Episode Six repeats a challenge from last year's Design Star: the three finalists are randomly assigned a redesign project and sent to locations across the country. This year, the three families were located in California, Indiana and West Virginia.
Before I go on, I need to say that I'm conflicted about this concept of "deserving" design. The families are chosen on some sort of need-based criteria. This also seems like a prelude to Vern Yip's new show, "Deserving Design." This smacks a little too much of the "deserving poor" which has a lot of connotations I don't really like. It's also loaded down with ideological weight; for example, the Indiana family was made up of six children (ages 16 to 18months) and the parents are both firefighters. Their "before" room was basic but nothing hideous. Why choose them? Presumably because the parents are "first responders" - everyday American Heroes!
In California, we had Bridget, a young teenage girl with some condition that requires her to remain wheelchair bound (her bones break exceedingly easily). Will ended up as her designer, and did what I thought was an outstanding job.
Todd drew the "easiest" challenge - swanking out an already-okay livingroom for the firefighters and their spawn.
Kim got the saddest one: designing the livingroom for a young couple (with baby) in West Virginia. He is a coal miner.
Will is just amazing. I love his aesthetic, even though it isn't MY style. He uses color well, I think, and in this episode in particular, he was really sensitive to the needs of his wheelchair bound, teenage client (and teen girl would be hard enough!). I like the colors he used, though I'd never choose them myself. My mom hates the green sofa, but i actually like it a lot. One of the design features Will pointed out was that, by painting the walls in color blocks with a white border, it makes the ceiling seem lower, so that from a wheelchair, one would feel in a reasonably-sized space. He also installed a refrigerator and a kick-ass media center. He kept it clean and simple, gave Bridget loads of places to lounge around while recuperating from injuries (that darker blue square is a padded "side" board to the bed, so she can sit up sideways or lengthwise on her bed. The one thing I felt the room was lacking was some sign of BRIDGET'S personality; the space is almost too clean. There should be a few trinkets or photos or something around that indicate that this room actually belongs to someone, and isn't a showroom. But I loved it on the whole- it's such a clean, bright space! - and I felt like Will's presentation was a vast improvement from his last hosting foray (the judges disagreed).
Todd's space, like I said, seemed kind of okay to livingrooms I've ever been in. He took over and turned it into a monstrosity. He tried to to Toddlike carpentry "tricks," but was confounded by time, space and the presence of a begin with - nothing special, but like most of the load-bearing horizontal beam. The room he ended up with is cheap and ugly, in my book, and is like staring into an oven. The vicious red wall is NOT complemented by the vicious orange walls; the reds in the chaises (which i do like), the cushions and the carpets don't match. Having backless bookcases sets means everything needs to fight against the hideous redness. The sectional sofa is ugly. The wooden corner "bench" toybox he built is a lame storage idea; throwing all your kids' crap into a large bin is NOT organization. Moreover, as my mom pointed out, it's a hinged box for use by very small children; pinched fingers and bonked heads are a probability. Todd would have been much better off getting some sort of storage unit with canvas drawer-bins into which the kids' junk could have been sorted. The red area rug over the white carpet is dumb. I hate wall to wall carpeting, myself, but I hate rugs over rugs even more. Todd bought high-end gaming systems and TV, and the room seems set up more as a teenage boy's dream gaming room (those chaises) than anything else. And, as one of the judges pointed out, the bulk of the seating does NOT face the TV - and the family said they use the space for movie nights frequently.
Martha McCully tipped her hand and revealed her foolish infatuation by saying "I like watching Todd." Well, Martha, you're the only one. Todd is a toolbag of the first rate.
Now for Kim. Oh Kimmy! You had the most difficult challenge - a dirt-poor room at the end of a dirt road in Nowhere, West Virginia. Her shopping options were more limited, and I think she had a lot more to accomplish. Partly she took this challenge upon herself, by expanding her design to include the family's eating area, which, she explained, is visible from the livingroom, and thus should be included (I agree, and Vern gave her an A+ for that one). Kim's had the most dismal "before" which is why I'm posting a picture of it. Look at the sad, saggy vinyl blinds. The carpet remnants over plywood floors. the utter lack of anything approaching luxury. By comparison, the Indiana "before" room was a dream (this made me angry, to be honest).
Kim worked some wonders. The couple wanted rustic, and the final product manages to pull that off without being tacky or gimmicky. Now, if it had been up to ME, I would have gone Arts & Crafts "rustic," but maybe arts & crafts isn't how they roll in WVa. What she did was totally transform a dismal, cold-looking space (you know they freeze in there in the winters....the only souce of heat is the wood-burning stove). She put in a lot of attention and time, hand-staining (is there any other way?) the wood elements they liked, getting furniture and things unloaded and arranged in a mud-inducing rainstorm, schlepping from outpost-shop to outpost-shop to find what she needed for the room.
Again with the wall-to-wall carpet! bah! Throw down some nice pergo flooring. It isn't hardwood, I know, but my pergo floor looks pretty damn nice, and it's easy to clean mud and muck off of it. And since Mr. Homeowner (the home is a doublewide trailer) is a coal miner, mud and muck comes into the house every day. Even a larger tiled entryway would have been more practical. The judges criticized Kim mostly for her furniture layout, and I guess I see the critique. Things are kind of where you'd expect them to be; why not put the sofa as a "room divider" at the natural break, and then two chairs facing it, backs to the window? The chair and table in the foreground are sort of random, but they do face the wood stove which is now actually kind of nice to look at.
I think if it was my space to do, I would have gotten a small, really comfy loveseat, and angled it in front of the woodstove, instead of the chair and table. That way, on chilly nights, the couple could snuggle up near their heatsouce. If I had insisted on using that rug, I would have laid it between the stove and the loveseat.
I LOVE the log box/table Kim had her carpenter construct. It's really sleek and modern looking while still fitting the space wonderfully, AND being highly functional.
Kim's presentation, as always, was stellar.
Will's show has been cancelled, with means awesome Kim and the Toolbag will be off to Hawaii (?? was there some sort of cut rate if you have your reality show's finale in hawaii? see: top chef, season two). America, now is the time to do your duty and VOTE FOR KIM!!
does anyone but Martha McCully REALLY want to watch Todd toolbagging around without his shirt on?? what would his show be? Pimp my dorm room for 19 year old boys?
I'm ready for the finale, though; I'm dying to know what the challenge is, and I REALLY hope my boy SparkleJosh comes back to help!