My Thoughts on Ellen’s Design Challenge Finale

I came across the show by chance on YouTube when it was a recommended video and I started to follow up on it.

Personally, I didn’t like the judging and the judges playing the gender cards during the evaluation process. Just because something is made of wood and/or steel, has a sense of bulkiness and it’s labeled “mancave” or “masculine”.

As a female, I do feel attracted to Tim’s pieces. Even if I’m a stereotypical girl, can’t I have a masculine piece to balance out the soft colours or girly design in an interior space, say, to change things up or create a focal point? Why is masculinity equivalent to losing out half the consumer market? Isn’t that too narrow a definition?

The second problem I had with the show was the judges dropping by during the production process – it’s almost like they have no concrete feedback. Take for example, Tim Gunn from Project Runway may not agree with a designer’s work, but he’d give them a fresh perspective or direction like “think about how you can interpret this piece in your style”, “you have to learn to hold back”, and “think about how practical it would be”, which would have helped Carley when she planned to design a table with a gaping river in the middle.

Okay now to the controversial finale –

Tim deserves to win. 

Because he has won, in the hearts of the audience.

Of course, plagiarism is wrong, but he made the design better.

As someone as pointed out on Facebook, Katie’s cow table was a disaster and she should have been disqualified. It’s not a small slip-up. It was a great disaster. No disqualification is justified when there is no distinct worst, otherwise it tends to feel like they have already decided on a winner.

Also, that table isn’t original either. And compared to Tim, she did not make a better cow table for the record.

Tim has displayed great qualities during the competition process –

During the first episode, he jumped in to help Gaspar out during the final 15 minutes so that the latter could present a finished piece.

During the third episode, he gave up the piece of wood he wanted because he saw how badly Carley wanted it. Using an alternative, he still wowed the judges and mentioned nothing about it to the judges. How’s that for professional attitude?

Lastly, let’s talk about the final challenge. Unlike what the narrator explained at the end, the two judges did not mention anything about creating something original. Here’s what they said –

Christiane Lemieux –

“Tim, Katie, for this week’s challenge, you can do anything. Any materials, as long as you wow us.”

Amanda Dameron –

“It has to be smart, innovative and surprising.”

Host –

“And you’ll have 72 hours to complete your final piece of furniture. Your time starts now.”

None of the three judges mentioned anything about originality, or even style, surprisingly.

Was Tim’s design smart? Yes.

Was it innovative? Yes.

Was it surprising? Yes.

In a debate of plagiarism, Katie designed an unoriginal cow table and it was still horrible, and she called it the cow table. She did not accomplish the marble effect that she set out to do.

Tim designed a creative piece that was intensive on measurements, techniques and time management. He had his own aesthetics sense to make the side planks irregular for an organic feel. He angled the legs with a bolt, leaving the soldering marks for a consistent natural feel, and also, taking into consideration what he was previously told during the couch challenge – leave the raw material raw.

Tim Ellen's Design Challenge Finale 1

He had wanted to make a vanity space for the middle section, it was the judge who was against it. Even if you call his design plagiarism, look at it this way – his plagiarized piece had his own style. The original design doesn’t look like his style. Doesn’t that prove his distinctiveness?

Could Tim have duplicated Katie’s piece? Yes.

Could Katie accomplish what Tim did? No. Technically, no. In terms of precision of measurements, no. Metal work? No. A sophisticated style and sensibility? No.

Even if you say that the whole piece was plagiarized, at least he came up with a story that convinced me – a table that I could hide things in. I love that idea.

Constructively, what would have pleased me as a viewer?

1. Forfeit his HGTV magazine feature, give that exposure to Katie

2. Halved his cash reward for Katie

3. Given Tim the chance to explain himself

4. Elaborated more on who and how they found out

Just like a tennis match, winning the finals because your opponent forfeited isn’t a worthy win. The Ellen Design Challenge competition lost its value and so did the champion title.


3 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Ellen’s Design Challenge Finale

  1. I feel like this blog post is extremely bias. The reason why the judges didn’t mention anything originality because plagiarism was obviously a common sense that the designers should already know. It is basically like saying that you have to remind someone not to steal. No matter how ugly the cow table should be, Tim still didn’t deserve to win. You can have great craftsmanship in creating a furniture from a stolen idea, but still it’s never admirable.

    Honestly, I hated the cow table. I think the only reason she has won was because Tim was caught for plagiarism. The outcome was unfair because none of them deserved to win.


    1. Hey there! For one, the competition is 2 years ago and the two characters have gone on to do better, so I think who’s right and wrong no longer matters now.
      Maybe the post is bias, but hey, it’s entitled ‘My Thoughts’ for that reason, I’m not trying to be the judge! One thing I believe we can agree on, is that neither of them deserved to win. As some people have said, there’s no point debating now. Who knows, maybe it was a publicity stunt to create the controversy to begin with. Thanks for sharing your thoughts though!

      On a side note, both of them seem to be doing well after the competition. You should check them out. Cheers!
      Katie Stout –
      Tim McClellan –


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