Our ‘Million Dollar Decorators’ challenge: Shop Kmart, Marshalls

The stars of "Million Dollar Decorators" -- clockwise from top left, Mary McDonald, Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, Jeffrey Alan Marks and Kathryn Ireland -- answered our call to point out the best buys in Kmart and Marshalls. For specifics on their picks, click to the photo gallery.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times; Katie Falkenberg / For The Times)

They shop, they drink, they dine, they kvetch. They turn otherwise ordinary rooms into polished interiors, and then ... they go shopping again. They are the stars of “Million Dollar Decorators,” the Bravo reality series that started its second season tonight, yanking back the curtain to see how four of Los Angeles’ biggest design personalities — Martyn Lawrence-Bullard, Kathryn M. Ireland, Jeffrey Alan Marks and Mary McDonald — do their jobs.

PHOTO GALLERY: ‘Million Dollar Decorators’ hit the discount aisles

The show, its colorful cast and guests such as Sharon Osbourne have made “Million Dollar Decorators” a guilty pleasure for design aficionados and looky-loos alike. Some, however, have found the spendy opulence — rugs that cost what most people spend on an entire room — out of step with the times.

How would the Million Dollar Decorators fare if they were plucked from high-priced antiques shops and decorator showrooms and set loose inside low-cost retailers instead? What would catch their eyes? And how would they use what they found?

Gamely, the four decorators — whose client lists include Ryan Murphy, Christina Aguilera, Steve Martin, Robert Zemeckis, Gillian Anderson, David Mamet and Elton John — accepted our challenge. Jeffrey Alan Marks and Mary McDonald, each known for their mix of classicism, Hollywood glamour and contemporary style, hit the Kmart on West 3rd Street in Los Angeles. There they found kitchen and dining wares by celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay, Paula Deen and Sandra Lee, plus home décor collections from TV stars Sofia Vergara and Jaclyn Smith. Both designers gravitated to items with classic looks and modern lines: monogrammed white towels, metal desk lamps and see-through plastic bathroom accessories in jewel tones.


“Simple shapes work best,” McDonald said. “If you try to make something fancy inexpensively, it often looks cheap.”

British-born designers Martyn Lawrence-Bullard and Kathryn Ireland are known for layered interiors with a worldly Bohemian spirit. Ireland, who takes inspiration from French provincial and English country homes, and Lawrence-Bullard, who celebrates the styles of the Mediterranean, Morocco and India, visited Marshalls at the Beverly Connection shopping center in L.A. With its rotating inventory of designer goods, many marked down 50%, the store had well-known brands including Le Creuset cookware and Ralph Lauren crystal and linens. Both designers found items that expressed their sensibility, and they gave thumbs-up to woven stools, embroidered paisley pillows and patterned china.

“You could go to one of the major department stores and spend hundreds of dollars more for the same things,” said Lawrence-Bullard, who was inspired to create a holiday table setting that could work year-round. “To me, real style is being able to mix high and low.”

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