Design on TV: The Real World Brooklyn


It seems like yesterday that MTV was decking out a Manhattan apartment at 565 Broadway for it’s first experiment in voyeurism. Since the launch of the original Real World: New York 20 years ago, Jonathan Murray and the rest of us weaned on the reality show have learned a lot about personal exploitation, headboard microphones and physical violence. But now MTV wants to show us something even grittier, taking the 21st season across the bridge to Red Hook, an up and coming nabe some New Yorkers only venture into to hit up Ikea.

Locals have been dread-cited about the invasion for months. How badly are the roommates going to diss the beloved borough? Are they going to love favorite spots so much that they ruin them? Or are they going to hate everything because they’ve been plucked out of some tiny town in Middle America?

None of that particularly matters to us. It’s all about their digs.

The MTV Real World décor scheme has always gone along the same lines. To quote Tim Gunn: “It’s a whole lotta look.” To distract us from the increasingly bland personalities of housemates, each year the set/home design gets brighter and more bizarre. Look, it’s decorated like a motel! Ikea overload! Color-gasm! There’s a fish tank — oh how ironic!

And this year it’s no different. The apartment (which looks nothing like this) is a technicolor playground. A behemoth of a warehouse along the coastal shores of Red Hook, their location might leave something (easy subway access) to be desired, but the ample space leaves plenty of room for the important stuff: product placements. The jazzy Crunch gym, the bevy of Subway sandwiches and Seattle’s Best coffee, the strategically placed Rock Band game are a not so subtle reminder that commercials no longer make money.

But like the transgendered roomie Kaitlyn, the apartment is more than meets the eye, and the cacophony works.

If you can look past the pattern-palooza, there is much to be desired. The slate gray walls in the common spaces are quite sophisticated and give a harmonious tone to the graphic punches. Bold stripes (vertical and multi-colored in the Coney Island bedroom, a covet-worthy blue on the couch, horizontal bands of green breaking up the pink bedroom) are balanced by warm exposed brick (every New Yorker’s dream).

The common area’s multitudes of pseudo-graffiti art are used as the basis for punchy wall colors like bright pear and a perfect yellow-gold. The super cheap lighting (a bar with funky blue/purple frosted lights) is tempered with rough-hewn dressers and flea market finds. The pervy glass doors in the bathroom almost distract from our favorite find, tone-on-tone gray vertical subway tiles. Loverly. Heck, there’s even an important lesson about painting trim something besides white (we’re painting ours turquoise immediately).

Of course there are unforgivable sins — why is the phone room painted like a swamp, complete with a tree-stump phone table? It’s Brooklyn, not the bayou. Maybe it’s an attempt to dissuade cast members from too many expensive long distance calls in this tough economy?

The hour went by too fast, and was bogged down with too many lessons on tolerance, for us to catch everything. We’ll just have to keeping watch the show with mute on.