Matt Lorenz (seated) and Erik Kolacz talk design at NoMI.

Like many of you, we were hooked on Bravo’s reality series Top Design this past spring. So when we found out that the winner, Chicagoan Matt Lorenz, and Erik Kolacz, a major contender who’s also from Chicago, came back from taping the show in Los Angeles as best pals, we couldn’t wait to get them in a well-designed room together (they chose the bar at NoMI) to get the scoop on life during and after the show.

Has Top Design gotten you new clients?

Matt: I couldn’t believe how many people watched the show. I just launched ML Design Studio [101 W. Grand Ave., 312-497-7525;] and I’ve got great clients.

Erik: [the owner of Contrast Design Group, 400 N. Wells St., 312-222-0772;] It’s funny how people really embraced me after the show. I was recently asked to do a corporate event and I said, "You know I was thrown off after the party episode, right?" To my surprise, their response was, "Yes, that’s why we want you!"

So, was Carisa [the second runner-up, known for her bluntness and impatience with her carpenter] as difficult as she seemed?

Matt: I really think she’s young and talented but that at the end of the day, she just didn’t express herself in the best way.

How about Michael [who left the race fairly early on, despite being bizarrely confident in his own bad taste]?

Erik: Mikey is a sweetheart, definitely someone who has an individual style. People didn’t get to see his sarcastic side as much as we did on the show. He’s the guy you want at your dinner party.

Could you realistically design a space here in Chicago in, say, 24 hours?

Erik: That was one of the most frustrating things about the show. People watch it and think that you can pull something together in a day.

Matt: Television makes it look so easy. It takes time and expertise to do a project correctly, and it really makes our job harder when people have this idea about what we do.

Who was your favorite judge?

Matt: Definitely Margaret Russell [editor of Elle Decor]. She gave the most informed criticism and really paid attention to detail.

What’s one of your favorite design resources in Chicago?

Erik: Embelezar [1639 N. Damen Ave.] for unique finishing touches.

Matt: Mecox [406 N. Clark St.] for its unusual mix of accessories.

What’s your favorite color?

Erik: Acid green.

Matt: Where is there acid green anywhere in your house? How could it be your favorite color?

Erik: Um, at least I don’t like the color of a mausoleum.

Matt: Gray is very calming. [Erik rolls his eyes.] 

-Joanne Molina


Photograph: andreas larsson
styling: janice koch; laura mercier makeup