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Last week on Top Design, we saw the inevitable and long overdue elimination of Shazia. The morning after her elimination, no one is too broken up about her ouster. In fact, no one is even mentioning her. Eddie is completely sick of working in teams. He wants to have complete creative freedom. Teresa thinks she’s been under utilized up to this point. So far, she’s just been the painter. Natalie thinks that her age (she’s just 24) means she has to prove herself. Andrea talks about how much she misses her kids – all 4 of them.

Back at the faux design studio, India and Kelly greet the designers. This week, they will be working individually. They’d better have some stamina because this week’s challenge is a triathlon – the Top Design Triathlon. It will test their creative vision, their styling and their versatility. Nathan is concerned: he’s not an athlete, he’s a smoke-a-lete. There will be three legs of the race and they must perform well in each leg because those in the bottom may face elimination.

The first leg of the triathlon is the chair leg. Har. There are ten unfinished chairs from which the designers have to pick one. They will have 2 hours to transform the chair with paint, stain and fabric to show their artistic vision and creativity. The overall winner for the triathlon, as well as the winners of each leg of the triathlon will get immunity from elimination. Andrea is worried: her style is classic and simple. She doesn’t do “wow.”

As they begin to work, Andrea observes that Teresa’s chair isn’t so great: she’s upholstering and, not only are the staples showing, but the stripes on the fabric aren’t straight. Ondine tells us her chair is inspired by Betsey Johnson, her favorite designer from high school. Ondine watches Natalie work and thinks her chair is over the top. Nathan tells us his chair is “good looking.” It involves bright blue paint and gold lame with splotches of paint on it. For me, a picture of that chair isn’t in the dictionary next to “good looking.” Eddie says he doesn’t want a wow factor, he wants a “glam factor” and a “beauty factor.” He thinks his chair is perfection.

Kelly and India make the rounds to review everyone’s work. Kelly loves the design Wisit painted on the fabric of his chair. He tells them he painted the fabric to show his versatility. Eddie tells the judges he didn’t just want silver. That’s why he painted the chair chartreuse and upholstered the chair in gold and black stripes. Natalie went for traditional with a pop of modern. Andrea looks worried. She didn’t run out of time, but did have a hard time getting the fabric on the chair. It actually looks like she tied it on in places. Teresa went for simple and modern, but doesn’t think her chair is boring. Ondine admits she took a risk with the bright pink paint and pom pom edging. Kelly agrees she took a risk, but thinks it worked. Nathan wanted his chair to be fashion and art combined.

Now it’s time for India and Kelly to choose the winners and losers. The bottom two are Natalie and Teresa. India tells Teresa she should have restrained a bit with her design. Kelly says it reminds her of a Vegas hotel…15 years ago. Kelly then tells Teresa that her chair was just an upholstery job and not a very good one. The top designers are Nathan, Eddie and Ondine. India says Nathan’s chair was one-of-a-kind and loud in a good way. Kelly agrees. India tells Eddie they loved his chair: it made a bold statement. Kelly thinks the chair is great and knows the finish took a long time. Ondine took a risk with her design and the judges know it. Kelly thinks the design has an iconic feel to it. The winner of the first leg of the triathlon is Nathan.

On the Table
For leg two of the triathlon, the designers meet up with India and Jonathan Adler. This time, the challenge involves dining tables. Jonathan explains that the table setting is a perfect microcosm of design, including color, texture, scale and taste. Each designer chooses one set of table and chairs to work with. They will have 30 minutes and $500 to spend in the Top Design showroom. They will then have 2 hours to complete the challenge. Teresa knows that, after her chair snafu, she needs to save face. Natalie knows her chair was a bust as well. In an effort to show the judges something different, she decides to create a table design that’s the complete opposite of what she has previously done.

They only have two hours to work and Nathan knows exactly what he’s going to do. He’ll be making the table more bohemian instead of going the formal route everyone else seems to be following. Natalie is always told she needs to learn how to edit, so she’s going to try to cut down on the clutter with her design. Preston says his table design will be Napa Valley with his mom for Mother’s Day. Andrea’s theme is her daughter Faith’s birthday, so the table will be girly and feminine.

Andrea finds herself sandwiched between Eddie and Preston, who are both talented and seem to know exactly what they want to do. Cut to Teresa painting the plates she chose. Why is she covering them with paint? Why not just buy a different color altogether? Eddie tells us that his mother is his biggest design influence. This will make the judges’ comments later even more ironic.

Time’s up and Jonathan and India make their rounds. Apparently, Teresa’s painted plates were helping her with an informal, “somewhat Zen” relaxing dinner with warm colors. Natalie tried to do the opposite if her usual design. Jonathan says the taste level isn’t there with her flowers, but he likes the rest of the design. Jonathan likes the shell votive holders Eddie created. Andrea admits that her home is more rustic than the table she designed: this table was her chance to be more sophisticated.

Nathan imagined a late brunch in a seaside cottage. Both India and Jonathan like the fact that Nathan didn’t take a typical approach. Preston envisioned a family sit-down brunch. India thinks there’s a lot going on with the flowers: it looks more like a flower shop than a table setting. Wisit describes the dinner party he would hold, which involves his opera singing as the entertainment. He gives the judges a little sample of his song stylings. I’m pretty sure I heard a glass break. Ondine tells the judges she designed her table as a Southern garden party held by Lily Pulitzer. Jonathan tells Ondine he’s gotten a sense of who she is over the past few weeks and this isn’t her. Ondine agrees with him.

The designers gather to hear the judges’ decision. The bottom two are Ondine, who showed no emotional connection between herself and the table setting, and Preston, whose table looked like it belonged in a flower shop. The top two are Eddie, whose table was so chic it could have been in a magazine, and Nathan, who chose to deconstruct the whole idea of the table. The winner of the second leg of the triathlon and Eddie is piiiiissed. He looks like Martha when things don’t go her way on the Early Show. Nathan is sure he’s going to be poisoned for winning the first two challenges.

Baby Poop and Flowers
The next morning, the designers are all tried and anxious as they await the third and final leg of the triathlon. India and Margaret are judges for this leg of the triathlon. The goal is to create a breathtaking space. Margaret tells the designers that they need to be innovative and inventive as designers. India tells them they must take inspiration from nature to create a breathtaking room designed for a photo shoot. The winning room will be photographed for Elle Décor Magazine. There’s one catch: they will be doing their shopping in one location: a garden center. They will have $1,000 and 45 minutes to shop. Eddie says he only wants to do pretty with his design. Teresa immediately decides on a Zen courtyard space and Natalie wants her room to be very Martha’s Vineyard. Andrea will be doing an indoor/outdoor vegetable garden because that’s what she would want for herself.

This is the first time the designers will be working in the Top Design studio space. This is basically a warehouse with separate design spaces marked off. Everyone immediately starts painting. Wisit decides on a “Springtime in Paris” theme with a faux-paneled room in pale grey. Ondine is going 60s pop with bright green and white. Teresa claims to be creating a peaceful Zen space while painting her walls a dark red. Yeah, that’s peaceful. Just like a nose bleed.

Nathan isn’t happy at all with how his space is progressing. He knows it’s horrible, especially the paint color. He’s already unhappy when Teresa shows up and notes that she and Nathan are doing the same paint finish. Mortified, he repaints everything without the special finish. Still, it looks like baby poop. Preston imagines his grandmother hanging out in his room. Eddie observes Teresa’s room and faux-compliments her. He then comments that those tobacco colors of hers are giving him smoker’s cough. Natalie talks about her mother’s death and tells us she believes her mother is watching over her.

At the end of the day, the designers return to the loft to talk about each other and drink. The guys take turns bagging on Teresa’s design while Andrea looks on. While she thinks Eddie’s got the good design-wise, she thinks he’s not always genuine. Gee, ya think?

The next morning, the designers have an hour in their spaces to put on the finishing touches. Eddie is feeling confident about his chances in the competition. Teresa is also feeling confident about her hideous design.

Here Come the Judges
Time’s up and the judges review the designers’ work. First up is Preston, who painted stripes on the walls in his space. India asks if he thinks the space would work for a photo shoot. He goes into a long explanation of how the stripes would compliment the arched back of the chair he selected. Either that or it would look like an optical illusion where you can’t tell if the stripes are curved or not. Can I just take a moment to note that Kelly Wearstler seems to be channeling Marge Simpson this week? If anyone lights a match around her hair, the whole set will go up in flames.

Next up is Teresa. Her design makes Jonathan look constipated. She admits to the judges that she was going to do a water feature but, dude, do you know how expensive those are? Wisit explains that he wanted to convey Springtime in Paris, he used very pale colors that would show off the flowers. Jonathan deems it connoisseurial and thoughtful.

Nate tried to evoke a beach shack in Baja with his design. It’s not indoor or outdoor: it’s a transitional space. Natalie created a sun room off a garden, while Ondine’s designed a 1960s pop hangout room. Andrea says it was a no-brainer to do an edible garden. Jonathan wishes she’d used her materials more creatively.

Eddie spends a lot of time on the Hudson River and wanted his design to reflect the big mansions there. He used the big bird bath in the center for the glam factor. Kelly says she senses a little “granny factor” in Eddie’s design. Eddie looks aghast at the suggestion. I think he did the Gay Gasp.

The judges have a little pow wow to discuss the designs. Jonathan thinks the vision of some designers came though, but others didn’t show the judges their style. Margaret Russell liked Natalie’s design on the third leg of the triathlon. Kelly agrees and says Natalie stepped up her work for the chair on the first leg. Kelly definitely didn’t think Eddie’s room design had a glam factor. It was more like a “granny factor” agrees Jonathan. Margaret loved Preston’s chair design, but India thinks his table and room designs were complacent.

Kelly liked Wisit’s room and Jonathan agrees: Wisit seems to have had more ideas than any of the other designers. Jonathan is puzzled by Nathan’s room design. He seemed to just throw a bunch of stuff into the room. It’s such a contrast to his amazing table design. Jonathan was not wowed by Ondine in the triathlon and Margaret thinks Andrea’s room looks like she threw a bunch of stuff together. Jonathan compliments Teresa’s choice of plants for her room, but says that’s the only good thing about the design. Kelly agrees: there was no cohesiveness. Margaret thinks it was a nothing space and likens it to a place where you’d wait for valet parking.

The Winner and the Big Loser
The designers file in to face the judges. India congratulates them on completing another challenge and says it was enlightening to see the designers’ individual work. The winner of leg three of the triathlon is Natalie. Her room will be photographed for Elle Décor. The overall winner for the Top Design Triathlon is, unsurprisingly, Nathan. Both Nathan and Natalie are safe this week.

Preston, Eddie, Wisit and Ondine have all done enough in the challenge to be safe. That leaves Andrea and Teresa as the bottom two. Jonathan asks Teresa which of the three legs she feels was her most successful. She liked her Zen courtyard and feels it was indicative of her design aesthetic. Margaret says her choice of plants was great, but the rest of the design didn’t gel. Jonathan tells Teresa this was an opportunity for her to do something unexpected and conceptual and she just didn’t. Kelly says Teresa’s chair wasn’t as dramatic as she’d hoped.

Kelly Wearstler tells Andrea that the things she’s done in all of the challenges have lacked contrast. Andrea agrees that she has stayed inside her comfort zone. Kelly urges her to dig deeper into the color palette. Jonathan admits he was disappointed in Andrea’s work on the third leg of the challenge. Andrea says she’s found it difficult to be inspired when she’s in the same surroundings every day. Jonathan worries that her work is bordering on insipid. India encourages Andrea: she’s a red hot chick – she should go out and get some inspiration.

The judges discuss the bottom two and their disastrous performances. India says it’s time to decide which of them is a designer and which of them is merely a contestant. Oooo, burn. The judges agree that Teresa’s style is getting quieter. Jonathan says he would have been thrilled if Teresa had done the Zen garden brilliantly. The judges wonder where Andrea’s voice was in her design. Kelly thinks Andrea needs to open up her paint fandex and explore. Jonathan agrees: he would love to see her use a jolt of color. Margaret also agrees: Andrea’s colors are just boring Kelly thinks that, not only are Andrea’s colors bland, but her execution was poor.

Teresa and Andrea return to face the judges. As India prepares to announce the judges’ decision, Teresa looks like the smells a fart. Jonathan tells Andrea that she’s been a little too “one note” lately. Teresa was given a chance to show the judges who she is as a designer and she ended up in the bottom three in two of the three legs of the triathlon. The bad paint job is on the wall: Teresa is out. She tells us she’s sad to leave: she thinks she’s the weakest competitor, but not the weakest designer. Teresa is clear about how she designs, but just wasn’t able to do her thing in this competition. She thanks the judges for the opportunity and tells us she’s excited to see what’s coming for her next.

Next Week: We’re halfway through the competition and it’s time for shake up.