In an exclusive interview, Hilary Farr talks Love It or List It, her own house, COVID-19 and her fun relationship with co-star David Visentin.
Love It or List It is a hit on HGTV, helping couples and families find a home that fits their individual growing needs. Couples who are split in their decisions whether to sell their houses or make renovations to their existing homes enlist the help of Farr and Visentin. Visentin takes the couples house hunting, while Farr leads her design team in transforming houses into dream homes. At the end of each episode, the couple chooses whether they want to stay in their house or put it on the market. Will they “love it or list it”?
One of the most fun aspects of the show, in addition to Farr’s design talents, is the banter between Farr and Visentin. When speaking with Farr, Heavy asked her what she enjoyed teasing Visentin about the most. Farr playfully said, “Well, David is just such an easy target. I mean, pick anything and I’m going to tease him about it. One of the things is the Italian hand flap, when his hands and his arms are just flying everywhere, like he’s going to take off at any minute. That’s one of them for sure. The other one is that he’s quite the motor mouth. He really is.”
To get to know more about Farr, her behind the scenes take on Love It or List It, COVID-19’s effect on filming, and some of Farr’s own design challenges, read on for our interview.
Heavy: Hi, Hilary. How are you?
Farr: I’m fine. Thank you. I’m actually headed to Raleigh right now to start where we left off with filming Love It or List It.
Heavy: Oh, has the COVID pandemic affected filming the show much?
Farr: Absolutely, it has. We were filming in Raleigh and our last day of filming was March 17th (2020). Then we packed up and went off to their various places. In my case, that was Toronto, which is home. We were not able to film, nobody was. That was just shut down everywhere. In June we started doing some remote filming of specials. Now we are picking up where we left off, with the real deal. Not remote anymore.
Heavy: Well that’s good. Now that you’re back in show mode, what are some of the most common requests you get when renovating people’s homes?
Farr: Very often it starts with an open concept floorplan. Very often, that’s a request from younger homeowners with small children who want to be able to be in the kitchen and have sight lines to the children so that they can multitask. It’s also a lifestyle that works very well these days. Although, in the days of COVID now, I think people might want to be putting their walls back up. Also, the another thing is to be able to give people an expanded, not just updated, kitchen space, and rework the function of that main floor.
Heavy: I know you’ve had some interesting and unique requests from homeowners on the show. I think I remember a dedicated cat room on one of the episodes.
Farr: Oh yes! That was an early one. I remember that one … You see, I don’t consider any requests strange because they make absolute sense for the homeowners in their home. Therefore, it’s a perfectly reasonable request. We’ve had challenging requests on the show but not eccentric.
Not on the show, in my own design world with a client, we had gotten to the final choices of finishing materials, which was carpet in this extremely expensive renovation. It was well over $1.5 million in renovations. She handed me a little baggy and said, “So, this is the cat food that my little cats get.” She had many of them. “I need a carpet that matches the color because they throw up a lot.” As a cat owner, this seemed completely reasonable to me, but it was odd. (Farr laughed.)
Heavy: So, at the end of each show, a couple decides whether to stay in their home or sell. Watching the show, I find that many of them stay, but has anyone ever changed their decision after filming?
Farr: Oh, that’s interesting! Well, very recently, when filming our specials recently, we asked ourselves that very question. Did the ones who loved it stay? I wonder. If you tune in, you’ll get the answer to that one.
Heavy: How do you come up with so many design ideas on the show? It just seems like your ideas never end.
Farr: If you really analyze the designs that you see, once the floorplan’s been decided … Although many designers on air would like to say it’s all their work, it isn’t and it wouldn’t even be in my own studio in Toronto. There’s an enormous team of very talented people working on these houses that we do. And, in my particular world, some incredibly talented designers …
The homeowners are very often asking for the same thing over and over and over. We then collectively put our heads together and figure out how we can come up with the best way to give them what they want but give it with a little bit of a twist, something a little different. Very often in fact, we are repeating the concepts of many designs. It’s the execution of them which makes them feel different. We’re tailoring them to each homeowner.
Heavy: You mentioned how so many people like the open concept and you cater to the homeowner’s style. What’s your personal style when it comes to your own home.
Farr: I actually did a house tour with Hoda & Jenna not too long ago and it’s posted on my Instagram. It’s of my main floor of my house in Toronto. It’s an interesting design because it works very well in the world of COVID by chance. I like the concept of open plan but I also like the idea of being able to close those spaces off. So, my solution is to not go fully open but make extra large openings and then use pocket doors. So, you just have a very large opening, with absolute connection between the spaces when the doors are retracted into the walls.
That’s the way my house works and it flows. It’s all one until I choose to close the doors and I can have my little space.
Love It or List It airs at 9 p.m. ET on HGTV, with repeat episodes airing throughout the week.