For women’s history month, we want to share our story and stories like ours to highlight just how far women have come in our industry.
A big influence in the design world that we have had the pleasure of working with is Hilary Farr. Hilary was one of the first industry leaders to recognize the importance of floor heating and its positive impact on home design by combining style and comfort. In fact, when Hilary was working on her own new construction project, which will be airing on HGTV's Love it or List It, we were happy to provide a floor heating system in recognition of her support of the radiant heating industry.
We caught up with her this month to get her insight into the industry as it stands today and what her journey through it has been like.
After arriving in Toronto, Hilary formed her own Design/Build company, Hilary Farr Design Inc in 1996. It was a time when the construction industry was still very much a “man’s world.” By learning how to navigate this new frontier, she brought with her an approach to both construction and design that utilized the problem-solving and attention to detail that has become her trademark. She started off by sharing how her passion for problem-solving helped her dive into the world of design.
“I tend to leap in and figure it out as I wade through whatever problems I’ve landed in. That's exactly how this happened.”
One of the biggest ways she accomplished this was by challenging industry standards and refusing to compromise on her vision.
“Even if it means telling a seasoned contractor or trade, ‘I'm going to pull that apart and redo it because it's not good enough,’ you need to have the confidence in yourself and what you're looking at, knowing what the end product should be, and be willing to take the fall if you’re wrong. Almost without exception, the result was an improvement which gained me a respect that I had to earn; it made me really appreciate the way that a woman can run a company with women.”
While challenging industry norms, she used her company as a way to give other women the chance to develop their own skills. With women initiating 80% of home remodeling projects, Hilary relied heavily on the women in her company to be decision-makers and represent that audience.
“And then I started bringing women into my company. I had women who were actual contractors and tradespeople. And of course, when we got to the design aspect, there were more women who became allies because we were all in the same boat. So it wasn't a predominantly female company at any point. It was probably 50-50 and it worked really well. But I will say this, the 50% of the women that I had were the ones who are mostly the decision-makers. That's how the balance turned out.”
One of the biggest takeaways from her experience early on in the design industry was how to adjust her approach to every project based on the team she was working with.
“My personality is very straightforward, always has been. I'm not good at tiptoeing around. Nevertheless, I have learned that it works very well to be able to be that person when you need to be and also understand when you need to find a softer part of being a woman and make that work for you as well. I had a wonderful GC who was not threatened by a woman like me, and we worked well together for many years.”
As someone who has come so far in our industry, we asked Hilary if there were any areas where women’s perspectives were lacking.
“I actually don't think there are any elements of construction or design that a woman can't be in and be very proficient in. I just don't see what the barriers are…When there are more women in the field and they're proving their metal, which they are, and there isn't a barrier anymore, there is a meeting of the minds, understanding the value that each gender really brings to the table. I think it can be nothing but good.”