6 Decorating Do's & Don'ts From 'Ellen's Design Challenge'

If you’re looking to impress some artsy people with your knowledge of furniture design, go home immediately and marathon Ellen's Design Challenge . Season 1 taught us design neophytes plenty of decorating do's and don'ts. On top of that, the show gave me the cultural references to differentiate midcentury modern from the Modern Memphis Movement.

(Furthermore, I now know that the industry term for those hip-looking clear plastic chairs is “ghost chair.” Who knew?!)

Even more importantly, Season 1's six competitors educated me on the cardinal rules of making your home look nice. Week in and week out, Gaspar, Katie, Leslie, Tim, Carlie, and Mark provided a slough of innovative pieces worth a million Pinterest design inspiration boards. Some gave us perfect examples of how to fit a statement piece into an already furnished room. Others highlighted the serious no-no's of safety, function, and general taste. At the conclusion of the season, we all had a far better sense of how to make a room look great without sacrificing comfort.

In partnership with Ellen's Design Challenge, we've made a list of do's and don'ts of decor that we learned from Season 1. Enjoy these lessons, and make sure to catch the Season 2 premiere of Ellen's Design Challenge on HGTV.

Ellen's Design Challenge premieres on Monday, January 18 at 9 p.m. ET.

1. DON'T: Sacrifice Function For Form

Gaspar's lovely (yet wobbly) chair from Episode 1.

When the designers were asked to create a new piece of furniture out of a crate, Gaspar made a gorgeous wood and steel chair that the judges deemed impossible to rest in. On the same episode, Leslie made a minimalistic wall panel boasting shelves that would hold virtually nothing. Throughout the season, these and other designers learned the hard way that style is nothing without substance. In the end, every critique led back to the golden rule of furniture design: function is key.

2. DO: Play It Safe With Safety

Judge Christiane Lemieux demonstrating what a changing table should not do with Leslie's changing table (Episode 2).

On Episode 2, the contestants were taken with making something to contain everything in a random storage unit. A couple people neglected to put safety first, including Leslie with her baby changing table (no lips, begging for the baby to roll off) as well as Tim, with his bar (plenty of glass storage, also begging for glass to be kicked over and broken). Essentially, when you're decorating a room, "potentially hazardous" are the last two words that should come to mind.

3. DON'T: Be Afraid Of A Statement Piece

Katie's acrylic dressing cabinet (Episode 2), with room for all your ladylike sundries.

Look up "statement piece" in the dictionary, and you could easily see a photo of Katie's cherry red dressing cabinet from the "Contain Your Enthusiasm" challenge. Signature pieces of furniture aren't exactly known for being adaptable, and that makes them intimidating. But for what they lack in versatility, they make up for in "sheer ability to make you smile."

4. DO: Think About The Room As A Whole

Carlie's "sofa challenge" couch (Episode 4) may have been comfy, but it didn't work in the space.

Expressing your special snowflake design perspective is important, but you always want a room to look cohesive. The designer's couch challenge is the perfect example of this lesson. Gaspar, Katie, Tim, and Carlie had no issues creating pieces that perfectly represented their points of view. However, nobody was able to create a couch that fit well within a fully furnished room. Essentially, cohesion always matters.

5. DON'T: Feel The Need To Match Everything

Tim's s-curved table base, the winning piece from Episode 3 , perfectly marries with his s-curved chairs.

For the "Off The Wall" challenge (when the contestants picked a chair, and designed a table to match), Tim's steel and wooden table stole the show. His stark, s-shaped Panton Chair didn't match the table in the most conventional sense. Instead, he found something — in this case, a shape — to unite the pieces and make everything look cohesive.

6. DO: Develop A Clear Point Of View

Katie's desk made entirely of salvaged, junkyard materials (Episode 5) speaks perfectly to her whimsical, cheeky identity.

In matters of decor (and life in general), staying true to your vision is what really matters. From Katie's irreverent modern aesthetic, to Tim's sturdy, robust pieces, to Carlie's folk-art forgings, each designer had an unmistakable style that made their work compelling. In the words of a thousand motivational posters hanging on first grade classroom walls — "Be yourself! Everyone else is taken."

This post was sponsored by Ellen's Design Challenge on HGTV. Tune in for the premiere of Season 2 on Monday, January 18 at 9 p.m. ET.

Images: HGTV (7)