Pushing the Envelope

NH Furniture Designer Wins $100,000 on Ellen’s Design Challenge

Vivian Beer, a furniture designer and owner of Vivian Beer Studio Works in Manchester, NH, grabbed the top prize in Ellen’s Design Challenge on the final episode of the 2016 season. Described as having a modern style that pushes the envelope by using industrial materials such as concrete and auto body paint, Beer won with the support of carpenters Matt Blashaw and Karl Champley.

“This show is a launching pad for new designers and that’s really the whole point of this show, to find new designers with a new take on things,” says Executive Producer Ellen DeGeneres. “Vivian’s unique take on making furniture was really what stood out and made her this season’s winner.”

“It’s been such an incredible journey, but I always strive to make better and better work,” says Beer. “I’m here because I love making furniture and I want to share it with the world, and this is the best way."

Beer has owned her studio for ten years. Her research into the history of American industry, architecture and transportation was supported in part by a 2014 Research Fellowship at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Her work is included in the collections of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; The Metals Museum; The Currier Museum of Art; and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.

Beer holds an undergraduate degree from Maine College of Art and a master’s of fine arts from Cranbrook Academy. She believes her MFA allows her to find inspiration in different places including the arts and crafts community, architecture and even car design. 

In the finals, Beer challenged Sef Pinney, a LA-based furniture designer and business owner. Ellen’s Design Challenge is the first competition series produced by DeGeneres for cable television. It premiered in 2015 with challenges to sketch, design and build furniture. DeGeneres has been listed among Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women and TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. She recently announced the launch of her first lifestyle and clothing brand.

Photo from Ellen's Design Challenge by Gilles Mingasson/Getty