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Q&A: HGTV’s Carrie Locklyn
Bringing South Jersey chic to a TV near you
By Elyse Notarianni

South Jersey style is finding its way into our favorite TV home makeover shows thanks to Cape May’s Carrie Locklyn.

Locklyn is one of 3 interior designers on HGTV’s reboot of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and it’s far from her first shot on screen. Her designs have been featured on HGTV’s “Don’t Sweat It” and the DIY Network’s “Garage Mahal.” She’s also the design eye behind parts of the North Wildwood’s White Caps Motel, which was featured on The Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible,” where she is a lead designer. As she sees it, every project is tricky in its own way, but the end result is always beautiful.

Q: Do designs come together as easily as it looks on TV?

Photo: Casey Durkin

Not even close. The first time I was on TV, I almost quit. It was so intense. I was working on “Hotel Impossible” and we were in Florida working on a massive project without the right crew to help us. It was just myself, my assistant and one other guy doing a 3,000 square-foot lobby and a guest room, and we just didn’t have the means. But we fought through and got it done. That’s when I turned a corner because I thought, “Ok, it’s not just about the rush of creating something beautiful, it’s about the rush of getting it done, even when you think there’s no way you can.”

Q: What don’t we see on TV?

Pure panic! I’m kidding – kind of. Most people don’t see just how many people it takes to make a television show happen. With “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” we had more than 1,000 volunteers for each episode along with our personal crew, designers, television crew and subcontractors helping us create these homes. It takes a lot of choreography between people. That’s part of what I love about design though – it’s just like putting on a world tour for Mariah Carey. It takes a ton of people with a lot of dedication who are willing to work hard to create something incredible, even if it’s not so glamorous behind the scenes. All the hard work happens off-camera.

Q: How is doing interior design on TV different than just working with clients?

I have a lot of confidence in my designs, however, when you know it’s going to be on national TV for the world to see the stakes are raised. You’re always crossing your fingers and hoping your clients and the audience will see your vision and the story behind it. It’s not as intense now, however that feeling never fully goes away.

Q: Wait. Were you really a dancer for Mariah Carey?

I was actually a full-time actress, dancer and standup comic, and I had a side gig organizing my friends’ homes. I had done commercials for brands like Sears and Kmart and was dancing on a world-wide tour with Mariah Carey. I was about to go on tour with Ricky Martin when I decided this wasn’t the life I wanted anymore. My dance agent freaked.

So, I started searching for professional home organizers on Craigslist – as you did back in 2011. I came across a woman in California who was moving and looking for someone to take over her client list. And they weren’t your run-of-the-mill clients. They were big-time photographers, artists, editors and actresses like “The Matrix’s” Carrie-Anne Moss. My home organizing tasks slowly morphed into interior design, and it kept going from there.

Q: What is your design style?

Photo: Casey Durkin

I’m a modern-traditional designer. I like crisp, clean lines, warmth, a curated space. Anything that feels store-bought or straight from a magazine is not for me. I want it to feel fresh and modernized.

Q: What are some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on?

I’m working on a project now that might be one of my favorites. It’s a family-run hotel that the father built in North Wildwood called the Montego Bay Resort. It’s right on the boardwalk, 30,000 square feet, and the renovation will be over a million dollars. They’re normally open year-round, but they temporarily closed after Thanksgiving because of the pandemic. They decided to use that time to finally remodel, but they knew they had to reopen by the spring. It should have taken over a year, but we are doing it in 8 weeks. During those weeks we’ve had the holidays, major snowstorms, a pandemic, and we’ve had to shift and pivot to really make it happen. But it’s just like with that first TV project – there’s something so fulfilling in making it happen even when it seems impossible. We’re just about finished, and it’s unbelievably gorgeous.

Q: Has the pandemic changed the way people see their homes?

Absolutely. It has for me at least. We’re not just coming in, dropping our bags and running out. We’re really looking at the space to see how functional our homes are. People are working from home, the kids are home more, and we can see what areas are working, what makes us happy and what’s a challenge. People are appreciating the effect their space has on their lives in ways they hadn’t noticed before.

Q: For people without a design eye, how do we get started?

Open your closet. If you’re looking for your color palette, open your closet because that will be the first step in understanding what your eye is drawn to. If you walk into my home right now, it’s a lot of blacks, creams, deep woods, brasses and grays. When you open my closet, it’s jeans and brown boots and a khaki blazer Then, start small. Redesigning an entire room can be very overwhelming. Do a tiny bit at a time. Get a new lamp, then a new side table, then a chair. Take it little by little because design doesn’t have to be that major in my opinion. A lot of the time, a little change goes a long way. Take your time. Take a breath and trust yourself. It’s not that serious – if you buy a rug that just doesn’t work, you can always return it.

Q: What trends are really in right now?

Grandma chic! At least, that’s how I describe it. It’s kind of a take on modern traditionalism where you see these really modern spaces with modern technology that have all the over-the-top bells and whistles, but that’s paired with older styles. The crisp white is giving way to the creams, and the grays are taking a side seat to the mushrooms and the taupes. I love the idea of incorporating modern styles with all of my grandmother’s antiques and heirlooms that have been passed down and mean a lot to me. It adds a lot of history and personality. I personally am so sad when I walk into someone’s house and it’s devoid of their own personality – it’s all just the trends you see on social media right now. There’s something to be said for having really carefully curated pieces, and living near so many great antique shops in South Jersey and along the East Coast provides a lot of opportunities to find those pieces.

Q: How can we redesign without spending a lot of money?

It’s hard in the pandemic because we’re all shut up at home and sick of seeing the same environment over and over again, but we’re also not trying to spend a lot of money. Sometimes it’s not about redesigning your home but reimagining what you already have.

I always tell people to shop their homes. If you have an impulse that something needs to change, go into another room and see if there’s anything you can move. For most people, there are pillows hidden in a closet or a chair hiding up in the attic that you forgot about. Sometimes moving a couch from one room to another can make a huge difference, and sometimes it’s as simple as swapping out the picture frames from room to room or moving a lamp. We all tend to have these treasures hidden away, and it only takes a little bit of rearranging to see a space in a completely new light.

April 2021
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