Memorable. Silly. Fun.

Jonathan Adler defends 'see you later, decorator.'

Y'all -- I gots lots to discuss.


Let me start with moi's tres controversial "See you later, decorator" catchphrase. One night, as my bloke and I were playing ping pong (a nightly ritual which always devolves into us just smacking the ball at each other), we concocted some options for my signature kissoff: "Swatch off." "You're banned from the D&D building forever." "You're an Elsie de Wolfe in sheep's clothing." "You suck. Good luck." Then, I blurted out "See ya later, decorator." Memorable, silly, fun -- done! It seems that some people aren't feeling my catchphrase and the blogosphere is on fire with suggested alternatives. Oh well. At the end of the day, it's got to be something, so to everyone who thinks it's the worst thing since Foam destroyed the restaurant world -- y'all can kiss my swatch. For reals.
The word "Decorator" is quite controversial. My brethren are funny about being called decorators - they're worried about being characterized as fluffy dilettantes with bags of swatches. They prefer the term "Designer" which, in their minds, connotes professionalism and gravitas. Decorator/designer, manicurist/beauty consultant, sex-worker/prostitute, whatever. The whole euphemism thing is especially comical chez nous. My bloke, Simon Doonan, is a window dresser and I am a potter. Two more reviled professions are hard to imagine. The word potter conjures an image of a crunchy Vermonter, years out of date, sequestered in a garret listening to Joni Mitchell and never shaving anything. Window dresser is even worse. Be honest -- the window dresser in your mind's eye makes Rip Taylor look like Tom Selleck. But Simon and I don't insist on being called a "ceramicist" and a "visual display merchandiser". We embrace everything about our professions including people's tendencies to mock them. We don't care what anybody calls us and neither should you! On to the episode. How cute were the 10-year-old kids? I thought their excitement about design was very very sweet and I particularly loved the little girl who wanted more glitter. She was really on to something -- we all need a bit more glitter.

Designing kids' rooms is one of my favorite aspects of interior design. Kids' rooms can be over the top and themey. They're not about being sensible. Sometimes designing adult bedrooms can feel like having to eat all of your vegetables, while kids' rooms are like a big delicious bowl of Froot Loops. Eric embraced the challenge, liberated himself from the shackles of good taste and designed a room that his client loved. Eric's ability to decorate, to "whomp" and "zsoosh" in that short time was truly impressive. He's a very talented fella who gives decorators a good name. He truly deserved to win.

There was a real range of stuff in this episode. Goil's design was very fun and I appreciated the fact that he didn't care where his bed would go once it slid into the wall. This is tv, it's fantasy, and I'd rather be transported into Goil's alternate universe in which beds can disappear than bogged down with pedestrian problems like the sliding bed wreaking havoc in the room next door.

I kinda' feel bad about how we treated Michael. Yes, his room was funereal, but his client liked it. Michael redeemed himself nicely from the previous episode -- he actually painted this time. I think he's sweeter than he might come across. Carisa's room was very fun and Matt's Hollywood glamour rocked -- using those cheapo clip lights as sconces was very inventive.

And then there's John. You know, I don't know if it came through on TV, but his room was completely unfinished, and we had no choice but to send him packing. I totally respect him for the way he revealed his HIV status and thought he was a true gentleman. I have a lot of friends in the design community who struggle with HIV and my heart goes out to John. I think it was brave of him to do so on the show, I think he's a talented guy, and I wish him all the best.

Now, back to "See ya Later, Decorator." Once you accept the majesty of the See ya later, blank-blank-ator lifestyle, you'll find squillions of opportunities to use it. "See ya later, attitudinal waiter". For your Valentine, there's always "See Ya later, sweet potater" or it could go a bit blue with "See ya later, stimulator". If I run into my pal Lady Bunny I can always say "See ya later, female impersonator." "See ya later, Christian Slater" would work if you should happen to encounter the oft-arrested celeb. The possibilities are endless. Lately I've been using one particular iteration more and more -- for some reason I keep finding myself saying "See ya later, catchphrase hater". Next week... Art: hate it or love it? Till then, see ya later!

Simple Truths About Top Design

Nathan had the Top Design. Margaret Russell explains why.

I'm so thrilled about Barack Obama I no longer care that I was outvoted two weeks in a row on Top Design. It's so sad that bringing back Andrea, Eddie, and Natalie inspired the most energy and excitement we've seen so far. Eddie's slimy behavior towards Preston was beyond comprehension. And you're insane if you believe it's the result of selective editing by the producers.

The townhouse layouts were appalling (a kitchen larger than a living room?), yet the designers produced three distinctive visions with three vastly different approaches to design. It's a miracle the judges came to an agreement, as our deliberation was lengthy and heated (and not because of 100-degree weather and an annoying lack of A/C). We were wildly conflicted, but what truly matters is that Ondine Karady, Preston Lee, and Nathan Thomas are super talents and all deserved to win for different reasons.


Ondine created her best work yet, with rooms that showcased her lovable idiosyncrasies. Perhaps overly ambitious in her goals, her project was still finished on time despite slow-moving carpenters. The high points included the graphic artwork in her Danish Modern living room, her bold use of color in the den, the master bedroom's mirrored headboard (though clearly a knockoff of fashion designer Naeem Khan's bedroom; Ondine handed her carpenter the ELLE DECOR tear sheet), and her magical little girl's room.

Ondine has proved to be thoughtful and inventive throughout the challenges. In truth, her talent was hampered by the constraints of reality TV; she simply needs the freedom to let her creativity percolate. Ondine is surely self-aware, so it was a bold move to audition for such a high-pressure experience. But she did amazingly well, and should be so proud of what she achieved. By the way, Ondine just designed a terrific room for the Holiday House in New York, located at 2 East 63rd St., which is open through December 7th and benefits the Susan G Komen For the Cure foundation (for info go to

Preston was the most polished and professional of the 13 designers. Plus, he was unfailingly respectful of everyone--contestants and crew, even the judges. He kept his composure and showed great integrity and strength of character even after each relentless barrage of obnoxious questions from my colleagues and me. He's clearly private--and remains somewhat of an enigma--which really doesn't matter. What does matter is that Preston not only has great talent and taste, he understands the business of design. Throughout every challenge he was methodical, mindful, and managerial--key qualities that define a successful designer. However, the judges felt Preston lacked the Wow factor -- that special something that transforms a mundane room into magical.

Preston nearly nailed it, but his quiet, tailored approach to his work wasn't enough to earn Top Design. (It's immaterial, but the judges didn't know his able assistant Eddie was spending more time hanging out with his pal Natalie in Nathan's condo than completing his assigned duties.) Preston's townhouse design scheme could serve as the model apartment for the Buena Vista townhouse sales office because it is so smart and will no doubt sell real estate, but it fell short in personality and pizzazz. His best effort was in the guest room/study, where a minuscule space became magnificent (OK, perhaps more in person, not on TV) with the addition of simple monochromatic molding and sophisticated furnishings.

Preston's creativity can be seen in subtle touches: smart repurposing for furnishings from last week's challenges; the earthy, saturated, frog-green hue of the living room curtains; the attention to detail in the master bedroom; and the surprisingly whimsical office, with its patterned wallpaper, vibrant artwork, and bright orange bench. I hope Top Design brings Preston increased opportunities and great success, because he deserves the chance to showcase his creativity in environments that are far more relaxed. And I truly hope he outgrows his interest in boutique-hotel design. Real life is far more interesting.


Nathan won, as his endearing personality, eccentric sensibilities, and wildly inventive design aesthetic shone through. His entrance hall/living room was my favorite space in the house, with its bold rug, statement-size armoire, and kinetic sculpture (one of two in his place that I still wish I'd arranged to buy). For me, this room was his best effort in the house, but I was perplexed that this weirdly constructed area looked fabulous yet served no purpose whatsoever. Kelly didn't care, as she has ten living rooms and doesn't use any of them, and for the public record we are dear friends and I couldn't care less that she loved Nathan and wasn't moved by Preston's efforts.

Nathan's drip painting was also terrific, and we inexplicably went wild over his cloud light fixture, although now, honestly, it looks like chicken wire with paper plates and I swear I saw something similar in his apartment when photos of his home were shown. He described his wallpaper to Natalie as "Golden Girls Disco" and I respectfully and incredulously agree. I found his master bedroom suite to be less than enthralling, his little boy's room was reasonably charming, and I truly liked the salon-style arrangement of photos and art above the sofa in his study although maybe it's just me but I wouldn't want to display some random Car Salesman of the Week portrait in my guest room.

Seriously. And I still don't get the nails in the juice pitcher. The simple truth is Nathan won because it takes not only talent but confidence to make a top design. And though Nathan was one of the last to make the cut for the show, he did brilliantly well. We can all learn from his passion and perseverance. And I think I can speak for the entire Top Design team in wishing him extraordinary success. Be sure to look for Nathan's winning project plus a Q+A with Jonathan Adler in the March 09 issue of ELLE DECOR.

A million thanks to Bravo and the Magical Elves team, plus a salute to the crew at Blogging Top Design and the naughty but spot-on TLo at