It's down to five designers on Ellen's Design Challenge, and that means it's time for the Dream Date — ahem sorry, wrong recap. But they are going on a trip! Well, not really. But there are suitcases! And Ellen! Here's what happened:
Christiane is looking fierce per uszh in a botanical print as she and Cliff present the designers with their next challenge. It's all about global inspiration, and Ellen shows up on the (previously teased) warehouse cart loaded up with suitcases, and adds a bit of levity into what must be an exhausting process for these five. After a minute of her vacation (and puppy) photos, along with pieces she and Cliff sourced on said trips, Cliff unloads the suitcases and Ellen drives off from whence she came.
Each suitcase holds a country's flag that will act as the design inspiration for their project. Melissa gets France, Sef snags Denmark, Kyle has Morocco, Vivian gets Italy. Since Miles won last week, he either gets to Yankee Swap steal, or take a chance on the unopened suitcase. He chooses the last suitcase which suits (heh) him well because it's Japan. And the three-day build begins immediately.
Kyle's style is pretty much the opposite of Morocco, but he and Matt are going for it with an expandable console/buffet table with decorative brass detail. Christiane calls for a strategic use of color.
Sef is snapping his lucky stars since he counts Danish design as one of his strengths and style inspirations. He's planning an S-curve chair, and Cliff posits that Danish chairs are the country's most memorable designs. That's a lot to live up to, but Sef doesn't look phased.
Melissa plans to use the pillar of classic fashion herself, Coco Chanel, as the inspiration for her French vanity set with a tri-fold mirror. This could get really frou-frou really fast.
Miles goes big with his plans for a room divider-slash-storage unit. He's taking some inspo from the Wayfair wall, and his build will be all about impeccable execution. Except for the wabi sabi crack in his wood that he's keeping, with a little bowtie joint to keep it secure.
Vivian plans a Brutalist-inspired wine rack with a butcher block top. An interesting choice since her more sculptural pieces could easily work within the realm of Italian design. I hate Brutalism (I live in Boston with this) but I love wine so let's see how this goes.
Day one is flying by—as in wood is literally flying across the workroom and narrowly misses Chip. Melissa is rushing to build her stool since it needs to go to the upholsterer overnight.
On to Day two and Miles noticed his frame looked uneven and had to knock out a shelf support that was nearly an inch off and redo it. Vivian is welding (drink!) and then does a rust patina on her legs. Kyle's curvy console legs create a traditional temple door shape in the negative space.
Meanwhile, Melissa is working on the decorative design for her mirror. Sef and Chip are gluing laminate together and bending it using clamps and molds, and it gets a little snippy as the clock ticks down.
Kyle's going with a turquoise painted detail on his table to complement the brass, instead of a more traditional cobalt. I like how it looks, but we'll see what the judges think. Melissa is adding nailhead trim to her already decorated-within-an-inch-of-its-life vanity. Listen to Coco, Melissa, and take one (or twenty) things off.
Vivian is trying to secure the butcher block to her wine rack when the clamps apply too much pressure and the joint breaks. The team's got not a ton of time to make it work, but they come in just as the buzzer signals the end of Day three.
It's on to judging and C&C are joined by the amazing Karim Rashid who will surely not hold back. What equals a winning design for Karim? It sells, it earns accolades, and the client is happy. Those are pretty obvious, Karim, but alright.
Anyway, Sef is up first with his oversized chair made from sculpted and molded ash and leather. Kyle calls it a throne, Karim says he could have reduced a few parts. Christiane calls it interesting and that the proportion is off, while Cliff likes the scale but it feels more American than Danish.
Despite the palpable anticipation, it's crickets when the turntable reveals Vivian's wine rack. Vivian has to explain her concept, calling it decorative structural, and Karim says it's an art piece but he's not feeling anything Italian without knowing she was going for Brutalism. Cliff says there's no obvious Brutalism, and that the materials and finishes are decidedly un-Italian. Karim closes it out by saying he works with a lot of Italians who push him to show something original, and this is not it.
Miles is the first of the night to get great reviews. Karim says his Japanese room divider feels monumental and proud, as well as ethereal and calming. Christiane says it feels very Japan, and also very Miles. Cliff praises the extended pieces at the top and says it gave him goosebumps.
Melissa's French vanity turns around and Karim says, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but it's beautiful." Melissa explains her inspiration as Coco Chanel and the LBD, but Karim interjects that this is most definitely not a little black dress because that's all about simplicity. Christiane calls it fun and jewel-like, Sef chimes in to say all the little things distract (I'm with you, Sef). Karim ends by saying it's not enough that it looks like it comes from France, and that it's important to know the difference between styling and design (which is a nuanced but super important distinction).
Kyle's design gets mixed reviews, with Karim saying he's disappointed that it's too over the top, and that the turquoise feels Southwestern instead of Moroccan. Sef comments that it's not his style, but he thinks he successfully executed the challenge. C&C enjoy the brass detail, but agree that there's a bit too much—the top could've been simpler to let the legs shine.
Miles is the clear winner, and now he's got two wins in a row. Everyone else fell short on the styling versus design spectrum, but ultimately, we say au revoir to Melissa. I wouldn't be too sad, though— if Twitter is any indication, there's a ton of people clamoring for that vanity.
That's it for this week! Do you agree with the verdicts? Tell us in the comments!