Monday, August 14, 2006

Design Star-Kitchen Remodel

In Design Star's fourth challenge, the remaining designers are given a two part challenge. First, Temple, Tym, Donna, Alice, David, and Teran must present a design concept to a couple who have won a kitchen remodel. The person with the worst concept presentation will be eliminated. Then, the remaining designers will execute the winning design concept in the kitchen. A second person will be eliminated after the room remodel is completed. They have a 32 hour window to complete the work, and $10,000.00 to spend on the project. (I love this show so much, I wish they weren't doing double eliminations.)

Tom and Kelley, a couple from Stratford Connecticut, have won this 'great' prize from HGTV. In their interview they tell us that the following elements in the remodel are important to them: terracotta tiles on the floor to replace ucky linoleum, granite countertops to replace the ucky linoleum, new cabinets to replace the ucky cabinets, stainless steel appliances to replace ucky ones,(are you sensing a pattern here?) a dishwasher, and oh, yeah, they like Tuscan style. problem---anyone can do a remodel like that in 32 hours with just $10,000.00, right?
The designers head out to a home store to get ideas and samples, then back to the house to prepare their presentations. Anyone who has ever watched HGTV should know what these presentations typically look like, with the little boards and the fabric samples and pictures of furniture and sketches. Teran and Donna are up ALL night completing their presentations. David spends most of his time prepping his presentation shirtless. I am noticing a trend where David likes to be shirtless. Does David think that his buff body being displayed at every available opportunity is going to win him the HGTV job? Or does the camera-person have a crush on David? It's something to ponder. Meanwhile, Temple is very confident that she is going to win. Considering that she is the least experienced and not formally trained this seems strange--perhaps Temple knows something that the rest of us do not, I don't know...she has given the couple EVERYTHING they asked for without regard for the fact that some projects are impractical and unlikely to be completed in the time allotted?

We don't see any complete presentation by any one person but we do get some amusing clips. Teran, for example, has moved the refridgerator across the room in his plan. When the homeowners ask why, he replies, "It'll make sense later, I promise." Tym spends a huge portion of his presentation explaining that most of what the couple want can't be accomplished. Donna is asked where all the counter space has gone in her design and looks at her board in befuddlement--like she doesn't know what counter space is and she doesn't recognize her own design. Maybe she should have slept a teeny bit.

Temple's "promise-them-everything" design has been chosen as the winner. Teran, sadly, is the loser and so he exits the room while tears flow from most participants. Note to designers--do NOT move the fridge to a wierd spot in the room--it will be your doom.

Almost immediately upon beginning the task dissension breaks out in the ranks. All the designers seem to know or believe that Temple has promised too much and that is why she won. Tym and David are particular naysayers. Perhaps because as the only guys they are expected to do the lion's share of the hard physical labor. Tym argues with Temple right from the beginning and that never stops. Now personally, I think the team had a obligation to deliver as best they could on what Temple had promised. The team, however, seemed to think that changing Temple's design was perfectly okay. So--instead of new cabinets, we get the same cabinets with white paint and new hardware. We get wierd two by fours all over the floor. We do get new stainless steel appliances. We get tuscan colors (except for the cabinets--glaringly white) and we get faux granite countertops. We also get a job that is so far from done as to be unbelieveable. The counter tops aren't installed, the walls aren't finished, the floor is poor quality with gaping openings between boards, and the molding and switchplates aren't back's a disaster.

Work-wise, David and Tym do most of the demolition. They refused to do demolition of the cabinets, forcing Temple's design change. The ladies go shopping in a group. They buy the cabinets that we end up not using because Tym refuses that job. They buy the appliances. They buy...well, you get the idea. Temple and Alice, also do lots of physical things, like painting and refinishing the cabinets, staining the floor etc. Donna--not so much. She spent the second day of the task shopping for the table and chairs. She went to shop after shop after shop. She napped in the van while being driven everywhere. She came back at dark. Whoa, way to contribute Donna. I really dislike her, can you tell?

On the second day, since the first was so contentious, Temple hands out notes to the team. These hand-written notes are lengthy, and tell each team member how they are valued and also apologize for any wrong-doing. Most team members are touched by Temple's effort. Donna thinks the notes are a cynical attempt to get on everyone's good side. Apparently, trying to get along is a big no-no in Donna-world. As Temple tries to inspire the troops, Donna on her way out to shop, says, "And if we're good little children we'll get another little note!" See? She's just nasty. She's also, well, dumb. Tym sends her for caulk. He tells her exactly what to get. She gets the wrong kind. After she came in from her day of shopping (it was dark when she returned) the first thing she said was that the cabinets looked like crap. When Temple didn't react too well to that comment, she lambasted her for not making the cabinets a "group" decision. I think if the team had deliberately conspired to sabotage Temple's efforts, they couldn't have done a better job.

In the judging--the initial reaction to the room was that it looked okay. The judges weren't overwhelmed but they weren't vomiting either. One judge commented that the white cabinets were 'off' from the rest of the design--which I agree with. Vern was happy they kept the old-fashioned sink. The coolest thing about the review, however, was that after letting the judges see the design at its best--Clive then had footage that showed all the behind the scenes stuff that didn't get finished. The judges were very disappointed, as a result, in the execution. Clive admitted that the HGTV hit squad had to go in and finish and fix the kitchen before the homeowners saw it. Phew. I was worried about that. The homeowners were very happy with the remodel and cried with joy. I think a kitchen-ful of brand new appliances were mostly responsible for that, but they also were happy with the look of the room.

In the end, the judges had to decide who was going to go home. On the plus side for Temple, she has repeatedly shown real talent and aesthetics with an admirable work ethic. On the minus side, execution of this task was poor and she seems to have trouble getting along with people. Meanwhile, Donna was the other possible eliminee. ( I made that word up.) Donna seems to do little work (yes!) and she doesn't have the "aesthetic". She hasn't progressed or grown as a designer and she's been in the bottom of the pack on all of the three previous challenges. The judges went back and forth on the issue. Some felt aesthetics can't be taught, while organization and management can be. Some thought Donna's leadership and poor decision making were a deal breaker. Finally, Donna's show was cancelled. Yeah! I was so happy.

We are down to the final four, sadly, and from here on out all challenges will be individual. I'm happy that the individuals are going to be responsible for their own fate from here on out. Harping here, I know--but in the real world, if Temple was a designer executing a job that she had bid for, with a team working in her employ--that team would have done what she said. Her difficulty with this group is that they all think they know better than her, and she wasn't confident enough to fight them. When the group is against you and you don't have any confidence, it's a bad dynamic. In the real world, if Temple had over-sold what she could do and her team had followed her instructions but still hadn't been able to deliver, then Temple would have taken the hit for it financially and in terms of reputation. That's how it should be. I'm glad, though, that in this task with too many leaders and not enough followers, Temple didn't get blamed for the fact that no one would do what she wanted without arguing. She folded and gave in to keep the peace and that was a mistake. Better to fight and force your vision and go home when it doesn't work out, then give in and compromise and go home because the finished product sucked.

Now lest you think, dear reader, that I want Temple to win because I've been defending her in this post...I predict that Alice or David will win. Remember, the viewers have to LIKE the ultimate winner because they are going to have a show on HGTV. People typically only watch shows of people that they like and admire. Right now the best "edit" in terms of showing a pleasant, easy to get along with personality is being given to Alice and David, so that's who I think will win.

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