Learn from Vern!: HGTV’s Vern Yip will visit Hamburg and share design wisdom

by Lisa Kindel

How has celebrity designer Vern Yip designed his way across America? “One room at a time.”

Yip made over countless homes and restaurants during his four seasons on TLC’s Trading Spaces, on NBC’s Home Intervention, and for nearly a decade as one of HGTV’s most recognizable designers.

He starred in four seasons of his own show, Deserving Design with Vern Yip and spent two seasons as host and designer of HGTV Urban Oasis. His HGTV work also includes eight seasons of HGTV’s prime-time series HGTV Design Star and new seasons of Bang for Your Buck, which premiered in May of 2013. Live in Vern’s House was a showcase of the distinct flair that reflects his expertise as both an architectural and interior designer.

He now has a line of home decor goods, home fragrances and fabrics, and he’ll be showcasing a few gift items from his line when he returns to the bluegrass in April to help a signature Hamburg retailer celebrate a tenth anniversary. On Saturday afternoon, April 25, the celebrity designer will be on hand at My Favorite Things to share his design expertise with customers. The staff there has made over their own fair share of homes all over Kentucky, and Tom Ulshafer, Director of Retail Operations at MFT, says “Having someone with his deep knowledge and understanding of interior design in our store is an exciting event for My Favorite Things. We can’t wait for him to share his wisdom and experience with our customers.”

Yip has come a long way from his early days on Trading Spaces, and is quick to share credit. He says, “I’m so fortunate to have had a lot of the right doors open for me at the right time which I attribute to my education, a super supportive family, and being in the right place at the right time. I had an exceptional Mom who always believed in me and, though she has since passed, she still seems to be helping to open those doors for me!” He says TV led to his columns in The Washington Post and HGTV Magazine and the launch of his design lines. He adds, “I’m extremely grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way.”

Yip fondly recalls his visit to the bluegrass for Freedom Fest (a design showcase benefiting Woodford Humane Society) a few years back. He remembers, “That was a special trip and I still talk about the remarkable kindness of folks and the absolutely perfect grass and fences. Lexington has a global reputation for being serious horse country but I had no idea how serious until that visit! The event was held at an exceptional property with the most beautiful stables that I’d ever experienced. Although I’m a sucker for a perfect patch of grass and idyllic white fences, the people of Lexington remain the true standouts in my mind.”

Yip has seen a lot of design trends come and go over the years, from sponge painting and Tuscan kitchens in the early 2000s to today’s popular urban industrial looks. He witnessed a wide range on Design Star. Asked what current trends make him wince, he says, “I’m not a fan of themes in general so anytime I see a completely ‘done’ room, I question its ability to endure long term. A home and its rooms should reflect all the different facets of a person or a family’s personality. Instead of trying to emulate something in a showroom or a magazine, I always encourage folks to have an honest conversation about who they are, what they need, and what they really gravitate towards. At the end of the day, your home should be customized to best support your functional and aesthetic needs so that it ends up being the place you want to be more so than any other place on the planet. If it doesn’t feel that way, it probably needs to be re-thought and tweaked.”

Vern Yip _ My Favorite ThingsHe adds, “I think it’s important to remember to make you happy and let go of the idea of living up to someone else’s idea of beautiful and functional. Great design lives at all price points. I always tell folks that just because something is expensive, it does not mean that it’s a quality item…and just because something is inexpensive, it doesn’t mean that it’s poorly made. You have to train yourself, especially if you are working with a tight budget, to buy quality items that you truly love to ensure that they’ll endure. Do some research ahead of time and save up for quality purchases in lieu of filling your home with a bunch of temporary placeholders if you can’t afford what you want today. Color is a powerful tool for budget-challenged folks. Bold and saturated paint colors tend to fill the visual void if you can’t purchase the things you want right away.”

Yip is known for prioritizing both beauty and function in his work (living, as he does, in a home that includes both children and dogs). Are there trade secrets for making that work that he’s willing to share with our readers? He says, “Our home is tailored to how we live our very busy lives. By making the right material choices, I ensure that every room in our home is accessible to our dogs and kids. I grew up, very early on, in a house full of beautiful (and sometimes fragile) things. It taught me an appreciation of those things although I did accidentally break a few items along the way! We’re using the same approach with our kids because it’s right for our family…and that is the key. You have to do what is right for your situation because no two situations are exactly identical. We do, however, live in a design world that is now full of beautiful, affordable, and durable materials that make living with kids and animals in a beautifully designed environment so much easier than it used to be! As a designer of products, that has always been my goal…to put out accessible goods that all sorts of families can live with.”

My Favorite Things has been offering gifts, interior design, and furniture for the past decade on Old Rosebud in Hamburg. Celebrity interior designer Vern Yip will join Tom Ulshafer and staff and friends at My Favorite Things on Saturday, April 25th from Noon to 3 p.m. for a free and open to the public talk about interior design.

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This article also appears on page 13 of the April print edition of the Hamburg Journal.