Liz Lange: "getting To Know You"

Liz Lange on her stint as guest judge.


When they asked me to be a judge for "Top Design," I was excited because I'm such a fan of Bravo, of "Project Runway" and "Top Chef." As a viewer, I understood how these shows work. I also knew that the challenge going in would surround children's rooms which is appropriate given what I do. But I certainly didn't know -- being previously just a viewer -- what it would be like to walk onto the set. I've been on TV before but I've never done something like this. For Target, I've helped make a few commercials so I wasn't completely shocked by the scale of the production. But I was surprised by how big a production "Top Design" -- and how big the set is -- the entire Pacific Design Center.


I was also surprised byhow much separation there is between the judges and the contestants. Just to make sure that the pool is never contaminated. I thought it was really incredible and positive. As a judge, you're not even allowed to see them. The first time that they saw me was when I walked the rooms to judge the challenge. For Liz Lange's bio, click here.
It's interesting to me now, today, as a viewer again to watch the show and to know a little bit more about the contestants and what they were dealing with. As a judge, I had no idea about any of it. It was refreshing to see that the judges can vote off anyone they want. Nothing is controlled by the producers; it's very real. At the beginning because there are a lot of contestants and a lot of rooms -- I tried to write down a lot of notes as we were walking. I wasn't familiar with the contestants so I wanted to write things down that would help me remember. Specifically, I was looking for certain things: Who followed the assignment; What rooms really did look like they were intended for a child; Who had an understanding of color and space and proportion? For Liz Lange's bio, click here.

Seeing the room only told half the story. Asking the contestants later why they chose a certain color or why they chose this object allow ed me to understand them much better. And frankly, this conversation can change your mind. Maybe they were assigned this color, or there were no other color chips left. I liken it, personally, to my own business. I look at my store sales every day, but if I don't speak to my customers, that information isn't useful. So I ask the sales people if a certain dress isn't selling. "Is it a dog or what?" And sometimes they say, "Oh, no. It's a short sleeve and everyone wants a long sleeve." So I think, "Oh, okay, so I won't drop that dress next season, I'll change it." As a guest judge, I thought the final decisions were pretty easy. What was difficult was the fact that people's careers are at stake. We took that fact very seriously. But we were in a fair amount of agreement on the decisions. For Liz Lange's bio, click here.

I think what we felt was the real deal breaker -- and for me as a viewer of reality shows I think it's very unfair -- is when someone doesn't finish the assignment. John didn't complete his room. I felt from the beginning that not finishing a room could be a deal breaker. Like on "Top Chef" if you're asked to cook three dishes but the contestant comes back with two. It doesn't matter if they're good if the other contestants made three. So at this point, I was really thinking of myself as the viewer again and I wanted to be a fair judge.

I was disappointed, actually, because I liked what I got to know of John. I think he's talented and would have been an asset to the show to keep around. In general, I think the work was a mixed bag. There were a few rooms that were so incredibly pulled together. The pirate room was so impressive. Amazing. I was really impressed with Goil and I liked him in the context that I saw him. I thought he was having fun with it. Another woman who made a room with orange and green and a lot of plants; that was great. The other room with lights in the walls that was sort of Chanel-colored: I liked that. Then, there were other rooms that I questioned the designers' taste levels. For Liz Lange's bio, click here.

Yes, yes, I watched the first episode last week. The very few questions that I got the chance to ask the contestants -- weren't all that revealing, so it was great for me to see the contestants in more depth and get to know them better. I wasn't able to see very much so I'm really excited to watch it every week as a fan. Final words? I'd say keep watching. And to the designers, It's tough. Stay at it and don't be discouraged. For Liz Lange's bio, click here.

Nathan: Having The Top Design!

What's it like to have the Top Design? Nathan gets candid. Was it hard to keep your win a secret?

It was so difficult. People were asking me and I was like, "Do not mess with me." I was like, "Do not trick me." It was hard to keep the secret. I devised my plan well. Last night at the live reveal nobody knew. What did your friends and family say?

They were thrilled. My mother watched last night and we had a huge party at bar. She sat right there crying. It was fun. She's a major part of my life What was your inspiration for your house?

The inspiration came from the idea of a young, hip couple that had a child. They were art collectors and they were edgy and it was drawing from the fact that they were provocateurs. Maybe with a lot of that I was channeling my life. When you created the first room, did you have direction for the entire house or did you change your idea after that room?

I had the idea of this couple and the client and I don't think that first room translated. I don't think it represented at all. I think I dropped the ball on that one. It didn't speak to the rest of the house. I think there were elements of it that did and I think there was an edginess to it. In retrospect, I wish I had gone back and done something a little more Nathan. I don't feel that first room translated to the rest of the house. Jonathan Adler had some criticism about your bed. Were you nervous that would hurt you in the end?

To be honest, I felt there was so much more to do in the house that I couldn't focus on a room that was already done. I had already put my energy and time but the other rooms were more important. Had I gone back and listened to their criticisms, other parts of the house would have failed. The other room had that sarcophagus piece which the judges had some criticism of. You loved the piece. Would you go back and not use it if you could?

If the room was double the size. When I found the piece I thought it was brilliant and it would be such a statement but when I got it in there, after the heave-ho of every mover putting it in the space, I was like "Oh, sh*t." What did you think of Ondine and Preston's designs?

I think Preston's was really well done. I think it was totally expected. I think he's got an incredible taste and eye and he can do that kind of work. I would never be able to do that. Not because I like it or dislike it, I just wouldn't know how to pull that off. I think Ondine's charisma and her quirkiness and personality really shows through in her space. Again, I wouldn't know how to do that. I think that's why they are designers and they do the work that they do. One of the judges blogged that your foyer won it for you. Was that your favorite part of the house?

It wasn't. I think it was a good move on my end to turn it into a foyer and have it be an entry vestibule idea versus a living space, which the other two competitors did. It gave it a different life. My favorite space was the dining room. I put a lot into that. The table was designed and even though it was a very classic design, a Parsons style table, I over-scaled it and made the legs thicker and the top thicker. And with the painting and the chandelier, I felt it was a solid room. Do you create a lot of artwork normally?

I do. I wouldn't call myself a painter. It's not something that's in my repertoire. Every interviewer asks me if I do artwork for clients and the answer is no. No way. Let's talk about Eddie. He was a pretty polarizing contestant this season but you guys got along. What don't people understand about Eddie?

Eddie's got a vision and Eddie's about Eddie and he knows what he's doing. He doesn't want to waste time. He's vibrant and he's strong and if you can't match up to that then you're a dead man. Do you still speak? Absolutely. Eddie and I are close. I talk to him still. Did you think he should have been in the finals?

Yeah. I felt he would be in the final for sure. I thought his room was really well done and his entire work the whole season was really well done. In retrospect, I wonder if the judges felt it was expected and what they would see in the final house would be everything they already knew it would be. People speculated about your relationship with Wisit. Was there something going on there?

(Laughs.) There was no love. No love. Oh, my little Wizzy. I just really liked him and he was great guy. Do you keep in touch with the other contestants?

The strongest friendships that I will keep are with Eddie and Andrea. Ondine and I are in contact. Wisit and I are in contact. Preston and I are in contact. I don't have bad feelings towards him and it might appear that way on TV. I think he's a really great guy. I think he's young and doesn't have a lot of life experience yet but he's a great guy and he has a great future ahead of him Who was the hardest judge?

Margaret. I think she's so well trained in this and she runs one of the No. 1 shelter magazines and so she's seen the best and the worst. I think some of her judgments are very hard and her blogs are difficult to read sometimes. I think her commentary is well heard though. What was the best piece of advice you got on the show?

To edit, edit, edit. I think that will be forever known. It will be in the work I do now and the work I do next year and so on. What does it mean for you to be published?

That's major. That's a huge deal. I've said before that there are designers and decorators who work for years and never see their work published. I feel so fortunate to accomplish that. That's a huge thing and that will be a major push for me. What about the money? Any big plans?

Well, I'll pay my rent. I've just recently launched my own firm and you'd be surprised, the taxing and expenses take up a lot. I used a lot of that for that. Where can people find your designs now? Also, I'm finishing up some work in Manhattan. As well as a public space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Can people hire you?

Absolutely. Please do.