Careful now, Alison Victoria. The kitchen is the most sentimental room in the whole house, and here you come with your big old sledgehammer, making mincemeat.
Your DIY series, Kitchen Crashers, is a huge hit, and that’s because of the ingredients you so carefully prepare: knowing your client, keeping it simple, and making it happen.
This Chicago native made her mark in Las Vegas, as a designer at a casino’s semi-custom residences. That led to boutiques, resorts and television, as well as a creative director gig at the Silverton Casino Hotel in Vegas.
It was there where she oversaw a $160 million expansion. It’s here where she tells us her secrets of her success.
Alison, remember to breathe! You are busy as a bee!
Up until a year ago, I was running my own firm, I was a VP of marketing at a Las Vegas hotel, and I was doing a TV show. And I crave that. My biggest pet peeve is when people say how busy they are.
I’ve scaled back a bit and found different avenues to get my designs out there. I’ve diverted my attention to things that are more obtainable, but I love everything that I’m doing.
So design is your true first love.
I’m more focused on the interior design: the fabrics and the lighting. I got to see so much evolution of design in Las Vegas. I got a sense of what I loved and what I wanted to focus my energy on.
I get excited about fabric, and that crosses over into fashion as well. Whether it’s $5 at TJ Maxx, or $180 a yard for my client’s pillows, I am drawn to it and I love it. I don’t think I would have been into it if I hadn’t moved from Chicago to Las Vegas.
So designing a casino brought you closer to your passion.
I was at the casino everyday, designing and piecing together different parts of the puzzle. Before I knew it, I was leading 900 people in believing in the change that I wanted in this culture. I had to trust them and they had to trust me. It was the craziest journey I’ve ever been on.
Even crazier than TV?
My TV experience is crazy on a different level. I never aspired to be on television. I was doing something that was foreign to me. The TV show came right at the tail end of [my casino experience].
I’ve changed everything in such a positive way. The retention rate was higher, the culture was better developed and working. So the TV series was the next crazy experience that I thought I was never going to be able to do.
Would Kitchen Crashers be a different show if it were hosted by a man?
I by no means would say I’m a feminist but I definitely have feminist tendencies. I always want to prove that women can do it just as good as men, and sometimes better.
The psychology of [Kitchen Crashers] is very different. It’s all about psychology. It’s all about reading that person and knowing what they want.
So I brought that to the brand. I brought a sense of compassion, a sense of design, versus full-time contracting and framing and electrical and power tools.
I made it more about the space planning and the color scheme and the textures and the finishes, not so much about the actual construction.
What are some of your Kitchen Crashers challenges?
A kitchen is a kitchen is a kitchen. You have cabinets, countertops, appliances, and a backsplash. And you can never take that away from that space, but you can enhance it, and you can really tie it into a family, based on knowing them, knowing how they live, knowing how they use the space. I think I bring a different mind into it.
Again, it’s psychology. I think this is going to look best based on what you want. I’m going to give you what you want, but I am going to do it the right way.
Maybe you like the color red, but maybe I think it’s too aggressive for the space. There is a way to incorporate the color without tying you into it for the rest of your life.
It’s being smart about using color. Let’s do it so that it’s a win-win situation. You’re going to get what you want and I am going to be able to do it the right way and everybody’s happy.
Crashing a kitchen is especially difficult, given families’ attachment to them.
After 65 kitchens and counting, it’s not just about doing a show and it’s not just about delivering a product for the network. It’s about changing people’s lives.
Your kitchen is going to be way more valuable, and I don’t just mean on the profitability. Think about the memories people have in their kitchens: cooking for their kids or their very first home or trying to be a real chef for your new husband; all the people congregating into that space no matter what you are doing. People will always be in the kitchen. Always will be. Always have been.
How in the world do you even get started on crashing a kitchen?
Homework is my biggest part when it comes to designing any space, because of all of the wonderful things we have at our fingertips, like Pinterest.
A photo can do so many things. If you send me a look-book of everything that you like, that’s going to let me into your life.
That’s going to let me see what you love.
I’ll pick your brain just by hanging out with you. I spend a lot of time with my clients before we even get to the design stage. I want to know all about them.
I’m blessed with the ability to visualize a space. Walking into some crappy kitchen? I don’t see that. I see potential. And I think that’s true with people as well as spaces.
If there is potential, I love it. I don’t need to look for somebody who is so perfect at everything. I’m interested in somebody who has the potential to be great, because you can mold them and shape them into that great person. It’s the same thing with space. You can walk in and see ugly, but I always walk in and I see potential.
Find out more about Alison Victoria here.