For me, the only really bright light in recent seasons has been Love It or List It starring Hilary Farr, left, and David Visentin. For my U.S. readers who haven’t seen the show, ace designer Hilary works her magic in an effort to make the owners love their dysfunctional homes again, while competitor, real estate agent David, scours MLS in order to entice them into listing the property Hilary has just made over and move on to a new dream home.
The show hasn’t yet made it to the U.S. market where folks are trying just to hold on to their homes, never mind worrying about upgrading.
“Homeowners desperate for another bathroom really doesn’t resonate with people surrounded by so much economic pain,” says an empathetic Farr.
I don’t usually consent to telephone interviews for styleNorth but I made an exception in this case because a) Hilary’s son was getting married the day we spoke and b) Love It or List It is nominated for a Gemini Award Saturday night for Best Reality Program or Series and I truly hope they win.
“Our nomination is for the show, which sits very well with all of us,” says Farr, “because as hokey as it sounds, it will be a sincere thank you to everyone on the program; we really are all cogs in the wheel and without any one of them, things start to unravel. We have an incredible design team, incredible production team and producers, the network (W) is spectacular to work with. It really it is a team effort.”
The secret of the show’s success is undoubtedly the chemistry between Visentin and Farr — their rivalry is obviously made for TV but their banter and rapport is always winning.
“David has a weird, quirky sense of humour that’s a perfect foil for my . . . whatever mine is,” says Farr. “And I think it’s only gotten better, genuinely on a personal level and with each new season.”
The show is now in its third season, heading into a fourth and already signed for a fifth: “We’ve got a long happy road ahead of us,” says the designer.
What has ALWAYS amazed me about the program is how absolutely horrible most of the homeowners are to Hilary as she faces unforeseen reno challenges that force her to scale back her design plan. Not once have I seen a homeowner suck it up and apologize for the abuse they hurled in the early stages, even when they end up loving the design and staying in the house.
“They think that by saying I did a wonderful job during the reveal that it takes it all away,” says Farr, audibly shrugging. “But I am an interior designer and have been for years and you take it in your stride, you have to. I’ve had wonderful clients who remain my clients for years who have just lost it on me, I’m the one they vent at when the plumber does something wrong, I’m the one who’s there so I get to hear about it. I try not to take it personally.”
Conversing with Farr on the phone I hear exactly the woman I see on TV — warm, cheeky, straight shooting. I’d love to spend a day with her tearing up Toronto’s Castlefield design district, poking through Elte, which she mentions as one of her go-to sources.
“They’ve really opened up to the fact that they’ve been beyond the reach of the average consumer in terms of their price points by expanding their clearance section,” she says of the retailer. “And I just heard that they’re opening an outlet in Vaughn that will be dedicated exclusively to their clearance and as-is merchandise so there’s a tip for your readers.”
On the fabric front Hilary praises Designer Fabrics on Queen West — “everybody goes there, it’s spectacular,” she raves. “That’s number one when budget is an issue, which is most of the time. On those rare occasions when budget is not an issue I’m off to Lee Jofa in Designers Walk for beautiful, extraordinary fabrics that you won’t find anywhere else.”
Hilary can’t say exactly how far ahead of David she is on the tote board but she has clocked many more Love Its than he has List Its.
“David is resigned to that,” says Farr. “In the end we’re both fine with whichever way it goes because we both sincerely want them to find a home they love.
“When they choose to Love It, they’re in their own home and they now know all the demons that were lurking because we’ve found them all and addressed most of them. It’s the devil you know versus the one you don’t. And we all know how much trouble and expense moving is; I think it’s a tough one for David to convince someone to list and move on.”