Ellen’s Design Challenge: Meet Melissa

updated Jul 17, 2020
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(Image credit: Courtesy Melissa Rivera-Torres)

Name: Melissa Rivera-Torres
City: Pleasant Hill, CA

Style: Modern, functional, industrial with a pop of color and a twist of fun.

(Image credit: Courtesy Melissa Rivera-Torres)

Carpenter paired with: Stephen Zimpel

When did you realize you had potential in furniture design?

I always loved furniture design, and making things that had a purpose. I would say that during my sophomore year attending the Rhode Island School of Design while I was majoring in industrial design I realized that I not only loved making products, exhibits and toys but also furniture design. After college I was able to design exhibits which were basically interactive furniture pieces for people of all ages with the purpose of educating them about something— THAT was the moment I realized that I wanted to make Furniture that helped people not only smile but also learn something and interact with it in unique ways. Design as a whole is just incredible it has the power of improving people’s lives— how cool is that?!

(Image credit: Courtesy Melissa Rivera-Torres)

What are your design strengths?

With my industrial design background and my masters in teaching art and design I can bring many unique elements to my clients and designs.

I am like a chameleon, while one day you will see me doing graphic design, another day you will see me designing and interior, or a runway, whatever you need. I am not pinned down to just making one thing, in fact I love variety of challenges in my life. Not scared to take on tough projects —no matter how big the challenge is. I am passionate about always doing my best work and feel fortunate to do what I do. I think of things in very unique, unconventional ways, which allow me to have a very unique approach to designs and problems to solve when making things.

I am hardworking and always strive to make my clients happy with the work I do for them. I love people and I am patient. To be a good designer you really have to be able to communicate with people and have sensitivity and listen to their needs.

Most importantly, I love designing and feel lucky to call myself a designer.

(Image credit: Courtesy Melissa Rivera-Torres)

What are your design weaknesses?

I can sometimes be my own toughest critic. I can be a perfectionist. Don’t want to finish projects unless I am 100% happy with my work. I can be extra hardworking at times, and have to remember to know when to put a pause when I am into something.

Sometimes it’s hard to say no to certain projects or budgets, but I am learning to respect myself as a designer and my time more (I love helping people, so it’s hard!).

I love adding unique features to things, but I have to remember — only at times — to edit functionality on some of my things. Less is more sometimes.

(Image credit: Courtesy Melissa Rivera-Torres)

How did you end up auditioning for Ellen’s Design Challenge?

I auditioned because my brother had seen the article in 2015 about Ellen’s Design Challenge and he told me that THAT was a show he could definitely see me being awesome at, and that it pretty much had my name all over it. When I saw the chance to apply – BY LUCK – I absolutely HAD to try to audition, but was not sure I would have a chance since I had been in an HGTV Show called “The White Room Challenge” in 2012… luckily, my application kept moving forward. I pretty much auditioned as I was moving across the country — I had all my things packed in boxes and I was taking Ellen’s call in the middle of the desert! When the show started I did not even have a home since I had literally just moved to California!

(Image credit: Courtesy Melissa Rivera-Torres)

Which challenge from last season would you have loved to compete in? Which one would you pass on?

I really loved the very first challenge when the contestants received empty boxes made out of different materials to build their own piece of furniture. I loved it and thought it was a super unique challenge and where I could have done a good job with my background in industrial design.

I am not a huge huge fan of couches, and I think I might have been just a tad bit intimidated by the couch challenge — I would totally take on the challenge, but if I had to pick my least favorite one, that would be the one.

On a scale of 1 to 5 sweater vests, how amazing is Ellen in person?

Ellen is not only 5 sweater vests in person (the highest ranking of the sweater vests, I am assuming), but she is the 5 sweater vests with a lil awesome jacket and cool shoes with a lil dance included in there, too! She is absolutely awesome and feel super fortunate to have been able to be part of this show. I not only love her personality and sense of humor, but I extra love that she is so passionate about design and furniture. She rocks and I am a fan 100%.

Episode eliminated: Episode 4 — Exit interview

Thanks, Melissa! Watch her compete on Ellen’s Design Challenge, Mondays at 9|8c on HGTV!