Furniture design and television

January 30, 20152 Comments

I’m slightly addicted to reality TV, I completely blame my wife for it, but the fact is I keep coming back week after week to tune in. My favorite reality shows these days have more to do with competition than showing simply showing off for the cameras.

I can’t recall if it was the first reality competition show featuring artists or if there were others, but 13 years ago I became enthralled with Project Runway. I’m sure it had a lot to do with Heidi Klum being the host, but by the end of the first episode I was hooked and couldn’t wait for the next episode, then eventually for the next season.

It wasn’t long after that that other shows started appearing, and in no time there was talk amongst my woodworking friends about whether there would ever be a show featuring woodworkers or furniture designers. Fast forward several years and after a lot of speculation about whether it would ever happen we now find ourselves with two such shows.

Framework judges Nolen Niu And Brandon Gore, image property of Spike Television network

Framework judges Nolen Niu And Brandon Gore, image property of Spike Television network

First to hit the airwaves was Spike TV’s “Framework”. According to the network’s description:
“Hosted by hip-hop superstar Common, ‘FRAMEWORK’ is a new arc competition series exploring the compelling world of furniture design/construction. It’s not enough to design an eye-catching, unique AND functional piece of furniture, these 13 elite furniture craftsman have to build it too. The clock is ticking and the stakes are sky-high as the last competitor standing will receive an incredible prize package including the ability to launch their own line with a major furniture brand.”

The show already has a few episodes out and is well on it’s way. But the real question is what do the everyday woodworkers think about it? From the conversations on FB and elsewhere, I’d say it’s a mixed bag. I guess only time will tell if it’s a hit and worthy of coming back (for the record, I’ve only watched the premiere episode so I’m not ready to pass full judgement until I see more.)

Ellen's Design Challenge on HGTV, image property of HGTV

Ellen’s Design Challenge on HGTV, image property of HGTV

Then earlier this week we were introduced to “Ellen’s Design Challenge.” Another furniture design competition show featuring some equally talented craftspeople competing for a cash prize and the opportunity to also leave their mark on the furniture design world.

Ellen’s Design Challenge is featured on a channel who’s name is synonymous with design of all kinds, HGTV, and has a very different tone compared to Framework. But according to its description, it’s not all that different in what’s being presented:

“Ellen DeGeneres puts six furniture designers to the test when they come to Los Angeles to compete in various challenges designing and building amazing furniture creations in just 24 hours. With a workshop, a lead carpenter and all the tools they’ll need, the contestants will be tasked with a new build each episode. A panel of expert judges along with appearances by Ellen will eliminate them one by one until one designer is left standing to take home the cash prize and win Ellen’s Design Challenge.”

Only time will tell if the shows are a hit or a flop. I know I have an early favorite, but it might come as a surprise…or not…I’m sure if you’ve watched both you have a favorite too.

Coming up on Wood Talk my co-hosts and I will be sharing our thoughts about what we liked, didn’t like and maybe what we hope will happen as the TV season goes on.

What are your thoughts on the shows so far? Have you even seen them yet?

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  1. Dyami says:


    I’ve see two episodes of Framework & one of Ellen’s Design Challenge. Here are my four cents:

    Framework takes an interesting concept and destroyed it with stupid, over the top production values, narrow minded and arrogant judges and a few contestants who are so obnoxious they are difficult to watch. There are some good contestants and some of the pieces they make are very nice. I also appreciate that the contestants build their pieces themselves. Put it all together and you get a terrible TV show that has a few talented and nice builders trapped in it. I think the best example of these issues with Framework was the way the ping pong table competition was judged. The brought in professional ping pong players to evaluate the tables. That was a good idea. The players they brought in were both women, young skinny women. At this point the producers were clearly playing to an audience other the furniture enthusiasts. When the young, skinny women were dressed in revealing outfits that seemed closer to bathing suits than athletic wear, it became clear that Framework is aimed at the lowest common denominator male audience at the expense of real production values and actual interest in the competitors. I feel bad for the many worthy competitors and I hope they’re able to get something out of the show.

    Ellen’s Design Challenge (EDC) is a different kind of show. It features fewer contestants and wit each being provided a master carpenter to work beside them, they play more the role of designer than furniture builder. Some contestants appear to be expert builders while others clearly don’t know the first thing about actually building a piece of furniture. The overall production of EDC is higher quality than Framework. While it still has all of the trappings of a modern reality show, it lacks the over the top, poorly contrived tension which permeates Framework and makes Framework so hard to watch. The host and judges on EDC appear to be competent and work to keep the show moving. While I didn’t agree with all of their assessments on the first episode, they were at least polite and appeared to be more open to new and exciting ideas than the Framework judges. Finally, while some of the EDC contestants are arguably less skilled that some of the Framework contestants, the EDC contestants are less cut throat and even support each other. For me this made them easier to sympathize with.

    As an individual interested in furniture design and construction both of these shows fall flat. Their rushed, competitive feel doesn’t add to my appreciation of the contestants and their work. However, where Framework is poorly produced and painful to watch, Ellen’s Design Challenge is a pleasant, if not shallow, view of furniture design and construction.

  2. Kevin says:

    What these shows really make me think about is the potential for this kind of show to bridge between old and new media. Have the tv show that emphasizes the drama and have web content that can go into more depth. The way the tv networks use their websites just shows they don’t see any value in it at all but have to check the box that says they made a website.

    With the time frame they are given it really is a coin flip who is going to come up with an idea and have it actually work out right. They are expected to reinvent something into something nobody has ever seen before and have it come out perfectly the first time and only given enough time to tidy up the shop from the last project to do it in. It’s absurd. They should have at least a week for a project so you could really get a sense of what they can do.

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