Margaret Russell

Margaret Russell discusses the perils of working in pairs.

on Sep 11, 2008

Now, don't fret: This week's locations might hint ever-so-slightly at last season's infamous white boxes, but they're clearly more intriguing. Lord only knows how the producers came up with the crazy idea to design bomb shelters, but it forced the contestants to create a multifunctional space out of a dismal, industrial-looking dungeon. Even better? It had to be produced in tandem with a relative stranger (ostensibly a roommate for the next 50 years, but no one--including the judges--could truly process this information).

The true task at hand was for each designer to showcase his or her individual style while creating a cohesive look within a shared space. Each empty 12' x 14' shell looked like a really, really bad dorm room at a college from hell, but with a $6,000 shopping budget and hours of hard work the two top-notch bunkers turned out to be pretty amazing. The Eddie/Andrea and Wisit/Nathan teams not only collaborated well, but they seemed to have loads of fun in the process. Plus, their spaces were packed with ideas that translate to any room, not just your everyday fallout shelter.

The most memorable aspect of Eddie and Andrea's winning bunker was the whimsical mural Eddie painted to create a sense of nature and real life. It looked fresh, and it added a touch of fantasy. The two designers seemed organized and efficient, their floor plan was functional and mindful, and the furniture and accessories they chose were a chic mix of classic and modern styles. The result didn't look at all like one- or two-stop shopping (such a common design pitfall and difficult to avoid in a competition with purposefully limited sources). And although their colleagues seemed flustered as the deadline loomed, Andrea and Eddie had enough free time to obsessively remove the labels from the case of the mineral-water bottles lined up on their shelves.