The Real Housewives of Atlanta made herstory on Sunday night with the very first virtual reunion episode on Bravo. Without the aid of the usual set designers who’ve decorated over 60 reunion soundstages, however, the Housewives were left to fend for themselves. Titties were hoisted up, wall sconces haphazardly arranged, and pillows fluffed to near-unrealistic perfection. A few opted for flowers as others surrounded themselves with framed art and mirrors. The result? An eclectic mess of artistic brilliance and drab Ikea drudgery.
To be clear, none of the current cast members would consider themselves professional interior decorators, sans Nene and Marlo perhaps, who believe themselves to be savants. The self-assessment is a correct one, of course, considering their high placement on my official ranking below. Not all fared as well. But no matter the quality of their interior decorating decisions, each one’s onscreen personality was prominently on display in the design choices made. Life imitates art, or at the least, the number of pillows on any given sofa reflects the couch sitter’s ability to keep an audience entertained.
Are these Zoom reunions a sustainable ecosystem in which the women will thrive? Probably not. Despite the surprisingly delicious reads, shouted at enemies unseen, the chaos felt uncoupled from reality. There was none of the raw physicality that makes reunions so exciting and unexpected. It gave us an “unfiltered” look at what each woman considers “taste,” but they film confessionals on a green screen for that exact reason—their taste is often horrific! Anyway, good things come to those who wait, so I’ll be going from worst to best. Let’s dig in.
There is a sign on Eva’s side-table that I cannot read, and it kept me up last night. Through the frills of her orchid, I can vaguely make out “patient” and “kind.” What could it possibly mean? “Be patient and kind?” I’m trying, Eva, I really am, but every choice she made in her above decorating was the wrong one. White—or variations on white—was clearly the dress code. As such, her dress needed distinction, especially without a necklace or choker or statement earring. White walls, a white couch, and an off-center white orchid were simply not the solution to this. Then there’s the singular fuzzy blue pillow, an eyesore in the gray puddle around Eva, and the contrasting pink pillow on the opposite side. Why? I have no answers. But like the Home Goods exclusive sign on her side table, “Be Patient and Kind.” I promise, I’m doing the best I can!
Andy Cohen loves his famous friends and the gaggle of D-listers that clutter the Bravo multi-verse. The only thing he loves more than them, besides Anderson Cooper and his new baby, are the trinkets and baubles those celebrities pass off to him. Books, photographs, statuettes, plastic-wrapped Easter bunnies, candles, dolls—you name it, and Andy Cohen has received it as a tithe on Watch What Happens Live. In the absence of his live studio, he’s done his best attempt at recreating the chaotic back wall of WWHL on the desk behind him. I wish he hadn’t! There’s simply too much clutter happening. It’s distracting and ugly. I should probably say something nice, to balance my distaste, but I’m at a loss. That Snoopy to his left is breaking my ability to write a cohesive sentence.
I wish Tanya would have placed higher on this list, because I have a surprising affection for her desperate antics. She tries her best, you know? She really, really tries. The dress itself, however, could have tried a bit harder, and taken the necklace along with it on that journey. Her makeup was well-executed, though! Did she break quarantine for it? Anyway. What bothers me most are the gold taffeta(?) curtains, which block her in an unfortunate way, contrasting the sharp angle of her shoulder-padded smock. I’m perplexed why she didn’t just frame herself with the fireplace? I do think she and my mom both got that chair at Ikea. Or maybe it was Pier 1? I’m told it’s comfortable.
Because of the excess of blue in Kandi’s sitting-room—one of many in her house, I’m sure—the white of her dress looks a faint shade of periwinkle. Why, I ask, would anyone paint their walls blue, when the furniture is also blue? Seems like a perplexing choice, especially when peppered with the white sitting chairs and jacquard pillows, that match the big silver vases. Where a dress that revealing should make Kandi look effervescent and fresh, the decor around her overwhelms her completely. This particular shade of blue, meanwhile, is hard to look at for long without inducing a severe migraine. At least she, unlike her castmates, had the common sense to do her own hair and makeup without forcing some makeup artists to risk coronavirus for her reunion look.
I should have paid more attention to Cynthia’s actual words last night, considering she had plenty to trade with frenemy Nene Leakes. I couldn’t, even if I tried, because I was more distracted by the studio light leaking up from under the frame. Where’s Mike Hill when she needs him? At least I know now that my suspicions were correct and the Housewives use Ikan lights. Moving on: Where did Cynthia get the decor to her left, you wonder? I feel like both she and Tanya love some good Pier 1 sales. Having to look at her wine glass for most of the reunion, likewise, made me grateful for Bravo’s PAs. I never considered that they’d spent 15 years sparing me from having to look at the lipstick smudges around the rims of their reunion drinks. As for her dress—it’s Cynthia! In a goddess dress. What else is left to say, by now?
I like the mysterious glass orbs hanging from Kenya’s ceiling! I wish I could fix my eyes on them a bit more than the framing of this allows, but I can’t complain. Where some of her peers strived for modern sophistication, Kenya actually achieved it. Sure, could the picture frame be more centered behind her? Absolutely. I also wonder what sorts of legal hoops Bravo jumped through to acquire the rights to televising that art. (Does Zoom provide a hefty loophole? I should call a lawyer.) However, the good things: Glass orbs, the table breaking up the frame and contrasting her dress, the plants to her left and right. I even like this styling on her, even if its utterly simple by Kenya’s usual standard.
It’s hard not to look at Nene’s bosom, but I’ll try my best. The dress might be a tad cheap, but the boob-chain elevates it to near imperceptible heights of glamour. Sure, the room decor is a bit shabby-chic, but it’s also inviting and lit well enough that Nene pops (like her breasts) out of it. And while the all-gray color palette might be hideous in real life, here, it looks like a luxurious comfort palace. Don’t you just wanna bury yourself in those throws? If I had to give her my own advice, it would have been to pepper in a few more candles. (I worry, though, about what they might do to that polyester were one of them to tip over!)
Marlo’s commitment to glamour and drama terrifies me. Despite the choking hazard of those Chanel necklaces, she endures, surrounding herself with pillows and flowers and luxurious hairpins. And where the majority of her castmate’s failures rested on how much of their home they showed, Marlo smartly went with a more tucked-in design. This is clearly not what her home looks like normally. If you peer long enough at the edges of the frame, you can see how everything’s been squished together. But it works! The framing of the plants is spectacular, and the jacquard pillows highlight her dress rather than overwhelm it. Would the decor be ugly when seen from a more realistic perspective? Probably! But that doesn’t matter here. Marlo has done what few others did: Constructed a fantasy. One I wouldn’t mind staying with her a bit longer in.
I gasped when Porsha first popped up on my television screen. Despite having a makeup team at her house, the styling is stunning. I’ve come to expect such extravagance from Porsha, who’s spent the last few reunions proving she’s the undisputed fashion champ of Atlanta. (No matter what Marlo might say in that matching Gucci sweatsuit.) But we’re not here to talk about her dress. I’d rather move on, and quickly, to the piggy bank behind her. A subtle design choice, but a fabulous one. And then there’s the white faux-plant behind her, which seems to protrude from her crown like the gargantuan headpiece of a fantasy empress. Where most castmates chose to reveal their entire sofa, she chose to surround herself with candles and what I believe are empty Chanel perfume bottles. Good idea, honestly!
While more cluttered than I’d normally prefer, the busyness has a cohesion that Andy Cohen’s similar design direction lacked. Funny, because that cohesion translated into her knives-out approach to the reunion, which included props text messages and physical gags aplenty. An entertainer, truly, in both body and spirit. Why have a piggy bank behind her? Who knows! But it made me laugh, which is more than can be said of Kenya’s machinations and Eva’s blustering hail-mary effort to get her contract renewed. What was it that Lisa Vanderpump used to say? Oh, right: “The crown is heavy, darlings, so just leave it where it belongs.”