Ellen is back (and so are our recaps)! We're super excited that the furniture design competition returns tonight (Monday, January 18), so here's a look back at the New Year's Day casting special. We get a taste of what's to come on season 2 of Ellen's Design Challenge, we meet the cast, and two people are gone before they got the chance to really compete. Too bad, so sad.
At the start of the casting special, right off the bat, Ellen hits us with a table pun. Oh, Ellen! Never change. On set, she meets with this season's judges, returning design maven Christiane Lemieux, and season-1-guest-judge-turned-perm interior designer Cliff Fong. What's Christiane looking for (besides fierce in that sequined plaid skirt)? Quality, edgy yet commercial designs. Cliff wants a star to emerge and give him something that stands up to iconic pieces.
Ellen drops the bomb that C&C (Music Factory) will have to cut 2 people. We definitely feel Christiane's pain:
Then Ellen's all, okay byyyyeeeee oops this door is locked, guess I'll adorably exit stage right. OH, ELLEN!
They bring everyone in. They're all trying to be chill.
Except McKenzie, who is the Leslie Knope of EDC.
C&C tell the designers that only eight are making it through. The cuts will be made based on their portfolios and their projects for Ellen, a new piece that represents them as a designer. Up first: Bradley.
That floral shirt told me you were from Miami before your mouth did, Bradley. I am here for it. With a furniture-designing grandma and a sad tale of having to sleep at SCAD because he couldn't afford rent during grad school, Bradley is getting my heartstrings-and-boostraps award.
But let's be frank, is anyone actually sitting in Bradley's Frank chair? Anyway, C&C are questioning the structure and functionality of his stuff, but liking the style. They're digging his ruffled potato chip table, and I agree—I couldn't have just one (that's a potato chip joke, guys!!).
Next is Dave, architecture major-turned-furniture designer from San Jose. He's got a modern meets retrofuturism style going on. That cantilever chair does look precarious, and the judges don't look so impressed that it's meant to be bolted to the floor. His bench homework is kind of basic, the green room calls it "production worthy" (which seems like it's a dig?), and C&C give it lukewarm reviews.
Artist & engineer Vivian is clearly a badass, which we can tell from lots of B-roll of her welding. Her stuff is super sculptural and gets oohs and ahhs from the green room and the judges, especially the "anchored candy" chaise and her super surf-worthy wave bench homework.
Sef—whose hair is almost as sculptural as Vivian's pieces—describes his work as Danish Modern with Asian influences. With a sculptor and lampshade designer as parents, design is in his blood. His wood-meets-wireframe desk homework goes over well with the judges.
Julie has a stable of kids and animals (including a horse, obvs) back in Indiana, and designs traditional pieces with equestrian detailing. Yet she's trying to say she has an edgy modern side? Christiane calls her out, she gets flustered. But her partner desk project does get christened rustic modern, and the judges like it.
The first five meet their fate. Vivian, Sef, and Bradley have made the cut. Julie and Dave are still in danger.
Alrighty, the next group starts with Alexis. All her work is custom, and is clearly impressing the dudes in the green room. Not surprising with that cool white concrete credenza.
Melissa is an effervescent industrial designer originally from Mexico who isn't meant to be kept in a furniture designing box. She whips out a range of designs from a kid's craft table to a dog house—all very fun and playful.
But sorry, Melissa, Christiane's gotta stop you right there, cuz your pinwheel table homework is a tripping hazard. Ouch.
Miles, RISD grad, grew up with musician parents and we even get a photo of him as a little drummer. Aww. He designed sling chairs for Converse using their shoe canvas. They're loving his industrial minimalism and that bamboo chair is pretty spectacular. The judges were a slightly less jazzed about his homework grilling table, calling it cool but questioning the weight of using granite and its niche quality.
RISD grad student McKenzie is the wild card, and with what she lacks in experience she makes up for in raw talent and weird faces.
When she gets the phone call from Ellen, she is all of us. Her spunky enthusiasm make me want to use old fashioned adjectives like 'verve' and 'gumption.' Will I feel this way by, say, episode 5? Perhaps not. But for now, all about it. Also all about that rope chaise. My cats would have a field day.
Last up is Kyle. As Christiane says, Kyle knows wood. He comes from generations of woodworkers, and also happens to be a structural engineer, NBD. We get plenty of shots of him in his studio with a circular saw. Christiane calls his craftsmanship exquisite and gorgeous. Anyway, he makes a bit of a misstep when over-designing a table/stool to pair with a Prouvé chair that Ellen has. Let's hope that craftsmanship is enough to keep him on the show.
We're not left sweating too long, since C&C put Alexis, Kyle, Miles, and McKenzie through. That leaves Melissa in jeopardy with Dave and Julie.
The last three compete for the remaining spot by designing a signature chair in 30 minutes. Dave informs us he's known as The Chair Guy, so now I'm worried for our burly ginger friend. Let's see how it goes.
How cute is Melissa's boat chair? Coming to a nautical nursery near you. C&C love the idea, especially the upholstery, inventiveness, and the use of negative space. She does do a lot of children's design, and that worries C&C for future challenges where she'll have to design for adults. Is her whimsy enough to score her a spot?
Uh oh, Cliff calls Chair Guy safe for his ribbed piece. Christiane disagrees, and praises Dave for his original detailing. Will Chair Guy take a seat or hit the road?
Julie makes the mistake of trying to design a chair that she thinks the judges will like, ends up with something we've seen in 100 catalogs. Despite what she calls it, it's definitely not mid-century modern, and Cliff expected more.
Oh here they goooo! Thanks, McKenzie, for doing the running commentary for me. I'm just gonna sit back and relax.
Melissa scores the last spot, Dave and Julie say goodbye. Adios, Chair Guy, we hardly knew ye.
So what can we expect this season? According to the preview:
- Hunky HGTV carpenters
- So many hugs
- Workroom snafus
- Broken pieces
- Lots of sweaty tank tops
- Ellen being adorable
- Frustrated screaming
- Carpenters standing up for themselves
- Cliff wanting to buy a piece right now
- Ellen driving a warehouse cart
Read our interviews with all 10 contestants: