design, and Why Eddie Should Stick With Preppy Rooms

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