Treat Walls Like a CanvasBig, bold and graphic is the best way to capture Jennifer's interpretation of Italy. This room is successful for many reasons, including the fact that she has managed to showcase what her unique design perspective truly is. The bright yellow walls outlined with abstract floral motifs outlined in dark blue easily suggest the painted pottery that Italy is so famous for, while the rustic finish on the coffee table subtly suggests the Italian countryside. Although I am less of a fan of the finishing touches that almost seem like an afterthought, Jennifer scores big by thinking big. Walls are the biggest opportunity to make a design statement, and she seizes the moment by innovatively transforming these large surfaces into works of art.
Employ Texture and DetailAlthough Thailand is known for its rich architectural and design heritage, none of it is evident in this disastrous attempt to capture its spirit in this room. Going back to an idea that had previously worked so successfully for him, Matt pulls together all of his disparate pieces to form one large central object. This time, however, the object is devoid of character or personality. With little of the detail or richness of textures that Thailand is known for, it becomes difficult to ascertain what country is represented here. What we see is an attempt to capture the appreciation of line over pattern that oftentimes characterizes the undercurrent of Asian design, but it doesn’t quite get all the way there. At the very least, Matt demonstrates that he is trying to capture the essence of the culture rather than the superficial elements most people automatically grab on to. What would have made this a much more successful adaptation of Thailand’s design aesthetic would have been an inclusion of texture and detail on the walls and on the singular object represented.
Shapes to Suggest a CultureThis challenge requires contestants to be quick on their feet in order to translate the essence of a country within the confines of three walls and a floor. Contestants must expeditiously identify two or three colors that will signal what their country is all about. For most people, tan, black and emerald green do not represent the passion, cultural richness and vibrancy often associated with Spain. Furthermore, Michael chooses to employ very strong horizontal lines that give the room a severe architectural edge, whereas Spain is most often associated with Moorish-style architecture and the very organic and curvilinear approach of famous structures like the Sagrada Familia by Gaudi and the Guggenheim at Bilbao by Frank Gehry. Michael could have better demonstrated his time spent in Spain by showcasing a more free-form and organic composition featuring the rich reds, oranges, blues or yellows that Spain is known for. Instead, the hard and clean horizontal lines paired with the geometric central detailing and the black-and-white brush stroke artwork almost suggest China or the minimalist Far East rather than the ripeness and abundance of the Spanish culture.
Abstract Adds SophisticationUnfortunately, this room more closely resembles Thai takeout than the true essence of Thailand. Whereas Matt went to the extreme of capturing the minimalist design aesthetic often associated with this culture without also capturing the detailed richness that is often paired with it, Mikey V. is over the top in his employment of calligraphy-like wall paintings and paper lanterns, but fails to capture the restraint and understatement most often associated with this country. His room borders on being a caricature, but there are some genuinely good things about his effort. The inventive use of square upholstered seating pushed together in the middle makes a clean, minimalist statement without dominating his transformation, as compared to Matt's effort where all we see is one massive element. Mikey V. also skillfully injects some nice details in his space, such as the river-rock edging on the floor and the bamboo molding that forms an architectural wainscot. This effort finally demonstrates that Mikey V. is not just a handyman, but that he is also capable of some seriously inventive design.
Contrast for Powerful StatementsSmooth, sleek and suggestive of a high-end Mexican resort are the best ways to describe this successful effort by Stephanie. This room reaches beyond the cliché of Mexico as a bright and sunny fiesta filled with intense colors and delivers a sophisticated take on the high-end resorts that this beautiful country is also known for. By employing high contrast with white furnishings and accessories against black walls, Stephanie showcases the importance of contrast as a design tool to make powerful statements in big and graphic ways. The total simplicity of her room also conveys an elegance that we have not previously seen in Stephanie’s work and is a solid indicator that she is capable of designing in many styles.
Saturated Colors Grab AttentionItaly offers a wide variety of cultural experiences and Tracee's take on this country showcases the bold and modern design that can often be found there. By utilizing an attention-grabbing red color with black-and-white banding to add architectural interest, this room immediately demands attention. A bed that resembles a gondola, an organic cut-out that resembles an antique mirror and a representation of a chandelier-like element give the room an interesting two-dimensional feel that makes this room feel more like a cartoon set than a three-dimensional space. Ultimately, however, contestants are asked to push their boundaries to think outside the box and Tracee’s first individual project demonstrates that she has a definitive design perspective.
Texture and Smooth SurfacesBlack and white with a fresh infusion of lime green is the beginning of a great take on Mexico by Trish. Like Stephanie, Trish forgoes stereotypical depictions of Mexico and chooses to focus on the high-end, minimalist Mexico that is often showcased in the country's beautiful resorts. Trish has the right balance of textural and smooth, contrasting a floor that resembles worn slate, an interesting coffee table covered in bamboo and textured fabric on her upholstery with perfectly graphic wall forms and highly polished mirror shelves to reflect candlelight. By never going too far in one direction or the other, Trish is able to put together an incredibly harmonious space that feels balanced and innovative all at the same time.