Matt McKechnie interviews 'Restaurant
Makeover's Design Diva' Meredith Heron
Trying to be a little bit more about culture than just
music, I was able to conduct an interview last week
with Designer Meredith Heron (from HGTV and
the Food Network's 'Restaurant Makeover' and
'Love By Design') and ask her some q's about the
worlds of design, music and culture.
On a snowy Thursday morning with a serious lack of
caffeine, Meredith and I were able to connect after
she screened my calls and refused to answer the phone
a few times.
MM: How did you know you wanted to get into the
world of décor and design?
MH: I guess I’ve always been a naturally creative and really
hands-on person. And ya know, I’ve made mistakes
along the way. I became an elementary schoolteacher
when I was 23 but it really wasn’t my thing. I mean,
I had some outlets as a teacher and helped develop
some new curriculum but it wasn’t enough - and I
could have kept going but I was sort of dying inside.
I always had a great and innate sense of colour growing
up. At one point, I was working at Home Depot making
paints and I thought ‘I love colour and I need to do this’.
So I went back to school, took some con-ed design
courses (and I was really encouraged to do so by
everyone in my life from old teachers and colleagues
to friends and family). And from there, I started
building a client base and I went pro.
MM: How did that lead to becoming a Television
MH: I actually hosted a charity event for Starlight TV and
I had a friend who was a casting agent - and everyone
seemed to like my on-screen abilities and I loved
doing it. So I was contacted from that event, did a
screen test and went on to host ‘Love By Design’ and
from that show, I met a camera man who referred me
to ‘Restaurant Makeover’.
MM: When you are chillin’, what is your
favourite music to listen to?
MH: Ya know, it depends on what I’m doing and what mood
I’m in but I went to see Duran Duran live a few months
back and it was an amazing experience. I mean – I’m 9
weeks pregnant so I can’t really party that hard but it
was still so cool. And music has a power that way. I can
be in a really bad mood and then ‘Hungry Like The
Wolf’ can come on the radio and everything is okay! I
totally love Simon Lebon so that probably helps.
MM: I’ve read that you specialize in colours and
faux finish – for those of us who aren’t design-
inclined, how would you describe faux finish?
MH: Well, faux finish is just a painting technique that lets
you make something that’s fake - like the appearance of
stone or marble or to make something look aged. I don’t
do it as much anymore unless it’s with antiquing
furniture or glazing something. I try to stay away from
sponge painting now as it sort of makes me cringe. But
that’s basically what it’s about.
MM: Does music have any effect on the way you
create a design?
MH: Actually, we are pretty big about music in the office.
(Asks her partner/husband about a band they listen to).
There is an artist named ‘Kosheen’ who we listen to a
lot of – I also love The Weepies and I love a lot of
melon-collie music; certain Coldplay songs, St Germain.
Friday afternoons at 5 pm, we have this tradition in
our office of cranking up some music. And ya know
what, I may be boxing myself here but I love Bon
Jovi . I saw them live a while back and what a show
that man puts on. We were even in nosebleed seats
and it was still amazing. So yeah – I love music.
MM: There were some internet videos where
someone imitated you a while back on
Facebook – is there a backstory there?
MH: Oh my gosh! (laughs) The story there is that the guy
making the videos was a mutual friend of my
cousin-in-law. A bunch of us went all out at the hair
of the dog pub here in Toronto (which is a pub in
the gay district in Toronto) and there was this guy
named Daniel who is a very gregarious guy who
sort of matches me in many ways AND he is a gay
Anglican priest. You can’t script that! You just can’t.
Anyways, we met the one time, exchanged things
back and forth and made some jokes about me
saying to servers and people in public ‘do you know
who I am?’ So in the videos, he was spoofing me
as we both have the same high maintenance
Starbucks drink order. Pretty hilarious.
MM: What do you think made Restaurant
Makeover so successful (especially when
you teamed up with Chef David Adjey)?
MH: In the first season, the shows were only half an hour.
But in the second season, they were bumped up to
an hour because half an hour just wasn’t enough to
show even a sliver of everything that was going on
(let alone allowing the audience to see the food) so
that helped with the success I think. And as far
David and I, I think people connected David with
us because we are…pretty much ourselves, ya know?
We are both pretty honest people and tend to tell
it like it is so I think people connected to that and
found it a little refreshing. David and I also have
stronger personalities than most and would have
stronger on-screen interactions with Igor (the head
builder) which was always fun (though sometimes
that was scripted).
MM: What would you say to future 'up and
MH: Oh man. With design, I would say that you can’t
use tv as a guide for what to do or what to design. There
are a lot of hard-working people who have great design
ability but you really need to pick one area and
specialize. But you still have to be able to do multi-task
and work hard. For designers, you have to pay your
dues. If you think you’ve learned everything in a year
or two, you haven’t. There are a lot of people in this
industry who are young and impatient and sort of
encompass that millennial ‘I want it now’ generation.
Design is a business. Figure out where your strengths
are and if you’re a team player, find a firm, use an
approach that compliments your own. Don’t try to
copy something on tv (which is what happens a lot,
unfortunately). I really don’t try to emulate others -
I do my own thing and that helps a lot.
MM: Thanks so much for your time today,
MH: No problem.