Top Design – Judging the designs – Episode 2

Episode Title: Child’s Play
Brief synopsis – the 10 remaining designers are told that they are to each create a bedroom. They are given dossiers on their clients and assume that they are adults. They have $8,000 to spend at the Pacific Design Center, plus $300 cash for accessories/bedding at retail (Target). Goil and Elizabeth have each received an extra $100.00 due to their win in Episode 1. They were assigned a carpenter and a $400 budget for supplies, wood, etc. They were provided with a twin mattress, but had to build their own beds.

First, let me say that these challenges are pretty ridiculous. The whole “mystery client” concept is simply unreasonable and unnecessary. It’s fine for the producers to come up with twists during the project to shake things up – that’s a normal part of the design process. Whether it’s suddenly losing a chunk of budget or the client starts adding items not previously planned on – there are lot’s of unexpected real-life challenges that come up. There is no need to come up with a challenge that would never happen!

Kids rooms should be fun and functional. It should appeal to the child’s sense of self, while also providing room for homework and projects, storage and hanging with friends. If possible, the room should grow with the child. This project had about a $10,000 budget, which is not a lot in the interior design world if you are forced to shop at a design center. This is a moderate retail budget – and one could do a really nice job in “regular” stores.

Onto the designs:

Ryan Humphrey
This room looked like a basement rec room. The artwork on the walls was fun – but didn’t feel complete enough. The bed was too high for a ten year old – even with the step stool. The bed was also a big blank block. While I liked the cutout nature of the platform – it wasn’t practical. I would have preferred to see a smaller standard platform, with the cutout pattern as a vertical applied molding under the lip of the platform. He could even have extended the painted wall design across the bed. I would have also liked to see drawers or open shelving in the bed for storage. (although unrealistic in the time frame allocated). There was no relation between the wall art and the cat theme – so as a result – the cat-walk around the room simply covered up the artwork on the walls. I loved the easel idea – but there was no back on it, so how does one apply pressure without knocking the paper through? It was also too overscale for a ten year old. The chair in the left corner served no purpose – it should have placed it in front of the easel. I would also worry about the lamp – seems very easy to knock off the bed platform. The floor is too white and plain. And finally – where would Madison do her home work or flat-surface art projects?

Matt Lorenz
I think the colors in this room were a little too muted for a kids room. It could be my screen (tv and computer) as he mentioned that the walls are pink. The light wall is a great idea and would be very appealing to a girl. However, I probably would have made them feel more like foot lights across a stage. Perhaps with a large mirror that the client could “perform” to. I liked the applied moldings on the walls – it added a nice architectural element. The floor was light and clean feeling and made the space seem large. The balance is a little off – the two largest items in the space – bed and comfy chair are on the same side of the room, balanced only by a small lucite desk – which has no visual weight. I loved the lucite desk – it was a great touch of glamour for a Hollywood-loving kid. A rug under the desk and chair would have helped anchor the left side and give it more balance. I don’t mind using black and white in a kids bedroom – but I probably would have liked to see something a bit bolder – either in the textiles or on the wall.

Felicia Bushman
Felicia definitely gets kudos for figuring out how to get a twin size bed to work with a headboard meant for a much larger space. The storage drawers under the bed are perfect. I also love that she recreated the chessboard on headboard. It has a nice deep folk art quality to it. However, aside from the bike on the left wall – nothing says kid about the room. It looks like a guest room, or as the judges said, a hotel room. She could have continued the checkerboard pattern around the room in some way – perhaps at chair rail height, or in a more random pattern. It’s mainly the formal desk with the chess set that drags the space down. Perhaps if she had simply placed the chess set on the floor by the bed – it would have felt more kid like. The bike painted on the left wall feels like an afterthought. I’m not sure what she spent her $300 on in Target. I think she could have found some fun objects to lighten up the space. A fun lamp for the desk, a fish bowl, a rubiks cube…

John Gray
John had a hard time during this challenge, logistically. And it clearly was his downfall. Too bad, because his point of view was very appealing and I can see how this space could have been appealing to a ten year old and to her more sophisticated teenage self. The headboard was interesting and I liked the slightly off-set placement of the bed. But, he needed at least one real side table with a lamp. The corner mounted ledges are simply too far away. Sconces hardwired into the headboard would have been interesting. (This may not be possible with the way they have to borrow items.)He might also have used two of the long skinny lamps (right forground) to flank the bed. I loved the large mirror on the left, but the three tiny, high up framed images on the right are too small. Again, while we don’t want mirror images, balance is very important. The bedding was disappointing and I’m not sure why he was missing his duvet filler. Instead of folding up the flat duvet cover (when he realized it was too big and there was no down puff) he might have gathered and tied off the ends on all four sides, which would have reduced the size and added an interesting touch. John was eliminated with this design.

Michael Adams
This was not a good effort. The wall color was heavy and dated. The artwork should have been paired on the right wall. I like the tall skinny nature of the headboard – although it really looks like a paneled door. I would have liked to see some kind of fabric canopy or draping off of this paneled piece. The shelf on the left wall rear is entirely too high up for a ten year old, and too small to be useful. The bedding was from the Simply Shabby Chic collection at Target. The area rug is way too small for the space and feels more like a bathmat. The “Dorothy” ruby slippers are an appeal to his client’s love of movies, but a) they have no context to the dress hanging above and b) didn’t they have a random pair of shoes in last week’s room?

Goil Amornvivat
Hmmm… This is a very interesting and complex space. It certainly feels large and very contemporary. But it also feels just like his work from Episode 1 – down to the pepper. The recessed bed was very interesting – although not practical in most real-world applications. He might have built some kind of desk, where the bed could be rolled underneath. The cubes on rollers aren’t practical for kids – especially on a plain wood floor. Too tempting! The pepper is too random, as is the chia garden and clear glass terrarium. I love the wall treatment – the blocks are artistic and a good height. I think the low niche is fine – again, where does it get built into in real life – but he shouldn’t have described it as a hiding place. The low desk/end table works nicely. While I don’t agree with a lot of what is in this room – Goil really has a nice flair for simple modern style that is balanced and comfortable feeling. He really works the entire space nicely.

Andrea Keller
I love the color palette of this space – for an adult. I just don’t see it working for a kid. Her client said she liked “trendy” fashions and there is nothing trendy about this. The murphy bed was interesting and hard to pull off in a short time – but what point did it really serve? The pillows all had to be pulled off the bed and the box at the bottom was left sitting out in the middle of the space. The built-in units were great and very useful. They weren’t accessorized well and looked like a Pottery Barn store display. But, in reality they would have been very useful. The klismos chairs were wrong for a bedroom and the color didn’t read very well with the Tiffany Blue walls. The rug is beautiful and plush looking – great for a bedroom.
2/9/07 addition: Fishbowl|LA has an interview with Andrea where she talks about the additional work behind the scenes on this challenge.
2/10/07 – another addition: I think if Andrea had done something decorative to the wall behind the murphy bed, it might have made all the difference. A bright pink panel would have really popped. Also, had the judges walked into the room with the murphy bed up and then she opened it up for them – she would have created a dramatic moment that might have really moved her to the top group.

Elizabeth Turner
I think that the wall treatment was reminiscent of her Episode 1 work. The soccer net was clever and the bright red/pale blue color palette was fresh and breezy. Did she use anything from the Design Center? It looks like she jettisoned all of her original selections, thus leaving her with an empty looking room. There was no lighting, work spaces, or storage. The buckets were confusing and I’m not sure if they were useful for holding a “collection”. The bed kind of reminds me of a hospital bed – complete with table.

Carisa Perez-FuentesI thought this room felt fresh and interesting. It was definitely my first choice for a pleasing aesthetic, second choice for it’s kid-like appeal. Again, like some of the other designers, we saw some of the same choices that were used in Episode 1.; namely the color palette, the plethora of throw pillows and the use of plants. But, she took into account all the requirements of a kids space – storage, desk space and a certain fun factor. I can’t imagine too many parents signing off on climbing ropes – a little too much fun. Hello – 911? I do feel that the side walls are a little too blank, but that said, I like the unusual placement of the bed. It’s a very “birds-eye view” design, as opposed to the single front-side view. The light woods balance well against the strong red walls and the plants add a great texture to the space. Excellent job!

Erik Kolacz
As the only fully realized design concept – Erik deserved to win. He was the only designer who successfully made the switch from “adult” room to kids room. This photo doesn’t do the space justice. In his client meeting he sussed out that his client likes the “Pirates of the Caribbean” and Erik was able to adjust his plans to create this over-the-top kid themed room. The only real failing is that everything would have to go when the kid tired of the theme. Much of the space looked a bit unfinished and rough – but with more time it’s obvious he would have taken care of those issues. I do have to wonder what happened to his $8000 design center budget. Aside from the cowhide pieced rug – everything felt built-to-order. I also wonder how he got his $300 construction budget to cover all the building. Congratulations Erik!

Click here for my Episode 3 commentary.
Click here for my Episode 1 commentary.
Click here for all Top Design posts.

xoxo Linda

7 thoughts on “Top Design – Judging the designs – Episode 2”

  1. First, let me say that these challenges are pretty ridiculous. The whole “mystery client” concept is simply unreasonable and unnecessary. It’s fine for the producers to come up with twists during the project to shake things up – that’s a normal part of the design process. Whether it’s suddenly losing a chunk of budget or the client starts adding items not previously planned on – there are lot’s of unexpected real-life challenges that come up. There is no need to come up with a challenge that would never happen!

    I could not agree more! And I thought that not telling them that it was a kids room — especially after they’d spent their money on furniture.

  2. I agree 100%, Trixie! That seems to be Bravo’s strategy with all of their programs, though. Unrealistic challenges, and XTRA BONUS DRAMA.

  3. Once again, great job! I really enjoy your analysis of the rooms.

    I agree that this challenge was completely ridiculous. I actually didn’t mind the last challenge: try to come up with a design your client would like based on some objects that demonstrate the client’s personal taste. Sure, in the real world you would have more to go on, but this was still an interesting test (some designers paid attention to the objects and others ignored them). But, as you said, not knowing you’re designing for a child doesn’t seem to relate to anything.

  4. I’m perplexed. These were supposed to be kids rooms? Where are the toys, books, and places for clothes? I saw no closets, few books shelves, no computer equipment or play stations, some half-hearted accommodations for desks. In fact, I saw nothing that resembled the kids rooms I see everywhere.

    Bravo has a right to introduce twists, but they are turning their fans off by choosing to stick with Pacific Design Center and three-sided stage sets.

  5. I agree, as I’ve said, the designers were hobbled by this task and as a result weren’t able to create something that is inspirational to the average viewer. On PR, while some of the clothes can be hideous, the average viewer still couldn’t have made the outfit, let alone conceived of it and figured out how much fabric to purchase. I’ve made clothes my whole life and couldn’t come close to doing what they do. But on TD, most viewers hear the budget levels and expect, rightfully, to be wowed. And I feel bad for the designers because they aren’t given the chance to wow us.

    Hopefully tonight will be better. I don’t mind team challenges – interior design is a collaborative process. Hopefully with only three projects to watch, we’ll be able to really see what they are doing. And hopefully they will have the resources to wow us.

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