Last night was the big premiere of Design Star, Season 4, and since I’ve bonded over the past several months with Season 3 runner-up Matt Locke, I thought it’d be fun to trade dish with him after the episode aired. Unfortunately for me, he wanted to be all nice and stuff.

We did trade notes though, and I was SHOCKED at how much we disagreed. An architectural purist, Matt was wrecked from the get-go that none of the designers paid heed to the “glorious minimalism” of the home’s architecture. It’s a valid point, and if you measure all of the rooms against that criteria, it’s all one big fail. However, the art directors involved in the design of the rest of the house didn’t exactly set an example. The garish blue might sound like a good branding idea, but resulted in a space that looks like a mall kiosk. As a former branding expert myself, I think it’s possible to lead with branding ID (logos and whatnot) but then respect the fact that it is still a living space and layer more subtle versions of your brand’s palette where huge blocks of color are concerned (walls/floors).

As for the show’s first order of business, Matt and I totally butted heads on the election of Torie into the cast. I can’t help but think the first ten designers collectively went for the least threatening option for their #11 spot. Matt wasn’t as hung up on her portfolio as I was. Where I saw it as mediocre, he felt that, “it is what it is,” meaning, if she’s done a lot of model homes, her portfolio’s not going to be edgy. It’s going to play to the lowest common denominator. At the end of the day, I don’t want to see model home BS on this show as we did in the bedroom she and Jany designed for this challenge…but we’ll get to that later.

On to the rooms!

Amy, Antonio, & Lonni – Living Room

There was a record-setting thaw in my living room last night, folks. I was so against Antonio based on his audition reel and his lack of an online portfolio, but he came across as the strongest contender on his team (loved the fuscia geese). Another shocker…Lonni turned out to be a bitchy shrew. The way she referred to Antonio as “the hired help,” and how she kept yammering at him about how to install wallpaper? I wanted to smack her every bit as much as I’m sure he did. I didn’t really get much from Amy at all, frankly. Why she chose the black and white bare tree wallpaper to use as art is beyond me. Hasn’t this print been done to death already? Also thought it was a pretty novice mistake to feature so much single seating in the space…with three brains to draw from, someone should have caught this obvious faux pas. It seemed like a metaphor for their team—everyone in their solo corners.

Dan & Nathan – Dining Room

While I did appreciate the oversized graphic that flowed from one side of their dining room to the other, both Matt and I agreed that the wood cladding screamed “sauna.” I thought their dining table was boring and nothing I haven’t seen before. I would’ve voted to take that woodgrain and throw it into the table rather than the cladded walls. Architecture aside though, a dramatic first effort. In terms of TV appeal and raw potential, this room scored high points with me.

Jason & Jen – Bedroom #1

My first question is, why the bunk beds when you had a honkin’ huge bedroom? I hope the two of you volunteered to sleep up top, if you like the idea of bunking like a twelve-year old so much. As Matt pointed out, you still have a client to please—you and your co-competitors. Also, if Jen’s such an expert about color, tell me why we didn’t see much of it in this room? There was no attention paid to design fundamentals like scale, proportion, mood, and setting. Lots of hard edges for what should be a comfy bedroom. Redundant to include a desk when there’s a whole room dedicated to workspace elsewhere in the house. Rather than a desk and hard bench, why not throw a few beds over here so no one has to bunk it? The Astroturf rug looked like a placemat under the pony ottoman—I personally want to throw a tantrum over that travesty. If you’re going to spend $700 on a puny rug, make it work! I was dubious about Jen’s qualifications before and this room didn’t do her any favors in that regard. Jason just seems like a likeable oaf at this point.

Jany & Torie – Bedroom #2

This Texas twosome got together to tackle the master bedroom. I have to side with Vern on this one and say there’s no “wow” factor. The color palette is completely unoriginal and there’s something that irks me about seeing so many beds lined up in a row like some kind of fancy orphanage, but I’ll concede I’m spoiled after Season 3’s bedroom solution created by Matt and Mikey. With all of the space in the room, it seems like they could have really played with the arrangement. Nothing hideous, but nothing special. Like a model home. Hardly worth hiring you for TV over.

NataLee & Tashica – Bedroom #3

These poor ladies. First of all, “Hollywood Glam” = dead horse. Then when I saw the tape go down on the floor, my immediate thought was, “one of these girls is going home.” The first rule of a competitive reality show: learn from your predecessors. You don’t have time to pull of a patterned paint treatment on the floor with everything else that has to happen within the time constraints, unless you’re creating a border or something that won’t conflict with your traffic flow as you load and style the room. They didn’t seem to know how to adjust as things started going awry, and I’m going to be really horrified if the duct tape extravaganza was their way to compensate for inexperience with power tools. The fireplace and mirror-as-sunken-treasure idea was a disaster, and don’t even get me started on the sliced and diced comforters and rugs. I don’t know what Tashica did to warrant staying…all I saw her do was boss Natalee around. In the end, Natalee was the first to take a ride south in the creepy elevator of doom.

Next up: My chat with NataLee.