Liz Gray

"In search of Eames-worthy style on a Craigslist budget. And pie."

Liz is a senior editor at HGTV.com and an co-editor-in-chief for Design Happens. She lives in a midcentury tri-level that’s stuck in the ‘70s…for now. When she’s not working on remodeling projects with her guy and mystery breed puppy, Miles, you can find her buying impractical hats, scheming mad scientist-style in her overworked kitchen and drooling over Danish modern furniture.

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Posts By Liz Gray

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Did you watch last night’s Ellen’s Design Challenge finale? Talk about intense. After Tim’s last-minute disqualification,  Katie was named the winner in a surprise interview at Ellen’s studio. The modern furniture designer will take home the $100,000 prize, and be featured in an upcoming issue of HGTV Magazine.

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DeRossi WIth Ellen's Design Challenge Winner

Portia de Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres, Katie Stout and Karl Champley

Her carpenter Karl was there from the beginning, from the first day on set to the (surprise) winning moment. Click through to watch the video and relive Katie and Karl’s Ellen’s Design Challenge journey. Plus: More photos from the finale.

WEB-EXCLUSIVE: CARPENTER OF THE WEEK

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Are you watching Ellen’s Design Challenge? We’re going behind the scenes of the show’s fifth episode with carpenter Chip Wade to find out more about what it feels like to travel blindfolded, plus the designs from episode 5. 

HGTV's Chip Wade With Salvaged Metal and Wood Shelf

Chip Wade Poses With the Salvaged Shelf

I Heart HGTV: What was going through the group’s mind when you were blindfolded for this challenge? Did anyone guess where you were really going?

Chip Wade: I guess I have not been blindfolded many times as an adult, because it felt SO strange to be in a moving van and feel no sense of where we were going. The only saving grace was the hilarious banter between all six of us as we traveled to an undisclosed location. We had actually hoped we were being taken to do something fun and relaxing, like ride some go carts to take some of the pressure off, but we were wrong, the next challenge awaited: The salvage yard.

Ellen's Design Challenge Carpenters in Salvage Yard

How did everyone approach the salvaged material challenge differently?  What’s your favorite way to use salvaged materials?

Everyone was somewhat frantic in this challenge.  In reality, we had only about 1.5 hours to look around this expansive location, which was more reminiscent of an ’80s office building graveyard with more garbage cabinets and random useless materials than a treasure trove. However, this exercise was about making something out of nothing, so it was perfect.

The FInal Three Ellen's Design Challenge Teams

The Final Three Teams

All three teams were scrambling to find anything of actual quality to start with. Without a specific design in mind, all three teams were forced to pile anything that might be a possible decent raw material, being forced to figure out how to use it later. Katie and Karl lucked out and found tons of acrylic to keep with her eclectic style. They coupled this acrylic with a bundle of multicolor 14gauge wire for the seat upholstery. Gaspar and Brooks went WAY overboard grabbing anything and everything…to a ridiculous extent. We actually had to ask them to share some of the stuff they selected, as they were wanting to walk away with half the warehouse!! Sometimes having too much is a burden as well.

Ellen's Design Challenge Team in Salvage Yard

Katie and Carl in the Salvage Yard

Tim and I were severely struggling to find anything exciting in the least. With about 20 min left, I found a large round object that had no real redeemable qualities except a vague reflection of an old fan. We liked that there was a real steel housing and that the stature of the fan itself was imposing.

In my opinion, salvaged materials are best utilized when they are not 100 percent transformed from their original state.  I think the key is maintaining the story and figure of the original materials while giving them new practical purpose.

Explain a little about the construction of your team’s piece, the rustic fan bookcase.

Our fan console was constructed out of only 2 materials: the fan and some douglas fir timbers.  We started by removing the 1-inch–thick coating of old paint and dust from the housing and blades. This fan was apparently used as an exhaust fan where they were painting… a lot. The greatest part about the fan is the somewhat realistic wear it had, without hurting its structural integrity. This ended up being the perfect platform to start from, because you could build off of it.

Reclaimed Wood Shelf  From Ellen's Design Challenge

Tim and Chip’s Fan Shelf, Under Construction

After removing all the old layers of paint and debris, we noticed that the fan blades themselves were cast aluminum!  This was so lucky, as the fine luster of the cleaned up blades fit perfectly into the desired aesthetic. We plasma-cut out slots to fit the wood timbers through, then joined another timber to the previous to lock them in place and give the entire piece the feeling that the wood had been pressed through the steel, or somehow molded together.

We created a new propeller mount with a more finished disposition, as the original mound blocked too much visual space.  A fun detail about the inside of the fan is the way we finished it. The fan originally had a green paint on it.  We spread some acetone with a sponge over the entire thing to bring down the high contrast spots and normalize the color. We then sprayed the entire inside with flat black paint and sanded it radially with sandpaper wrapped around a long wooden dowel to give it the appearance that it had been scored and scraped by a spinning object.  The wood was coated with a tinted Briwax to give it its final luster, followed by a satin lacquer on the fan body itself.

Can you tell us anything about the construction of Katie and Karl’s design?

The acrylic desk was made by creating a mortised slot halfway through the legs to capture and support the horizontal planes without the need for excessive fasteners, which would have ruined the look. The 1 1/4″ acrylic is so finicky to work with, since it gets so hot and can crack when machined.  The chair, also from acrylic, was drilled with holes to accommodate the electrical wire mesh. The weaving process of stringing thick gauge wire tightly was beyond challenging.

Woven Acrylic Chair Seat - Ellen's Design Challenge on HGTV

Tell us about a funny or behind-the-scenes moment from episode 5 we didn’t see on TV.

There was a lot of bickering between teams and team members at this salvage yard. Everyone was so confused about what they were actually going to use. I think Katie and Karl were the only ones at all confident with what they found initially. Tim and I actually spent the most time outside with some of the huge metal salvage scraps. We wanted so badly to get this enormous electric motor housing to make a giant chair out of, but it didn’t work out. The thing weighed a couple of thousand pounds…at least. At the end of all these challenges, all members of every team were willing to help the others get their finished pieces ready to show the judges, great team effort.

Final Teams in HGTV's Ellen's Design Challenge

A Champagne Toast Before the Finale

See more photos of the episode 5 designs here:

Tune in tonight at 9/8c to see the season finale of Ellen’s Design Challenge.  Join Chip, Ellen, HGTV and more fans of the show on Twitter with #EllenDesignonHGTV.

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Are you watching Ellen’s Design Challenge? We’re going behind the scenes of the show’s third episode with carpenter Chip Wade to find out more about the winning piece — Tim and Chip’s modern wood-and-metal dining table. 

The Ellen's Design Challenge Carpenters With Ellen DeGeneres

The Ellen’s Design Challenge Carpenters With Ellen DeGeneres

Read on for Chip’s commentary on the winning design: For this challenge, each designer got to pick a chair. Little did they know that we would have to build a dining table that perfectly complemented a full set of 6 of the chairs. In this challenge, Tim chose an iconic Panton chair in white.

Ellen's Design Challenge Season 1 Contestants

The Designers and Their Chairs

With such a statement chair, you can only imagine the difficulty creating a dining table that complements such an iconic piece without being completely overtaken by it. We certainly did not hold back our boldness with materials and style. Tim loves the art of hot rod building as well, so we decided to make a table more reminiscent of a sports car, picking up on some of the subtle movement lines of the Panton chair. Ellen's Design Challenge - Metal Base Construction The table started with a statement monolithic base crafted from hand bent 5/8-inch steel rods.  The table foot, as we called it, had to be positioned correctly of the tables center of mass and still give the feeling of balance while eluding to forward movement.  The balancing point of this table was a wildcard given the unknown of the specific live edge timber we would eventually find.

Finished Metal Table Base on HGTV's Ellen's Design Challenge

The Finished Table Base

We then created cardboard templates for the side metal panels and cut the s shaped pieces with a hand held plasma cutter.  We shaped the piece to the frame with an English wheel, a tool often used to form metal contours like that of a motorcycle gas tank.  The fun detail here is we welded the side metal panels of the leg from the inside, leaving the 5/8″ frame rod exposed creating a rounded edge.  This gave the table base the feeling of a cast metal chunk rather than a welded piece, a critical design element that I loved creating. Behind the Scenes of Ellen's Design Challenge Episode 3 The argument over the specific piece of material with Carly and Jeff was completely real; in fact,we actually redesigned the table (for real) because we had to change the piece of wood at the last minute. Tim and I figured it would be better to just give them the slab they wanted and we could come up with something just as good again. Ellen's Design Challenge Table Design Detail The center of the table was created from the same metal as the base to make the final live edge wooden detail feel as though it is being split into like a racing stripe by the metal base. Welded Design Detail on Tim and Chip's Table A fun detail I created on the corner of the table is a steel butterfly joint.  This joint echoed the material of the base onto the table top and provided a creative alternative to the classic wood butterfly used to keep deep cracks from splitting any further in large solid stock wooden pieces. The final product was pretty striking, with sleek lines and sexy curves.  With only 2 materials showcased, this table is arguably as beautifully artful as it is functional.

Thanks, Chip! See more of the finished piece in episode three’s behind-the-scenes gallery. And don’t forget to watch an all-new episode of Ellen’s Design Challenge, tonight at 9/8c. Tweet live with the cast (including Chip) using #EllenDesignonHGTV.

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We all know that designer David Bromstad can mix and match color like a pro, but did you know he can also mix up a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies? He shared his secret recipe with HGTV Magazine — now you can try it, too!

HGTV's David Bromstad Shares His Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

David Bromstad in the Kitchen; Image Courtesy HGTV Magazine

Growing up in Minnesota, David caught the baking bug from his mom, but these salty-sweet cookies are all his own. I mean, just look at them:

Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies Recipes

 

These oversized treats are fancy enough to give as a Valentine’s Day gift…to yourself or someone you love.

GET DAVID’S COOKIE RECIPE HERE >>

Hungry for more Valentine’s Day dessert inspiration? Head over to Design Happens to see Camille’s Valentine’s Day dessert recipes for the whole family, from sugar cookies for the kids…

Valentine's Day Cookie Decorating How-Tos
…to crunchy iced bones for your pup.

Bone Shaped Dog Treats for Valentine's Day

GET EVEN MORE VALENTINE’S DAY IDEAS HERE >>

What are you baking (or making) for your Valentine? Tell us in the comments below.

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Are you watching Ellen’s Design Challenge? We’re going behind the scenes of the show’s second episode with carpenter Chip Wade to find out what you didn’t see on TV. Read on to see Chip’s surprising answers, and ask him all your EDC questions.

HGTV's Chip Wade

HGTV’s Chip Wade

The judges mentioned that the piece you and Tim created was very masculine. Did you guys talk through that challenge during the design process at all?

The judges did comment that are piece was masculine. Saying it was “too” masculine would not really make any sense, as our goal as designers/builders and competitors is not make ever piece gender neutral and safe. In fact, what you don’t see in the cut of the show is that very conversation. The piece did have a bend toward weight and warmer tones, but it was thematic for the piece we were making (a bar).  The judges had a comment in the show about knocking the glasses with you knees when you sit.  What did not get covered for everyone to see was our rebuttal, the glasses are stored on the service side where you stand, not the bar side where you will likely pull up a chair.  Tim and I were overwhelmingly on the same page for this piece, we both loved it and believed it showed innovation and craftsmanship, especially fro the 2 day build time. We were very confident about the form of our piece against all the other designs.

Chip + Tim's Checkerboard Tabletop in Progress - Ellen's Design Challenge

Chip + Tim’s Checkerboard Tabletop in Progress

Can you tell us anything more about the construction of Katie and Karl’s winning piece?

Katie and Karl’s piece was certainly iconic looking (and quite feminine looking) if that is a criteria, haha. I think Karl did an amazing job of putting this piece together with the materials he had to work with. Katie was adamant about using acrylic again in challenge 2. Acrylic is a very difficult material to machine very cleanly in compressed time frames.  Difficult machinability, coupled with being a large scale and an irregular geometry made this piece more of a “prototype” piece, like a concept car, than a full production piece.  They did get it to a point that was good enough to wow the judges and take home the win on challenge two. Well done!

Designs From HGTV's Ellen's Design Challenge - Katie's Wardrobe

Katie and Karl’s Winning Wardrobe

Leslie’s piece had one big design flaw — no rails on the changing table. Did others on the set try to warn her before judging?

There was definitely discussion about this matter prior to judging.  Having a piece that functions well for its purpose was the core of this challenge.  The designers are always having to weigh the balance between form and function.

SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM EPISODE 2 HERE >>

Ellen's Design Challenge Judge Christiane Lemieux

Judge Christiane Lemieux Critiques Leslie’s Piece

There must have been a lot of waiting on elimination days! What were some of the favorite ways to pass the time among the carpenters and the contestants?

You have no idea! The judging time and other times when the designers and carpenters were separated on set often reached periods of multiple hours in a row.  The carpenters got to know each other very well. We told jokes and tried to be creative in order to pass the time, time we wished we could be working on the next challenge.

Ellen's Design Challenge on HGTV - The Carpenters

The Carpenters Wait for Judging

How many cameras were typically filming each scene? How many crew members were there on set?

It would really blow your mind to feel what is was like to experience all the cameras and crew that were present for 3 weeks. On a typical HGTV show, most shooting days are just 1 camera or possibly 2 camera days with occasional extra production horsepower at a reveal.  The Ellen’s Design Challenge set, we could go nowhere without being seen and heard by multiple cameras! If I had to guess, the most production crew and executives I saw on set must have easily reached 75 to 100 people beyond the contestants and carpenters.

 

Do you have a question for Chip about Ellen’s Design Challenge? Leave a comment below — and don’t forget to watch a new episode tonight at 9 pm | 8c.

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Are you a fan of Ellen’s Design Challenge? So is Scandal star Scott Foley. He talked about his favorite contestants and his own reclaimed wood projects this week on Ellen. Check it out:

YouTube Preview Image
A tool belt for dad and baby = one more reason we love Ellen. Hey Scott, why not try your new tools out on a reclaimed wood wall shelf?

Want to see more of Ellen’s Design Challenge? You’re in luck – you can check out this week’s episode on Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.

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Are you watching Ellen’s Design Challenge? We’re going behind the scenes of the show’s premiere with carpenter Chip Wade to find out what you didn’t see on TV. Read on to see Chip’s surprising answers, and ask him all your EDC questions. And don’t forget to tune in tonight at 9 pm | 8c for a brand new episode.

Chip Wade on Ellen's Design Challenge

Carpenter Chip Wade on the Set of Ellen’s Design Challenge

How was shooting this show different from when you shoot your other HGTV show, Elbow Room

The biggest difference between this show and a normal HGTV show is that we shot 6 episodes straight with no breaks, no weekends, no down time. I was in LA for 21 straight days and worked from early until late, sometimes until after midnight to get the jobs done. It was the same rigor as Elbow Room in terms of effort, but just with no days off, which creates a tired group of craftsmen and crew.

Behind the Scenes of Ellen's Design Challenge

Monitors and Camera Dollies on the Set

How were the carpenters and contestants paired? Did you have any say in who you were partnered up with?

We found out who we were paired with as our names were called. The designers did not know, either. I am so glad I was paired with Tim…I think it was obvious that some of the other teams lacked the chemistry and teamwork feel that Tim and I shared.

Chip and Tim Work on Their Design
Yikes…it looked like there was some crazy tension between David and Leslie during the design process. Was it that tense in real life?

This tension was totally real, and I heard all of it from both sides (as they were in the workshop setup right behind me.) There was mainly just not good communication between them. This slight misunderstanding gets amplified with insane time frames mixed with the desire to make great things. When you are not on the same page as a team, its impossible to make magic.

Leslie and David Work on Ellen's Design Challenge 1

Leslie and David Work on Challenge 1

Mark’s design really didn’t show his personality, but based on what you saw in episode 1, do you think the right designer went home?

I personally think Mark had more to offer. I would have liked to have seen him back in episode two to create something more indicative of his style and portfolio, which actually is very nice and impressive. Mark is a smart guy and very dynamic. I would have made a different choice as a judge, but hey… maybe that will happen next season!

Mark from Ellen's Design Challenge Works in Workshop

Mark in the Ellen’s Design Challenge Workshop

Tell us about a fun behind-the-scenes moment we didn’t see on TV.

Well, we all had plenty to keep us busy for the 2 days we had to build challenge one. What I loved seeing is the support the carpenters extended to one another, helping give advice and lend a hand to make all the pieces of furniture come to life. While this is a competition, it is also a group effort to create amazing pieces with anyone willing to receive some assistance. What made this rigor of work tolerable was the cheerful attitudes and willingness of all the talented folks there to help setup and teach others along the way. This was a learning experience for all.

HGTV Stars Chip Wade, Jeff Devlin and Matt Muenster

Chip Takes a Break Alongwisde Carpenters Matt Muenster and Jeff Devlin

Tell us more about the (winning!) piece you and Tim collaborated on.

Desk Sketch from Ellen's Design Challenge Episode 1

Campaign Desk Sketch

This piece showcased an undeniable level of craftsmanship with the hand-cut, giant dovetails, which took me quite awhile by the way!

Tim and Chip's Design - Ellen's Design Challenge 1

Tim and Chip’s Campaign Desk

A great collaboration between Tim and myself was the addition of the removable briefcase crafted from a plexiglass bottom for the drawer (with show logo CNC-milled on reverse side to leave the inner surface smooth,) raised panel walnut faces on 3 sides, with a removable handmade steel pin to lock the briefcase in transit.

Desk Drawer Detail from Ellen's Design Challenge

CNC-Routed Drawer Desk Detail

Have a question for Chip? Ask him in the comments below. He may just answer you next week!

Tune in tonight at 9/8c for another week of amazing furniture design on Ellen’s Design Challenge. Tweet LIVE along with Ellen DeGeneres, Chip Wade + more HGTV stars with #EllenDesignonHGTV.

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We woke up to a dusting of snow here at HGTV headquarters, but it’s nothing compared to the snowfall in the Northeast. (Stay safe and warm, you guys!) HGTV stars in snowier parts of the country took full advantage of the winter weather.

HGTV designer Genevieve Gorder took a break from organizing her stunning knife collection to head outdoors with her daughter…in matching jackets, of course.

HGTV Host Genevieve Gorder in the 2015 Blizzard

HGTV Host Genevieve Gorder & Daughter Play in the Snow

John Colaneri is traveling for his new HGTV show (details soon!,) but posted this Instagram reel from his wife of their amazing modern house in the snow.

HGTV Host John Colaneri's Home In 2015 Blizzard

Kitchen Cousin John Colaneri’s Home in the Snow

HGTV.com host and Design Star fan favorite Dan Faires enjoyed the weather on foot with his adorable children in tow. Aren’t those hats the cutest?!

HGTV Host Dan Faires With Kids During 2015 Snowstorm

Dan Faires + His Adorable Children

Once you’re safely indoors, head over to Design Happens to get a rundown of fun snow day activities you can tackle in your PJs. (Take advantage of this, people.)

6 Ways to Spend a Snow Day

Is there snow in your neck of the woods? What’s your favorite snow day activity?

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Let’s pause for a minute for a dance party: Today marks another year around the sun for daytime TV darling and new HGTV star Ellen DeGeneres. Happy Birthday, Ellen!

Ellen DeGeneres on HGTV
So, how are we celebrating? We’re tuning in to tonight’s premiere of Ellen’s Design Challenge on HGTV at 9 pm | 8c. Use #EllenDesignonHGTV to tweet along with the show’s stars. Join us! Cake is optional (but highly recommended.)

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We all know that comedian and daytime TV host Ellen DeGeneres loves to dance, but did you know that she’s also a huge fan of custom furniture? That’s why she dreamed up the idea for the new HGTV competition show, Ellen’s Design Challenge, which premieres Monday, January 26 at 9 pm | 8c. I chatted with show producer Loren Ruch to get the inside scoop on this all-new series before we see it on TV.  Read on to find out about the show…including how they made furniture “sexy” and whether Ellen’s dance moves have a spot in the show.

Ellen's Design Challenge on HGTV

HGTV’s Courtney White and Loren Ruch With Ellen DeGeneres

I Heart HGTV: How did Ellen get involved with the show? Did she come to HGTV with the idea? 

Loren Ruch: Ellen is a HUGE lover of furniture, so when she pitched this concept to her we jumped at the opportunity. Not only is it something new and different for HGTV, it was also an amazing opportunity to work with the beloved and talented Ellen DeGeneres.

How did the team come up with the challenges? As a custom furniture enthusiast and funnywoman, what did Ellen bring to the challenge development?

Ellen assembled a production team that had as much enthusiasm for furniture as she did.  They came up with a variety of challenges that will give our viewers the widest variety of reveals you can imagine.  As crazy as it sounds, our goal with this series was to make furniture development ‘sexy’ — and boy oh boy did we live up to that!

What can viewers expect from this new series? How is it different from HGTV shows past?

It’s really different than any of our other competition shows because you get to really see the amount of time and energy that gets put into an individual project.  We’re used to seeing entire rooms get transformed, but the process of seeing a highly complex piece of furniture is just as interesting in its detail and design process!

Clue us in…does Ellen dance on the set?

I’m not going to give away all of our secrets!  But what I will say is that she kept us in stitches both in front of and behind the scenes!

Funniest moment on set?

This was a really fun show to be on set for because we had amazing contestants, talented carpenters, and of course Ellen! All I can say is that there was a ‘klutzy’ moment that made me do a spit take on set!  I’m not going to say more than that…

Most nerve-racking moment on set?

Any time you have tight deadlines and real stakes you’ll find some very tense moments — especially between the contestants and their carpenters!

MORE ELLEN’S DESIGN CHALLENGE EXTRAS:

Tune in on Monday, January 26 at 9 pm | 8c to see the show, then come back here for exclusive behind-the-scenes details after every episode.

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