Freeloader Wakes Up Early

Bravo's 'Top Design' Takes Over Subway Platform

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The Event: Bravo's "Top Design" subway-platform transformation at Grand Central
The Date: Jan. 29, 2006
The Venue: The shuttle platform at New York City's Grand Central
The Food: There was a craft-services table for the "Top Design" contestants and Bravo staff but nothing to feed a freezing Freeloader so early in the day. We had to settle for the interior-design eye candy.
The Drinks: Again, nothing. Would it have killed them to put in a coffee pot? (Did we mention we were awake before noon?)
From left: Lauren Zalaznick, president, Bravo; Andrew Cohen, VP-programming and production, Bravo; Jonathan Adler, interior designer, 'Top Design' judge; Margaret Russell, 'Elle D├ęcor' editor-in-chief, 'Top Design' judge; Frances Berwick, exec VP-production and programming, Bravo; Jason Klarman, senior VP-marketing and brand strategy, Bravo. Credit: Giovanni Rufino

Freeloader is becoming very efficient these days in such Arctic-like conditions. Just a few weeks ago, we were able to pull ourselves together by noon for a CosmoGirl lunch with America Ferrara; now we're getting up before the cast of "The View" to see our favorite subway platform get a Bravo makeover.

The shuttle train has always been kind of the ugly stepsister to its better-located, purple rival, the 7 train, but the contestants of "Top Design" somehow managed to make a gray space look surprisingly vibrant -- dare we say, out of the pages of Elle Decor, which happens to sponsor the show.

The whole subway shebang is a promotion for Bravo's newest reality competition series, "Top Design," which features 12 aspiring interior designers who take on a series of challenges in hopes of winning cash to start their own design firm and a spot in one of New York's finest designer showcases. (The show, however, is shot in Los Angeles, not the Big Apple.)

Given the shuttle's prime location, it's hard to imagine the MTA was so willing to submit its prized platform to a TV network for a whole week. Even Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick had to admit she was a bit skeptical about the whole concept of targeting real New Yorkers in such a tourist trap.

"I was the biggest naysayer," she told us, adding that she is a dedicated subway rider herself -- not one of those "black car" types like so many other network execs. "Several people e-mailed me this weekend asking if we were doing something for 'Top Design,' and I had to say, 'What were you doing in Times Square on a Saturday?'"

Nevertheless, the digs were swanky. Nice use of an ottoman, a well-placed flat-screen TV that conveniently displayed footage of the upcoming season of "Top Design" and fully functioning electrical outlets, including an all-important iPod charger. Freeloader was a bit worried our mini wouldn't last the afternoon, but we opted not to disrupt the room's feng shui just so we could fall asleep to Kelly Clarkson on our commute home.

Although host Todd Oldham was a no-show at the event, we figured even this room would've gotten our favorite Target designer's seal of approval. After designing many a college student's dorm room in recent years (including Freeloader's -- don't tell!), Oldham surely would've been proud to witness his proteges carry on his youth-infused, ultra-chic aesthetic in one of New York's oldest, shoddiest, grayest (we could go on) locations.
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