Ellen’s Design Challenge Season 2 Episode 7: Putting the Fun in Multifunctional

published Mar 1, 2016
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Three designers are left, and this week decides who is in the finale for Ellen’s Design Challenge. Here’s what happened in the penultimate episode:

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The designers take a seat on a sleek bench and Cliff and Christiane surprise them and their carpenters with what seems like a five-minute party. Nothing’s ever not part of the challenge, so Miles wonders if they’re building a bar cart or serving table or something.

Or something. C&C come back and ask why they didn’t use the table. After some confounded looks, they transform the bench into a flat surface. And there’s the challenge—design a piece of multifunctional furniture in three days.

For winning last week, Vivian gets an extra hour of build time at the end of Day 2— which is great, since she seems to always be cutting it reeaaaallly close.

(Image credit: HGTV)

Vivian doesn’t want to just “slap some hinges” on a piece, so she’s utilizing an interlocking hinge. Miles has made multifunctional pieces before on the show, and “Sef is a mad scientist,” so Vivian hopes her lounge chair to serving table holds up against the competition. C&C are critiquing in tandem today, and they suggest doing multiples of the piece, so they can see how they work as a set. I think Matt may have fainted for a sec. But they have that extra hour, so they plan for two.

Miles is planning a Swiss army knife kitchen cart on wheels that has four extending surfaces and stools that swing out from underneath. Christiane wants him to take her breath away, and I just want this for every small apartment I’ve ever lived in.

(Image credit: HGTV)

Sef’s piece is a play and work desk for kids and adults—so, as C&C say, a desk that turns into a desk. There’s a work surface and low easel setting for the grownups, and then the top swivels to be the height for a child’s play desk or easel.

Vivian and Matt are trying to create a full scale mockup, but there’s nary a mechanical engineering degree between them and it’s not functioning properly. Day 1 ends and it hasn’t happened. Let’s hope they figure it out for tomorrow.

Day 2 and Sef and Chip set the tone by apologizing in advance for being snippy with each other. Their adult work surface will be a maple veneer, and the kid’s side a gloss gray formica that can be drawn on. They coat plywood and vacuum seal it to mold for six hours, tucked in comfy cozy with a heated blanket to speed up the process.

Meanwhile, Miles’ stool top is getting shaped with a dip for comfort, and Vivian is working a new mockup on the CNC using teak interlocking finger joints that will hinge up to create the table. Once they that it works, Matt starts making a bunch of the teak pieces for the final piece.

(Image credit: HGTV)

Sef starts out cutting the metal leg pieces on the plasma cutter, and then Chip begins welding them together. There’s not a ton of noticeable difference between the back and the front, and Chip mixes them up, which means they have to cut them apart and re-weld, for a time loss of 30 minutes.

Vivian reveals herself to be an aerophile, and she’s inspired by super fast jets to mill her chair legs from airplane aluminum. Matt’s over in his happy place, cutting, sanding, and finishing the teak.

(Image credit: HGTV)

Karl is cutting the plywood for the base of the cart, and Miles is welding the frame together and inserting the crossbars. But at the Day 2, the crossbars are too high for the butcher block to sit properly, so Miles has ten minutes to cut apart and reattach. He gets it done under the buzzer.

Everyone leaves, except for Vivian and Matt and they’re using their extra hour to cut out two sets of aluminum legs on the CNC. It’s slow going, but apparently still too fast since they break a drill bit off. It’s a good thing they finished one set before the break, but that means they’re only showing one piece instead of two. Vivian hopes it’s enough.

(Image credit: HGTV)

On the start of Day 3, Miles works on finishing the stool columns, polishing the legs, and attaching the stools to the cart. Sef starts wrapping the metal legs with wood, and then has to paint because, you know, paint takes time to dry.

With three hours left, Vivian has a pile of parts that has yet to resemble a chair, and Matt has to recut all the spacers so the chair fits together properly.

While Sef is painting in the tent outside, Karl unknowingly unplugs the cord keeping the tent afloat and it begins deflating like a sad bounce house gone wrong. Sef stashes his pieces under the table and abandons the deflating ship, only to watch it reflate when Karl is done sanding and re-plugs in the tent. Sef is bewildered, and has to repaint two pieces since they smudged. Chip is hardly phased by Sef’s un-fun house story, cuz they’ve got shit to do.

It’s the end of Day 3, and Miles’ stools are a little unstable, but there’s no time to change the design. He slaps some more screws in, and hope it helps.

(Image credit: HGTV)

Miles hopes the personality of the piece helps him through. Sef calls this his second most successful piece, and could care less what judges say. Vivian feels good, but worries there’s not enough wow factor without the second piece.

They end with some heartwarming group hugs. Aww.

This week’s guest judge is the Executive Director of Design Miami, Rodman Primack. What does he look for in a successful multifunctional piece? Whimsy, beauty, but ultimately, usefulness.

(Image credit: HGTV)

First up is Vivian. She has yet to make a chair or serving table, so this design combines the two, especially since those are two things spaces could always use more of. She begins to explain how they transform it, but they figure it out just fine. Rodman calls it smart and thoughtful. Christiane sits down and declares that it passes the comfort test, and that the pitch of the seat is perfect for outdoor furniture. Cliff calls it awe-inspiring, praises the beautiful work on the airplane-inspired base, but that it might be a little narrow and therefore a bit unstable. Vivian is visibly relieved with her critiques.

Next is Miles, and Karl Vannas the cart six ways to Sunday, converting it from kitchen island with extendable butcher block, to dining surface by pulling out the eaves and stools, to extending the stainless steel bar surface for an after dinner cocktail. Christiane points out the sloping dining surface would mean your drink ends up on the floor, but says that the stool function is beautiful. Rodman notes the wobbly stool. Vivian says she could use one herself, and Sef says it’s not beautiful. Cliff agrees with Sef, calling it impressive, but favoring design function over design aesthetic.

Last is Sef, and Chip swivels the tabletop from reading mode, adult work surface, low easel, to kid’s play surface, and easel. Rodman calls it sculptural and charming for a family home, but the low easel setting isn’t functional. Christiane shakes the piece to check for stability, since a kid is going to stand on it—don’t think it passes that test. She’d also like doors on the interior storage since kids are messy and seeing the light’s cord is unappealing. She says it looks unfinished, but has real potential. Cliff is more positive, saying he got it really right, especially with the ingenious concave shape that changes the table’s function.

(Image credit: HGTV)

At final judging, Vivian is the first to make it through to the finale. It’s extremely close, but Sef snags the last spot, and Miles is carted away.

That’s it for this week! Is this who you wanted to see in the finale? Tell us in the comments!

We’ll be live-tweeting the show along with the cast & judges every Monday at 9|8c. Follow us @apttherapy & join in using #EllenDesignOnHGTV. And check back after each show for our episode recap! Also, you can vote for your favorite designer at