Hilary Farr, designer and co-host of Love It or List It, chatted with VH1 about the show, which is the highly addictive HGTV program where she and David Visentin go into homes to homeowners decide whether their current place is right for them. Now, Farr opens about the homeowners, who always have something to say to the designer, the worst homes she had to renovate, and hoarders.
VH1: It seems that many homes have serious structural issues that you have to deal with. Should we be concerned about the housing code in Canada?
Hilary Farr: First of all, hang on a minute. Generally we are talking about structural issues once I start to take down walls that were meant to stay there. Right? So that’s a big issue. We get into these older homes where I want to take down a wall that was never meant to come down. So the house was built perfectly well thank you very much then I’m starting to mess around with it. That’s where we come up with issues because the code was obviously a lot more loosey-goosey a hundred years ago or even forty years ago or even probably twenty years ago than it is now. There are requirements now that weren’t even in existence in older homes.
Having said that, some of the newer builds, there’s no question. A couple that we have come across that are twenty years old, which is not really old. There have been some negative builders out there. But nothing has fallen down yet.
You once had to go on a roof deck to tell the homeowners that the deck could collapse at any time. Couldn’t you have told them from inside?
You know what I hadn’t thought of that but thanks for bringing it up. I will add danger money to my contract.
Are you always surprised by the homeowners reactions when you give them bad news?
Well I don’t necessarily expect them to understand or realize there are issues to the extent I do or we ultimately discover. I do expect them to go, “That’s interesting. How are we going to solve that?”, as opposed to railing at me for the fact that their houses are sub standard in some way. It’s always a surprise to me. The anger, the disappointment and all of those other things that come into play. But then again I always have this little sort of moment of forgiveness in that they lived in these houses for quite awhile and it seemed perfectly fine to them and you do get used to deficiencies. I think we all do at some point. And I come in and I rip it apart and then I give them bad news and they’re on camera when I give it to them.
Has there ever been a homeowner that you wanted to yell back at?
This is why we have editors.
You’re always very composed.
I mostly am cause of two reasons. One, certainly at this point, I am so used to it and I’m almost expecting it. I am almost shocked if I get a calm, normal reaction. So that’s one part of it. The other part of it is that really it doesn’t matter how angry they are, or how insulting, or how annoying. I know that I don’t have to be best friends with these people. I simply have to make the house work, win the day, win my points, my wins against David. That alone makes it worthwhile. I really just have to get on with the job. I have learned not to take it personally.
Let’s be honest, most of these homes are a complete mess. How many of the owners do you think are hoarders?
I honestly wish that I were some sort of psychologist or whatever it is you need to be to study people like some of these homeowners to understand it. It’s beyond me. It’s absolutely beyond me sometimes to be knee-deep in dog fur or cat fur that is built up around furniture or boxes or whatever it is that’s in the way that nobody has bothered to notice.
So yes it’s a constant surprise to me how people are willing to live. How they just refuse to see it, don’t notice it. I don’t know that’s just an issue of hoarding it’s just choosing to turn a blind eye, not deal with it. Then it becomes to big of a problem to deal with it and they even want to acknowledge it until we walk in and they are forced to face this mess they are living in.
Has there ever been a home that you were completely disgusted by and thought you couldn’t possibly renovate it?
Oh yes, there have been several. Several. We had a family – there really were hoarders. They were a couple where the husband had inherited the home with an awful lot of stuff that he wouldn’t let go. His wife shopped and there was just too much of everything. It was filthy and dusty. Desta and I started bagging the stuff up and getting it out of there. That was the most awful.
It was insane. He was insane. And it was disgusting. I haven’t gone back. I have a feeling within a year of cleaning it out and making it look like a relatively normal person’s home. Who knows. It may have gone right back. But anyway, yes is the answer. Some of them are just horrible.
Does the show intend on going back to the homes that “loved it.” Have you ever wanted to go back and see it a year later?
You know what, I learned in my life, never to go back. Do not. Do not go back. It’s almost certainly going to be disappointing. It just is because it can never look the way I left it, to be fair, because we dressed and it is at its most perfect. It generally, probably will have gone back to something I would rather not see. So no, I would prefer not to go back.
To answer your other question, an actual fact, I believe that HGTV will be airing some of the homes to which we have gone back. I haven’t. The film crew has gone in and they interviewed the homeowners to figure out what worked best.
Do you follow much of the Twitter chatter about the show?
You know what, I do all my own tweets. I don’t have anyone to do them. There are days where I have to drop off because there is too much going on. But I’m really interested. And I’ll tell you what I love to hear, there’s an awful lot of tweets and I also get a number of emails on the subject on the show, what I love is several things about Twitter land. The connecting of people who live in all different parts in the U.S., people who live in Canada communicating with people all over the U.S., people in Spain – we have a huge fan base in Spain. We have our little global village happening where they are all chatting about the show. That’s pretty extraordinary to me. I have tweets from people are telling me their entire families are sitting down and watch the show, mothers and daughters bonding together watching the show, husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends. It’s pretty cool. And that’s all on Twitter land. And yes, I pay close attention to that because it warms my heart.
Can we talk about the sexual tension between you and David? It’s seriously the best part.
You know what, whatever is there is there. It’s not thought through. It’s not calculated. I’m glad that people enjoy it.
Have you watched Love It Or List It Too?
I’ve watched a couple episodes. I’ll tell you, I don’t even watch our show very often because I’m not in front a television that often.
Did you give any advice to Jillian Harris?
No, not at all. We’ve met face-to-face the first time at The Winter Warmup. That was the first time, and only time, that we’ve physically met. I don’t have advice for Jillian. She’s she her own person.
So you didn’t warn her about the mean homeowners?
I think that she’s got a very different attitude to that. I think she brushes them off very well, actually.
Do you have a favorite Property Brother (Drew or Jonathan)?
You don’t think I’m going to honestly answer that. I’m not choosing between them.
Let’s play a quick game of Love It Or List It! I’ll list a few homes and you tell me if you “love it” or if you’d “list it.”
The White House.
Love! Thank you, thank you, Jackie Onassis.
The Bates Motel.
The Playboy Mansion.
You know what, I kind of like it. That could go either way. I’m in on that.
[Photo Credit: HGTV]