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Real Estate

Designer profile

Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 08:59 PM

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Candice Olson is a hard act for anyone to follow, including, well, Candice Olson.

"Divine Design," Olson's enormously popular home makeover show on HGTV, concluded a seven-year run in November. In January, she launched "Candice Tells All," a new series that sprinkles intimate glimpses at the creative process into the makeover mix.

Olson now juggles taping those episodes with judging on another HGTV show, "Design Star," which is sort of the "American Idol" of interior design and will premiere its sixth season this summer. Plus, there is Olson's biweekly syndicated column, which appears in more than 400 U.S. newspapers. Oh, and a husband and two kids, ages 5 and 7.

With so many balls in the air, why interrupt the groove to kill off a show that was a solid success?

"All the fantastic makeovers and all the fun and irreverence, it's still there," Olson said. "But when we talked about a new show, one of the things it was very apparent wasn't there was the whys behind the design. We wanted to explain that we chose blue not just because blue makes you feel a certain way, but explain the principles that are the foundation or the backbone of design."

Olson reveals the inspiration for her creativity by visiting with architects, artists, urban planners and others "so you see these principles at play in another genre of design," she said.

The idea this time around is to teach as well as entertain. In the premiere episode of "Candice Tells All," for instance, Olson showed parents how to reintroduce sophistication to a home that, post-children, looked more preschool than trendy.

"The first impulse when you have kids is to get a cheap sofa and you think, 'Let them tear it up; I'll get another cheap sofa in three years,'" Olson said. "Well by the time you do that, you could end up spending the same or even more money than if you'd bought the right sofa in the first place."

Olson is a fan of outdoor fabrics, which have come a long way even in the last five years, she said. They can be soft and rich and comfortable, but still be waterproof and stain resistant.

The designer also likes weathered surfaces.

"Kick it, dent it," Olson said. "Bring it on. It just makes it look better."

The biggest mistake most do-it-yourself designers make is to fail to take an inventory of their lifestyle. They may choose a look that is visually appealing but completely out of step with the way they live.

"You need to do a reality check and realize that you've got, say, five kids and two dogs and your husband watches football on TV with his buddies every weekend," she said. "That's the life you want to design for."

Lifestyle changes have always affected design. The open layouts in newer construction grew out of the desire of modern families to be able to interact with loved ones while cooking.

The next revolution to revamp home design will be the Internet, Olson said. It's not just a home office element anymore. People want every room in their home to be wired.

"What goes behind the walls is becoming as important as what goes on them," Olson said. The evolving American family is another social change that is helping shape design. There are more single-parent homes and so-called sandwich family structures that include both children and aging grandparents. All those different types of families have unique needs.

If there's more than one adult, and both have their own tastes, the key to harmony in design – as in marriage – is compromise, Olson joked. People aren't gong to get exactly what they want, but they'll each get elements of it.

"Fortunately, today there's this eclecticism in design where you can mix something very modern with something that's very traditional, but there's a principle at play that makes it work," Olson said. "Maybe there are common colors or common textures that tie it all together."

There's been a full on rebellion against perfectly matched rooms, anyway, according to Olson.

"Twenty years ago everybody says 'I'm French country,' or 'I'm English' or whatever, but these days we want a room that reflects who we are, our travels, and even our imperfections," Olson said. "You want a home that looks like human beings live there, and humans aren't perfect."


Candice's Quick Tips

Even if you don't have a five-figure budget, you can change the whole look of a room by changing just a few things.

–A beautiful, classic sofa with clean arms.

–Good quality carpet, traditional or heavily patterned, preferably wool.

–A solid piece of storage such as an armoire or cabinet, especially for media because electronics make a room look cluttered.

–Flexible, superior lighting positioned to accentuate what you want to call attention to and mask what you want to hide.

–Accessories with personality.

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