For the past two years, interior designer Alison Victoria has turned demolition into an art form on DIY Network’s Kitchen Crashers. As the first female host of the hit show, this girl has the guts — and the skills — to swing a sledge hammer while wearing her favorite Michael Kors heels. And giving orders to a bunch of macho guys fits her perfectly. “If they make fun of me, I give it right back to them,” she says. “I like being that strong woman who can go in and get dirty, but also add a feminine touch.”
From creating the perfect kitchen to designing her own Chicago home, Alison leads with conviction. I was so excited about the chance to pick her brain that I named her this month’s Creative Crush.
Ulrica: What are your top three tips when designing a kitchen?
Alison: The first thing everyone overlooks is space planning. What are the measurements from the sink to the stove to the fridge? You have to make sure it’s comfortable for you to navigate and move around. The second most important thing is lighting. You need to consider task lighting, overhead lighting and directional lighting. I’m all about dimmers, because you can turn up the light when you’re cooking and turn them down when you want to create the right atmosphere for entertaining. The third thing is to choose a kitchen that’s timeless. Pick something that you love and that’s going to be timeless to you. Don’t think about resale and don’t design for anyone else. Design your kitchen for yourself.
Ulrica: What’s your number one pet peeve when it comes to interior design?
Alison: My number one pet peeve is fads. Chevron is in right now, but is it going to be cool in five years? And if not, are you going to bank on it being back in 20 years? It’s one thing if it’s a throw pillow. But if it’s your kitchen and the finishes are expensive to replace, you got to think twice about it. Is it a fad, or is it something you’re going to love forever? Also, I’ve never been a huge fan of animal prints. It’s very abrasive to me. You don’t need it! Even if it’s in a subtle way, don’t do it.
Ulrica: You recently bought a three-story, 4200-square-foot home in Chicago’s Wicker Park. Please share some design details!
Alison: It’s a 1905 historic home and I gutted it from the ground up. It was just finished three weeks ago. It’s very traditional with a lot of clean lines and the original oak wood flooring. The kitchen has fresh, white cabinetry with white marble counter tops and lucite pendants from the 1960s. The interiors are eclectic, with the perfect mix of vintage and modern.
Ulrica: Do you and your husband Luke [Harding] agree on how to decorate your home? And if you disagree, how do you solve it?
Alison: We met two years ago, and I was pretty impressed with his condo. It was very leather heavy, but he had good style. But when it came down to moving in together, not one single piece of his came with us. When you’re dating an interior designer, you need to let go! He’s been an integral part of designing our new home. He can see it the way I explain it most of the time. And it’s always fun when he doubts my decisions and say what a silly idea it is, and then when he sees it he says, ‘Yes, you were right.’ I really love that!”
Top photograph of Alison by Kristyna Archer ©2013. Bottom photograph of Alison by Anthony Tahlier ©2013.