Ellen's Design Challenge Episode 1: Where They All Wear Hats

Ellen's Design Challenge Episode 1: Where They All Wear Hats

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Jennifer Hunter
Jan 27, 2015
(Image credit: HGTV)

Welcome, friends. It's here! My favorite time of the week: the Ellen's Design Challenge rehash. This week, our maiden voyage had four questionable hats, WAY too many hugs and one amazing winning piece of furniture. Let's get started.

Wanna meet the contestants?

Katie — a Brooklyn-based designer (with bangs, obvi) who shows up with only a box of crayons in her Herschel backpack. Charming? You decide.

Tim — A rugged cowboy-type from Durango, Colorado. He looks like he's had those jeans for 20 years and I really like that about him.

Leslie — Clearly a minimalist in style, personality-wise, she's a wild card. We'll see Leslie, we'll see.

Carley — A blacksmith (!). This baller chick also has a master's degree in furniture design. Oh, and she already knows Katie from college...awkward.

Mark — He seems like the nice guy who will fly under the radar for a while. A little bit vanilla, but like, Madagascar vanilla.

Gaspar — A Venezuelan immigrant with a backstory about how he used to do day labor outside Home Depot. Now he has his own design shop. Nice bootstraps, guy.

• Ellen shows up...on TV. That's right. She's on a TV on TV. How meta. We get a little glimpse of her house (no Portia sightings yet) and then she peaces out to go write some funny tweets or something and leaves us with the host of the show Jay Montepare.

• Judges Christiane Lemieux, executive creative director of Wayfair and Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron are joined by guest judge of the week Jason Chauncey.

• What's this? Each contestant gets paired with a carpenter? Let's not review all the carpenters; they all seem cool, 'nuff said. They all hug each other hello.

• Each team gets a present! A huge one. They're....empty? Whaaa? In a shocking twist, the box itself is the gift (or not shocking if you have a tw0-year old, they always know the box is the best part). All the materials the designers get to use — plexiglass, steel, plywood and walnut — are built into that box. They all get to work disassembling.

• Aaaaand there's drama and shockingly, it's from Leslie. She doesn't seem to be so mild-mannered after all. She is not getting along with her carpenter AT ALL. Watch that tone, Leslie.

• You know who is getting along? Carley and her super-hunky carpenter Jeff. As she says, "they mesh well." Uh huh. I bet she wants to mesh with Jeff all night long and who could blame her?

• Tim has fallen behind but, not to fear, he woke up in the middle of the night with a genius idea that will save his hide: a Campaign desk.

• Gaspar has plans for a chair and not just any chair. From the look of things, it seems very Game of Thrones -esque. He gets some advice about how it needs to be functional (that's foreshadowing).

• Mark is sweating over his wall shelf. Like, he's really dripping sweat and then we hear cracking...uh oh. Then there's a commercial break to hawk a few more Wayfair products. Then we find out that, phew, everything is okay with the shelf after all. Nice save, Mark.

• Katie uses her crayons to draw some squiggles and then uses a super-expensive machine to etch that drawing onto her acrylic. Cool. She's doing a Mid-Century Cabinet with a twist. So far so good.

• Now we're down to the final minutes and everyone is scrambling, especially Gaspar. He hasn't even put the seat on his chair so the other guys jump in to help him and he gets in just before the buzzer. Whew!

• It's finally time for the reveals. Leslie turns in a very blah shelf, everyone is majorly hating Gaspar's "disproportioned" chair (it does kind of look like a birdcage) and Mark's cabinet is just as vanilla as he seems to be.

• Whoa, Carley and Jeff can't keep their hands off each other. It's cute/gross but they're doing a too-long hug in front of the judges. Also, her twisted steel table is a hit. It's "sculptural and organic." Agreed. It's fun.

• Katie and Tim are neck and neck for the win. Katie's cabinet is indeed, pretty cool but it's Tim's GORGEOUS Campaign Desk with its cool, attached stool and removable drawer/briefcase that really steals the show. Also, he looks so good explaining it, you just have to give it to the guy.

• So who leaves us? Mark is dunzo. His piece just had no personality. But he takes it pretty well, he thanks the judges for their "feedback" and calls it “one to grow on.” Pretty classy, Mark.

The underhanded compliment of the day comes from Casey to Katie. When looking at Katie's final product she says, “it definitely has a “you” look to it.”

To see a quick video clip of the Judge's deliberations (which includes shots of each of the six pieces), go to HGTV.

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