Written by: Jason Sheftell
Published: January 8, 2010
Set the scene: HGTV host and local designer uses Method acting to give a room soul
As an HGTV host and New York-based interior designer, Krista Watterworth gets a constant flow of letters and e-mails from people who watched her on “Save My Bath” and the recently premiered “Splurge and Save.”
She describes some as “gut-wrenching”: viewers pouring their hearts out about not having enough money to redesign their homes, needing help renovating a room to care for an ill relative, or wanting desperately to create a space for a loving husband who works two construction jobs or spends all his spare time teaching kids to ice-skate.
She answers all of them. In some cases, she even takes on the job, like she did on for an upper East Side woman who had just gone through a nasty break-up and had a budget of $5,000 to change her apartment in a way that might change her life.
“People have such a deep connection to their home that I try to create a place they can come home to that doesn’t just look nice but makes them feel really good,” says Watterworth. “The idea is to connect to people’s soul. To find out who they really are inside, and bring that out in their home.”
Watterworth learned about connecting to the soul in a place most designers and HGTV hosts have never been. She graduated from the Actors Studio master’s program at the New School in downtown Manhattan. Teaching “the Method,” the acting philosophy in which students become the character, the Actors Studio counts Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Julia Roberts as graduates.
“The Method puts you in touch with your deepest emotions,” says Watterworth. “It makes you pay attention to what you really need and who other people are. I try and bring that into every design I do. Some people think they’re not bohemian or classic, but that’s a front. As people, we change all the time. Our homes should reflect who we are and want to be.”
Like the megastar graduates, Watterworth spent hours sitting in a chair with her eyes closed imagining herself naked in front of a mirror or vacuuming a dirty carpet. After leaving law school to pursue a modeling career that saw her appear on nationally televised Snickers commercials, Watterworth came to New York to pursue acting. After graduating from the Actors Studio, she auditioned and got callbacks for the leading female role on Showtime’s “Dexter,” as well as parts on other network shows.
A designer by hobby who staged apartments for New York real-estate agents to pay for school, Watterworth met a hosting agent who liked her style and energy. In 2006, she had her first audition for HGTV’s “Save My Bath.” She got the job. The show lasted four seasons.
“I was edgy, urban and honest,” she says. “The TV host in me is goofy, and that’s a definite part of me. I’m just myself up there. I like to have fun, help people, and to design. At acting school, I learned that being judged doesn’t matter.”
Now, having studied at the Parsons School of Design, Watterworth is a home network’s dream. She’s fashion-model hot, a trained actress and a professional interior designer who understands 3-D computer programs and how to tile or grout a bathroom floor without a shred of help. What’s more, coming from a big family with four sisters, she gets people.
“I incorporate family into every room I design,” she says, sitting in her apartment surrounded by photos of her husband, in-laws and 16-month-old son. “I ask people to send me old pictures or photo albums. I go through them all. Even if someone doesn’t have traditional family, they have people they love. One woman here in New York hadn’t spoken to her sister in 20 years, but she had this group of girlfriends in the city that she really cared for. I put pictures of them all over the walls. She loved it.”
Not just a pretty face, Watterworth tears up when talking about the reveal, the moment clients see a finished project. She works as hard as most construction workers. Pregnant for the second time, she has a blog called RoomRecipes.com, is working on her first book and runs her own design business. For “Save My Bath,” just taken out of syndication, she worked 12- to 14-hour shifts for 10 days at a time in people’s houses, renovating bathrooms.
On “Splurge and Save,” which airs Tuesdays at 8 a.m. (and which, like other HGTV shows, is currently unavailable to some viewers, the result of a financial dispute with Cablevision), Watterworth redesigns rooms, spending big money on certain items and almost nothing on others. For the premiere, she helped a couple with a budget of $5,500 redo an entire dining room, spending $1,200 on a crystal chandelier but only $200 on a wooden table made from a 19th-century prison door she found in a junkyard.
“I believe in personalizing a room,” says Watterworth, thoughtfully. “In today’s world, you have to do it for every budget. That’s what ‘Splurge and Save’ and Room Recipes is all about.”
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