Monday, July 27, 2009

Bad Decisions = Good Television

Watching this season of design star is a bit different than seasons past - for me. If you've been reading the blog - you'll remember that I auditioned this year for the series. Obviously, I didn't make it - but I find myself sizing up the competitors that did, and the general production value of the show.

Last night the "designers" took apart two kitchens in the earliest kitchen challenge episode of the series run. Split into two teams of 5, Group one was asked to transform what was a perfectly decent kitchen into a family focused entertaining kitchen with a Moroccan/Italian theme.

What I think of this room is really inconsequential. Design great, Candice Olson said enough. But, it's hard for me to believe that the "Color Expert" of the group, who apparently is one of only 150 in the nation who have a Color Expert degree, picked this combination of colors, in this finish, in this room. I believe that Vern Yip said: "It looks like a rainbow threw up in there!" And I have to say, in my absolute nicest voice, I agree.

Suffice it to say, this doesn't look like a designer kitchen. They look like stock cabinets from Home Depot. The layout looks like one of 8 you can pick from the basic kitchen design studio programs available at big box stores, and the dark on dark on dark on dark is going to get very dated, very quickly. $20,000 to spend on cabinets and granite counter tops is a lot of money. (Appliances and Flooring were included outside of that money.) To me - and yes I know how easy it is for me to pick it apart, being on person who wasn't faced with the actual challenges, or the "team" environment - it doesn't look like they made the best use of those funds.

What I would have done differently:
  1. Color. I would have never spent the time that they spent on the faux finish of that space. The look is decidedly Moroccan, but it doesn't work with the aged faux tin backsplash - which I think was a good idea for the amount of time they had. I would have gone with something bold, maybe a persimmon color to pop against the dark cabinetry.
  2. The lanterns above the island were a miss, to me. I would have picked one great Moroccan fixture for the price of those three.
  3. I would have spent less time styling the island, and more time styling the bar. It would have been more functional, and less cluttered looking. I think that three stools (there were 3-members of the family) on the other side of the bar area (to the right in the photo) with 3 great place settings with some vibrant patterned plates would have been a great touch.
  4. The garden window is over styled. I would have concentrated on editing a bit more.
  5. That fabric (probably picked to go with the colors of the kitchen) is a miss to me, too. I would have gone with a faux roman shade look, in a stripe or a solid. The suzani like print to that fabric, paired with the wall colors and textures, the mismatched shapes of the light pendants, and the dark on dark on dark ... it's just, a hot mess.
Now, this kitchen had an unspoken "win" from the judges. And if you watched the episode, you know why. If you didn't. Team 2 was asked to create a modern space great for the entertaining lifestyle of a young family:

This is the after. Now, lets break down the challenges of this team: there was one guy on the team, 3 on the other. All of the cabinetry and heavy lifting fell on him, and when you're faced with that sort of work load, obviously you will fall short. The base cabinets weren't square, so the granite didn't fit properly, the tile wasn't finished, the space wasn't accessorized, and the paint and finishing mouldings were all askew.

Candice Olson said: "For the look you were going for I have to commend you on your finishes" talking about the linear composure of the cabinetry and the almost white granite counter tops with great square edges. I agree, and would have picked those for this space too! In fact, I think that this team did a lot of things right, showing that somewhere down the line, a leader - whether it was Amy or Dan did what they should have done. It was the team members that were letting each other down.

What I would have done differently:
  1. I would have spent the time making sure that the cabinets were level and ready to accept the granite. I know that was a difficult task for one person - but I think there would have been more hands available if people hadn't been shopping for backsplash tile. Another thing I wouldn't have done in the time constraints of the challenge.
  2. I would have used stainless steel open shelving in lieu of all of the dark cabinetry up top. I think that a mix of both would have been a great modern touch that would have worked for a young family that likes to entertain.
  3. Instead of tile on the backsplash, I would have painted - the same color of the walls above the cabinetry which I think I would have picked to have a bit more yellow to it.
  4. In a modern-esque kitchen, I don't think that the accessories should be all over the place. Minimal is best ... but I would have put SOMETHING out there! A large glass bowl on the island filled with limes, a long narrow planter on the ledge above the sink planted with wheat grass, a bamboo cutting board with stainless handled knives to the left of the sink, and a few bottles of pelagrino under the microwave lined in two rows, 3 deep. And if I couldn't find time to set the props for styling, I would have at least found time to wipe down the cabinets.
And at the end of the night, after asking each person of the team who their weakest link was, and after each of them said Tashika, they eliminated Amy. I called it before it happened, even told Scott they'll keep her for good tv. I guess the controversy that the producers hope will come next week was more entertaining than giving someone with real potential a shot.

Next week the designers will face individual challenges, and I have to say I am ready for this. With items they could only purchase from a grocery store, the designers will get a 10x10 white box, a few items from ikea, and a gallon of paint. Here's where I hope that the true talent begins to shine.


  1. Loved your take on the show. I'm not talented enough to figure out how the rooms should have been done, but knew neither kitchen was well done. I, too, would have liked to see what Amy could have done with the white box. Guess ratings trump potential!! Sally

  2. I completely agree with you Artie.

    I get a little hyper...ummm mouthy/opinionated, while watching. Poor ol' J, how does he ever put up with me, Sundays at 9PM Central!!

    I could have written this post; it is exactly what I thought. Looking forward to the individual challenges.

  3. Ohhhh, delicious Mr. Artie! I am with you 100%! I thought Tashika should have left the show last night, but suspect you are right about the entertainment factor creeping into play. How I wish you were part of that cast!

  4. I think they sent the wrong person home this time but I figure they will get rid of Tashika in the next weeks. I was surprised that the color expert was sooo bad. I think they over estimate their abilities and time constraints - want the big "show". Seems to me that the skills set are lacking in this group of ppl. Thanks for posting this - love hearing your take on it!.....Jo

  5. Yeah, it's funny how the design degree got her nowhere. Anyone can get a degree, but it doesn't mean you're good because you have it. On the flip side, I also firmly believe that you don't have to have a design degree to be a great designer! Many renowned designers just have the knack. Kudos to them! Great breakdown of the episode.

  6. I so agree with everything you said...looking foward to seeing how the rest of the season plays out. Would have been interesting to see what Tashika actually did have planned for the accessories. I am looking forward to next week and hope that in the future we will see some blogging friends get to show their stuff!

  7. I didn't watch the show.(I was sleeping).However,when it comes time to renovate our kitchen,you are more than welcome to take a trip to Florida and help.I LOVE your way of thinking!

  8. Artie -- you are right on. I can't believe they did the tile thing -- I don't think anyone has been successful when they did tile.

    I'm sorry you didn't make it -- perhaps next year -- just looking at your house and garden you are so very talented.

  9. Hand in there, Artie they may give you a call next season! I love your synopsis of this episode. I agree with you and Vern. I can't believe the "color stylist" chose those colors, too. I was thinking persimmon or some type of orange, too. That would be way more moroccan to me. Of course Vern would hate the mis-matched pendants because he loves symmetry or linear design, and I'm sure they were just "grating" on his nerves. Although, I like the look of a tin backsplash it just didn't work in this application, and I agree with you, a Roman shade would have been better over the window. We'll have to stay tuned for next week. ~ Robyn

  10. Wow. Great read on the show, Artie. I enjoyed it. Thanks!
    G in CT

  11. I have to say that design star is becoming formulaic in every way. I was annoyed watching as I called out all of the details in your dead on commentary, because I saw it the same way. My eleven year old daughter called out the loser of the evening about 15 minutes before it ended. She is going to be a design star! The only thing that has changed is the two new judges and the fact that the panel will pick the winner. One thing for sure is, don't ever let them see you weak or you're a gonner. I would have preferred to see Tashica go. Artie, I would say work on your "on camera presence", learn how to tell a story convincingly and you will surely get on the show. It's not as much about design as you very well know! Oh well,until next Sunday.

  12. Arty, love reading your perspective. Keep it up each week. I agree. I wasn't impressed with either kitchen and the wrong one went home. I'm looking forward to next week too.

  13. Your ideas are great... I don't get to watch that show but it looks clear to me that you should've been there.

  14. Artie,
    You cannot let the decision of not being chosen for this show affect you at all! You are a class above Design TV! Sadly, many TV series on these days are JUST for ratings and DRAMA, especially reality TV! I used to watch the design channels all the time. I've gotten so frustrated I no longer watch any of them EXCEPT Candice Olsen's Divine Design. Needless to say, I did not watch Design Star....I could not get past the title of the show for some reason? They think if they put the word STAR in the title they'll hook everyone in both viewers and players who long to be one. Your destiny is much larger than being on a program such as this. Your humility, talent and honesty will keep you true to yourself and feet on the ground, unlike so many others who get caught up in the way of the world. You don't need to be a "Design Star" to validate in any way or to further your vote is take another path to walk out your dream....for what it's worth....just an opinion.

  15. I haven't been watching because I barely watch any TV at all these days, but OMG, blechhhhhhhh! I think BOTH spaces are a hot mess. The Moroccan one is atrocious in just about every way I can think of. The other, even if it was accessorized looks like a surgical suite. Ewwwww

    Justine :o )

  16. HI Artie,
    I guess I am behind on everything. I didn't realize that you had tried out for this show,but I'm thinking it was a blessing in disguise that you didn't make it. You are much more talented than this. These shows do a disservice to the design field in my opinion. I thought both the "afters" were "befores", which is not a good thing. These are the type kitchens that we designers in the real world rip out every day. Maybe this whole bunch needs to read some design blogs and get schooled!

  17. I've been on the road, so thanks for the update!
    About design degrees - some like this one come out of the Cracker Jack box.
    I sure wish you were on the show!!!
    xo xo

  18. I've been watching it too and was blown away by the color choices for that room, and not in a good way of course. A color expert should know better. I agree with most of what you said although I will cut them some slack for the time frame. Truly custom cabinets cannot be made that quickly. Did you want to scream about the tile? I was yelling at the TV, "Have you not watched previous seasons?!"

    You are more talented on your worst day than any of them are on their best. Will you try out again?

  19. Sir, you're more than a contestant...
    you're HGTV Host material!


  20. Artie, you are right on, and they should have picked you! But looking at this season's cast, it looks like they are going for a "look" in people versus real talent. Just my take. And your one year later garden looks great!

  21. Thank you...I missed this episode & you've managed to fill me in on everything! I'll be checking back for more of your opinions!