No Day At The Beach

Todd Oldham's expert take on the tough beach challenge.

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The cabana challenge proved to be no day at the beach for our remaining nine designers. Three teams of three were each randomly assigned a resort destination (Tahiti, Saint Tropez, or Miami) to use as design inspirations for their cabana designs. The usual crazy time schedule was in order, but with the added challenge of re-assembling the designs on the beach in front of Kelly Wearstler's dazzling hotel, The Viceroy.
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There was no electricity on the beach so tools were to be battery or manually powered. As usual the designers gave it their all but the ultimate challenge of team work often seemed to get in the way. A good designer has to believe in their abilities and their ideas -- and this alone can create tension in an effort of like-minded people.

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It might look like there is more help when you watch a group effort, but sometimes the blunted work that comes from too many cooks in the kitchen is not worth the effort. All three of the finished cabanas had very successful design elements but unfortunately all three had some design challenges that caught the judge's eyes.
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An opinions weight, like deciding good design is, at best, a subjective call. I thank you for all the positive feedback on "Top Design." I am happy so many people are enjoying it as some serious work was expended on this show by the designers. To those that think otherwise, I urge you to tune in again because every week is something different. Or better yet, take that time to go design and make something for yourself. Eight episodes left -- stay tuned.

Nathan: Having The Top Design!

What's it like to have the Top Design? Nathan gets candid.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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."

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: Do you still speak? Absolutely. Eddie and I are close. I talk to him still.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

Bravotv.com: Where can people find your designs now?

NathanThomasStudios.com. Also, I'm finishing up some work in Manhattan. As well as a public space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Bravotv.com: Can people hire you?

Absolutely. Please do.