Serge Van Lian (pictured at left) may have been the first designer kicked off of the second season of Bravo’s Top Design, but the 27-year-old songwriter/music producer-turned-interior designer was the only one who headed straight for the contestants’ groceries when it came to the first “pop design” mini-challenge, in which the 13 designers scrambled to create shadowboxes. Serge’s wall trio included a jar of Skippy peanut butter, a bottle of beer, and a rubber ducky dressed as a pirate. With a few probing questions, we helped him to make a Freudian breakthrough involving his mother and Top Design host India Hicks and tried to get a handle on his design aesthetic, which he describes as “eclectic, functional, and often times experimental.”
Your background is in the music industry. What led you to switch to interior design? Do you think your experience in the music industry has had an effect on your design aesthetic?
Well, I’ve been designing as a hobby ever since I was walking around in my Thundercats knickers. At five years old, I would redecorate rooms in the house with my avant-garde style, and my mom would get pissed because her style was more traditional like that of India Hicks, so I suppose history just repeats, huh? My mom was a European model and an apartment renovator….my god…my first client on the show was my mom?!
Anyway, I discovered I had a killer craft designing small spaces when I moved to New York City, and I wanted to love music again as a listener which was impossible to do as a band scout. And yeah, working in music definitely had an impact on my design aesthetic. Music industry salaries are so low that I was forced to make my own space look high end with a limited budget. Design for me is a lot like music, I’m just pleasing the eye now instead of the ear.
Read on for Serge’s take on the Top Design challenges and how he would design his dream loft.
You had an original take on the “pop design” mini-challenge (kudos for the creative use of Skippy peanut butter). Can you describe your approach to the task and what you ended up with (pictured at right)?
My pop design was a metaphor for breaking rules. I’m really over walking into spaces that look the same because people are scared of change and trying new things. Let’s just do exactly what’s in the magazine so we don’t have to push ourselves creatively, right? That’s so uninspiring and snoreworthy. I broke the glass on my shadow box on purpose so the design world could wake up and see what’s behind the shattered pieces. It’s time for innovation even if it takes a pirate rubber ducky, handcuffs, a horn, peanut butter, and Dutch beer to get that across.
What were the most difficult and most fun aspects of the main challenge, in which you, Andrea, and Shazia had to design a loft space for India Hicks?
The most difficult aspects of the main challenge was everything really: less than two days to design a two story loft with a vagabond budget….not to mention my team members…the blonde Napoleon constantly freaking out and the other flooding the loft….lord!!! And what about the theme?! Island chic in a modern loft?!?!
You describe your style as “eclectic, functional, and often times experimental.” If you had been designing that loft for yourself, rather than for India, what might it have looked like?
If I was designing that loft for myself I would have definitely gone for more of an industrial chic meets modern minimalist with a quirky twist. The bed would have been sitting on a low aluminum platform, modern lamps on each side with a crazy lucite chandelier hanging above. I would’ve used electrical boxes as candle sconces in the bathroom, and opened up the living room with massive mirrors framed by raw pipe. I’d have a few luxurious French armchairs upholstered in white glossy vinyl too. Ahh, a young designer can only fantasize…