Ellen's Design Challenge lacked Ellen / by Kevin Twitty

As a designer I was overly excited the first time I heard about a new design show. 

HGTV premiered Ellen's Design Challenge tonight. The concept of the show is a competition between individuals battling to have the best designed furniture piece from week to week to avoid elimination. At the end of the season the winner will win $100,000.  From the moment the show started excitement swirled through my mind, however, about 15 minutes into the show that feeling started to slowly fade as it became apparent that Ellen was not the actual host of the show. 

I was live tweeting the show and the entertainment of watching the feed from #EllenDesignonHGTV started to show I was not the only person with this feeling. Ellen is loved and adored by a lot of people around the world and more and more people were feeling duped because of her lack of face time.

Image from HGTV website

After the initial disappointment of no Ellen on Ellen's show we need to look at the show itself. Production was exactly what you expect from a reality TV competition show. You had the introduction and background voiceover from the competitors followed by the pre-recorded video of Ellen in front of a green screen, next comes the host, then you get he contractors and finally the challenge begins! 


It's time to turn a box into a piece of furniture. It had the "white box challenge" sort of vibe from HGTV's next design star. Why fix what is not broken! Competitors had 3 days with their assigned carpenters to create anything they wanted. Quickly you notice who are the focused designers and who crack under pressure. As a designer I know how difficult it is when client's don't tell you what they are looking for. It can quickly become overwhelming to take our constantly working minds and focus them into a singular concept with no boundaries.

At the end of the 3 days each designer was critiqued individually with their contractor by their side and the piece they created on a spot lit platform. I loved the concept of them being judged without the other contestants in the room. It really takes a little pressure off at an already tense moment.

As seen on Ellen's Design Challenge, Ellen DeGeneres with judges Christiane Lemieux (Executive Creative Director, Wayfair.com) and Amanda Dameron (Editor-In-Chief, Dwell). (Photo: Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images) 

 Christian Lemieux [Executive Creative Director for Wayfair.com] and Amanda Dameron [Editor-In-Chief for Dwell Magazine] are the permanent judges and give the show massive credibility. Their raw and honest feedback was very refreshing to see. 

Mark Moskovitz, Yarmouth, ME - Photo from HGTV website

Leslie Shapiro Joyal, Los Angeles, CA - PHOTO FROM HGTV WEBSITE

The elimination of Mark happened very abruptly and was met with a lot of confusion from the twitter feed. Many people felt that Leslie should have been eliminated since she had a poorly functioning design piece to match with her poor attitude towards her contractor. But we all know a little drama makes for great television. We will all enjoy watching the emotions unfold as the season progresses!

At the end of the day, the show is a great way to shed some light on furniture designers. I think it will help the consumer better understand the true craftsmanship that goes into hand made furniture. What isn't helping is the commercials form Wayfair saying "like what they designed, get the look way Wayfair.com" followed by images over cheap imports that look nothing like the original hand crafted furniture.

All in all, I am looking forward to more episodes, Ellen or no Ellen.