HGTV show pushes Detroit maker outside comfort zone

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Detroit furniture maker Kyle Huntoon used to consider himself a woodworker.

But after competing on the second season of HGTV’s “Ellen’s Design Challenge” – he finished in the top four; Cranbrook Academy of Art grad Vivian Beer competes in the final at 9 p.m. Monday – Huntoon had a realization. He’s a designer, too.

“It totally changed my opinion of myself and what I thought I was capable of,” said Huntoon, 31, owner of Hunt & Noyer Woodworks, based in Detroit’s New Center area.

Looking back on his experience on the show – which was created by comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who loves furniture design – Huntoon says it was “awesome” to meet so many other designers. Working under time constraints was a real challenge, but the show pushed him outside his comfort zone.

For one challenge, he had to design a Moroccan-inspired table.

“I did a lot of things I’ve never done before,” such as creating a sofa for one challenge and a dining set for another, says Huntoon, a Jackson native who now lives in Corktown.

Going forward, Huntoon, who also is a civil engineer, says he may rework some of the pieces he made on the show. He made a chair for one challenge that almost won, but the show owns the rights to the chair.

Since his elimination, Huntoon says he’s gotten a lot of great feedback from viewers all over the country. Now he’s trying to do his part to encourage other aspiring designers.

“I’ve run into a lot of people in Detroit and when I see them doing what they should be doing, I try to push people to make themselves better,” he says. “It may come across as aggressive, but I want them to do what they’re capable of. Don’t be discouraged.”

Meanwhile, Huntoon is looking for retail spots in the Detroit area – and even beyond – to sell his furniture (pieces are available on his website,

“I’m going to try to springboard off of this to try to get in a few more markets,” says Huntoon.

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