JENNIFER BERTRAND DESIGNER, TELEVISION HOST, AUTHOR, AND GUEST SPEAKER
•Please tell us a bit about winning the hgtv design star and getting your own show
Let me start with the cheesy answer that it was a dream come true winning Design Star…..I had always been delusional that hosting a show was what I wanted to do. I remember going on Design Star and just loving that producers had to sit and listen to me talk about design. Eight thousand people tried out for my season, thirty-eight were flown to Los Angeles, nine made it the cast, five million viewers and I was lucky enough to win. I know…..crazy cool, right?! Little did I know that destiny was to choose a different path.
If you ever saw the movie “Sliding Doors” with Gwyenth Paltrow you’ll know what I mean….one moment in time can change your destiny. Two days before I won the show I found out I was pregnant. I had thought I was moving to LA and filming my show. At five months pregnant we were told Winston had a tumor, on birth they said it was worse than a tumor and instead it was two rare lymphatic and venous malformations.
Winston was giving a tracheostomy tube, a feeding tube, he was in the NICU for 7 weeks, multiple PICU stays, we had nurses in our home 16 hours a day, we started flying to New York to see the best doctors in the world (fifteen trips so far and he’s three years old), Winston died on us once at home and my husband had to resuscitate him before paramedics arrived, financial messiness out the wazoo (we lost our house and we lost our car and bankruptcy) plus much, much more to the adventure.
For a lot of people, the sheer magnitude of the situation would have made them give up. But something in me says, I can do this….I’m not done…..everyone has a problem of some sort and I can use ours story and bizarre journey to inspire others not to give up. I shot a few specials and a short season of a show called Paint Over. It was filmed two weeks after Winston had that dying episode. If you watch the episodes knowing what was going on in my life, it’s a whole different show. I was happy I could just get out of bed and smile at people and make a room not look hideous! J
I am currently working on show ideas and a pilor for another “Hello TV World” moment.
•What are your current projects and partnerships?
I am very fortunate to have a huge range of projects going on right now. I have a few obnoxiously large and chic houses going on in which the clients have great taste. But I balance that with the reality of real life design and doing one hour consults with clients just to get them to fall in love with their homes again.
I am also very excited that I am in progress of designing a recycling area for Hallmark’s World Headquarters. As well as NBC’s Kansas City affiliate’s set for their new show “Kansas City Live”. We are working on transforming their kitchen next. Also there will be a press release soon for another fabulous design announcement that I can’t go into yet. I also wrote a children’s book that I’m hoping to have published. I know that my story is still in process of writing itself and I’m more determined than ever to be a phoenix from the ashes. Lady Gaga said, “If you give up on something then you were never destined to do it.”
•Where do you get your daily inspirations for so many ideas?
Just like you Frances, I’m obsessed with fashion……whether its whatever crazy Marc Jacobs runway show he has dreamed up or the advertisements in Italian Vogue…..I could design a room out of all of the amazing palettes that inspire me to push the boundaries on color. It’s always lovely how creative people always inspire other creative people. Then of course my daily life with my sexy English husband and fabulously kooky 3 year old son, Winston, inspires me to design for function and happiness.
•What was your biggest challenge in becoming an interior designer?
As most people know, I am self-taught which I love because I don’t have rules that I have to worry about breaking. However, I always strongly suggest for those that can afford it to go to school for interior design because it teaches you how to be a well-rounded designer. If I could do it again, I would have. I have a Bachelor’s of Art Education with an emphasis in ceramics and a Masters in Teaching & Leadership. My actual design education was from living in Germany and Italy as a child and an adult and watching my mom transform every house we moved to as military kids.
•Did you ever think of doing anything different?
I was an elementary art teacher before I went into design and television. I always say that I am teaching adults how to color outside of the lines.
•What is your secret to being a mom, wife and having a career on television?
Wowzahs, as all of the working moms know….it’s not easy!!!!! But you learn to do what you can and try to do it the best that you can always keeping in mind that family is more important than anything. And actually our family’s security is what inspires me to have drive to not give up. I know I can provide for my family by doing television and design and so I never give up like the little engine that could. I always think of a Lady Gaga quote:
“If you give up on something then you were never destined to do it.”
•What would your advice be to someone who has a limited budget?
Who doesn’t have a limited budget right now! J
- Come up with a plan for the whole space even if you can’t afford it all right now. This will keep you from buying unnecessary things.
- Remember paint is your biggest secret weapon to redefine a space and even furniture. Imagine if you go all white walls and then paint furniture like side tables or coffee tables to be your punch of color.
- Use all of your online savvy to save! There are brilliant online sales like www.jossandmain.com or www.overstock.com that can help you save when purchasing items. To feel confident, be sure to read the reviews on the item. People will say if the color is like what was described, if it looks cheap in person, if it’s hard to put together, etc.
Lighting is your chance to create a wow factor! One lighting change to a dramatic scale, it’s like injecting energy and a soul to a space in a matter of moments!! Seriously, go big or go home!!
- Most everyone goes way to small over breakfast tables, over islands, over dining tables. Push the boundaries and look at how designers go large and steal ideas from www.decorpad.com, www.houzz.com, or www.pinterest.com . And also don’t hang it too high!!!!! Hang it anywhere from 30-36” above a table…..scary but it’s better to hang it to low and raise it, then to hang it too high.
•What are your favorite paint colors right now?
It depends on who I’m designing for! I have one client that indigo and navy paired with white and a warm gray is a yummy palette…..I have a salon that we’re doing peacock and citrine with white…..my office I think I’m going to do it in coral but my upstairs I’m whites and happy yellows. But if you are reading this, please know, you can find a color palette in any fashion magazine in a matter of moments. I am not joking when I say I am obsessed with fashion and clothes I can’t afford or fit into! But I can use their colors to make beautiful, happy rooms. Try it on one room….pick one haute couture runway dress and design a room around it.
•Where are your favorite places to shop for the home?
I have to admit, I am obsessed with online shopping which sounds crazy to most people shopping for their home…..people always want to touch and feel things. HOWEVER, it is amaze-balls how many deals you can find and how much money you can save. I shop Craigs List, Joss & Main, Overstock, Lamps Plus, All Modern, Etsy, Room Service, Wayfair, Inside Avenue to name a few…….I even have bought things on the United Kingdom’s Ebay and had my in-laws in London ship things for me. When in doubt, shop estate sales….it’s a way to be eclectic and cost efficient!
•Do you have a list of do's and don'ts when it comes to decoration?
DO design your house for yourself and your family. Who cares what anyone else thinks.
DO take risks. If you need help hire a designer for an hour to talk you through a major risk.
DO buy quality when you can afford to….it’s like buying ten pairs of cheap, poopy made shoes when you could have one fabulous well made pair.
DO buy original art from unknown artists. Find local art institutes and go to their “starving artist” sales.
DON’T buy things without thinking about what your overall room plan is even if you can’t afford it now.
DON’T care about trends….do what you like, everything is cyclical.
•Advice for inspiring interior designers?
My biggest piece of advice is to take the business side of design as seriously as you do the aesthetic side. It’s almost more important even…..unless you get yourself a sugar daddy or sugar mamma….which then who cares!
Another thing to note, is be solid and strong in your decision making. You chose certain elements for a reason so don’t second guess yourself. You’ll find in design the psychology of a project is a huge element. Your clients look to you for guidance & reassurance that their money is being well spent. Let alone you have to get inside their heads and figure out what makes them happy…..I always say we’re marriage counselors as well. And sometimes we’re only as good as our clients’ budget or if you can be super creative on no budget, it’s going to take you twice as long….so be careful on how you brand yourself. And last but not least, have fun…..if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.
•5 things you love that are not decorating related
I love my family and being a wife and mom…..through all of our medical challenges with Winston, I learned that ultimately my husband and Winston are all that really matters. It is very easy to pick a paint color now.
I love traveling….having lived in Germany and Italy and having a husband from London, I miss Europe. I would love to take Winston to see all that I was fortunate enough to see as a child. It gave me perspective of being a “global citizen”.
I love our family of animals….they are all saved from shelters and have their own little stories.
I love being creative and being around others that are creative. The sense of excitement I get after going to an art show or museum or watching Project Runway makes me want to go paint something fabulous or come up with a kooky design concept. I adore people who think outside of the box.
I love making people happy through design and television. I just joke that I have been working on a bizarre life story so there’s something interesting to talk about when I have my own E! True Hollywood Story….how do you think my story will end? J I am an open book for all of you out there who may be facing your own adventure but please know that true character is defined by how you respond and react in the moment of true adversity.
Huge hugs and happy designing to all of you!