I Didn't Make Andrea Cry
Margaret Russell talks Andrea's exit, Eddie's craziness, and light fixtures.
What the heck was that horse doing in Nathan's bedroom? But I digress: Despite all appearances, I wasn't the one who made Andrea cry. I know I'm the tough judge and maybe I mentioned that she needed to get over herself, but we all hoped she wouldn't give up. She was so fabulously bold and bossy in the first episode--slave-driving Serge and Shaz--and then her confidence just went kaput. Everyone empathized that she missed her family, but being sequestered for up to six weeks was a non-negotiable part of this reality-competition deal.
In truth, it was Andrea who made most of us weepy that night, and I was disappointed to see her leave. It's challenging for everyone, contestant,s and producers and crew alike. Even the judges--inexplicably dressed for cocktails, not commentary--are always either shivering or sweating, and subjected to brutal hours; taping the elimination segments usually stretches well into the early morning. (Plus, Kelly, Jonathan, India, Todd, and I had to keep up with our regular work.) My point? Top Design is boot camp, not decorating school.
Contestants should sign on only if they are driven to succeed and truly believe they can and should win. Andrea said more than once that she was there to learn, but that was hardly what the producers were seeking. She's a skilled designer and she wouldn't have made the cut had she not presented proof of her talent and promise (honestly, do you really care that she's married to an actor?). Funny enough, she momentarily backtracked from her leave-taking once she learned she was safe this week--which must have made Ondine INSANE. We busted Andrea on her accessorizing, but were thrilled she made a cheerful foray into color and pattern. Using a glittery green Swarovski lamp, she went for a retro-Hollywood look. Her main elements celebrated the razzle-dazzle nature of the lighting, but the extra bits were a letdown.
Details not so apparent onscreen include mercury-glass pieces mixed with green-glazed earthenware accessories, an acid-lime bench at odds with the other green hues, and a giant shell with orchids taking center-stage on the cocktail table. Nathan's room is one of those that was clearly better in person, because it sure looked sort of crazy on TV. His Ice Branch chandelier is one of many amazing lighting creations by Swarovski, the firm that made the genius transition from being best known for crystal collectibles--think little squirrels--to creating major, museum-worthy lighting fixtures that have changed the world of design. Their Crystal Palace lamps are magical, but Nathan's room added a manic element to that magic. He transformed his white box into a "superwealthy girl's room in an Upper East Side townhouse," replete with a chaotic Keith Haring-like mural, furnishings by Philippe Starck and Karim Rashid, a girly bed and armoire, a wall of mirrors from subsets I'm not convinced should ever intersect, and a lifesize horse sculpture apparently made of wood chips. Nathan announced, "the first thing you see is the chandelier"--the point of this room challenge--but really, it's not. Fabulous, over-the top room, but crazy.
Speaking of crazy, Eddie has been having loads of fun being snarky on-camera, which I'll ignore. His gold-leaf wall treatment showed some effort, Martha Stewart indeed produces a terrific line of furniture, and I LOVE a small sofa pulled up to a dining table. His work was nicely done and the luxe Golden Teak Glitterbox chandelier was beyond glam, but he's delusional if he thinks his design scheme reflected that lamp. Queen Anne chairs with a Glitterbox? Oh, please.
Ondine's Light Sock lamp looked like a big sparkly sack suspended inside an intriguing stage set. I loved her lilac wall of mirrors and layers of quirky eccentricities but her armada of bed pillows was excessive and contestant choices were not so limited that she had to reuse a brown grass cloth that we'd already seen in Kelly's loft and one of the bachelor pads. She has a terrific eye, but the room lacked the focus the lighting was to provide; Andrea gave her the lifeline she needed.
Despite inheriting the "loser" chandelier, Preston won this challenge. Perhaps the Sparkle Shady lamp should have been installed a tad lower and more in the corner in place of the table lamp--and maybe he's guilty of channeling early Kelly Wearstler this week--but Preston's space was undeniably polished and professional. He has an eye for top-notch product, and he's shown he can create, plan, execute, and finesse a design scheme nearly flawlessly.
Preston is admittedly keen on boutique-hotel design, which has its merits, but creating a real space where real people might live would better showcase his personality and skill. So watch what happens.