Margaret Russell

Margaret Russell was not impressed with her loft.

on Sep 3, 20080

It's terrific to be back on Top Design and this season's designers are a truly talented and diverse group: a real-estate developer, a Yale-trained architect, a TV set designer, a former fashion designer, an artist, a style editor from a magazine, and several decorators who already run their own firms.

They're lucky they're experienced because they were faced with wildly opinionated clients this week: judges Jonathan Adler, Kelly Wearstler, and me, along with our fearless leader India Hicks. The projects? Four identical loft apartments featuring white walls, concrete floors, and an overscale sculptural staircase that dominated each living room area. This first challenge was great because it was nearly impossible (one would be insane to attempt to design and furnish a bare loft in two days with a budget of $2,000) and it provided the contestants with a clear opportunity to sink or swim really fast. And they certainly did. I've learned that some spaces seem better on film (and on your TV screen) than in reality and vice versa, but Kelly's loft was amazing any way you looked at it. Her designers, Nathan, Ondine, Teresa, and Wisit, were the clear winners this week; their finished work could have been shot for an editorial spread.

The place felt planned, the space was functional, wall covering and fabric were used with a deft hand, and the designers shopped remarkably well at the humble junkyard and thrift store the producers sent them to. The loft reflected Kelly's aesthetic and demonstrated the team's willingness to work together against seemingly insurmountable obstacles.