Hell is other people: Million Dollar Decorators.

Now, when Bravo inexplicably took away Top Design from us, that small portion of the population that is both obsessed with design and crappy television, we wept a little inside and made do with Design Star and Real Housewives. But when Bravo announced this new MILLION DOLLAR DECORATOR show we did a little YIPPEEE inside!!!!

(Speaking of those housewives and all the Bravo Shows, I figured out a part of why I like them so much, and what makes them so ridiculous… I even managed to garner out a little lesson for us all to learn from them. These shows seem so ridiculous BECAUSE everyone is so important in their own mind. MAYBE they REALLY ARE important in the little society within which they live, but once its taken out of context and put on TV for us all to see, it seems like they are narcissistic egomaniacs even though that attitude may be founded in the reality of how people treat them. SO- No matter how important you think you are in your own little world, never lose sight of the fact that to the world at large, even being Kelsey Grammer’s ex-wife or the aunt of Paris Hilton doesnt quite mean what you think it means. I think this is what made Bethany the stand out star and so appealing- she knows this is all a joke and she managed to not take herself to seriously and to use it to her advantage in business, not just in an entitled “Im on TV” way.)

And that brings me to these decorators…. See the thing is, in their own world and their own minds, they are all REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT. It’s not fake, they really are important people in the world of design. And really talented too.

But as they all should be aware- this type of egomania does not go over well with a national audience.

Dont say shit like: I dont get out of bed for less than 1 million dollars. Dont go bragging about your CELEBRITY CLIENTS every other sentence Martyn with a Y.(Dude dropped more names than Courtney Love in this interview for The Fix!) And when your client is getting divorced, dont say- “OH NO! You cant sell MY HOUSE! Well, hey, I thought you were going to tell me something really bad happened- like, you lost all your money… hahaha!”

Since this is Bravo, I dont know how much of this is real and how much of this is craptastically edited play acting. Did anyone ever study Sartre in college? I was a philosophy major, and the entire Million Dollar Decorator episode reminded me very much of Sartre’s concept of “Bad Faith”  and his example of the cafe waiter:

Sartre cites a café waiter, whose movements and conversation are a little too “waiter-esque”. His voice oozes with an eagerness to please; he carries food rigidly and ostentatiously. His exaggerated behaviour illustrates that he is play acting as a waiter, as an object in the world: an automaton whose essence is to be a waiter. But that he is obviously acting belies that he is aware that he is not (merely) a waiter, but is rather consciously deceiving himself.

All these decorators seem to be playing the role of decorator on a tv series. Like Kathy Ireland’s entire interaction with her sons: “Im the cool mom that doesnt care about the fact that Im having friends over and I havent showered and my adorable sons are horsing around, please dont drown each other, Im so carefree, I love sex…” shtick. Im not even saying anything bad about her, its the EYE of the camera “The LOOK” according to Sartre- which is the presence of another human being that snatches your subjectivity away and makes you see yourself from their perspective- that is making them all act this way.

He gives this example:

The mere possible presence of another person causes one to look at him/herself as an object, and see his/her world as it appears to the other. This is not done from a specific location outside oneself, it is non-positional. This is a recognition of the subjectivity in others.

This transformation is most clear when one sees a mannequin that one confuses for a real person for a moment.

  • While they are believing it is a person, their world is transformed, and everything exists as an object that partially escapes them. During this time the world comes on to you differently, and you can no longer have a total subjectivity. The world is now his world, a foreign world that no longer comes from you, but from him. The other person is a “threat to the order and arrangement of your whole world…Your world is suddenly haunted by the Other’s values, over which you have no control.”
  • When they realise it is a mannequin, and is not subjective, the world seems to transfer back, and they are again in the center of a universe.
This is back to the pre-reflective mode of being, it is “the eye of the camera that is always present but is never seen”. The person is occupied, and too busy for self-reflection.

This process is continual, unavoidable and ineluctable. Subjectivity is competitive. This explains why it can be difficult to look someone in the eye.

Obviously this is true for all reality TV shows. And most of life in general. but I guess the more experience you have in front of the camera the more easily you are able to appear like your normal self?

In general, I think all the decorators behaved the way an older sibling behaves to the younger one when a friend comes over to play: extra mean in order to seem cool. Because of “The Look” of the camera, they exaggerated their actions, words and behaviors to behave like what they think a supremely talented decorator should do, like the example of the waiter.

And my last point on this show… if you are going to name drop every other line and come off like a sniveling asshole decorator that makes people shudder from the D word and buy stuff at Ikea- THEN PLEASE MAKE SURE TO MAKE SHARON OSBORNE A ROOM THAT LOOKS LESS LIKE A Z GALLERIE CATALOG!

Oh and also, dont use the word DELICIOUS to describe things that arent food… or babies. Thats all folks.

(And if you want a real recap of this show go HERE. I couldnt have done a better job if I tried. So I didnt.)

PS. I knew it was all down hill when MartYn spent $30K on a Beatles poster that looked like the one I bought from Bleeker Bob’s freshman year of college.


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  1. Jennifer says:

    They should have named the show Million Dollar ASSHOLES.

  2. You totally nailed it–that is exactly how I was taking in the show, but I was maybe a little bit more annoyed. But your Z-Gallerie comment, priceless!

  3. I love you for citing Satre on a reality tv recap.

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      Im totally waiting for some anon to tell me I have a limited understanding of Sartre!

  4. satre lawrynce-bullard. love it.

  5. great post, nicole.
    so true about the beatles poster!!!

    i kept wondering if jeff lewis and jenny were watching this together laughing their asses off!!

    • Nicole Cohen says:

      OMG I totally forgot about Jeff and Jenny. Jeff is a total asshole, but he is so aware of how this is all funny. He sees it as a business and not “more important than the president!”

      Ha! You know whats sad? this is already how americans see interior designers…go to the D&D- you cant swing a Birkin without hitting ten decorators that think they are gods gift to design.

      • that is exactly what I thought..How dare they put this show on …once again ridiculing what we do on a daily basis. Dedicate our time, sweat. love and TEARS to a real profession…and then they walk in wave their arms about – say “Fabulous and “Darling” a 100 times and Presto a whole apartment is designed…oh yay sure – it is really THAT easy. So annoying. Especially as I really thought with those names attached to the show, that finally there would be a real presentation of how much thought and care goes into every descision for our clients on TV to balance out the other 100 design Magic shows . Great post!

  6. Tonya says:

    Oooohh weee you went deep on this one! Broke it down to never ever be broken down again. I hear ya!! (I visit your blog but don’t ever usually comment). Thanks, for sharing!


  7. “Oh and also, dont use the word DELICIOUS to describe things that aren’t food”

    SERIOUSLY. Decorating will never be “delicious,” ever.

    Thanks for the shoutout to my Design Blahg recap!

  8. OMG you are not only astute, quite the writer/philosopher but you are funny as hell. Oh by the way the agree with you whole-heartedly. Fantastic post.

  9. Amen, sister! I have no idea WTF happened with this show, it had the potential to be un-freakin’-real…and then they made it the “look at me, I’m a fancy schmancy decorator” show. Poop on them. I think I’m mostly upset that these people I really *idolize* looked like such douchebags…glad to know I’m not alone…not by a looooong shot!

  10. Bravo!

  11. I love how you put a philosophical bent on why you enjoy reality TV…It makes me feel like I am taking part in something deeper when I indulge in this mindless TV ;) If I really examine what I like about it, I am a big fan of escapism and am in awe of people who really believe in their own self created reality-I find it utterly fascinating!

  12. Too funny! All I kept thinking during the show was “I hope sketch42 does a blog post on this show”. Have a great weekend.

  13. kate says:

    Perfect assessment!

  14. Lula says:

    I watched a little of the first episode and couldn’t get past how self-congratulatory they all seemed. I tend to think the real design challenge happens when a designer can make a room look like a million bucks on a limited budget. I’m sure that I could make a room look fantastic, too, if I had a couple mil to spend. Not to diminish what a designer does, at all, but I’m sure I could choose a picture from a magazine and figure out the appropriate elements. Then again, I am a rather artistic person

    I’d also like to add that I took a philosophy class in college, thinking it would be an easy A. Uh, no. Mind = blown. I just can’t parse philosophy, so you have my undying respect for your understanding of it.