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HGTV’s Hilary Farr Talks Outdoor Rooms and Fireplaces

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Hilary Farr, international home designer and co-host of HGTV’s “Love It or List It.”

Hilary Farr, international home designer and co-host of HGTV’s Love It or List It, rarely gets to showcase outdoor rooms in the television show. That said, she still has plenty of opinions on how to go about decorating outdoor spaces.

Farr has teamed up with Art Van Furniture, which entered the outdoor market in 2009 when it launched Art’s Backyard, a division that specializes in outdoor furniture and accessories.

Farr lives and films the show in Toronto, yet, despite the northern climate she says she has clients who ask for outdoor kitchens and seating areas. “We can guarantee four, maybe five months at the most, of an outdoor living style. So, even if you for only four months of use, with the summer’s long days and in autumn with winter around the corner, a heater, fireplace or firepit with cozy seating is still a wonderful place to entertain. The trend is there for sure. I think it is a reflection of a more laid-back way of entertaining.”

She says outdoor room design has everything to do with space. “The grandeur of the outdoor room depends on the space you have and in Toronto, we don’t have palatial backyards. We have city gardens. We do have a lot of condos in Toronto and they depend on using their balconies and patios as outdoor areas to extend their living space.”

Farr tells clients without a lot of space to invest in “spectacular dining set indoors and beautiful deep, comfortable seating outside. The whole kit and caboodle is just not practical for some locations. We just don’t have the space.”

Big or small, she suggests homeowners walk through the outdoor area when designing the layout. “How will it feel? It should be comfortable to walk in over the summer. You don’t want to burn your bare feet and women’s heels shouldn’t be sinking into the turf. You want to be user friendly. Put down a permeable material. Outdoor rugs are fantastic,” she suggests.

She also recommends avoiding a lot of little chairs and tables. “It looks messy. You want to bring people together. You want shade, so invest in a great umbrella. Make a fireplace or firepit a focal point where people can gather around. My best tip is to create the same feeling outside as you have indoors.”

Her opinion on fireplaces is that contemporary design is here to stay. “They are so wonderful with their crystals and flame design. They don’t make any pretense at being a real fireplace, which is kind of fun. They give ambience and give off heat. They also work with transitional, traditional and contemporary furnishings.”

Yet, she does admit she still has clients who want very traditional gas or wood burning fireplaces, “so it really does run the gamut,” she adds.

With so many choices to make on home design, indoors and out, Farr says she is there to help. Art Van customers have the chance to win an in-home consultation with Farr, lunch with Farr in an Art Van showroom followed by a $5,000 shopping spree where Farr will choose furniture or accessories for the winner based upon their specific lifestyle and needs. Customers can enter at any Art Van location in Michigan, Chicago, Toledo or online at The deadline to enter is October 14, 2013.

When asked if investing in an outdoor room resonates with potential home buyers, Farr’s answer is quick and to the point. “I don’t design to sell.” Her statement echoes the theme of her show; she wants homeowners to love their home and she designs rooms with that in mind.

“When you sell a house, you want it to resonate so that the potential buyer loves it. You have to tweak the heartstrings. So if you can create a beautiful outdoor room, I’m not sure if you’ll get more for your house, but you’ll sell it a lot faster, that’s for sure. Buyers will see your backyard and will want to live in your home.”

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