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10 questions for Candice Olson

By Judy Stark, Times homes and garden editor
Published January 16, 2008


Meet Candice Olson

She will speak and sign copies of her new book Thursday at the  Grand Hyatt on the Courtney Campbell Parkway, Tampa. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Her presentation is at 6, followed by the book signing. Copies will be available for purchase ($15) at the signing. Tickets, available through Thursday, are $15 at Norwalk, the Furniture Idea stores at 145A S Dale Mabry and 14425 N Dale Mabry, both in Tampa, and at 29870 U.S. 19 N in Clearwater. No tickets sold at the door. Proceeds from sales of tickets and the book go to the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. 


10 questions for Candice Olson (plus her inside secret!)

The divine designer herself will be in Tampa Thursday to sign her new book and show off her new line of upholstery fabrics for Norwalk. It was a break from filming 26 segments of Divine Design, the most popular show on HGTV. ("We shoot about 10 hours of tape for 23 minutes of programming.")

Olson, 42, does all her own design work for the 11 lines of licensed products that bear her name (wallcovering, fabric, lamps, more). She's the regular "makeover maven" for Home magazine, designs for private clients and just published a book, Candice Olson on Design: Inspiration & Ideas for Your Home. Whew! Here's some of what she had to say a few days before her visit here.

Now, about the show's theme song: Wheee-dow, bop-bop-bop-ba . . .

People always ask if that's me singing our theme song. No, it isn't. And they want me to write down the words. There are no words! It's scat singing!

Where'd you come up with the show's name, Divine Design?

A religious experience? Not! It was more the producers. They came up with a bunch of names and the lawyers said this one wasn't used by anyone else. But the woman who sings our theme song - her name is Divine Brown!

Has a client ever disliked the finished product?

Absolutely not. But there have been several where I haven't liked it. This is a business, you're servicing a client. The biggest compliment is when people say, "It looks like it grew and evolved and a designer wasn't even here, it's us." I've done rooms where I didn't like it personally but it was absolutely perfect for them and I did my job.

Tell us some things people should get rid of.

Fussy draperies. They're like a showgirl sitting in the middle of the room. They can really date a room. Windows should be clean and simple.

A big monstrosity of a TV cabinet with the television concealed behind doors. Get over it, honey, TV is here to stay.

The biggest design mistakes people make are . . .

They don't look at what their own lifestyle is. They see a beautiful room in a magazine, or on Divine Design. If you have four kids, a dog and a husband, you can still have a beautiful room but you have to take into consideration some of the practical aspects that are part of every lifestyle.

People underestimate the power of light. That's what I bring to the show. People think of lighting as an afterthought and it really, really is important.

People used to be so concerned about their style: traditional, modern . . . in the '80s and '90s people pigeonholed themselves. Now they're exposed to what's going on in the design world, and they want a mix. There's a trend toward more eclectic rooms.

Your favorite countertop surface is . . ?

Seventy-five percent of what I do is quartz. (These are a mix of natural quartz and resin. Some common brand names: Dupont Zodiaq, Cambria, Silestone,) I love the practicality: the consistency of color, no seaming, no staining. I like to do quartz on the perimeter and bring in a natural stone for the island. With one slab you don't have to worry about seaming and staining.

Do your friends invite you over, or are they too intimidated? Or do they want you to do their rooms?

I'm married to a builder and it's like the shoemaker who has no shoes. Three years ago I asked for baseboard trim in the dining room and I'm still waiting. He can build a million-dollar home but I can't get something done in my home! TV creates this persona and people think, "Oh, you must live in this very palatial home." It's a very simple 1950s modern house in Toronto, about 4,000 square feet. Our kids (a daughter, 4, and a son, 2, both of whom weigh 40 pounds) ride tricycles inside the house. It's on a golf course (we don't belong to the club) with a great view. The back of the house is glass. I'm bombarded with design and color day after day and I design every single day. I wanted someone else, Mother Nature, to design this house. The house is all about what's outside.

I never get to bed before 2 a.m., the kids get up at 6 a.m., I'm a working mom, and we're a typical family, trying to juggle the kids, being a good wife. Our house is lived-in and comfortable. Our friends don't feel intimidated.

Give us the list of five things you can't live without.

In design or personally? Okay, in design!

- Great lighting, for sure.

- Natural elements, a mix of stone and wood, chrome and glass. Softening the man-made with nature.

- Beautiful, tactile fabrics.

- A "wow" factor in every room. That's how I start the design process. It could be a beautiful fireplace or a view. If the room doesn't have one, that's when the design process gets exciting. You fake it or create it: a fireplace, a waterfall, a feature wall.

- A good dose of reality. As a mother of two I know it's not all about the pretty. Sometimes it's a good upholstery cleaner! Living rooms should live up to their name. They're rooms we live in, and living is messy.

Tell us about Chico, your electrician! Does he ever say more than a few words?

Chico really resonates with viewers, they love him! He's the one person I brought to the show. The producers wanted to find an electrician who was a bit of a character and I said, "I think I can help you out." We've worked together for about 15 years. At the time he had long black hair with blue streaks. He's got all these tattoos, he rides a Jesse James bike, and he's Filipino so you can't understand too much of what he says. (But when he starts asking questions or negotiating an invoice, his English is absolutely perfect.) Chico has a very, very successful commercial electrical business. He does all the Prada, Gucci, Fendi and Chanel stores. Whenever anybody sees the Fendi bag on the set, they know whose it is: Chico's.

Tell us a design trend that's going to be around for a while.

The proliferation of technology. Part of it is the media side - you push a button to control lights or security or to start dinner. Design becomes complicated as we have to integrate so many components into a push-button pad.

Part of it is that there are so many new materials: resins that can take various forms and shapes. New fibers and fabrics. I'm doing a line of fabrics for Kravet, and the new technology and materials let us put a new spin on traditional ideas. Shine, shimmer and sheen - that's the most interesting thing in the world of design, very tactile fabrics so the play of light becomes a huge design element. We just put a silver metallic leather sectional in a home for a rock 'n' roll family. Technology lets us take a familiar traditional pattern and reinterpret it in an exciting way.

What used to be a handmade product, we can bring the cost down by incorporating a certain amount of handmade with machine-made. It's spectacular, you can marry the two and make high-end design accessible to everybody.


If you only had $100 and wanted to make the most of it, instead of a junction box in the middle of the room and one ceiling-mounted fixture, get $100 worth of track lighting and four halogen heads. It gives you great flexibility. You can accent a piece of art or rake the lighting down a drapery. It's like going to the theater. You can have the most beautiful stage set but it's not until the special effects come into play that the setting really sings.

Interview conducted and condensed by Times homes and garden editor Judy Stark. She can be reached at or (727) 893-8446.




[Last modified January 16, 2008, 10:21:38]

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