Words by Kristy Elik

jodi1She’s a style maven whose expertise and eye for fun, practical, often unexpected but always cheeky design has earned her a spot as HGTV’s expert on rental properties for popular shows like For Rent and Marriage Under Construction.

She’s also a focused career woman whose day job, as proprietor of two local successful real estate franchises, requires a magician’s talent for juggling appointments and responsibilities. But perhaps most importantly, she’s the heart and soul of her home, a loving wife and a devoted mom to her two young boys: Oliver, 2, and Sebastian, 3.

Meet Jodi Gilmour, Mississauga’s inspiring woman-on-the-go. She’s living proof that creating stylish yet practical livable rooms you’ll love is far from impossible.

Kristy Elik:
You’re the daughter of a local real estate pioneer. Tell us how your upbringing shaped your sense of design and your love for creating beautiful spaces.

Jodi Gilmour:
I certainly learned about tackling many different space issues from lots of practice—I lived in 17 different houses growing up! My original plan was to go to school to be an arttherapist, but I couldn’t shake the real estate bug. It’s in my genes; I can’t fight it. Now, I consider it a wonderful convenience that I get to marry my love for design with helping people stage their homes to get the best price.

KE: You’ve recently overseen the redesign of two of your older office spaces. What was your vision for the refresh and how did you decide which elements to keep and which to toss?

JG: I really wanted to create a welcoming space that would practically accommodate both clients as well as the people who work here every day. In the first space, we decided to keep the gorgeous, traditional wainscoting that adorned the walls of the foyer, but updated it by painting it a warm white with blue accents. In the other work spaces, I went towards a modern and slightly Asian aesthetic with red accents.

I also sourced out some fabulous light fixtures to offset the glare of the fluorescents. Ambient lighting is a great way to soften a harsh office feel. And it doesn’t need to be expensive—one or two fabulous, funky standalone fixtures can make a world of difference.

The final result shouldn’t match perfectly or rigidly; it should look eclectic and unplanned, and it should always reflect your personality.

In a virtual and real-life marketplace that offers thousands upon thousands of d?cor choices, how do you even begin to decide which piece or accessory to buy? How do you narrow it down?

JG: This is how I approach it: when you shop for your favourite jeans, doesn’t it make sense to buy from the stores where you’ve scored before? Why waste time trying on 800 pairs? The same goes for design. I have four or five local sources that I’m really comfortable with. It’s rare that I leave without finding exactly what I envisioned. Stores that offer deep discounts on name brands are a great resource as well. You can often hit it big!

KE: What are some of the most common mistakes that you encounter when you walk into an awkwardly designed space, whether it’s in an office environment or in a home?

JG: I would say that many rooms simply can’t accommodate the number of furniture items people try to shove into them! It’s no wonder that when stagers help folks sell their homes, they take away bulky sofas and redundant side tables. Another easy mistake to correct is to avoid the rule of rectangles. If you look around a room, many of the shapes you’ll notice are either squares or rectangles, with hard, harsh edges. Add a curve or two: a round pillow or an oval table. It adds a feminine touch to a very boxy tradition.

KE: Let’s talk renting. If you’re desperate to make a rental space your own, how much should you invest in creating a home or a condo you’ll love to live in?

jodi3JG: My rule is to never spend more than one month’s rent on sprucing up a rental space. Invest in a fabulous sofa that you can take with you when you go, or buy some light fixtures you love and can enjoy for years.

KE: You’re currently redesigning your sons’ rooms as they transition from toddlers to active little boys. What are the logical steps you will take to create the result?

JG: I feel like I’m constantly in a state of refresh, and it’s only natural. As life stages change, needs change and it’s important to adapt to those needs. As far as logical steps, I suggest the following:

  1. Prioritize your needs and decide what the space is for, now and for a few years.
  2. Start collecting ideas. Have one central place where you keep inspiring photos of rooms you love. I highly recommend a virtual corkboard like Pinterest or Houzz to eliminate the need for magazine tearsheets.
  3. Declutter! Call in a pro if you need to. Start from scratch and be ruthless in deciding what stays and what goes.
  4. Divide the project into affordable stages that make sense for you and your family.
  5. Get going!

Kristy Elik is an award-winning freelance writer and editor whose passions for authenticity and laughter drive her every day. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to interview some of Canada’s top designers.