It’s Goil, “like gargoyle,” as he himself likes to put it.  Goil Amornvivat, the Yale-educated architect brought this sense of humor and unique sensibility to his time on “Top Design,” and made it all the way to the final four.  He took time from his busy schedule to answer BuddyTV’s questions about his experiences on the show and his future plans.  He also offers some additional insight into his design ideas for some of his rooms featured on the show.

What inspired you to participate in the show?

The answers are in my young-looking face (at least for now). I am 33 years old with 2 degrees in architecture and I look like I am still in my teens. As I am developing a practice, I needed the world (and me) to know that I am ABLE. That was reason one.

Fewer can understand my second reason. In the architecture and Interior design schools, I have observed that Asian students represent about 1/3 or more of the student body. Having been out of school for more than 10 years, looking at the New York architecture/design universe, I began to wonder where they all went. The bonus here is that I get to see myself on Bravo and other get to see themselves. I really thank Bravo, for being open and setting a positive and inclusive trend.

Your education was primarily related to architecture. Do you feel you are both an interior designer AND an architect, or more primarily an architect with a solid foundation of interior design?

I believe that the lines dividing the two disciplines are very blurry. Often architects and interior designers are at odds and this is unfortunate. A door from a room leads to another room and a window leads to a view outside. I refuse to believe the six-inch wall can divide two disciplines. We all want spaces to be better.

You mentioned at the beginning of the show that you were not as interested in the styling piece of design. Did your feelings on this change through the show?

Actually, I think the quote was, “I am not a stylist. I am more of a problem solver”. Which I think is still true. My work is concept driven, which is how design is currently being taught. Having a strong idea fosters the kind of creativity that can lead to more original projects. It also makes design smarter, more accessible, and less about class-driven aspirations. I needed to know that it is possible for everyone to succeed regardless of their origins.

“Style” in design is comparable to “language” in literature (Chinese, English, and French, etc). Language does not dictate what is being said. A “concept”, on the other hand, is a “thesis” (what is being written about). In general, I am interested in concept and would like my work to be judged based on content over dialect.

It seemed that many of your rooms had white walls with graphic elements, as opposed to a solid or patterned color wall. What is your thinking behind this choice or is it more a personal preference?

My basic strategy for the competition due to time limitations and built-in twists was to compose the room in terms of parts. I had to make sure that I can “finish” at any time.

The painting was always an added layer of communication for me. My strategy was to only paint where I needed to make the statement. If I was writing on a blank piece of paper I would not fill up the whole page with meaningless letters if I was done with what I needed to say in one paragraph.

My painting works with a larger concept of the room. In my children’s room, the painting was done low to create a scale proportionate to the child. The patterning is also active like the child.

The college room was for an artist, Zeal, whose political work was about domestic abuse. All the pieces in that room, though broken, were brought back to productive use, in many cases supported by the “architecture” of the room and finding new positive functions. The chair with the broken leg was an example of that. The painting here was kept very minimal, as if it was a museum and the items were evidence.

In my dining room, the table was the confluence for gathering. The stripes wrap the room like seaweed on Onigiri. The colors of the walls reappear on the table. Everywhere else was kept simple so the concentration of intensity was on the table.

During the first few episodes, you seemed to be one of the more cheerful and positive designers. While you seemed to try to stay positive, it seemed like the dismissive attitude of the other designers really got to you. Looking back now, was that so, or was it exacerbated by the fatigue and pressure of the show?

I think I am still cheerful toward the end. I was making jokes etc at the loft, there were just less people to speak to toward the end. But you know during work I am very active and serious. I was like that the entire time. With the designers’ dismissive attitude, it wasn’t a big deal as you can see I did my thing and made a room. I was too busy having fun with Sarah the Carpenter.

What sort of design work would you like to focus on moving forward?

I would love to have an opportunity to design an “every” space. I would love to do a line of products which are a kit of parts for spaces. Items like wallpapers, carpets, knobs and pulls, vases, couches and chairs, lamps, etc, things that affect more than one space at a time. I never intend my work to be merely chic, my dream projects would also be smart and meaningful. Can you hook me up?

How do other professionals react to the idea of being on a reality show? Is it something that is becoming more accepted as time passes and more quality shows are aired?

That’s a great question. I am not too sure yet, time will tell. I can tell you that Bob Stern, Dean at Yale School of Architecture, was very encouraging. Frank Gehry, who was one of my teachers, was excited as well. I recently received a great email of support from so many people in the field: professionals, theoreticians, critics and even students. I doubt many were surprised by an unorthodox move like this from me.

Do you stay in touch with any of the other designers?

Yes, I do keep in touch with many of them. They are really great people. One of the best things about this crazy experience was that I made a lot of good new friends.

Who would you like to win and who would you hope doesn’t win?

I love Andrea and Carisa, but I hope that Matt will win. After being with this group for a long time, I realize that we were all there in the competition for different reasons. I was looking for a new adventure and exposure. Andrea already has a very successful firm (though I want her to win); her life is so complete even without the win. Carisa, I think was switching to interior design from Stage set design and this is already a great exposure for her. I think that Matt is actually the only one who needs to win. As a person who came into the competition as an “interior designer” he, with the help of Margaret, can politically develop the interior design profession. I hope he doesn’t forget the little people. LOL!

Did you feel like the way you were edited was fair and true to your real life persona?

There was a lot of footage – cameras rolling all the time for weeks and months – they have a lot of power. Mostly I am grateful for the ways I was portrayed: as a real person. I went through my entire emotional range on the show, and the camera caught them: the ups and the downs. Of course I feel like we all have more depth than what can be seen in a one hour television program. I hope things like this interview can render me in a more complete way…or you can always get a better sense of who I am by visiting my website at

– Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Images Courtesy of Bravo)


Staff Columnist, BuddyTV