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Project Runway Spinoff Gets Green Light

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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TODD TIME Oldham The "American Idol but with fill-in-the-blank" formula has been pretty well exploited—models! chefs! indie filmmakers!—but Bravo seems convinced there's life in it yet.

The NBC-owned cable network is following up its Project Runway success with a new reality series that will pit aspiring interior designers against each other in an elimination-style contest. The show, Top Design, will begin airing in January, with Todd Oldham, who has designed home furnishings lines for La-Z-Boy and Target, playing the Heidi Klum role, and Elle Décor editor in chief Margaret Russell standing in for Elle's Nina Garcia. With taping already underway, Russell will be spending the majority of her time in L.A. for the next six weeks, according to a show insider. (Good thing she just hired a new executive editor, Traditional Home's Mitchell Owens.)

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While it seems natural to pair Elle's sister title with a Project Runway spinoff, it wasn't a foregone conclusion, notes the insider. In fact, Metropolian Home—which shares both a parent company (Hachette Filipacchi) and a floor (the 41st) with Elle Décor, was also considered, as was Conde Nast's Domino. Winning the bake-off is no small feat: Hachette sources say Project Runway, which is Bravo's top-rated program, is thought to be the prime driver behind Elle's recent newsstand spike. But Met Home editor Donna Warner gets the consolation prize: a one-time stint as a guest judge.

UPDATE: A Bravo spokeswoman returned Radar's call this afternoon: Top Design is "not a spinoff. They're two totally different shows," she said. "The format is different and they really can't be compared. It's going to have its own flavor." The spokeswoman also said she was unaware of any plans to have Warner on as a guest.

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