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Episode 3

Last night’s Design Star was interesting, to say the least.  friends were over. wine spritzers were being made.  let the designing begin.

Where to start. oh yeah, hello, where it always starts:  Jazz.  I chose the Tuba because I thought visually the tuba is big, bold, metallic, and its sound is very distinctive – super low, slow,  and fat.  yes it sounds fat.  and phat.  wha, what? If i had to do it all over again, i would still have picked the tuba.  So what did I do, you ask? (at least that’s what my friends asked last night, ‘Emily, what exactly did you do?’)  Good questions, fans (they love it when I call them that), I shall tell you.

I wanted the terrace to be super relaxing, with furniture that is fall-in-able and hard-to-get-out-of-able, (what? those are real terms.  wikipedia that, yo).  So when we found these pieces of furniture that were all low to the ground and super comfortable, not to mention big round and fat, I was like,  ‘hello, tuba!!’ a phrase that was not underused the next two days.  Next we went to Zarin’s fabric where I had ‘claimed’ fabric (that’s what we all started to do, ‘claiming’ things so we made sure that we had something that couldn’t be taken from us) to make pillows.  I’m a bit of a whiz (in time, not necessarily in skill) at making throw pillows, so i bought enough to make  A TON, like 15, that we could throw on the furniture, on the floor, etc.  I wanted it to be a hangout where people would just read romance novels, maybe an US weekly,  for hours and hours while listening to well, yes Miles or Enya or Kenny G. yes, how did I not make any Kenny G references already, crap.


Back to the pillows. We wanted to stick to metallics, because while this isn’t a literal challenge, clearly most of the instruments are metallic and metallics are on-trend, look high end and are neutral at the same time (we already got our color taken care of with the barney walls and green plants).  So i bought a metallic silver linen, (always a favorite) a gold large scale damask (made modern by sitting next to the metallic linen) an eggplant linen, a gold morrocon-y print and white linen.  I was given 10 minutes to pick out fabric, which is like fabric sacrelige, one needs at least 1/2 hour to make the best combinations, but nope, literally 10 minutes.  I liked what I got, but wasn’t in love.

Then we went to Plantworks where we got three really big fig trees (my go-to for graphic, big modern plants that make a statement and are easy to care for) and a bunch of succulents to style the tabletop with (which doesn’t work necessarily that well with the fig trees, but we weren’t at a huge nursery with a trillion different plants, so they seemed like good choices). Stacey got some ivy for her engaging wall, there too.

Unfortunately we had missed the window to go uptown to the other outdoor furniture store, and traffic wasn’t helping.  We had planned a big dining table situation (for me and Kenny to eat creme brulee at) but now we were out of options.  This is where being on a reality competition is frustrating because you just want to ring your assistant (am I british now?), send them to IKEA and grab a teak dining set.  So instead, I get the not-so-brilliant idea that we can just make them with supplies from the hardware store.  I think I had the ‘I-can-do-anything-because-I-have-to’ fever.  It was a 24 hour thing, contagious for sure, and yes it made me a bit delusional.  At the hardware store I found these pretty tapered table legs in two different heights, so i thought – perfect, benches and table.  uh, what?  a mistake for sure, but I don’t know what else we could’ve done.  oops.

We got some plywood for the tops and some foam to upholster the tops of the benches.  Nina was totally right, they were architecturally insane.  They looked like piano benches up against a quite large table.  And they certainly didn’t belong outside, and not with the other half of the terrce – maybe the bench at the end of your bed, but not near your ‘fall-in-able’ furniture….yes, there is no stopping me from saying it, they were more ‘fall-off-able’.  BUT, heres the deal. They are actually kinda pretty.  I upholstered the top in the silver linen then trimmed them out with nailheads.  I made a white linen tablecloth and styled the top with the succulents, some wine glasses and a stack of plates. and it was pretty.  it was a ‘do-not-touch-under-any-circumstances’ a-la-house-of-cards-in-a-museum, but it was pretty and tasteful.  (for an indoor dining room in say, my apartment)  I’m not a carpenter and I don’t pretend to be one, so you have to judge everything in theory.  Theoretically if I had had the tools, supplies and skills I needed to make them properly, they could have been beautiful.  Dan helped me, but I almost don’t want to bring him into it because he actually is super talented and skilled when it comes to building and I don’t want my idiocy and lack of planning to taint his reputation.


Working with Dan.  I can’t say enough good things about this guy.  When I first met him, I was like ‘southerner?’ or ‘Williamsburger’? and lo and behold he’s a bit of both.  He’s the friendliest man on the planet and could probably beat out Obama in 2012 if he tried.  And he’s not friendly in the dorky sense, he’s still super cool and funny, just has manners like you wouldn’t believe.  If you’ve been wondering where all the chivalry went? he took it, he has it all.  His lady, Dasha, is a lucky woman. We were lucky to have him on our team.   And because Nina was humbled by being in the bottom last challenge she was much better to work with and really just stuck to her own thing.

About her thing.  I pretty much said it all last night.  I was pretty terrified about another Nina artwork, not being the biggest fan of the first one.  But when she said that  it was going to be architectural and modern, wood and brass on the wall, I thought, ‘ok, that could be tasteful’.  I think we just have very different styles. and yes, I was shocked when she won.  The reason I said something (which enflamed the only slightly dormant tension) was because I really didn’t want to go to elimination again.  its terrible up there.  and it last for hours and hours.  When Vern says that ‘its not a place  you want to be’, he’s so right you have no idea.  And her piece was so big, being the feature, that I feared it would send us to elimination.  I tried to be diplomatic and prefacing with  ‘I like what you had already up there’, but I think she saw through that and could tell that I was faking it.  I was picturing Vern saying, ‘Emily, you’re the stylist, why didn’t you stop this?’  a la basket disaster last week that I got somehow blamed for.  Do I regret saying it now?  nope.  But at the time i did, because the team fell apart for a while and Dan had to witness the DS version of ‘girls gone wild’ that probably tainted him for life.  I made a promise to myself not to stop people from making their own mistakes.  go ahead.  it’s your funeral.  only in this case, she won.  It was the biggest feature in the room and maybe it did resemble a french horn.  i dunno.  kinda speechless about the whole thing to be honest.  here it is again in case you missed it.


So here’s why working on a team for these challenges is extra tricky.  In case you are over music metaphors, i’ll switch it up for you and give you a Hollywood metaphor, as I do speak hollywood now.  It’s like taking 6 actors, putting them on a stage with blank paper and saying, ‘work together to write and perform a play’.   Here’s the catch, if your play is great then everyone is safe, but if it’s a bad play then whoever shines the least goes home.  So, everyone wants the leading role. everyone wants to be the star and nobody wants to be the character players.  But you NEED character players. You need the people to move the play forward, give comic relief, relate to the audience, help everything make sense or it WILL BE A BAD PLAY.  A play with 6 leading roles would turn out like ‘Valentines Day’, the movie, and a total narrative disaster, fragmented and un-engaging.


Same with a live-able space.  You can’t have 6 huge feature walls or big wow factors (i’m ashamed of the use of this cliche, but I fear its not gonna stop), or it will look like crazytown and no one, except maybe barney himself would live there.  Some of us aren’t the needing-to-be-the-star types. I told myself, just do pretty things that you aren’t embarrassed of and hopefully the judges will take note. And Dan certainly was a HUGE character player, he’s so great.  So was Casey, who even I forgot what she did, but i remember that she worked hard and it looked pretty.  Ultimately you do end up sacrificing attention for yourself to better the room in its entirety.  So when everyone says that no one is shining this season, I see what you mean, but hang in there.  Remember that the numbers dwindle every week, eventually there aren’t going to be very many people left and focusing the designs will be easier.  Hopefully.

About the room as a whole.  The barney purple shoulda been darker.  oops.  We did want it to be dark and urban, like jazz, but it wasn’t dark enough.  Often these colors when photographed go black really fast so I think we were scared of that.  It wasn’t the worst color ever, but it coulda been two shades darker, more of an eggplant, or aubergine if you are fancy.  which i am.



I loved the furniture, modern yet super comfy.  These were good choices that we all agreed upon immediately.  I loved the fig trees, although I wish we had more smaller plants to cluster around them.  I wish we had painted the wall navy blue and added some outdoor rugs (and lord did we try to find an outdoor rug, or any flooring solution, but we couldn’t).  I tried to make a huge bean bag, but failed. and I tried to make a huge ottomon from the stiffest foam ever, but it looked insane, so gave up on that one, too.

Ultimately a really really fun challenge. I loved working with Dan, Casey and Stacey.  I felt like I did some things that I was proud of, and finally I didn’t have to go to elimination.  finally. such a relief, you have no idea.

i’m gonna blog about the boys this week, tomorrow or wednesday, as this one already has lasted waaaay to long.  If you didn’t watch it, you can check it out here.


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