25 January 2015

USA Today

Ellen DeGeneres has had many jobs over the years: stand-up comic, actress, talk-show host and author. But her latest project, Ellen's Design Challenge, stands above the rest.

"Design is really my true love," says DeGeneres, "I loved it before I started doing stand-up. I loved it before anything."

Premiering Monday on HGTV (9 p.m. ET/PT), the show features six furniture designers who vie for a $100,000 prize, a feature in HGTV magazine and priceless exposure. USA TODAY caught up with one of the hardest-working women in show business to discuss her latest pet project.

Q: First off, where do you find the time

A: There's always time to do things that you're passionate about. ... If my name helps get something out there that I believe in then I am going to produce it. ... Design is really my true love.

Q: What was your inspiration

A: Two years ago, in the summer, I started thinking about all the shows that were on the air because we were launching the production company. I thought about Fashion Star and Project Runway (and how) there are all these competitions for clothing designers. I love furniture. And I thought, why are we not seeing who's making the cool new coffee table and these new designs that come out

Q: Is there anything in particular you want viewers to take away

A: think furniture is art. I don't think art is just for your walls — I think everything that someone has made is a piece of art. Hopefully people (will) look at furniture in a different way than it just being functional. (They should) think, "Someone made that, someone thought of that," which is what makes art special.

Q: Is there anything during the competition that surprised you

A: People were exhausted, so there were a lot of emotions. There were tears, there were things I didn't expect. These people are not reality stars or young teenagers … but there were more emotions than I thought we would see. ... They're creative and passionate people, and we see that. And then there's a surprise or two. I can't say anything more than that, but it 's well worth watching all six episodes.

Q: You're executive producing the show, you have impressive judges — including Wayfair's Executive Director Christiane Lemieux and Dwell's Editor-in-Chief Amanda Dameron — and a host, and guest judges. How do you participate Do you interact with the designers

A: I would rather be the good aunt who never says anything bad and lets the parents discipline the child. I'd like to come and visit and (have) everybody love me, and then go away. I definitely voice my opinions on what I like best, but I won't say exactly what happens.

Q: Where will the finished designs end up Do you have dibs on any of them

A: I can't talk specifically about who's interested and what's happened but they're getting exposure and I think once it airs it will be more of a bidding war for them. Some companies already want to make some pieces.

Q: How about you personally, do you have a favorite designer A favorite period

A: I tend to like mid-century. I like (Jean) Prouvé. I like Charlotte Perriand a lot. And I like (Poul) Kjærholm. They're harder to find now, and getting harder and harder to collect, because people have discovered them.

Q: When it comes to your own home, do you and your wife Portia de Rossi have the same aesthetic

A: She's a little more Deco. She loves Jean Royère and I do, too, but some of the pieces are little too Deco for me. I like clean lines instead. ... For the most part, we have exactly the same taste in art and furniture. It's really great because it's so important to me. It would be horrible to live with someone who didn't like the same things you like.

Q: The show premieres Monday, which is also your birthday. Happy Birthday!

A: What a great birthday present.

Q: Are you doing anything special Will you have a viewing party And has Portia seen the show

A: No, Portia hasn't seen it, but she was a big part of production when we were putting this together. … We'll probably have a viewing party, which will be exciting, and I'll probably be live tweeting during it, so it will be fun. ... I'm excited about this project. (It) being my idea makes it even sweeter.

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