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Star of HGTV shows, Olson emphasizes planning in book

Sun., April 17, 2011

Candice Olson knows all too well the chaos that surrounds a remodeling project.

She’s living it.

The interior designer who has fueled countless decorating fantasies through her HGTV shows, “Divine Design” and the new “Candice Tells All,” is in the throes of gutting and redoing the Toronto home she shares with husband Jurij Sennecke and their children, Piper, 7, and Beck, 5.

The couple – he’s a builder – started out with a plan to fix up the basement for the kids, and before they knew it, the project had mushroomed into a whole-house renovation that includes the addition of a second floor.

“Our house is pretty much flattened,” Olson said with a laugh during a recent phone interview.

Meanwhile, the family is living in a house around the corner during the construction – a luxury she admits few of her clients have.

Still, she knows the results will be worth the sacrifice. And that’s one of the messages she’s trying to get out in her new book, “Candice Olson Kitchens & Baths” (Wiley Paperback, $19.99).

Large-scale remodeling projects take planning and investment, she said. They’re intensive, expensive and exhausting.

But the payoff comes in a space that functions well, simplifies your life and weathers the whims of decorating fashion.

Good design, Olson insists, involves much more than creating an attractive space. More importantly, it enhances the way you live.

“It can truly change the quality of your life,” she says.

Olson’s book showcases kitchens and bathrooms she’s created that exemplify her philosophy. They represent a diversity of styles for a variety of occupants, but all bear the Candice Olson stamp of traditional shapes and designs tweaked with a contemporary flair.

Her approach breathes freshness into rooms while still allowing them to retain the timeless, classic appeal that will give them longevity and a better return on her clients’ investments, she explains.

In a typical project, she’ll designate only 10 percent of the budget for trendy elements. That way, those things can be replaced as styles change and the room given a facelift without great expense.

The book is intended to inspire readers and give them some insight into her decision-making on each project, Olson says.

That approach has also been a hallmark of her TV shows. Her new series, “Candice Tells All,” looks at everything involved in the redesign process, from the inspiration to the little problems, such as getting furniture through tight doorways – as Olson puts it, “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

The show features real projects, all of them paid for by the clients. While viewers see each project unfold in 23 minutes, those renovations are neither fast nor easy. Some might take only a week to complete; others can take as long as three months.

Olson jokingly claims that she ages 10 years with each project, but her willowy frame and effervescent smile speak otherwise.

Nevertheless, there’s no doubt her schedule makes for a harried existence.

“My life is a total ‘Gong Show,’ ” she says.

It’s not unusual for Olson to pick up her kids from school and give them each a granola bar while they’re doing homework in the back seat on their way to an activity.

But she says she learned early from her mother, a single mom who worked two or three jobs, that parenthood is all about juggling.

“I never try to be the poster child for the perfect mother/wife. … You prioritize, you do the best you can possibly do, and you don’t beat yourself up,” she says.

And in the middle of it all, if you manage to improve your clients’ lives by making their homes better, you’ve done your job.

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