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Matt Lorenz: Designing Man
by Ross Forman

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His dream of being a designer dates back to kindergarten, but what he now does certainly isn't kids stuff.

Matt Lorenz was the winner of Bravo's Top Design show, defeating 11 aspiring interior designers, which culminated when he designed a 1,700-square-foot loft in downtown Los Angeles. Lorenz was judged in the finale by Jonathan Adler, Margaret Russell, Kelley Wearstler and guest judge Trudie Styler.

This past fall, Lorenz was showcased at the Merchandise Mart's 'Dream Home' exhibit. Lorenz was also honored at the 'Ones To Watch' reception during the Merchandise Mart's two-day market, Design Chicago.

'I feel like Top Design gave me a platform, so people at least knew my name in the industry,' said Lorenz, a Chicago resident for the past 12 years. 'Now it's up to me to produce the level of work, to show people that I am for real. A year from now, I'll still be doing this, hopefully, and people won't just be saying, 'Oh, Matt was just a reality star and we never heard from him again [ after his show ] .'

'My goal through all of this was to get a couple of clients. Well, I got a couple and actually a lot more. I only did [ Top Design ] to help my career, and the whole TV aspect of it was very weird. I'm not very comfortable with TV cameras. I'm very happy to never again be on TV. I think my objectives for doing the show were much different than others.'

Originally from Mankato, Minn., Lorenz is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Art. He worked at several prominent Chicago residential Interior Design and architecture firms for the past 10 years before starting his own company, ML Design Studio, in 2007.

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'My design style is a sophisticated [ style ] with a modern twist. Meaning, I like modern elements, but often that isn't what others want. I like integrating traditional pieces with it, but with new ways, new finishes, or re-inventing historical pieces with modern design,' Lorenz said. 'I'm a young, contemporary interior designer, but a lot of what I do is based on modern, historical designs.'

Lorenz's firm opened last April, 'and I only opened it because I had all of these people calling me, and I had the right level of clients calling, so I just realized that, if I was ever going to do it, now would be the perfect time.

'And it's been unbelievable. Chicago has been very supportive of me.

'My goal is to keep being challenged with interior design projects. I hope to get into boutique hotels.'

Lorenz confirmed he is working on opening a restaurant in Chicago.

'I've been doing high-end residential design for 10 years, and I'm still very much involved with doing that, but, it's always a challenge of taking on a different type of project which you haven't worked on in the past,' he said. 'I want to keep producing high-level, quality projects which really showcase the level of work that I do so that, at the end of the day, I have a body of work that I'm really proud of.'

Lorenz, who is married ( to wife Veronica ) and has one daughter ( Lily, 5 ) , is a member and national spokesperson for the American Society of Interior Designers ( ASID ) .

Lorenz is an admitted workaholic, practicing his craft seven days a week, often into the wee hours of the morning. In his limited free time, he enjoys gardening, reading and spending time with his family.

So how was Top Design?

'In the midst of it, it was the hardest mentally and physically challenging thing I've ever done because we were sleep-deprived and just made to be completely vulnerable to anything around us. And I'm the kind of person who needs his sleep, or I don't function well,' he said. 'After a couple weeks of filming, I was like a zombie and it was like I didn't even know how I was functioning. The process was horrible.

'But the outcome was wonderful.

'I hoped and knew I was talented, and in the midst of the event, you sometimes agree with the judges and sometimes didn't. You never knew who they were going to select, or for what reason they were going to select someone—for each challenge and, ultimately, the winner.'

Before the show, Lorenz said he rarely watched any reality shows, 'so I went into this really stupid and didn't know what to expect.' And, he said the show, 'wasn't really what I expected it to be.'

Going in, I had only vague ideas of what we were going to be doing. They sold it to me that it was a high-end interior design show,' Lorenz said. 'It was the first season [ for the show ] , so I had nothing to gauge it around. No DVD to see what I was in for.

'Each individual challenge was a surprise to all of us. We had no idea what to expect.

'The most difficult [ part of the show ] was a team challenge where we had to build a cabana on a beach in two days without any power tools. That was the third challenge and, at that point, I was so physically- and mentally-tired after back-to-back challenges and my body hadn't yet realized how to deal with it. So, I was like dead mentally. Ultimately I got called out on that challenge for not having a large enough voice and I ultimately almost got kicked off on that challenge.'

Lorenz said Top Design was filmed over a two-month stretch last fall and the finale was filmed in January. The show aired January through April.

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