Top Design: The Weekly Dish

September 4, 2008

I’m super happy that Becky from Hatch has decided to come back to decor8 for a little once-a-week guest blogging to cover Bravo’s Top Design for us. She’ll be posting here weekly the day after the show, so please visit decor8 to catch her dish and to chime in with your own opinions. I would have authored this column myself, but Top Design does not air here in Germany and besides… Becky did such a great job last season blogging HGTV’s Design Star that I figured it would be an honor to have her back to talk about Top Design. Take it away, Becky!

Top Design: The Weekly Dish

The new and improved Top Design started last night with new host India Hicks. I’ve been a huge fan of Todd Oldham’s since “Todd Time” on MTV’s Cindy Crawford-hosted House of Style, but I think it was wise to place him in more of a studio critic role for this show’s purposes. Wow, I would love to have had him as my design prof!

So, the show has been retooled. Personally, I LOVED it. It was a half a million times better than last season, and at least a million times better than Design Star. The backgrounds of most of the contestants was very impressive (Sex and the City set decorator? Martha Stewart Living editor = dream jobs!). The challenge was creative – I adored that they were designing for the judges and that they had to junk shop – my favorite kind of shopping! What was funny was realizing that books by all four judges are four of my favorite, most inspiring design tomes – I glean design inspiration from all four of them all of the time! It must be hard to design for someone whose style you admire – how do you find a balance between emulating and showcasing your own style?

So let’s dish. Who were your favorite contestants, and whom do you like the least? Personally, I love Kerry just because he’s from Georgia and his nickname is Big Daddy. Kyra Sedgewick needs to study his accent closely for The Closer – she really misses the mark (THAIHNK YEEEEWWW!!!) and his is a perfectly pleasing Georgia accent. I am interested in Wizit’s fashion background. I love to study the relationship between fashion design and interior design. Jennifer’s architecture background intrigues me; it means she should have a very good understanding of spatial relationships, construction and lighting. OK, and if you are about my age (36), you dreamed of living in a Silver Spoons mansion with a mini-train going through it, and that’s all I could think about when I heard one of the contestants is married to Ricky Rick Schroeder.

As for my least favorites, it’s kind of too early to tell. I liked Shazia’s personality a lot but thought she was weak. I also did not see Natalie contributing much, and her Pop Design concept was so yearbook staff.

Speaking of which, what did you think of the “Pop Design” concept? I really liked it. One of my complaints with these shows is that when they work in groups, individuals are not able to show off their own talents. This concept takes care of that problem.

Did you get the impression that the contestants knew much about the judges’ styles? I was thinking things like “India Hicks – HELLO, do a fabulous tablescape! Think of the book Island Style! DUH!!!” I didn’t get the feeling anyone knew anything about her!

Will you be tuning in to the rest of the season? In the upcoming scenes, I spotted three of my favorite personalities of all time – Simon Doonan, Jeff Lewis, and Santino – whoo-hoo, I CANNOT WAIT!

OK, enough from me! If you watched last season, did you find this season improved? Who do you have your eye on as the winner? Which contestant do you think may get cut next? Which design was your favorite, and which one do you think was a bust?

I can’t wait to dish with you all! SPOILER ALERT: We’ll be talking about the results in the comments section!



  • Reply lins5517 September 4, 2008 at 6:44 am

    I just watched it on bravotv.com :) super excited because I loved season 1.

  • Reply erin September 4, 2008 at 8:25 am

    i LOVED it! i like the improvements they’ve made to the show a lot, i thought the pop-design thing was a cool little test for the designers. i love the addition of india hicks, and todd oldham as mentor.

    i thought the contestants would have a better idea of what the judges wanted, because each of them have such a solid (and pretty specific) design style- (can’t think of how else to word it). i think they did a pretty good job for kelly wearstler. I thought there would be bolder color choices for jonathan adler since he LOVES color. I was suprised they didn’t nail the style of india hicks and margarette russel- whose taste is pretty evident- along with the specific directions they gave. i thought the challenege was cool though. no favorites yet, too early to tell, but there is a ton of potential!

    can’t wait till next week!

  • Reply bluestar September 4, 2008 at 8:36 am

    I thought this was SO much better than last season! I agree that the pop design challenge is smart, though it did feel kind of rushed and jammed in there, you know? Still, it’s nice to get a peek at their individual styles. I thought the team that did Kelly’s loft blew everyone else out of the water. I know they also liked the team that did Jonathan’s loft but I was not that impressed with theirs, it felt more run down beach rental than fabulous breezy beach house to me. The contestants seem to be of a much higher caliber this time around. I can’t wait until they start doing more individual challenges. I also can’t wait to see Kelly Wearstler’s crazy (but awesome) styles ;)

    Oh! One thing I forgot to mention – I don’t know how I feel about FOUR people receiving immunity due to the pop design challenge. That seems like an awfully high number and it could really throw things off I feel like. I’m assuming it won’t always be four people receiving immunity, but that was the one part that I felt was like a little off.

  • Reply becky from hatch September 4, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Lins I’m glad to know you can watch it online! I tried to find Project Runway when I was on vacation online and I couldn’t find full episodes anywhere. Do you hear that Holly? You can catch up with us from Germany if you can find any TV watching time!

  • Reply Luka September 4, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I hadn’t watched Top Design last season but had watched Design Star each season. Wow, Top Design is so much better! I just hope they give them some challenges without thrift shops and low budgets because the shots of these contestants portfolios were awesome.

    I don’t feel like I got a chance to pick any favorites just yet. I thought it was weird that Ricky Schroeder’s wife was in that confessional saying how she wants to be judged by her own accomplishments when she mentioned that she was Ricky Schroeder’s wife in one of the first two sentences she said on the show. Nothing against the Ricker, but who cares? Does that make one bit of difference? He seems pretty inconsequential in 2008.

  • Reply So Lovely September 4, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I think this season has greatly improved! No more “see you later decorator”. India Hicks brings style and a certain calmness. Kelly Wearstler still has the crazy outfits. I’m not sure who’s going to win yet, but the tension is already there. Range Rover is obviously sponsoring the show too. Wednesday nights is stay-at-home night with Project Runway and Top Design!!!

    So Lovelys last blog post: The conscious Ebay

  • Reply Denise September 4, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I did find the new show format 100% improved! Also being an old school Todd fanatic, I agree that his new role is much more suited to him. It seems they’ve crafted a kind of Tim Gunn mentor role for him and it works!

    I agree that the designers didn’t really have a grasp on the aesthetics of their judges! I’m not quite sure how an interior designer would think that a filthy couch is acceptable!

    I will definitely continue to tune in to Top Design, I’m interested in how the dynamics of each of the designers plays out and of course I need to see what kind of clothing atrocity Kelly will wear this season. You know she’ll be teetering in on her 5 inch stilletos with some kind of over the top outfit!

    Wizit blows my mind. I was like “Is that Klaus Nomi?” when he busted out that falsetto!

  • Reply Jamie September 4, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I was a seson 1 watcher and I’m loving season 2. Way to go PR & TC producers. BUT… where was the “See ya later, decorator.” ?!?!??!?! Please bring that back. I love that phrase.

    Jamies last blog post: Inspiration for Inspiration

  • Reply simone September 4, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    okay – so i have not cancelled cable yet b/c i cannot live w/o bravo. that being said, not loving ms. hicks at all. no ma’am. i like everyone else but here. i am happy that they repurposed todd. he is much better as “tim gunn.” but i did appreciate the first challenge. the show’s improvements were immediately felt. that being said, Shazia should have been sent home. she has no common sense at all. rick schroder’s wife is not very nice. (wasn’t she a child star as well?*) i feel like she looks familiar.

    well, i am eagerly looking forward to next week.

    simones last blog post: Un Peu du Drame!

  • Reply becky from hatch September 4, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Simone, I don’t know about Andrea; I always assume actors are married to makeup artists! She did look familiar, and she looks a lot like Ricky. I thought he was great on NYPD Blue by the way. Zack Morris has a new gig; I want to see Ricky get one too! LUKA, I felt the same way; if you are trying to make a name for yourself, why “confess” your husband’s name immediately? Perhaps the producers made her.

    Erin, I agree on the Adler loft color – the lower level looked like a hospital hallway to me with that stupid paint job. I agree, knowing those judges’ style is cake, and they mostly missed the mark. Anti-Depressive Living is one of my favorite books of all time!

    Bluestar, good point about 4 people getting immunity! That seemed a bit excessive.

    So Lovely, I agree on the Range Rovers! Did anyone notice that no matter where they were supposedly going, they kept showing the same shot of the car driving? I thought that was hilarious! A more eco-friendly sponsorship would have been more appropriate in these green times. I know so many jerks with Range Rovers – it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    Jamie, I couldn’t take the “See ya later, decorator.” it pained me everytime JA said it.

    Someone needs to give INdia Hicks a life supply of SPF 45 – she looked as fried as Don’s new secretary on Mad Men.

    By the way, I laughed at my own notes as I went to write my summary. I thought I’d share them with you over on flickr:

    They are insane, and I could barely read my own writing!

    OH! Does anyone know the name of the architectural salvage/”junkyard” they visited? No one seems to know! A PR person from the show is looking into it for me. Bravotv.com really screwed up in keeping this valuable information from us!

    becky from hatchs last blog post: Top Design Junkyard

  • Reply Carrie September 4, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    I am so happy that Top Design is back, too! Becky, I know what you mean about the Range Rover sponsorship being a disappointment, but hey – I’m guessing they needed big bucks to pay for our esteemed judges’ return?

    I was totally excited by last night’s episode, but I was kind of disappointed in the outcome too. Nobody’s loft had the “wow!” factor for me. I remember last season, episode 1 – when Goil & Elizabeth did that amazing room, I was blown away. No one wowed me last night. Granted – this was a WAY bigger challenge, and I respect that, but I wish we could’ve seen something a little smaller scale so we could get a better feel for these contestants and their point of view. But, that just means I’ll have to stick around to see it unfold!

    The Pop Design concept was very cool, but no one really stood out to me there, either …

    I really like Kerry, too. I’m not so keen on Mr. I’m-making-lamps-just-kidding-I-didn’t. Again, just getting really excited to get to know these designers!

  • Reply wendy mount September 4, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I loved the show. Style. High-end real design. So different from “Design Star” and so much better. I think they sent the wrong person home though. Hardwood floor installation is a time-consuming job and he wasn’t given the opportunity yet to show his taste because of the task given to him. The designer (I don’t remember his name) resposible for the dusty pink sofa should have been given the boot–big time. Margaret specifically requested a hot pink and anyone who th
    inks dusty rose is close enough doesn’t belong on the show. They’d have been better off with a white sofa and getting hot pink in there through the pillows and some sort of wallpaper or accent wall.

  • Reply becky from hatch September 4, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Carrie, I agree; no one wowed me whatsoever. The only thing that wowed me was the crazy lamp in Jonathan’s bedroom – totally him!

    Wendy, I’m with you on the sofas. The sofa choices at the thrift store did look pretty grungy, BUT THEY HAD UNLIMITED FABRIC OUTSIDE OF THE BUDGET! I can’t believe only one team took advantage of covering their sofa (JA’s loft).

    Margaret always called herself “the pillow police” last season – I’m with you, white would have been better but I’d have been scared to run into the pillow police with my throw choices!

    I don’t know if I said it before, but I thought Shazia should have gone home. She’s cute and bubbly though; I do like her personality and her attitude, if not her design abilities thus far.

  • Reply Leah September 4, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I liked the looser, more relaxed format this year, and enjoyed seeing the camaraderie between the judges. It actually looks like Kelly and Margaret are friends, so I guess we won’t be in for any juicy bitch-throwdowns between them this year. Pity. ;-)

    Leahs last blog post: Sound Off: Top Design 2 Season Premiere

  • Reply Tracy September 4, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I have to admit this show is one of my guilty pleasures. And I certainly look forward to Becky’s weekly wrap-ups!

    Tracys last blog post: Flat Screen Fish Tank.

  • Reply Andi-a September 4, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks so much Holly and Becky for letting us hear from you again here. Becky you could write a sitcom I’m still loving “who hasn’t done a little gay porn these days” I’m slain. Also I feel like this is a good way for me to gab on design since I still lack my own blog and site.

    K I thought India Hicks was so elegant and pretty, in her still photos from Domino she looks way basic. I’m hoping she will bring some warmth to the judges panel along with Jonathan. Margaret sends chills with the way she gave Jonathan that side glance after whathisface contestant got threw fighting. I thought only actresses from the forties and earlier knew how to throw a look like that.

    I didnt see last years. It looks like they will be bringing in some fun guests. Uhmmm Jeff Lewis well all right y then. I know he is a genious at something but actual interior design why not use Ryan but hey I should wait for the actual challenge to see.

    I liked the team with all the safety passes ( can’t recall the serious word). They look like they will individually bring it. Ricky’s wife hmmm I’m maybe just extremely jeolous, but hell she’s got a ton of more ways of getting her foot in the door than the tons of us out here who have yet to get to design a space from our true design core not just glorified shopping *sigh. Also I don’t like the feeling she is going to steam roll anyone she works with to make this a commercial for her brand. That said the woman on her team really better grow up and not waste another second playing the help with hope. You made it on the show sister now fricken work it, apples in shadow box, extreme red tag clearance room dust hoarder that always winds up broken on purpose. She really should have fought that sofa in the first place and painted it (yes paint) or stapled and glued a new cover.

  • Reply Maureen September 4, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    I felt such delight watching the show last night–yes soooo much better than Design Star.

    Things I loved: *The Pop challenge *Having a limited budge that forced more creativity *those junk/thrift shops–they seemed so well organized compared to the ones I go to.

  • Reply Mia September 4, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    I thought it was sooo good! All throughout the show, all I kept thinking to myself was how good it was. The designers were experienced and their backgrounds impressive. The judges are awesome and I love that they all have totally different styles. I was really annoyed by the fact that Shazia didn’t go home. Her pop quiz was a disaster(hello, you didn’t know those apples wouldn’t stay on, ever heard of gravity?)and felt bad for the guy that ended up going home first. It seems like he went home for simply not speaking up about his only job being putting down floors. I was really shocked that India Hick’s team was so bad at executing their loft, and on the flip side,quite impressed with the winning team. I can’t wait to see more, this season seems like it’s filled with surprises. Love it!

  • Reply becky from hatch September 5, 2008 at 11:44 am

    MIA, your gravity comment absolutely made me laugh out loud, as I immediately thought of Sir Isaac Newton being hit on the head with an apple and discovering gravity! Too funny!

    I should mention that the lovely LEAH is the one who tipped me off to Mikey V.’s controversey. Hi!

    ANDI-A and TRACEY, I’m blushing; thanks so much for the compliments. I LOVE chatting with all of you here and it’s an honor to be writing on decor8! ANDI-A, I love Ryan and his taste (except maybe in hairstyles), but Jeff is the perfectionist with the big personality. I should mention my bias; I’m so obsessed with him I’d consider taking the job as trash guy. At least as far as I can tell I’d be provided with a cute preppy wardrobe from Lacoste.

    I should have mentioned in the summary that the producers from my favorite show in this format, Project Runway, are the ones who retooled Top Design. They did a great job. I love P.R. so much when I get home I roll it up on the DVR before I even watch Lost on the same night, and that’s saying a lot. Santino was my all-time favorite contestant, and he’ll be a guest judge as well.

    I get the feeling Andrea was edited to look like she was mentioning Ricky Rick a lot – I’m keeping an open mind about her – I think she had a weak team, and they wasted a lot of time on the flooring – it seemed like quite a feat that they finished the floor. Oh, I IMBD’d her and found that she had a producing credit in 2004, but there was no record of her being a child actor.

    becky from hatchs last blog post: Around What?s in Been in Print this Week

  • Reply james saavedra September 5, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    I am very pleased that it is not a repeat of last season. They really have bumped it up a notch:)

  • Reply liz demos September 6, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I enjoyed the changes and can’t wait to see how the season unfolds. Early faves? The MSL boy & the Georgia boy (of course). I was also happy to see the first episode started with junking. It was my kind of challenge.

    I will be watching and checking in at decor8 for your take on it.

  • Reply Kellye September 6, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Leah, I agree with you. The camaraderie between the judges is one of the best components on the show. I’m also glad that someone besides myself did NOT like India Hicks. Todd Oldham may have been stiff on-camera (although he did seem better in this episode), but she came off as just unlikeable. Perhaps that will change during the season.

  • Reply Hooked on Houses September 6, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I agree with everything you said. The improvements they made to the show this season were all good ones. “Top Design” was almost unrecognizable from the first season (which is a good thing, imo).

    I recapped it on my blog, too, and was surprised when some people said they weren’t impressed with “TD” and didn’t like India as the host. I was starting to think maybe I watched a different show than everyone else!

    I’m excited about this season now and eager to see what this talented group of contestants will come up with! -Julia :-)

    Hooked on Housess last blog post: ?Top Design? Season 2: New & Improved

  • Reply Sheila663 September 6, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    So glad I found this post and that there’s such great discussion going on here. I am a long time lurker…but will lurk no more.

    I am new to TD (but a long time chef and runway fan) and I agree with much of what’s been said. A few new thoughts to add (I hope):

    I was surprised the judges gave such clear direction and that it wasn’t really followed. For example, the direction on the hot pink and cobalt blue was a giveaway (I thought). You either follow that direction or go 180 degrees, but dusty rose was a big miss.

    I was also kinda surprised that the shopping wasn’t easier. I know there’s a time and budget crunch, but to me the designers didn’t seem at all comfortable on those shops. Junking and thrifting are so legit these days I long for the times when it was an undiscovered resource. Seems like someone should have been able to pull ideas from their bag of tricks on this one (mismatched chairs, doors/window/gates as tabletops, etc.). The iron pieces as wall hangings showed an inkling of inspiration.

    Lastly, I would say that, as usual, the teams seem to have a hard time focusing their work for the time allotted. Building lamps?!? That is crazy talk! As with all of these shows, ambition overtakes reason and the results often suffer.

    Can’t wait for next week. See you then!

  • Reply Cliff O'Neill September 7, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Great recap!

    Yes! I’m so glad they’ve tweaked this show.

    I really felt it had promise before but needed a major overhaul if it was going to be any good. Am happy to see that they’ve made many of the very changes people were suggesting.

    Can’t wait to make fun of Kelly’s ridiculous hairstyles as the weeks go by in my own recap!

  • Reply Hope September 7, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Great start!

    The thrift store is St Vincent De Paul Thrift Store, and the Junkyard is actually called Freeway Building Materials http://www.freewaybuildingmaterials.us/

  • Reply irk24 September 9, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Sorry to disagree with you all, but I didn’t think there was much improvement or even difference from last season. I am so ready and willing to love this show, as I do Bravo’s other reality contest shows, but this is a pale and sickly version of the others. There is no chemistry between the judges–all are boring blah and none has particularly good tv presence. Adler’s stuff is great but he looks like a nervous bar mitzvah boy–thank the heaven’s that the painfully embarrassing ‘see you later decorator’ was quietly dispensed with (that’s as bad as ). There’s just no energy on this show and I almost can’t figure out why–perhaps it’s just not well-produced or the hosts are just so boring. I also find the challenges lacking in creativity. How about simple challenges: build and design a bookcase? re-do an entryway? renovate a garage? create an artist’s studio? incorporate green technology into design? go to the city dump and pick out some gems! again, I really want to like this show and was so hoping for an improved version…..I will keep hoping.

  • Reply Courtney September 9, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    I’m so excited you’re going to be blogging about this show here! I agree, the first episode was a million times better than last year. And soooo much better than Design Star. I love Todd’s new role as the Tim Gunn of Top Design, and I think the Pop Design competition is a great addition. I also get frustrated on those group challenges. It’s so easy for an individual’s style or talent to get lost because of an overpowering team member. I also think I prefer that this show is really focused on design without any of the hosting component from Design Star. Too early to pick favorites yet, but I can’t wait for tomorrow’s episode!

    Courtneys last blog post: Karen Kurycki

  • Reply becky from hatch September 9, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Sheila, welcome! I’m glad you are speaking up!

    Hope, thanks for the 411 on the shopping spots. I was freezing my tv screen and trying to read signs, then I asked the PR person and asked my readers over at Hatch. We got the answers which it turned out WERE IN THE CREDITS! Boy, did I feel stupid. I think it would be a nice feature on bravotv.com to supply that kind of information.

    Cliff, I’m totally obsessed with Kelly’s style. She’s gorgeous and fearless, and I find it refreshing that she doesn’t seem to care at all about looking perfect all the time and takes HUGE fashion risks. It’s a nice contrast to Margaret’s perfectly coiffed cocktail style.

    Irk, never apologize for disagreeing! Different points of view are what keep a discussion interesting.

    Are people turned off because India’s accent comes off as snobbish?

    I am hooked on just about every Bravo reality show, except the one about food (makes me hungry) and the ones about hairstyling. Rachel Zoe’s show looks like it’s going to be a really fun one, I love Project Runway, Million Dollar Listing (who is more fun to make fun of, Chad or Josh?), Flipping Out is the greatest, and The Real Housewives makes me feel very unmaterialistic, classy, real-boobed and brunette.

    I just set my DVR for tomorrow night’s new episode and it’s called “Artsy Bunker.” I tend to pun badly a lot but this is really bad. What’s the theme, a racist bomb shelter? Will George Jefferson and Maude be the guest judges?

    becky from hatchs last blog post: A New Addiction: The Selby

  • Reply paola September 9, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Late again, but anyway…

    I couldn’t stand India. As a Brit, I don’t find her accent a turn-off – I’ve got quite a ‘posh’ accent myself and lots of friends who talk like her (though could she speak any slower?)

    It’s mostly because I have no idea why she is qualified to be a judge on the show. Yes, her father is David Hicks. But my father was a civil engineer and I don’t pass judgement on building competitions. I’ve seen a few magazine spreads of her houses in the Caribbean and if I remember rightly they seem very safe and dull to me. What else has she done except be Princess Diana’s bridesmaid?

    I also don’t get the Kelly Wearstler love either. I’m not so keen on her designs – I think they might be an American thing though – but those hairstyles they were showing from future episodes are laugh out loud ridiculous. She sure didn’t learn much about hairstyling from her days as a topless model…

    paolas last blog post: Back

  • Reply becky from hatch September 10, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    HI Paola!

    God you make me laugh! I like India’s inherited style sense; Island Life is a book I flip through often. I do want to send her some very strong sunscreen, however. To me, Kelly W. has been a pioneer in simplifying and modernizing Hollywood Regency, and making it all the rage for the past few years – I suppose it is an American style with roots in Billy Balwin, Dorothy Draper, Parish/Hadley, etc. I’m not wild about ceramic zebras but I really dig her style overall. Last season, the most interesting thing to discuss was her hairdos. This season looks like the show may hold our attention more with the challenges (fingers crossed…)

    Speaking of American/UK confusion, I’m watching the VMAs right now and I don’t get the Russell Brand love. It’s the worst MTV hair I’ve seen since Jessie Camp. I have many many questions about how he found people to fulfill his addictions, but they aren’t really decor8 appropriate.

    But more importantly, Dirty Sexy Money is back this season – it premieres Oct. 1!


    becky from hatchs last blog post: Chanel?s Contemporary Art Container

  • Reply paola September 12, 2008 at 1:36 am

    – Yep, India has the sort of English rose complexion that really shouldn’t go near the Bahamas. She should be striding through muddy fields wearing a Barbour jacket and green wellies and shouting at muddy dogs.

    – Russell Brand has become huge in the UK since I moved out here, so I don’t know so much about him. I do find him kinda funny, but no, I won’t be running my fingers through his hair any time soon. Having said which, I have read interviews with him where he fully acknowledges that his hair is ridiculous, which is more than can be said for Ms Wearstler.

    – I am beyond excited about DSM…

    paolas last blog post: Stem

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