Feature in The Vancouver Sun, [for The Vancouver Fall Home Show 2019]

Fall Home Show: HGTV star Sabrina Smelko on how to build a pleasing home

Read Article in the Vancouver Sun ✏ by Claudia Kwan

For Sabrina Smelko, moving to British Columbia has been a huge part of her renaissance. The designer, writer and multidisciplinary creative is now heading up her own creative design practice, Bri Studio.

It comes on the heels of her decision to leave Save My Reno, the HGTV show she co-hosted for two seasons, and move from a Toronto suburb to Squamish. She knows many people would question her decisions; she was one of them.

“The show was great, but it was so full on—it was taking away from me being able to develop the other stuff I was working on,” she says. “It felt like a roadblock to the next stage of life.”
It was also a relic from a previous time. Back when she was working on her first home and fretting about funds, saving was top of mind, and it became a main focus of the show. Now, Smelko is more interested in fostering happiness and creativity in the home, which didn’t fit into the show’s mandate.

Her talk at the Vancouver Fall Home Show will centre on creating what she’s dubbed a “happy holistic home.”

“We make our homes with the goal of showing them off instead of pleasing the people who live in them,” Smelko points out. “There’s nothing wrong with creating a Pinterest-worthy home, but it has to be a ‘you-worthy’ home first. You are the only person you need to impress when it comes to the design of your home.”

Smelko is throwing out some of the rules around renovation, including worrying about whether a design feature will affect resale of the home. Her advice? Leave out anything that is an obvious bad choice, but don’t wait to have the home you actually want. She maintains that, beyond looking good and serving certain functions, a home should be a place to feel secure and happy, a place to recharge.

She also says that people needn’t save all their home-decorating energy for a home they own forever. It’s also important to do that in transitional spaces like rentals or places that will be lived in for a few years. It’s something she’s exploring herself right now, while she and her partner look for a property.

“In our rental, it’s not about looking around at the walls and changes I can make. The focus is what can I do to fill it with things that make me happy, like photos and art,” she explains. “I’m also enjoying playing around with moving things around until they’re just right. I’ve only just finished every room, nine or 10 months after moving in.”

That’s part of Smelko’s messaging, too. Just because an interior design plan has been put into place is no reason to leave things the same way forever. Instead, she says, building in several options for layouts and the capacity to move items from room to room will help keep things fresh. It’s also more environment- and budget-friendly than simply buying new accessories every year.

The focus on environmentally conscious design has taken on additional appeal, now that she’s surrounded by the natural beauty of Squamish’s mountainous and forested areas. She is hoping to secure a piece of land that would allow her to build a sustainable home with solar panels or off-grid capability, a vegetable garden and a big backyard for her dog Piper to roam around in. There would be workshop and studio space as well. Inside, the design would be Scandinavian influenced, with wood tones, cosy throws and candles everywhere. Local and Indigenous art would take pride of place.

“It’s all so appealing. Maybe there’s a show in there, I don’t know,” she says with a laugh. “The main thing is that I trusted my gut in coming out here. [Squamish] felt like home right away, and it is our home. It feels good to be completely certain of that.”

Catch Sabrina Smelko on the HGTV Canada Main Stage at 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 26 and Sunday, October 27.

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