I confess I’ve got a thing for the HGTV show “Love It or List It.” It completely appeals to my chumpy, codependent senses — you take a hideous pile, see the potential, and then transform it into something beautiful and worthwhile.
Of course, this sort of transmogrification never works on humans. (Seriously, don’t fall for “potential.”) But it works just swell on living spaces.
For you non-North Americans, on “Love It or List It” a homeowner takes on a renovation project and has to decide whether to “love” the new design, or “list it” and move. The show pits the designer, Hilary Farr, against her co-host realtor, David Visentin.
It never really seems like a fair fight. Hilary is stuck with leaky basements, faulty wiring, and snotty homeowners who want granite on a Formica budget, while David swans about showing the ingrates stunningly unblemished move-in ready spaces.
But what I LOVE most about the show is the way Hilary takes no shit.
Seriously, forget the throw pillows, this woman could give a master class on boundaries. Hers are iron clad. A typical exchange goes something like this.
(Horrible, expensive, budget-derailing disaster is discovered. Hilary must deliver the bad news to the homeowners.)
Hilary: “While removing your staircase, we discovered your foundation is crumbling. And the paneling is made of asbestos. The septic tank is overflowing. And your deck was built on an ancient Indian burial ground.”
“I’m sorry, this means we cannot do the mudroom.”
Homeowner wife: “BUT I MUST HAVE A MUDROOM! It is ESSENTIAL to my existence! How COULD you, Hilary?! We gave you MONEY! We TRUSTED you!” Turns to her husband and hisses, “See, I told you we could never trust this limey bitch. That’s it. We’re getting a condo.”
Hilary stands taller, looks down her aquiline nose, and politely but firmly says, “When you told me your budget, I said you would have to prioritize. The mudroom can no longer be a priority.”
I cheer from my sofa for Hilary.
She doesn’t internalize their displeasure. She doesn’t accept one whiff of blameshifting. She stays positive and forward looking.
She states what she can do for them — and then she delivers it brilliantly.
Sometimes you can detect a little glint in Hilary’s eye after she’s withstood a blistering critique that seems to say, “You are an entitled git and I hope you are crushed under the weight of your granite island some day.” But she never lets on. She stays the course.
How did this woman get so mighty? I did a little internet sleuthing and discovered that Hilary Farr auditioned for “Love It or List It” right after coming out of a painful divorce.
Farr revealed her bitterness after a “horrible, horrible divorce” and resentment toward her ex-husband. It was then that she auditioned for Love It or List It. She “needed to deal with that anger,” and to “use it well to give her edge.” Farr “rocked the audition.” Now, five years later, she has filmed over 100 episodes as the show continues to draw viewers and fans, and she’s “met some crazy people” in the process.
In dealing with less-than-favourable individuals in shooting, Farr says she allows herself not to react and instead turns the anger into positive energy. “Love It or List It is a metaphor for all of us,” she says, “It’s about challenges in the home and rebuilding houses, careers and families.” She acknowledges how tough life can be and advises to deal with it by “turning ugly into beautiful, and a mess into a sanctuary.”
Does anyone else suspect Hilary might have left a cheater and gained a life? More than her ability to transform basements into sanctuaries, I admire her boundaries and her bad ass business acumen. Keep being mighty, Hilary!