No Day At The Beach

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


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.

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.


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.

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.

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A Nightmare To Decide

India Hicks' take on why Nathan ultimately had the Top Design!


Bloody hell I can't believe it's over. How incredibly well they did. What a nightmare it was deciding. How easy the producers made it look ... evil little elves. It was in fact agony, painful, and heartbreaking because every one of those worn-out designers was a winner. This final challenge really was a way to showcase expressions of individual taste in a multiplicity of styles. And there were more than just moments that I loved about each designer's house, but in particular...

Perfect Preston -- believe me that is a high compliment -- I am a Virgo and love nothing more than perfectionism (I am endlessly tidying the paper clips on my desk or lining up baby diapers into flawless little rows.) His polished designs resonated strongly with me. His guest room was outstanding and remarkably detailed given the time constraints. The molding through out was a masterful gesture against the quiet palette, with his clever soft touches of color to take the chill off the monochromatic interior. (What were those absurd exclamations from me throughout this tour? "Oh" "groovy" "fantastic") So well-orchestrated was Preston's time in this finale that he hardly needed any help from his assistant, maybe only a cup of coffee....

Ondine's diminutive slick office space was the height of chic in my view. My father said "Decorating is the art of accentuating the best and covering up the worst" and here was a perfect example, a small, nondescript box of nothing became a little bold, a little eccentric, and quite luxurious. We have seen over these weeks how well-versed in the history of design Ondine is and in her house she deftly propelled her inspirations from the past into the future, working comfortably with what already existed.

Ondine excelled in creating a house with a distinctly charming feminine feel. The boy's bedroom in Nathan's house, although swept over quickly, caught my eye (And I know a thing or three about boys' bedrooms), a room rich with kid's character. There were artfully arranged groups of objects, and a color scheme neither too sophisticated nor too childish, and a funky custom bed where a seven year old could feel special every night.

Preston, Ondine and Nathan were all design heroes. They had fought, and survived. But to earn the right to say you have the Top Design needed a truly fresh approach. We were looking for grand and humble, daring and iconic, unique in vision, and enduring in legacy. Nathan's house held unexpected juxtapositions, bold moves, and a fearless imagination. His house was imbued with a sense of excitement. Nathan is very much a decorator, which is not exactly the same thing as an interior designer. The designer devises efficient solutions to questions of space; decorators impose their own personal often idiosyncratic vision to that space using trade mark techniques. I did believe he had just what we were looking for. Nathan had The Top Design.

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