"Never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television." So said the writer Gore Vidal, and although it would be indiscreet to discuss the first part of that maxim, I recently followed his advice on the latter. ELLE DECOR is partnering with Bravo on the network's new reality-competition series, Top Design, which is being produced in Los Angeles, and with barely any warning I found myself literally moving into the Beverly Hills Four Seasons with my laptop, more luggage than you can imagine, and a huge stack of books I was going to read in my spare time. How hopelessly naive of me. There was no spare time.
I honestly can't believe that I lived there for a month, and how much you can accomplish via e-mail and FedEx. And even though I'm addicted to Project Runway and am mesmerized by Top Chef, I still loathe most other reality TV shows. However, the opportunity to spend four weeks with the lead judge - my good friend the ceramist/decorator/shopkeeper/bon vivant Jonathan Adler - was simply too temptimg to pass up. Plus, we were joined by the show's charming host, Todd Oldham, who has designed everything from frocks to furniture, and the glamorous interior designer Kelly Wearstler, my cojudge, whose dry wit made the long days a hell of a lot more fun.
Unfortunately, it didn't start out particularly well. On the morning of the first day of taping, I sliced my toe badly at the hotel, and shamelessly begged the kind UCLA surgeon who stitched me to make the bandage tiny so that I could fit into the absurdly high heels I was expected to wear that afternoon (and that evening and the next morning - little did I know we wouldn't finish shooting until 4:30 A.M.). Once we met the contestants and reviewed the results of the first challenge I was hooked. It was thrilling to see what up-and-coming talents can create in shockingly little time with barely any budget. Frankly, if I were a Top Design contender, I would have been sent home after the first episode; the designers truly acheive what anybody else (like me, for instance) would consider impossible.
The best thing about the experience so far - besides discovering the quickest route from Hollywood to Santa Monica - is having seen how much energy and enthusiasm there is in young decorators, some of them on the first rung of their careers. ELLE DECOR'S involvement with Top Design is just a start; you'll be seeing more budding talents in our pages, and we're going to begin to check out what's happening at the nation's design schools, from Parsons and Pratt to the Savannah College of Art and Design. Good design has to start somewhere, and believe me, we'll be on it. So stay tuned.
- Margaret Russell, Editor in Chief