Ellen’s Design Challenge – Episode 3 Recap

UPDATED with photos of final designs below!

This week’s recap of “Ellen’s Design Challenge” begins with the Wayfair WALL ‘O CHAIRS! Each designer was tasked with selecting a chair that reflected their design aesthetic.  Katie chose first, stealing Gaspar’s prized Ghost Chair.  Gaspar had the opportunity to choose next – a black plastic chair with light, wooden legs.  Carley chose a french country chair that I absolutely adored.  Tim bucked tradition and decided to challenge himself by choosing the white plastic S chair.

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Joe then presented the challenge for the week – craft a dining table to compliment the contestants’ chosen chairs (I couldn’t see that one coming from 500 miles away…) Each designer was quick to create their designs, however, Tim and Carley’s were nearly identical. After sparring over the same beautiful slab of raw wood, Tim eventually relented to Carley’s persistence.

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Carley’s table was an intriguing design from the get-go and obviously focused on forged metal highlighting her expertise, however I knew the one glaring problem – the giant splice down the middle – was going to be a serious problem come judging time.

Carley's Tablesource

Tim had to adjust his design based on this second choice of material. This worked to his advantage as the design was now distinctly different from Carley’s. I was thoroughly impressed with how he managed to create such a rustic yet modern piece that gorgeous in such a short time! In the end, it still screamed very masculine, but I couldn’t dispute that it was a stunning piece of furniture that perfectly complemented his chairs.

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Gaspar got inventive. Like Tim, he decided to step outside his comfort zone this week and chose to work with plexiglass. He crafted a stunning tree silhouette out of wood veneer and then sandwiched it between the plexi. The final product was not my style but was indisputably beautiful and truly one of a kind.

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Now for Katie. With Leslie gone, Katie’s quickly stepped up as the most annoying contestant in my book. I do love her perky attitude but the Valley Girl talk has gotten on my nerves. Combine that with the very cow-like table that she crafted and it was just too much for me. Had her finished product more closely resembled her initial design with a marble-like finish, I would have liked her piece much more than the barnyard animal she came up with.

Katie'ssource

I did, however, admire her fierce commitment to wildlife courtesy of the pandas all over her pajama-like pants.

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Our guest judge, Ray Azoulay of Obsolete was another design-world insider. All the contestants seemed thoroughly impressed with him but as an average viewer, I had no idea who he was.

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His insight in to each piece, however, was spot on. Note to the producers and programming executives – not the smartest move to continually have unrecognizable insiders in that chair. Your average American viewer is oblivious to their resume and will quickly be turned off.

Ellen and Furniture

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 During judging we FINALLY got our first Ellen in-person sighting of the season. She made quite the comical entrance, but otherwise, her presence was fairly unnecessary. It didn’t add much besides some fake, crafted for TV suspense when she handed notes to Katie and Carley telling them who was going home. (SPOILER ALERT: Neither. Did you really think Ellen was there to do the dirty work?! Of course not!). So all 4 designers are safe for another week.

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Overall, I’d give the show a 5/10. It has some redeeming qualities but certainly has room for improvement. So I’ll keep watching it for now, if only so that I can critique it for you all the rest of the season.

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And just as a small aside – the folks over at HGTV and Wayfair need to work on their cross promotions. I appreciate the Wayfair interstitial ad we got right before we cut back to the show from a commercial break, however, there is ZERO presence of the show on Wayfair’s site. For the amount of in-show Wayfair mentions and commercial air time purchased, I was certain they’d be plugging it left and right but I searched for hours and couldn’t find a single mention on their site. Especially for an online retailer, thats a huge missed opportunity. HGTV Ad Sales and Wayfair Marketing – call me. I’ve got a ton of ideas for how to up your game 🙂

So what do you all think? Is anyone loving it? Watching out of obligation? Or have you already unloaded it from your DVR in favor of making room for another episode of “Downton Abbey?” Speaking of which, who watched this past Sunday’s episode?! I just have to say to Edith: you go girl. You do you; you do you!

Ellen’s Design Challenge

Updated: Found some photos of the finished products if you scroll to the bottom!

For those that don’t know, I work in the entertainment industry to pay the bills.  So I get super pumped when my world of interests collide – television, branding, and home design.  Such was the case with Ellen’s Design Challenge which premiered this past week on HGTV.

Ellen

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First off – Ellen.  Love her.  I think she is one of the funniest, most genuine women on TV so naturally I was stoked to have another reason to watch her.  The show is named after her, she’s in all the promos and marketing so she’d be a main part of the show, right?  Wrong.  She’s in one segment.  Where the contestants watch a clip of her on a TV.  Total snoozefest.

Ellen on TV

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The format.  Totally Project Runway meets HGTV Design Star.  Pre-selected, talented contestants compete in unique furniture design challenges each week to prove who is the best.  You get the gist.  Design school graduates, self-made furniture builders, a FEMALE blacksmith (my favorite).

Contestants

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Casting was obviously done both for talent and reality TV drama because honestly, why else would you watch without at least one cat fight?!  I could list all their names here, but honestly,  no one stood out enough to remember.  Which is not good TV.

As the contestants have limited time to complete their challenges, they’re each given a carpenter to help execute their designs.

Carpenters

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Here’s what really pulled me out – most of the carpenters are smaller, but recognizable HGTV personalities themselves.  This is never acknowledged.  It’s like they’re just your average carpenter found through the Yellow Pages.

The host.  Generic, mildly charismatic reality show type guy.  I do not even remember his name and you learn nothing about him.  He just directs the contestants where to look.

Host Jay Montepare

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The judges.  Credit goes to HGTV execs for finding relevant, qualified judges for the competition: Amanda Dameron, editor-in-chief of Dwell Magazine.  She’s a little boring, but clearly knows her stuff and her expertise is appreciated.  She’s partnered with Christiane Lemieux, executive creative director of Wayfair.com, one of the show’s key sponsors.  Christiane is fairly expressive and entertaining to watch.

Judges

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They also bring in a guest judge, Jason Chauncey of Brownstone Upholstery Inc.  Here’s my gripe about the guest judge – although I’m no design expert, I have NEVER heard of this guy. And if I haven’t, your average American viewer DEFINITELY has not heard of him. He was also a bit boring.  Where’s Nate Berkus?  Or Genevieve Gorder?  Granted, HGTV probably can’t afford these now uber-famous faces, but you need another hook to keep your viewer interested.  Thought – how about Ellen?!  It is her show and she was in very little of this first episode.  She may not be a design professional, but she’s certainly a lover of great design.  Her home has been featured in some of the best home decor magazines out there.  And she’s a recognizable face (THE face that many viewers tuned in for) which is key when you’re trying to find your audience for a new show.

Elle Decor Cover

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Architectural Digest

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The night’s challenge was to take a big, boring existing box consisting of wood, steel and plexi and repurpose it in to a design exemplary of the contestants’ style (total Project Runway unconventional challenge knock off).

Box Pre Makeover

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The final designs – I was less than impressed.  We had one mid-century modern shelving system knock-off and a sculpturally beautiful chair that was under-appreciated by the judges.

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There was also an entry table made by the blacksmith (she is so bad ass!) and the most boring wall shelving unit I’ve ever seen (she is annoying and should have been the first to go!).

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Then there was the winner, a beautiful yet useful campaign desk made by the guy who, shocker, specializes in reclaimed materials.

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Lastly, I was fairly impressed with the brand integrations on the show.  So often shows like this can look like walking advertisements for Home Depot or Armstrong flooring.  But the Wayfair.com accessory wall was done very tastefully and they had a great interstitial ad just before you came back from one of the commercial breaks.  It showed you examples of the furniture created on the show and then cut to similar styles available for purchase.  It was a commercial, but tasteful (and hosted by judge Christiane.)

Wayfair Wall Background

(best shot of the Wayfair Wall I could find)

Overall, I was a bit disappointed in the show.  The previews for upcoming episodes look promising (and include Ellen in person) so I’ll keep watching.  But if the show doesn’t deliver, I can only last another episode or 2.  Three episodes of any new show is my limit; no one has time these days to waste on uninteresting television.

So there’s my rant.  What did you guys think?  Did anyone love it?  Are you going to keep watching?