HGTV star Hilary Farr
After 10 seasons of HGTV's Love It or List It, designer Hilary Farr is famous for her whip-smart home assessments, her bickering with realtor co-host David Visentin, and stunning home redesigns that have made homeowners on the show say “love it” in favor of “list it” nearly two to one. In between filming in North Carolina and live theater stints in Canada, Farr will visit the Minneapolis Home + Garden Show, March 4 at 1 p.m., at the Minneapolis Convention Center, to meet up with fans and impart her design savvy.
You were born in Canada and grew up in England. Do either of these places influence your design preferences?
It's one of those things that's innate and I haven't analyzed it. But I would think the answer is yes. One of the threads that is similar with both is an absolute need for two things that seem diametrically opposed. One is, functionality above everything-practical design, which sounds kind of grounded and dull, but without that I don't believe you have a good design. That's essential to me and I think that comes from my English background. The other is this insatiable desire to find what I would call heirloom pieces that can anchor a room and that are timeless enough so that you can stay on trend, but that become part of the fabric of your home and your life.
On Love It or List It, you are the quintessential optimist, working to improve a home for its current homeowners so they stay instead of move. Are there ever times where you secretly want to say, “Actually, let's just list it”?
Yes. Honestly, there are times when I say, “I have no idea why these people even believe that this is a house that can work.” I will then still go ahead and do my best to make it work and even then, when we come to the final moment of asking them will they love it or list it and they say love it, I'm as amazed as David [Visentin] is frustrated.
Do you get a say in which homes make it on the show?
I actually have no say whatsoever. I don't come into the picture until the homeowners come on board, at which point it usually begins with getting a floor plan of the existing house. So sometimes the first time I ever see that house is when we walk through it, and sometimes I've seen a rough layout and have some idea of what is going to happen when I open the front door.
Do you have a favorite part of the home to remodel?
I love master bedrooms. So often, I'll see a client's house where money and thought and time have been put into the main areas of the house that are shared. And the homeowners then have one of the ugliest, most sparse, most uninviting rooms that they call a bedroom, and in the end, there is a bed in it. I am a big lover of my sleep, and I also love having what I call a sanctuary. Life is stressful, and I love designing a bedroom where I feel at the end of the day, whatever that may mean, you have a room you walk into and it gives you pleasure just to look at it, and it feels wonderful to spend time in it.
What are a few emerging home design trends that you really love?
I'm not an automatic embracer of so-called trends, because they come and they go. But what I'm seeing is color. This year's Pantone color of the year is greenery. The concept behind that is refreshment, revitalization, and even though green is not a color that most of us would embrace in our homes, I think we're all feeling exhausted. The sense of trying to shuck off what felt like a tough 2016 and refresh and, of course, just the simple nature element. This particular green is fresh and lovely. In the same thought and sensibility, butterflies have always been part of design, whether it's fabrics, wallpapers, it's a very whimsical element and they're big this year. It's a happy, beautiful motif.
What's one thing you wish homeowners would stop doing?
What I have seen for a long time that upsets me is, I see homeowners designing looking toward the day they will sell their house, so they're never really designing for themselves. They're designing looking at a potential buyer, and that could be five years away, so they've never ever had the joy of expressing their taste and discovering their taste by simply putting that into their own home.
For people who grew up with beige walls and white trim, what is something they can do to discover their taste?
I think people are afraid of color. I actually can't personally live with too much color. I think after having so much sensory input during a day, I like to walk into an incredibly neutral room or house. However, I bring in color with cushions. I bring in color with artwork. I bring in color with rugs. And I do experiment with paint, usually in a small room. A powder room, for instance. I will put some colors on the wall and live with them for a while and decide whether I love them or I hate them, but that's really the only way to do it. You have to live with it. You have to see it in different light and different seasons, and if it makes you feel good, it will always make you feel good. Do it and make it yours.