Glamour, Passion, Lifestyle; a look at Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators

Million Dollar Decorators Interior By Mary McDonald

Linda Evangelista once famously said she doesn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.   The Million Dollar Decorators took it up a notch (or 10) and claim they won’t for less than a million. “No budget is the best budget”, quips Nathan Turner;  Mary McDonald, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Kathryn Ireland, and Jeffrey Alan Marks definitely all feel the same way.  This sensational cast of characters (who’ s bios you can peruse HERE) take us behind the plastic sheeting and into the luxury design stores on an intensely fabulous, delicious, and mouth “wateringly” glamorous journey, taunting us with an inside view of the work that goes into creating multi million dollar private meccas for the ultra wealthy.  A million dollars to pull the silk eye mask off, is a decedent thought, but on this show you will see the decorators tackle to sparkle everything, from gym bathrooms to Beverly Hills terraces, usually at price points starting a “as low as” $50,000 for a powder room…But oh baby do they climb from there. 

I haven’t seen people shop like this cast of characters since I watched Michael Jackson’s documentary, but in their case it’s not a ridiculously pointless excessive mess, it’s strategic and frankly, brilliantly appropriate.   Is Million Dollar Decorators only for those with millions of dollars and dreams of a gold bidet?  Absolutely not!  I always say dream big ladies and gentlemen, this show gives unlimited examples of inspiration! It’s 60 minutes of free porn-design, porn infact of the most sinful kind!  And as Martyn (tied with Kathyrn as my favourite personality on the program) would say (in his delightful to intimidate voice), “Darling, simply Delicious”.

The premise of Million Dollar Decorators is a modern day version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but with the focus being on the work and personalities that it takes to transform some of the most awesome spaces into truly stunning and functional abodes. The immediate reaction to the premise may be to roll your eyes, think it nonsense and not tune in.  What recession?  I mean how much more do we need of spray tans, divorcees and pooches being treated better then your mother-in-law?   However, you will be greeted with TV enhanced super-sized egos and highly addictive entertaining personalities.   The super-sized budgets can at times seem a bit obscene it’s important to remember that with great budgets come great responsibility and a ton of blood, sweat, and tears go into making every one of these luxury estates shine. 

Surprisingly, as the show is not short on Divas, the tears are at a minimum, although sweat (it is LA after all) is a consistent theme throughout the season.  The personalities are outlandish; Martyns’ voice is now one in which my pals and I will adopt when we need a good chuckle, want to feel fabulous, or are having a tense decorating moment of our own.   I mean, who doesn’t need a few bad sexual puns once and while. Mary (the ice Queen) seems so tremendously self involved it’s rumored the character Karen from tv’s Will And Grace was written as her alter ego. Then there is Jeffreys’ partner both in life and in business, the Adonis Rus; should he really be a key character on a decorating show? Maybe not… but frankly I don’t care, being an ex-model, his eye candy strength is an absolute pleasure to behold.   TiVo Anyone?

Although this show echo’s every bit the same premise as what seems to be occupying our evening television choices.   I mean, slap the word “million-dollar”  on the title and you have half of North America’s attention. I often wonder what’s most important when casting these shows, why them?  Is this just because of their contrasting personalities?  Make no mistake these decorators are damn talented. They have a plethora of experience and a ton of passion; Kathryn says the three most important things in the world to her are food, sex, and decorating. And everyone knows I cannot live without 2 of those things. You need to live your passion and that is what these decorators do!   And where does this sort of talent and passion come from? I believe that top designers are born with it, but there is a great circle of creativity that is created from inspiration of others. It’s consistently obvious that throughout the episodes of Million Dollar Decorators the x-factor is this born-to-be characteristic, a design gene that couldn’t be denied even if they wanted to.  The designers all have what I refer to as the Designer Superhero ability to see colour combinations in their minds eye, to envision balance and be able to size up the weight and gravity of an armour while it sits in a shop whilst letting it magically float from the showroom to their clients bedroom knowing instantly if it’s a match or a pass.  Mary has had a fixation with moving her friends and families’ furniture around from the age of 20, Kathryn claims she was born to design, Russ says it’s in his bones. When Nathan choose his path and expressed elation at the charmic revelation of his career destiny his mother told him “it’s shopping on a big scale all over the world with someone else’s money, you were born to do this”.

Design comes naturally to them, it’s the other aspects where the drama arises, as Martyn fusses with pillows at Joe Francis’ super pad in Mexico he struggles to relate to “the help” who just can’t seem to grasp how to arrange the millions of pillows in the most visually pleasing way.  Episode after episode it’s clear, some people get it, others, unfortunately, do not.  But what happens when you are a “do not” but you badly want guests visiting your home to think you do?   Well if you’re a part of an elite sect and have a desire to be on television you may call up one of these decorators and get your makeup artist on speed dial, because the cameras ready and rolling.  However, much like if you were to call a doctor because you had a malady you had concluded you can not treat yourself, please, please, for the love of lacquered furniture,  fresh cut flowers, and Lucite side tables, please trust the designers do their job!  In one episode, the delicious Kathryn Ireland (dear Kathryn, sweet Kathryn, she truly is such a peach, an perhaps one of the most endearing and REAL people in reality Television) is working with Thee Mrs.Factor (of the Max Factor Family…by marriage of course). You witness the cringe-worthy battle with the woman as The Make-Up MRS. questions all of her designs and stomps on her brilliance, only to have her own designs and vision inserted…as heinous as they are, despite Kathryn creating a dream of a Design for her. Now it is the job of a designer to satisfy their client, it is a service business after all (as Mary points out with only a hint of disappointment as ONLY Mary could).   I agree with Kathryn, it is truly astonishing regarding how much bad taste is out there and I applaud Mary’s efforts to tell people what they want, because simply put sometimes they do not know. Battling it out for your vision is worth it at the end of the day.   Regardless the budget or however many villas your client owns, instilling trust from your client goes along way.  These designers are not only supremely creative but also in terms of client management and interaction they are sublime.

With larger than life budgets come larger than life demands, and they all take their clients issues in stride never letting the smile leave their face or let their brows furrow in frustration,  although perhaps that could also be the Botox.  This isn’t your average design show;  could it be life lessons?  The over the top excess lends itself to an over all great show. I dare anyone with a passion for interiors (or even just an inkling of an interest in outrageous human behaviour) to have a watch and not get utterly addicted.   But don’t worry darlings, if you need to leave your couch and do something other than feed your new found Million Dollar Decorators problem Martyn has a hypnotist who can help you. Curious now aren’t you…..Million Dollar Decorators can be viewed on Bravo Tuesday nights at 10pm or Season One is available for download at

  1. Helen SmytheHelen Smythe09-05-2011

    LOL brilliant article and very true! I want Million Dollar Dog Walkers next

  2. Jane QuinceJane Quince10-19-2011

    HAHA so funny and true. And fun. 🙂 Thanks robin.