Wednesday, November 9, 2011

If you live in Canada and watch Cityline, you probably are familiar with guest expert and designer Karen Sealy.  You may have caught her on HGTV Canada’s Summer Home where she renovated and decorated dated but loved cottages.  I remember watching her on HGTV Designer SuperStar Challenge and thinking “this girl is going places.”  And has she ever!

I recently caught up with her to ask her some questions about her background and design in general.  She is just as personable,  charismatic and vibrant as she appears.

 Karen on the couch 

Tell us a bit about your background and education.

I apparently love school because even after my Psychology at Brock University and Commerce at Queens I still went back yet again to do my Interior Design at International Academy of Design.  It was after buying my first house and taking holiday time to renovate it with my (very handy) Dad that I fell in love with design and had my epiphany that I had to become an Interior Designer.

I took on clients three months into school, since I had a mortgage and had to support myself.  I told all these supportive folks that I would honour my rates with them forever since they were helping me make my dream a reality. When I graduated design school a few years later I had a full client roster and a full fledge design business.  Starting a business just naturally happened for me and has been growing ever since.  Of course HGTV Designer SuperStar challenge and then a year later starting on CityLine has propelled me and I am incredibly grateful for both.


With your TV appearances, filming Summer Home and working on special projects like the TIFF media lounge, how much of your time is spent on the design end of the business working with clients?

I still oversee all designs that go through the Sealy Design doors.  Interior design is my passion and I love our clients so I will always make time for this side of my business.  I am very lucky to have a strong team of talented designers who support me and all our efforts to make this possible.  {Note: Karen has a team of 12.)


Who inspires you?

The list is long! I would say in life it’s people who have a positive outlook and see problems as challenges and go after their dreams without making excuses. I’m drawn to people who are grateful and spread positive energy and inspire me to do more of the same.  These people range from my Father to Oprah to Louise Hay to Alice Pyne and more.  My design inspiration is taken from everywhere and everything- fashion, to art to multimedia to concept car design to… this diversity keeps our ideas fresh and allows us to bring this to our own projects.


Name one thing about yourself that readers may be surprised to learn?

I am a black belt in judo.


How would you describe your decorating style?

Decorating to me is the final step on a much longer road. Everyone needs to start with functionally what they’re trying to achieve and then consider the aesthetics of the space.  Decorating is to design what the icing is to a cake, no amount of frosting can cover up poor initial decisions. So I would say my overall style is practical, creative, engaging and personal; based on the needs and wants of the people who live in that space.


What is the most common mistake people make when decorating?

Making one off decisions so that the room either never gets done because people run out of money and/or energy or the space never has cohesion since it was done piecemeal. 


What does every room need?


SealyDining Room

What are three simple changes someone can make to their home right now for maximum impact?

  “declutter and organize- it’s cheap and can have incredible  impact.”


“paint- again inexpensive and something most of us can do ourselves but has an immediate effect.”


“finish the space with art, drapes, area rugs, accessories.  It can take a nice space to a WOW space.”



What are your favourite shops/markets for unique decorating finds?

I love since I can shop whenever I have a few minutes to myself.  I’m also a big fan of the Leslieville area in Toronto, from the eclectic salvage shops to the mid-century modern ones; I can always find some hidden gem.


All photos courtesy of Sealy Design Inc.

What’s next for you and Sealy Design Inc.?  Will there be Season 2 of Summer Home?

There are so many exciting things happening at Sealy, from a design book to a youth shelter makeover charity project in time for Christmas to a guest appearance on a travel TV show called “Ship to Shore.”  Summer Home will continue but I’ve handed the reigns over to Samantha Pynn, a talented stylist and a well-known HGTV host.  There was a decision to move away from the renovating and design of Summer Home Season 1 to quicker decorating solutions for Season 2.  So I decided this wasn’t as good a fit for me and what I love and believe in so it made sense to decline Season 2.  I’m sure Sam will dazzle everyone with her cottage makeovers.

Thanks Karen for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions.  I loved your thoughtful answers and look forward to following what’s next for you!


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