Destined to Design
By Geoff Corriere
By Geoff Corriere
Host of HGTV’s Designed to Sell and Bang for Your Buck, Monica Pedersen of the North Shore has made her passion for home design into a remarkable and respected career. During a photo shoot with Sheridan Road at a historic estate in Glencoe, Monica shares her love for her craft and what inspires her each day.
While traveling the world as a successful fashion model, Monica Pedersen’s interest in the arena of interior design was intensely sparked, igniting what would become a career of home makeovers and renovations, hosting shows on one of the most popular networks on cable television. Early on, modeling began to take a backseat to her love of design. “While my fellow models were toting around fashion magazines, I was engrossed in decorating magazines—even showing up to shoots with primer on my hands and in my hair,” says Monica.
Realizing that her passions lay elsewhere, Monica and her devoted husband, made the move, like many, from Chicago to the North Shore, to find a “fixer-upper,” a project she immediately embraced. Because of the love of working around her new home, she traded in her stilettos for some work boots, and made scaffolding her new runway. Monica began to insist her Chicago modeling agency book her for more local work and commercials, allowing her to spend more time at home to pursue her passion.
As chance would have it, Monica was one of the lucky few whose enthusiasm for a hobby turned into a career. Right after she had starred in a local Sears commercial, the production company for HGTV’s immensely popular Designed to Sell came to town. Their interest was peaked with Monica, mainly because she was a beautiful woman who was handy with power tools. The premise behind the program (as the network’s large viewing audience later found out) is a real-life how-to on turning a tired home into a showpiece by giving sellers a $2,000 budget. Many talented designers with deep portfolios auditioned, but it was Monica who landed the coveted gig. “It was the fact that I was a do-it-yourselfer. And that I knew how to get the job done on a small budget with my own two hands,” Monica says. She went on to design and host 99 episodes.
Designed to Sell set fire to other opportunities on the network, including Bang for Your Buck, HGTV Showdown, and HGTV Dream Home. Monica has appeared on both Live with Regis and Kelly and NBC’s Today Show. So does a series host get nervous before doing live television? You bet. “The first time I was on the Today Show, I was outside in Rockefeller Plaza doing a home staging segment with Al Roker,” Monica explains. “It was a Friday, his birthday, and Brooks & Dunn had just performed live. The place was loud and rocking, and I thought I was going to faint.” Luckily, Monica’s sister talked her through on her cell, reminding her that she was there to talk about a subject she knew very well: staging.
Next on Monica’s busy agenda is designing the sitting room in the DreamHome for the Merchandise Mart, in conjunction with co-designer Becky McCallum. Fans of Monica can also enter to win an “entertaining makeover” designed by her through Rutherford Hill wines (www.rutherfordhill.com), and can sign up for her blog, as well as a current posting of her on-air dates, at www.monicapedersen.com.
Monica is poised, approachable, and did we mention handy? Here are her daily inspirations:
My Tiffany & Co. holiday china. Bringing it out during the holidays always brings me joy.
Source of inspiration:
My mom, dad, and stories of those who have overcome great obstacles.
Way to relax:
Total quiet and a great design magazine.
Favorite beach getaway:
Kiawah Island in Charleston, North Carolina. I love the Sanctuary and playing the Ocean’s Course!
Way to stay fit:
I do my own demolition!
My cat, Hal
City to visit:
Favorite Web site:
Way to start the day:
Call my mom to say good morning.
Watching Bravo’s Real Housewives series.
Favorite charitable causes:
The LOSS program, run by Catholic Charities, and the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center.
Best buy for any home:
A well-made comfortable sofa. Mine has been reupholstered three times and still looks great.
Favorite way to add luxury to a room:
Favorite home on the North Shore:
Orren Pickell’s Lansdowne Estate in Lake Bluff. Location, location, location. (And it’s for sale!)
Art Institute of Chicago—always a treat.
Words to live by:
“If you miss one bus, catch another.” In other words, don’t give up. Wise words from my mom.
Way to take fashion risks:
Bring a pop of color into your wardrobe, or try hair extensions at Pascal in Glencoe (ask for Lindsey!).
Stone House and Crisp Khaki by Benjamin Moore are my go-to colors for staging.
Most used electronic device:
Sferra Brothers Linens
Beautiful accent pillows
Favorite piece of furniture:
My antique writing desk
Place to stay while on vacation:
The Pelham Hotel in London. It’s beautifully decorated, unpretentious, and not too far from the Portobello Market.
Favorite shop on the North Shore:
Melissa Edelman Antiquaire in Highland Park and The Find in Highwood. Both of these shop owners have a terrific eye, and merchandise changes often!
Favorite thing on your desk:
A Flair for Living by Charlotte Moss. When I need to take a break from work to get lost in the world of beautiful things, opening up to any page in her book does the trick.
I just ate my way through Bartolotta in Las Vegas. Paul Bartolotta, formerly of Spiaggia in Chicago, is a culinary genius!
Favorite actress of all time:
Cate Blanchett in everything!
Favorite flower for the dinner table:
A potted orchid. The lack of fragrance won’t interfere with the aromas of great food and wine.
The master bedroom—they are all about beauty, comfort, and private sanctuary. In doing over 90 homes in the Chicago area for Designed to Sell, it seems most families put their money into the more public spaces and the kids’ room way before their master bedroom. I wish I could change that for people!
Photographed By Helen Berkun
Styled By Elie Kaya
Styling Assistants Lauren Lappin And Michael Favia
Hair & Makeup By Lia Rivette For Ford
About the shoot location: An authentic restoration at 600 Sheridan Road in Glencoe, this home is a Seyfarth English country residence with brushed brick and timber, by award-winning JCA Properties. The integrity of the original design was kept while offering updated amenities like a chef’s kitchen, five bedroom suites, six and a half new baths, a complete smart-house system, and four-car garage with an indoor half-court basketball area. For more information on this property, please call Julie Deutsch with Coldwell Banker in Glencoe, 847-217-1277, or Maureen Mohling in Winnetka, 847-363-3018.
All furnishings supplied by Antiquaire, 1900 Sheridan Road in Highland Park, 847-780-4779.