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Future Shock

Margaret Russel on futuristic designs.

First, an addendum to last week's blog: The judges were so thrilled that someone actually repurposed something substantial that we might have seemed overzealous in our praise about the carpet-pad wall covering that Nathan, I mean Eddie installed in his office. It was a cool recycling idea, but just one part of a really strong design scheme -- it was definitely not the deciding factor last week.

Eddie's room was the winner even without the carpet pad. Which--if you think about it--is a totally skanky wall covering. The stakes are high now that we're down to fewer than half of the original 13 designers, and the next challenges are all about showcasing personal style, ingenuity, and talent. Individual challenges are exhausting and insanely stress inducing, and I still can't fathom how the contestants survived the eco-responsible/unbearable-heat-wave project last episode. They looked mentally and physically broken when India and I marched into their design studio, even before they heard we were sending them on a sci-fi journey in a Top Design space pod. We hoped the contestants would let their creativity go wild and truly have fun. Never one to pass up the chance to create a boutique-hotel room -- even a supergallactic one -- Preston miraculously made his 12' x 16' space look HUGE. He transformed it with high-contrast colors, an ingenious wall of glossy crown molding installed as multi-dimensional horizontal paneling, and intriguing lighting solutions. The floor was painted white and I think he used sturdy wallpaper as an area rug under the Tulip table. Kelly wasn't as impressed, but we all agreed that Preston was the most successful in crafting an interesting, inventive, and professional-looking room of the future. His swank, tailored design aesthetic is becoming more and more clear each week.

Ondine takes a cerebral approach to her projects and it's a delight to see what she comes up with. Though her vision of the future was admittedly "a bit dreary," she conjured an idiosyncratic, boho take on how to live with way too much heat and no sunlight. Her plan was intellectual and mindful, but her execution fell short: The paisley wall looked random, the fans made the space look like an engine room or a bus lane, and the color palette was downright gloomy. But she shouldn't lose her spirit -- her cooling-fireplace, Dan Flavin-like fluorescent wall light, and the bubble-wrap roll-up blinds on the folding screen were pure fun and exactly what the challenge called for. Eddie "I can't get enough of me" Ross was in rare form this week, but his space was terrific. His cloning company foyer was clever, quirky, and fun and a far cry from the Golden Girls. Although the walls brought a murder scene to mind, not Albert Hadley's magical dotty print, Eddie's floor plan was smart and he shopped well and under budget. The painted lampshades were brilliant, as were the wrapping-paper covered logs, the gilded exhaust-fan sconces, the golden elevator, and the DNA wall sculpture.

Eddie's construction plan for his carpenter seemed to go smoothly, and he was surprisingly calm when Ondine evil-mindedly sabotaged his space (kidding). He appeared to have fun, but he didn't have the top design. I think Andrea was convinced she was going home even before she started this week's challenge. It's a shame, because despite the trouble she encountered with the light fixture, she put together a lovely room that perfectly reflected her sense of style (even using a zebra rug that she brought from home). She devised a traveling-pod-caravan theme, and Kelly was quite keen on her plan for an off-site staff pod where meals would be prepared. Andrea's playfulness with her design concept was a great improvement but we were disappointed that she stayed in her comfort zone, producing an oddly traditional room for the year 2108. All Andrea needed was to make a few bold moves.

It was Nathan who made the bold moves yet again, but they weren't enough. His "hip, flashy hangout" room was creative and chic, but failed to channel the future. Installing a constellation of black-rimmed plastic plates was genius, and the cat-scratch cocktail table from IKEA was functional and funny, but I thought the yarn topiaries and framed white dinner-plate display were less than inspired. Nathan took the time to bandage-wrap his bookshelves in tape, but lost his way when editing accessories for the entire room. For this room, less would have been more. It's sad that

Natalie had the most fun of all with this zany challenge but lacked the polish to pull it all together. Her Jetsons-inspired idea and her description of the ventilation, irrigation, and hydraulic systems had us totally charmed, but she failed in the follow-through. She didn't shop well (she blew a good portion of her budget on two pricey armchairs) her bookshelf/room divider made her space look like it was in prison (it was available in white, a better choice), and her accessory styling was pedestrian. Her strong points were having the guts to build a platform that we'd have to ascend from small pedestals (stilettos be damned), and installing a kitchenette. I love Natalie's spirit and she shows such great promise. Although it was time, we were sad to see her go. But don't forget, Natalie will be the first to have her work published in ELLE DECOR; be sure to look for her winning garden room in the December issue.

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