Million Dollar Divas…

So who watched Million Dollar Decorators last night?

I did, and if you follow me on Twitter (@elementstyle) you already know that during the first half of last night’s premiere of I had the sudden urge to quit my job.  If what was displayed and the attitudes that were personified by the professional designers they chose to be on that show is what people think I do for a living, then I want no part of it. I’m not even kidding, after popping a few Tums I went to bed stressing about the level of shallowness associated with what I’ve chosen to do for a living. But let’s step back for a minute and review….

All of the designers on the show are ones I have positively blogged about here- Mary McDonald, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Nathan Turner, Kathryn Ireland and Jeffrey Allan Marks. They all have done AMAZING work- truly stuff that has inspired me and taught me- but their attitudes and approach as shown on the show last night were unattractive at best. Editing can make anyone look like a monster (trust me, if I was edited I would look like the biggest bitch ever, I’m sure, which is why I’ve turned down TV work so far- but more on that tomorrow…) But I still shut off the tube with a really bad feeling about how designers are portrayed. Let’s dissect one by one….


One of my favorite bedrooms by Mary

The one I was the most interested in because her work is my FAVORITE.  To be as big as she is, she obviously has not been sunshine and hugs her whole career, but the way she talked to her clients is something I could never fathom doing. I never tell people they “CAN’T have something” in their house (i.e. the piano.) I mean, it’s their house and their money, I just find a way to make it work and look the best it can!  But then again, Mary considered her client’s house “hers”- as illustrated by her horrifyingly selfish reaction to her client’s divorce announcement (“This is a tragedy! I love this house. I mean, it’s MY house!” and “I thought you were going to tell me something really terrible, like you lost all your money!”) Say whaaaaaaaaaaat? I suspect that was all said in jest, because clearly the client was already getting divorced/on some killer meds/didn’t give a shit. The one thing that perked me up was when Nathan said that Mary was the inspiration for Karen Walker on Will & Grace, who is only my favorite character ever. If that is true, I forgive Mary for her transgressions last night. That and her slew of puppies (us crazy, sorry, kooky dog ladies have to stick together).


(Tavern in LA- I ate here- it is GORGEOUS)

Jeffrey, Jeffrey, Jeffrey. He is fantastically good looking and his boyfriend/hired help is even more good looking. I have a feeling these two spend days staring in the mirror and telling each other “come here and see how good I look!” The little opening line about how Jeffrey thinks his job is “more important than the president of the united states”- again, no doubt a joke, but edited to seem serious, made a wave of nausea crash down on my already sick stomach. And the fact that he has TWO assistants named Demetra and Dimitra reaches beyond “funny” and into more creepy territory. Who knows, they may have been cast because I know they do that (I was told I needed to have a “sassy, gay assistant” cast for me on a potential show).


I do absolutely love this.

Sharon Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne,Sharon Osbourne, Elton John, Sharon Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne.

From our twitter chats I take it some of you thought he was entertaining, for me he was like having a red hot poker shoved in my eyes and ears while laying on a bed of nails. Could he be any more affected, self-absorbed and NAME DROPPING?? I seriously could not listen to him say “delicious” “I’m an interior design staaaaaaar” or “I can’t take jobs with budgets under a million” without putting a pillow over my head. Thank God for Sharon who stole the show with her appearance. I am sure Martyn is ratcheting up his personality for TV, but I for one want the volume turned DOWN.  And that accent. WTF.


Her typical laid back look

I heard Kathryn speak last year and she was delightfully funny (and a previous blog sponsor, believe it or not). I feel like she’ll be the most entertaining of the crew with her one liners and slightly off-beat approach to the business. While she too made shallow quips about “thing thing her clients have in common is they are RICH” and how she doesn’t get out of bed for less than a million (I however, will get out of bed for like, I dunno, $100 bucks?), she also had the best lines of the show regarding wine and her wacky old French housekeeper, the fact that her memoir should be called Food, Sex and Decorating (genius) and my favorite “I hate it when people try to drown other people!” about her sons playing in the pool. And I loved her comments this morning on her Huffington post review: ” If only I had taken Margaret Russell’s  advice and insisted on hair and makeup, not to mention losing 15 pounds before the show was taped instead of after, I would have no negative comments.” Margaret does know best, and speaking of, a show about her behind the scenes life would be something I’d LOVE to see!


So lovely and simple

He won me over as my favorie as soon as he was playing bullfighter with the Black Lab in Kathryn’s shop using $120 a yard fabric. I mean, really. He was sweet, funny and the least uppity about their job.  Running a retail store is hard and humbling work, so I think this is where he defines himself. I adored the effort he put into having Kathryn’s cake made (even though it was a creepy hacked torso) but even better was Kathryn’s reaction of “Nathan! How could you get my cup size wrong!?” :)

After some thought I realize that Bravo is clearly designing and scripting this to be an over the top, Housewives type show where our jaws drop over the huge sums of money and bitchiness. But that is the reason I have never watched any Housewives shows– I don’t find it that funny but rather quite sad.  And since this is a show about what I do and the people I thought I was emulating, I was super, duper critical.  I’m sure to those who are not designers it was a delicious little bit of fantasy television. I’m not going to go off about how gross it is to be throwing around $30,000 like it’s pocket change in this economy with the problems of the world that we have to worry about, because this is about escapism. But I do hope that future episodes are a little bit more about the stress and hard work it takes to do what we do (I suspect it will be) and less about how shallow decorating seems. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when a client has a big budget, and it’s fun to be able to work with beautiful objects and wondrous fabrics, but I truly do appreciate the artistry and the price tag and treat the ability to work with these things with true respect. It’s easy to be become affected when your clients all have ungodly amounts of money and shopping at Baker becomes equivalent to shopping at Target, but I for one hope I never, ever become that way. Plus, I love Target.

Your thoughts??


  1. The attitudes and snobbery really didn’t bother me but it could be that I’m immune to that behavior on Bravo. My husband has the same reaction as you did and Bravo personalities really disgusts him, but I’ve always found it, while sad, more comical and that’s how I saw the ridiculous comments and poor behavior among these designers…they aren’t meant to be taken seriously. It’s just a caricature of the mindset and attitue in LA. I thought an example of that was when Mary prefaced her “I can easily spend $5 million on a house” with “this is going to sound repulsive” (or something like that). They know their personalities are being exagerated and they’re playing for the camera.

    If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t think for a second that this is typical behavior of interior designers and reflect poorly on the profession. It’s a reality show and they’re going to have to keep it interesting for more than just those of us who are obsessed with the beautiful designs that are being created. I share your sentiment that it’s disappointing we can’t get a sneak peak into what the lives of these amazingly talented designers are really like, but I’m sure that wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining to everyone else. I’ll continue watching the show and just plan to dismiss (or at least role my eyes) at the side comments.

  2. I wanted to hurl.

    Still, I want to see the houses!, so I’ll keep tuning in. Thankfully, my muscle for ignoring ridiculous, obnoxious personalities is in good enough working order that, by week three at least, I probably won’t notice a thing!

  3. Erin, I love how you have the courage to say what everyone else thinks. I’m not a Housewives watcher either, but I am an HGTV addict – and am hoping that we’ll see more “work” in future episodes. I was trying to follow along on Twitter while watching The Voice (which aired at the same time) and could tell by the Tweets that people seemed disappointed and appalled. I am with you….I think Nathan will win everyone over – he seems the most genuine, even though Jeffrey’s style resonates the most with me.

  4. Erin, I totally forgot to watch the show. I’d seenthe previews duing “Pregnant in Heels” and thought I wanted to see it…after reading your review…I am tempted to tivo it. I love your work…and know what you mean when people burst your bubble…or have the wrong impression about what you do.

  5. All I kept thinking was… Please with a million dollar budget a ‘designer to the stars’ would have to be downright awful not to nail it out of the park!! I’ll stick to the REAL design shows – that decorate on a dime that’s a real challenge. If I want divas… I’ll watch the housewives!!!

  6. I can understand why you would be upset…I feel the same way watching HGTV’s “Selling New York (I’m a former hard working “regular” market Realtor). Ugh.

  7. Thank God my quips throughout the premiere were popping into anothers head.
    I swear to God we could make a drinking game up with every time Martyn name dropped & the accent was more Thurston Howell than Oxford. PS… The Osbourne apt was not so fab. Whose idea was it to directly place the b& w photos behind the lamps on that sideboard??? You could not see them at all.
    Nathan did come off the best especially when he mentioned that while not everyone could afford his pieces, everyone could visit…true professionalism.
    I’m in agreement with the Bravoesque style that the show is taking but I’ll give it another chance. Better high style bitchiness than no class bitchiness of their other progamming.
    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a truly stylish network???

  8. Sooo relived to hear you say that. I was in a funk for the entire day. I didn’t want to work and felt really low about my business. When my client called I couldn’t bring myself to discuss our wallpaper choices because I felt “what kind of designer am I for not forcing DeGournay on her?”, “I can’t believe I’m carrying 20 yards of fabric at $40/yd to my upholsterer”. So happy to hear others were as disgusted with the shallowness and clearly affected group. I have never been a fan of M.M. but she has now moved from the ‘not a fan’ category to ‘eeeeeeewwwwwww’.

    I don’t agree though with your take on the exageration of Bravo style television. These people are who they are. You follow me through the day and you’ll see me being kind and gracious to all my vendors. I don’t play that.

  9. Erin, Go You! You are proof that not everyone with impeccable style and taste is a miserable excuse for a human. I tuned in to “Decorators” to be inspired by brilliant people and great design and instead was appalled by the vomit worthy bad behavior. Could they have been more totally in love with themselves?! I don’t care where ya get your hair and face “did,” Mary’s response to Kendra’s divorce news made me want to scratch her botoxed little eyes out, give her strange little friend a hug and hand her a tissue (in the hopes that might elicit some show of emotion?) I hope seeing her own behavior last night drives Mary to intense therapy. And Martyn, you’re ruining the good standing and reputations of fabulously stylish, warm and charming homosexuals all over the world, or at least in the 7 countries you’re currently working in. Seriously? That needed to be said? Ya coulda stopped with Elton John, I think we got the picture…….you’re on a show after all, don’t think you need to remind us how legit you are. Money might buy style, it might even by someone with style to have it for you, it might eeeeven by killer lamps so you can fake it, but it doesn’t by class. Ya buncha douches.

  10. Erin, It is so refreshing to see you have the courage to speak out on this trashy show. I don’t think they were ratcheting it up for the cameras, I think that is their true personality — just full of themselves. The reality is that they are not top designers, they just have good marketing firms. Solid money doesn’t hire these people, only pretentious money does. I don’t see any real talent there. They can easily be replaced by designers who are good business people.

  11. I admit I got caught up in the glam of it all. But hey, I watch the housewives too, but my opinion is fairly pragmatic, and I’m always grateful that I don’t think and behave like they do. That being said, It’s easy to do great design work with million dollar budgets. The real challenges are creating beautiful spaces with less than adequate budgets….that’s where the creativity comes in. I would be curious to see what they could do with a $10K budget for a whole house! I’m looking at this series like I would a gothic novel with hundreds of pages of great character development….why do people do what they do, and having a fabulous time trying to figure them out.

  12. So glad I wasn’t the only one who cringed and turned off the television (I only saw snippets of it here in the UK). I think the most important job as a designer is to enrich people’s lives, and that’s the kind of thing I want to see on a television show, not a bunch of self-important tyrants!

  13. I hate to say it but every decorator I have ever worked has acted in the same manner as these idiots on this show. Not only is everyone, male or female, a complete diva but they are horrible, horrible gossips. Word of advice, tell nothing to a decorator/designer that you would not have printed on the front page of the New York Post. Nothing is kept in confidence.

  14. I’ve actually witnessed similar behavior in the ‘design blogger’ arena. It’s quite comical really. One designer/blogger actually responded to a fawning admirer, “I’m really down to earth,” as though they were the Queen granting an audience to a thrilled minion, all the while complaining about how overworked and stressed they were as they HAD to hop the next plane to Podunk without skuffing their Louboutins. As though the Podunk gig was akin to redoing the White House and a BIG inconvenience. Pouting drama queens and shades of high school. I think I’ll stick with Gardening.

  15. I agree with the person that said they’ve seen that behavior in the ‘design blogger’ arena. Some of the newer bloggers are especially guilty.

    I’m not sure what ‘part’ they are trying to play. I have known Kelly Wearstler for years. I have been to her home several times and accompanied her on some shopping trips. Kelly is bigger than all these designers and her wealth surpasses all of them put together yet not once have I seen that attitude from her. I think they believe that this is the expected behavior of the “handful of designers at this level” as was so humbly stated.

  16. Erin,

    First, thank you for the review! You must, must, must, do this after each show. I would like your genuine opinion on the work shown and a little snippiness;) about their appalling behavior. I think you should start doing VLOGS on this site. You can record a trip to the fabric store, you in your design room etc. If TV producers will twist your words than why not be YOUR OWN producer?! Love you, love the site, its keeps my spirits high while sitting in “cubicle land” :)

  17. Haven’t watched it yet. I’m sure it’s half real attitude and half network making them act more bitchy. I used to work for an Interior Designer who was shooting a pilot (also for Bravo) and though I thought it was genuinely funny and good, they wanted her to act more bitchy toward her staff. It was interesting to see how much they ask you to do for television. I was put in an office that wasn’t mine and was given lines. Oh yeah, and pretended to work on a Saturday night. Ha!

  18. Hi Erin, I did not watch the show but can only imagine how it went down based on your commentary! Thank you for your candid summary.

    On a positive note, I liked how your summary opened up how you feel about the industry and how you look at your career, very commendable. Like most designers, I love beautiful pieces and costly fabrics but I believe it takes a real artist to pull together a design using commonplace items. I completely agree with you, I love Target. Making design affordable for all people is where I get my greatest reward. Lastly, you’re absolutely correct about the inappropriateness of throwing around $30,000 as if it’s petty cash. That’s irresponsible and inappropriate no matter what economy we’re in, but especially this one!

    Thankfully, blogs like yours keep the industry real and gives people a relate-able personality to be inspired by, thank you.

  19. haha you summed it up perfectly! but that’s definitely not going to stop me from watching the entire season .. the designs are still great and I’m excited to see more .. plus HGTV hasn’t really been coming up with any good design shows lately so I’ll take what I can get!!!

  20. Oh did not watch! Thank goodness for your blog for keeping me in tune….will watch the next episode, but it sounds hellish! I totally don’t get that design superstar attitude either. We (hopefully) make gorgeous spaces, we don’t solve the world’s problems!

  21. That’s is the reason I hate drama and also reality shows. It’s sad to see how is the world changing, going in a direction that’s frightening. No more Oprah instead, we have Snookienastiness. I mean, What is going on? You know what I think it’s… the fact that class and discretion don’t exist anymore, the fact that TV shows don’t care about values and decency. When you hear a reporter talking about drugs use and how bad it is and then we hear them using a term “Heroin chic” to describe that person’s appearance, how in the world can they mix heroine and chic in a same sentence? what do you think it’s going to happen in our society? Well there is going to be that stupid mentality of self-destruction and self-vainglorious that becomes like a competition for who is more in all things wrong and who proves it better. What they don’t know is that like everything else in life, the consequences are coming for sure.

  22. Erin,
    I had a hell of a week— but I could not miss MDD. Iwas waiting for it….
    Boy was I disappointed ,
    I like the work of the designers too, but by and large they looked like A-holes.
    I was really hoping for a glimpse of how they get things done.
    Instead it was super crass in large part.
    I may give it one more chance, but that is it. I have much much better things to do.
    Love your candor, as always.
    Lynn from Decor Arts Now

  23. I’m a very nice person, and I love nice people in return……..but who really cares if these act like they’re full of it? It’s the talent that I’m tuning in for! Love Marys work…….but the best part was that none of them did anything that I couldn’t do……so yay confidence booster! :)

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