Name: Melissa Rivera-Torres
City: Pleasant Hill, CA
Style: Modern, functional, industrial with a pop of color and a twist of fun.
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?!
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.
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.
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!
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%.
Thanks, Melissa! Watch her compete on Ellen's Design Challenge, Mondays at 9|8c on HGTV!