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Q&A: Designing for Buffalo and beyond

Caroline Barr describes it as a lightning bolt: The moment she realized she was supposed to be a designer. From there, she says, everything sped up. She got her degree at arts-focused Villa Maria College; moved to Cape Cod; began working at a small furniture store and secured her first clients; then brought that experience back to Buffalo to be closer to family.

Her work was recently featured on the new HGTV show “Buyers Bootcamp,” where she was the lead designer for the Grand Island home featured on the show. She designed everything from the floor plan to the material selections down to where to place the flowers. The show aired in April — see a full gallery of the project here.

How would you describe your design aesthetic & philosophy?

It’s always in flux. I am always searching out the new and different. I like to say my style can be labeled as “fresh” — somewhere between traditional, modern and eclectic.

Did you grow up in Buffalo?

I grew up in South Buffalo’s St. Martin parish and went to Nardin Academy for high school.

What’s the weirdest design request you’ve ever had?

It’s been pretty tame, but I was once asked to design a slide into someone’s house. It never came to fruition, but how fun would that have been!

What’s your favorite place in WNY (and why)?

I am a nature girl at heart — it’s where I get a lot of my inspiration. Whether it’s Chestnut Ridge in Orchard Park or one of the beautifully designed Olmsted Parks, like Cazenovia, you really cannot go wrong.

Do you think WNYers are behind the times when it comes to architecture and design?

Absolutely not! I left Buffalo 10 years ago, but I came back and saw the amazing potential of this area finally being realized. People are embracing change here like never before.

If you could only share one design tip with WNY, what would it be?

For the longest time people got this idea that the only way to sell a house was to live in this neutral, blank box so that the next potential buyer (in 10-12 years) would feel safe to buy. That is crazy — you only live once! Make your home or space yours.

How did the design process for “Buyers Bootcamp” differ from your usual process?

The amount of time we had to complete the project was much shorter. We had four weeks to demo, construct and decorate. I decorated the whole house in four days! Phew.

What’s the concept of the show?

Two amateur investors pitch Scott their property and he picks the one he thinks is the best opportunity. Scott puts up his own cash to pay for the renovation and then teaches these rookies everything he knows about how to renovate to maximize value. Along with his new partners, Scott will have to work night and day to get this flip completed on time and on budget.

How did you get chosen for "Buyers’ Bootcamp"? Did you have to compete for the role?

It was a stroke of luck. One of my clients was kind enough to recommend me to the casting director, who happened to give her a call. Then I had a video chat with the producers, and that was that.

You’re not featured on camera. Is there an on-screen designer you collaborated with?

I was the only designer on this project, the woman behind the curtain! I was constantly on site making sure the details went according to my design plan. Basically, I was hired by Scott to create a beautiful renovation.

What’s the craziest thing that happened on set?

Honestly, nothing too crazy. There were only a few times the Canadian crew came into town to do taping. It was a fast-paced and well-oiled machine to get the episodes taped. A few things we ordered came in wrong or broken and we had to get replacements pronto: Not unlike a regular project, only this time we had the power of a television show to get things to happen for us. I wish I had that power all the time!

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